Russ Feingold, who is trying to regain the Wisconsin Senate seat he lost to Republican Sen. Ron Johnson in 2010, called for an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour days before his campaign sought unpaid interns to assist staff throughout the state of Wisconsin.
On Aug. 18, 2015, Feingold spoke at the Milwaukee Area Technical College and laid out his goals on the gradual increase of the federal minimum wage.
"Our federal minimum wage, $7.25, does not come close to matching inflation. In other words, basics like food and housing has become more expensive, but comparatively the buying power of the minimum wage has decreased," said Feingold.
"Just matching the inflation since the ’70s would add more than $2 to our current federal minimum wage," he continued. "Raising the minimum wage to $12 would mean a raise for nearly 400,000 women in Wisconsin and help to close the gender-wage gap. I don’t think a small raise is enough. Americans who work full time deserve a living wage. They deserve a living wage, so I believe we must look beyond incremental changes and aim to gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15."
Ten days after the speech, on Aug. 28, 2015, a posting went up on the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s undergraduate Political Science blog on behalf of the Russ for Wisconsin campaign. The campaign sought college students to help out on the campaign for 8 to 12 hours a week without pay.
"Russ Feingold is seeking qualified and motivated interns for the fall semester of 2015 in his Middleton campaign office to help with his campaign for United States Senate. This is an incredible opportunity for students to immerse themselves in the undertakings of a U.S. Senate Campaign," the ad reads.
"In this position, interns are given a wide range of tasks and are guaranteed to learn a great deal about a campaign for U.S. Senate. Strong writing, research, and organizational skills are required; having a positive attitude and being outgoing are also appreciated. Scheduling is extremely flexible. All internships are unpaid and require a commitment of 8 to 12 hours per week."
The unpaid internship’s duties include assisting with fundraising and event planning, helping the campaign with communications and research projects, data entry and administrative duties, and assisting staff events all across Wisconsin.
A spokesman for the Republican National Committee responded to the actions by saying that Feingold’s "hypocrisy knows no bounds."
"Whether it’s giving paid speeches after decrying them as a senator, or using his PAC as a slush fund after calling himself ‘Mr. Clean,’ it’s pretty clear Russ Feingold’s hypocrisy knows no bounds," RNC spokesman Fred Brown told the Washington Free Beacon. "Russ Feingold thinks he plays by a different set of rules than he would have Wisconsinites abide by."
Feingold’s campaign did not return a request for comment.