On March 2, 1953, in Janesville Wisconsin, a United States Senator was born. He was named Russell Dana Feingold, and he grew up shaping, and discussing his political views around the dinner table with his father, Leon, a founding member of Wisconsin's Progressive Movement. 51 years later, Feingold is a third term U.S. Senator known for work both on Campaign Finance Reform, and on other issues critical to the people of Wisconsin. Feingold first ran for office at the age of 29, and immediately began to get recognition as a rising star in Wisconsin politics.
After defeating a longtime incumbent State Senator by the thin margin of 31 votes out of 47,000, Feingold sat down and began the real work of politics. After 4 years as a State Senator from southern Wisconsin, Feingold began to gain respect and admiration from his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Feingold was re-elected to the State Senate in twice before joining a three way primary for U.S. Senator in 1992. Feingold was the least known candidate in the race, but through hard work, and popular TV ads, Feingold received 70% of the vote, and became the Democratic Nominee.
Defeating an incumbent Senator is never easy, but Feingold managed to do it, by receiving 52% of the vote, and defeating 2-time incumbent Robert Kasten. As Senator from Wisconsin, Feingold is known for his independence and free thinking. Feingold once said. "I find it to be the most satisfying moment in politics when people of differing ideologies come together in support of an issue". He is widely regarded as a man who has the best interests of the people of Wisconsin at heart, what earned him this reputation was his pledge during his first Senate campaign in 1992, to hold one listening session in each of Wisconsin's 72 counties each year. This way, any Wisconsinite could discuss issues directly with Senator Feingold, without an appointment.
One issue that was continually coming up in those early listening sessions was Campaign Finance Reform. With the help of his friend John McCain, Republican Senator from Arizona, Feingold worked for almost 7 years on his flagship piece of legislation, what would later become known as the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act. The bill, when it was eventually passed in 2001 succeeded in banning unlimited soft money contributions given by corporations to political parties in exchange for favors, or access to politicians. The legislation is the most comprehensive since the reforms following the Watergate Scandal. Many people including Senator Feingold, view it as a chance for people to take back their voice in Government, and have access to their politicians, without million dollar contributions required. In the 2004 Elections, Feingold faced Tim Michels, a Republican construction executive in his re-election campaign, Feingold won with 56% of the vote, his largest margin of victory ever.
When the History books are written, Russ Feingold's greatest contribution to American Politics will likely be considered his work on Campaign Finance Reform, but he will also likely be remembered for his honesty, integrity and hard work for the people of Wisconsin.