Thursday, 4 March 2010

Russ Feingold: Senator of Wisconsin

For this week’s blog I have decided to focus on Russ Feingold, the United States Senator for Wisconsin. No prizes for guessing why I picked him! Actually...I wrote that having chosen him because he was from Wisconsin, now I have discovered he is Jewish! Double reason to focus on Mr Feingold!

Russ Feingold was born in Janesville, Wisconsin (which is in the south) on March 2nd, 1953 and now lives in Middleton, WI. He went to University of Wisconsin-Madison and got a degree from Oxford University before studying for another degree at Harvard.

Feingold is a democrat as is his fellow Senator, Herb Kohl. His website explains that

‘In 1982, in his first try for elective office, Feingold defeated a long-time incumbent and was elected to the Wisconsin State Senate for the 27th District. Feingold was re-elected in 1986 and 1990. When Feingold first ran for the U.S. Senate in 1992, he won a tough three-way primary, and went on to defeat a two-term incumbent. Feingold was re-elected to the Senate in 1998 and 2004.’

Following a Wisconsin tradition of open government, something I thought was particularly interesting about Russ Feingold is that he (as promised in his original campaign for Senate) holds ‘town hall-style Listening Sessions’ in each of the 72 counties in Wisconsin annually. Up to now there have been nearly 1200 meetings held; something considered to be the ‘driving force behind Russ’s bipartisan legislative agenda’.

Before outlining some of the issues dealt with in Wisconsin I wanted to point out one in more detail which is the Campaign Finance Reform, something Feingold worked on with Senator John McCain. In his own words Feingold says that

‘I’m proud of the bipartisan legislation Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and I pushed through Congress in 2002 that banned one of the biggest loopholes at the time – the ability of corporations, unions and wealthy individuals to give unlimited contributions to people on both sides of the aisle. Since McCain-Feingold became law, soliciting, accepting and making unlimited soft money contributions is a federal crime - presidents can no longer charge big money contributors thousands of dollars to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom and members of Congress can no longer solicit $500,000, $1 million, or more from special interests and then turn around and vote on a bill directly affecting those interests.

I wanted to make a point of this as it is clearly a significant reform and one that is particularly interesting based on its bipartisan nature.

I will now highlight some of the other issues in Wisconsin and Feingold’s stance on them (many more issues are featured on his website but these are ones I deemed most interesting/noteworthy):

- Agriculture: Very significant in Wisconsin aka the Dairy State - renowned for cheese production. Feingold is very vocal in his support for family farmers and protecting small farms.

- Consumer Protections: Emphasis on having a balance between large and small businesses with a focus on supporting the latter.

- Education: Doesn’t support the federalisation of education and believes each individual school district should be responsible for the assessment and everyday running of the classroom.

- Environment: ‘Russ played a key role in passing the historic Great Lakes Compact. The Great Lakes Compact, negotiated among the eight Great Lakes states and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec, regulates new water withdrawals and diversions that threaten lake levels and could destroy a major resource Wisconsin counts on for everything from food to jobs, and from power to recreation.

- Fiscal Responsibility: Worked with republicans to eliminate the federal deficit on becoming Senator in 1992 and is now a member of the Senate Budget Committee. He is continuing to try and ‘restore budget discipline’.

- Government Reform: In his 1992 campaign, Feingold promised not to increase his salary on election as Senator. He strongly opposes what he calls “backdoor” pay rises for members of Congress.

- Healthcare: An issue which is most frequently raised at Listening Sessions and Feingold says he strives to make healthcare available to all Americans.

On exploring Feingold’s views and having looked at opinions on his work; he appears to be a very well supported Senator who is especially effective at working in a bipartisan manner.

I found a link from The Post Crescent, a Wisconsin newspaper and I thought was interesting and relevant in relation to our discussions about filibustering.

Both Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl are quoted in the article agreeing that ‘selfish lawmakers, not Senate rules, are to blame’.

On consulting Cherie’s graph from last week, I noticed that Feingold is positioned next to Lincoln (Katey’s focus) as a far right democrat. His centrality on the graph didn’t surprise me, as Feingold seems to pay a lot of attention with his town hall-style meeting to hearing and working on the views of the people. This links in to liberalism which is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as

a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties; specifically : such a philosophy that considers government as a crucial instrument for amelioration of social inequities (as those involving race, gender, or class)’.

The way people’s views seem to be of prime importance to Feingold, and the way he works to acknowledge and address them in meetings (something I hadn’t heard of with other politicians) seems to display qualities of liberalism as defined by the above quote. Likewise, Feingold’s support for gay marriage, his pro-choice standpoint and opinions on healthcare and education all too display liberalist qualities.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.