Feingold Profited Off of Youth Summer Camp, Public Library, High School Students

Former senator pulled in thousands from appearances

Russ Feingold
Russ Feingold / AP
October 25, 2016

Russ Feingold, the former Democratic senator from Wisconsin attempting to regain his old Senate seat, profited off of a youth summer camp, a public library, and high school students who were left scrambling to raise the funds to pay Feingold's fee to appear at their school.

Feingold said that there would be "so many dollars to make so he could pay the bills" after leaving the Senate when questioned by the Progressive in 2002 on how he envisioned his life after politics.

"Yes. And if it happens to me by choice, or by the decision of the people of Wisconsin, I'm going to enjoy my life a great deal," Feingold said. "I don't know what I'd do, but there are so many books to read, so many golf courses to play, so many dollars to make so I can pay the bills."

Feingold has pulled in $450,000 from numerous universities since being defeated by Sen. Ron Johnson in 2010. The former senator also took thousands more from a Wisconsin summer camp, public library, and a high school club, according to his personal financial disclosure forms.

Feingold reported receiving a $1,600 honoraria payment in June 2012 from the McMillan Memorial Library located in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. McMillan Memorial is a public library that receives a bulk of its funding from the City of Wisconsin Rapids, its website states.

Feingold pocketed $3,000 from the Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute, a youth summer camp in Oconomowoc, Wis., one month after the McMillan speech.

Feingold also reported a $1,600 honoraria payment from the Young Progressives Club at Hinsdale Central High School located in Hinsdale, Wisc., in October 2012.

Feingold's fee left the students scrambling to raise the funds necessary to host him at their school to speak about campaign finance reform. The club asked for any donations they could get and held a Frisbee tournament to help gather money to pay Feingold.

Tickets for the event went for $7 per person and the proceeds from the sales were paid to the Rock the Vote organization.

"We use the money from team fees to pay Russell Feingold’s speaking fee," one club member said at the time. "We will also be collecting money through ticket sales to come see Senator Feingold. We are, however, a bit concerned about selling enough tickets to make a profit for 'Rock the Vote.'"

Feingold's book, While America Sleeps, was also sold outside of the school auditorium where he spoke.

The fees charged by Feingold to the youth camp, public library, and high school students were more than what he had charged some other organizations with far deeper pockets.

Feingold received $617 in March 2012 to appear on Real Time with Bill Maher. Feingold charged the D.C.-based Alliance for Justice—which reported nearly $4 million in contributions and grants that year—just $1,600 for an appearance in June 2012. Feingold reported collecting just $500 from the Chicago Humanities Festival in one-time honoraria in November 2012.

"Senator Feingold likes to pretend he's for the little guy, but he jumped at the chance to profit off of a youth summer camp, a public library—even high school students," said Brian Reisinger, a spokesman for Sen. Johnson's campaign. "Like everything else, Senator Feingold says one thing and does another, and his shamelessness is only surpassed by his phoniness. The contrast between Senator Feingold taking from non-profits and Ron's generosity toward them could not be more stark."

Feingold's campaign did not respond to inquiries on the fees.