Nearly 70 Percent of Feingold’s Contributions Are Coming From Outside Wisconsin

A departure from his pledge to accept most of his campaign money from people within the state

Russ Feingold
Russ Feingold / AP
April 5, 2016

Russ Feingold, the former Democratic senator from Wisconsin who is running yet again in an attempt to win back his old Senate seat, is collecting nearly 70 percent of his campaign contributions from individuals who live outside of Wisconsin after shattering his long-held pledge to accept most of his political donations from Wisconsinites.

Feingold made his infamous "Garage Door Pledge" during his first Senate race in 1992 by vowing to "rely on Wisconsin citizens" for most of his contributions while adding "I'm promising it for the future … I'm saying that's a pledge I am going to keep."

He continued the pledge in virtually every one of his elections up to 2010 when his 18-year congressional career came to an abrupt halt after being defeated by Republican Sen. Ron Johnson.

However, Feingold announced in August 2015 that this time around he would no longer adhere to his promise by claiming that it "makes no sense now." His campaign defended the shift by blaming the way current campaigns are financed.

Feingold is now hauling in a majority of his itemized campaign contributions from donors located in other states, despite his 24-year-old promise to keep the pledge throughout his political career.

Feingold taught at Stanford University located in California after being ousted from Congress six years ago. He announced his intent to run for his old Senate seat from California—before wrapping up his class for the semester.

Donors who live in California have been the most generous in terms of fueling his campaign from outside of Wisconsin, as the former senator has pulled in $587,016 from 625 itemized contributions from the state.

New Yorkers are not far behind Californians, as they have poured $512,644 into his campaign, making them the second biggest out of state donors. These contributions are shown to have come from 456 individuals.

A little more than $270,000 has come from 277 donors from Illinois, making it the third highest outside amount, with Massachusetts, Texas, and Washington, D.C. providing $205,228, $139,190, and $98,451 to Russ for Wisconsin.

Feingold has collected $2,467,743 worth of itemized contributions from people residing outside of the state—or 69 percent of all his itemized contributions—while receiving $1,109,505 in donations (31 percent) from people within the state.

Sen. Johnson, by comparison, has raised $1,639,071 from 2,717 itemized donations from people in Wisconsin (42 percent)—a figure that’s 11.1 percent better than Feingold’s—with $2,258,106 coming from donors in other states (57.9 percent).

"It’s no secret that former Senator Feingold sold his soul for a ticket back to Washington a long time ago," said Amelia Chassé, press secretary for America Rising. "Every moment of his cautious, poll-tested, D.C. insider campaign shows his empty rhetoric is worth less than the cans of paint it took to whitewash his broken garage door pledge."

Feingold’s campaign did not return a request for comment on the amount of contributions coming from other states by press time.

This is not the first time this election cycle that Feingold appears to have abandoned his past beliefs.

Feingold positioned himself on the forefront of campaign finance reform during his time in the Senate by pushing for stricter ethics legislation that included a requirement to disclose bundled lobbyist contributions.

Feingold said in August 2007 that the number one priority of those in Washington "must be to convince our constituents that we are here to advocate their best interests, not those of well-connected lobbyists" and that "Ethical conduct in government should be more than an aspiration. It should be a requirement."

Feingold has held fundraisers at venues in Washington, D.C., he once chastised as places where lobbyists buy influence and has accepted more than $260,000 in bundled lobbyist contributions this election cycle, the Washington Free Beacon previously reported.

Despite claims from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin that he "doesn’t accept contributions from federally registered lobbyists" this was not the first time that Feingold had accepted money from those who represent special interests.

In the months leading up to his defeat in 2010, he quietly took more than $200,000 in bundled lobbyist contributions. These went under the radar as they were given during the final stretch of the campaign before his eventual defeat.