Russ Feingold’s Contributions Are Coming From Outside Wisconsin

Nearly 70 percent of the former senator’s contributions are coming from out of state

Russ Feingold
Russ Feingold / AP
August 11, 2016

Russ Feingold, the former Democratic senator from Wisconsin trying to recapture the seat won by Sen. Ron Johnson in 2010, has pulled in an overwhelming majority of his contributions from outside of Wisconsin.

Feingold’s out-of-state haul may be surprising to those who remember his previous stints in Congress.

When Feingold first ran for Congress in 1992, he made his "Garage Door Pledge," which involved relying on Wisconsin citizens for most of his campaign contributions. "I’m promising it for the future. … I’m saying that’s a pledge I am going to keep," he said at the time.

However, during the 2016 elections 69.5 percent of his itemized contributions have come from outside Wisconsin while just 30.5 percent have come from those who live in in state, according to data compiled by Political MoneyLine.

Individuals who live in New York have been the most generous source of outside funds to Russ for Wisconsin, his campaign committee, giving $897,158. Californians have contributed the second highest amount—$809,637—while people who live in Illinois have added $398,652 to his campaign.

The former three-term senator has taken a total of $1,746,087 in itemized contributions from people in Wisconsin this election. $3,974,260 has come from people living in other states.

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, by comparison, has hauled $1 million more in itemized contributions from those who live in Wisconsin than Feingold. Nearly half of Johnson’s contributions have come from constituents within the state. In total, Johnson has received $2,711,670 from Wisconsinites while $3,045,617 has come from other states.

Feingold publicly announced last year that he would no longer adhere to the pledge. "It makes no sense now," he told the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, blaming the current state of campaigns that take in large amounts of money.

Feingold shattered the promise years before this announcement. During the 2010 election cycle, 55 percent of all itemized contributions to his campaign came from outside of Wisconsin.

"After 34 years as a career politician, Senator Feingold has become everything people hate about politics," William Allison, spokesman for the Johnson campaign, told the Washington Free Beacon. "He made a promise to rely on Wisconsinites to fund his campaign, and like a typical politician, he broke that promise and is abandoning his principles because he’s so desperate to get back to Washington."

Feingold has also taken large sums of money from lobbyists despite pushing for stricter ethics legislation during his time in the Senate. A part of his ethics push included a requirement to disclose bundled lobbyist contributions.

Feingold said in 2007 that the number one priority of those in Congress should be to convince their constituents that they have their best interests in mind and not those of special interests.

"Regardless of how reforms might impact us, our priority must be to convince our constituents that we are here to advocate their best interests, not those of well-connected lobbyists," Feingold said at the time of the reform push. "Ethical conduct in government should be more than an aspiration. It should be a requirement."

Feingold has accepted more than $500,000 in bundled lobbyist contributions this election cycle. He quietly accepted more than $200,000 in the months leading up to his defeat in 2010. He has also held fundraisers this election cycle at venues that he once said are where lobbyists buy influence.

Feingold’s campaign did not return a request for comment on his out-of-state contributions by press time.