- Co-author, with Republican Senator John McCain, of the controversial 2002 Campaign Finance Reform Act
- Was the only U.S. senator to vote against the Patriot Act in 2001
- Opposed the October 2002 joint resolution to authorize the use of the U.S. Armed Forces against Iraq
- Opposes the exploration of additional U.S. oil reserves
- Usually opposes tax cuts
Born in Janesville, Wisconsin on March 2, 1953, Russell Feingold earned a BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1975, a bachelor’s degree from Magdalen College at Oxford in 1977, and a JD from Harvard Law School in 1979. He first became politically active by working as a volunteer for the presidential campaigns of Democrats John Lindsay (1972), Mo Udall (1976), and Ted Kennedy (1980).
Following a six-year (1979-85) stint as an attorney at two private law firms in Wisconsin, Feingold, a Democrat, served in the Wisconsin State Senate from 1982-92, and in the U.S. Senate from 1993-2011. He is best known for co-sponsoring, with Republican Senator John McCain, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, (a.k.a. The McCain-Feingold Act), which imposed strict restrictions on political advocacy, and which, according to its critics, violated the First Amendment and increased the influence of money in political races.
Feingold often used his Senate office to declare against American military interventions around the world, regardless of which party controlled the White House. For example:
- In 1997 he lobbied to cut off funds for U.S. military efforts in Bosnia and advocated an early withdrawal of the American forces stationed there. Complaining that the Clinton administration had failed to “define a concrete exit strategy for our … troops,” Feingold voiced concern that those troops “will be there for a very, very long time.”
- In 1999 Feingold was one of only three Democrats to oppose U.S. air strikes against Yugoslavian strongman Slobodan Milosevic. “As with the Bosnia mission, there is no clear set of goals, beyond maintaining a currently nonexistent peace,” said Feingold. “There is no timetable with withdrawal, no cost assessment, no exit strategy.”
- In 2002-03, Feingold repeatedly assailed President George W. Bush’s decision to forcibly depose Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. In October 2002, for instance, the senator impugned Bush’s “practice of shifting justifications” for war against Iraq: “I’m talking about the spectacle of the President and senior Administration officials citing a purported connection to al-Qaeda one day, weapons of mass destruction the next day, Saddam Hussein’s treatment of his own people on another day, and then on some days the issue of Kuwaiti prisoners of war.”
- Nor were Democratic supporters of the Iraq War immune from Feingold’s scorn. “Frankly, too many Democrats voted for the war,” he declared in December 2005.
- Asked about the Iraq War in a November 2005 interview, Feingold told ABC News: “This is not a war that we should really think [of] in terms of winning or losing. What we tried to do there was to go in and make sure that the Iraqi people could get rid of Saddam Hussein. Now it is a political matter, and the military mission, in my view, needs to come to an end.”
- In 2005 Feingold scheduled a widely publicized meeting with anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan.
In December 2005, when the New York Times reported that the National Security Agency, under President Bush’s authority, had used wiretaps on international phone calls to monitor suspected al-Qaeda operatives, Feingold was one of only two senators (along with Carl Levin) who immediately alleged that Bush had broken the law.
In January 2007, Feingold publicly condemned President Bush’s decision to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq in an attempt to turn the tide of America’s then-failing war effort – a measure that ultimately helped crush the Iraqi resistance. Moreover, Feingold announced that he would soon introduce legislation to cut off any further congressional funding of the war. “The mainstream view of the American people is to get out of Iraq,” he explained.
When contemplating a run for the U.S. presidency in 2008, Feingold told an Arab American Institute delegation: “I call on the president to immediately stop using the phrase ‘Islamic fascism,’ a label that doesn’t make any sense, and certainly doesn’t help our effort to fight terrorism.”
Feingold has long favored the implementation of single-payer, government-run healthcare. Recognizing, however, that openly proposing such a system would be politically toxic, he has mostly refrained from doing so. But in an early 2016 appearance at Marquette Law School, Feingold said that when the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was being formulated in 2009-10, he and fellow senator Bernie Sanders had wanted “an even stronger bill.” “We wanted a single-payer,” Feingold revealed. “We wanted an option to opt in, a public option.”
In November 2010, Feingold lost his bid for a third re-election to the U.S. Senate, to Republican challenger Ron Johnson). Throughout his Senate career, the left-leaning Americans For Democratic Action consistently gave Feingold ratings of 90% to 100%, indicating that his votes and issue positions were overwhelmingly leftist. By contrast, the American Conservative Union gave Feingold a lifetime rating of 13%.
For an overview of Feingold’s voting record on an array of key issues, click here.
In 2011 Feingold founded Progressives United, an organization whose mission is to “stand up against the exploding corporate influence in our elections by … supporting candidates who stand up for our progressive ideals.”
In July 2013, Feingold was appointed United States Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa. He resigned from that post on May 14, 2015, and then promptly announced that he would try to win back his old Senate seat from Ron Johnson in 2016.
For additional information on Russell Feingold, click here.