If you see a bead of sweat forming on Russ Feingold’s brow these days, don’t blame the late June Wisconsin humidity. It’s far more likely that his flop sweat is the result of early summer poll results trickling in.
Yesterday, Rasmussen issued a poll showing Feingold in a statistical dead heat with challenger Ron Johnson, with Feingold ahead by a slim 46% to 45% margin. It is stunning that an 18-year incumbent would be virtually dead even with a newcomer who has been in the race for about sixty seconds. But Johnson, a businessman from Oshkosh, is clearly riding a wave of discontent with Feingold and Congress.
Yet even with the polls telling us what we already know, Feingold has been signaling his desperation with a number of odd public statements over the past few days. He continues to take some puzzling shots at Johnson, indicating that he knows he’s in serious danger of losing his job.
For instance, at a candidate debate between Johnson and GOP primary opponent Dave Westlake yesterday, the issue of the BP oil spill came up. According to Wispolitics.com, Johnson said he believed “BP must be held accountable,” although he had questions about the manner in which their $20 billion victim’s fund was created and would be distributed by President Obama. Hardly groundbreaking stuff.
But Feingold’s attack machine pounced, almost as if they wrote Feingold’s statement before the debate even took place: “The fact that both Republican candidates came out in opposition to holding BP accountable for the worst environmental disaster in our country’s history shows just how addicted the GOP is to big oil special interests and how out of touch they are with Wisconsin.”
Of course, this is a demonstrable lie, which Feingold knows won’t be followed up on by any reporter in Wisconsin. Apparently, Feingold knows that he can’t win points against Johnson by debating what he actually says, so he just has to make things up.
Even more puzzling was Feingold’s next attack. On Tuesday night of this week, Johnson attended some meetings in Washington, D.C., including a meet and greet with lobbyists. Again, Feingold’s attack dogs went on offense:
“By going out to Washington, D.C., to meet with lobbyists and special interests Ron Johnson makes it pretty clear whose side he’s on.”
Ironically, just a few days ago, Feingold criticized Johnson for being a millionaire. Wouldn’t that mean that Johnson isn’t beholden to special interest money? Apparently, according to Feingold, Johnson is “corrupted” either by his own money or other peoples’ money, depending on what week it is.
Furthermore, it only took about three mouse clicks to find this list of political action committee contributions Feingold has accepted during his time in the Senate. The total tally of special interest contributions collected by Feingold: 1,096 lobbyist contributions totaling $1,868,908. This from the self-professed King of Campaign Finance Reform. Seems to be working out well for him.
Among Feingold’s contributors:
- American Dental Association
- American Federation of Government Employees
- American Postal Worker’s Union
- Armenian American PAC
- Automobile Club of Michigan
- Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen
- California PAC
- Democratic Women of Santa Barbara County
- Engineers Union
- Florida Congressional Committee
- Georgia Peach PAC
- International Brotherhood of Boilermakers
- Land O’ Lakes
- Maryland Association of Concerned Citizens
- National Education Association
- The Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball
And on and on it goes – 1,096 contributions and $1.8 million long. And yet, according to Feingold, it is Ron Johnson, who’s been back in Oshkosh building his business from scratch, who is beholden to lobbyists. (Of course, Feingold will never be asked what the Democratic Women of Santa Barbara County have to do with creating jobs in Wisconsin.)
Even more ridiculous is this press release from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, which ends with this paragraph:
The Bellwether Group raised money for Congressman Tom Feeney, who lost his seat after he became engulfed in the largest Washington D.C. lobbying scandal in history. Feeney accepted a Scottish golf trip from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and was named one of the most corrupt members of Congress four times by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Got that? It’s not the Senator who’s spent 18 years in Washington that’s connected to Jack Abramoff – it’s the guy who’s never had anything to do with the corrupt political machine in D.C. for the entirety of his life. This is like saying that since Prince Fielder plays in Milwaukee, he must eat people like Jeffrey Dahmer.
You have to wonder if they have a giant flow chart on the wall at the Democratic Party – the “Six Degrees of Jack Abramoff” chart. If somehow, you fall within five degrees, then suddenly you’re corrupt. It appears asking the Dem Party to have at least a fifth grade level of sophistication is asking too much.
Of course, there aren’t any media members who will ever point out how desperate Feingold actually is. Saint Russ the Maverick will continue to get a free pass until election day. In fact, for this reason, a candidate against Feingold almost necessarily has to be a millionaire, in order to counteract all the positive press Feingold will get throughout the campaign.
This is perhaps the greatest irony in all these mistruths spun by Feingold – he champions restricting political speech because of all the damage it supposedly does to democracy; yet it’s the blatant lies told by candidates themselves that do the most to coarsen the public’s perception of their elected officials. Obviously, he knows he can’t win on his own likeability – he has to tear down a good man to sneak past the finish line. Somehow, I don’t think we’ll see a new law regulating that.