Huffpost Politics
Sam Stein Headshot

Russ Feingold: I Won't Be Done In By Citizens United Ruling

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) stressed on Monday that in his tight re-election contest, he won't be done in by the unraveling of campaign finance laws that he principally authored.

The Wisconsin Democrat, in a conference call with bloggers and new media reporters, said he did not expect the fallout of the Supreme Court's late January Citizens United ruling to reach his Senate race. The Court's decision took apart a major portion of the 2002 campaign finance law Feingold famously authored with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), prompting widespread Democratic fear that corporations could now spend unlimited amounts of money on "electioneering communications."

"This is not divine torture," he said, responding to a question from the Huffington Post. "This is divine vindication."

"I've been through this before. In 1998 I promised to live by the rules of McCain-Feingold and I refused to take soft money. As a result [former congressman] Mark Neumann outspent me dramatically. He had far more ads than I did because he took soft money, and I had a very close race. It was 51-49. There were a lot of people who were angry with me because I stuck with what I believed to be a right approach. But I said I thought people in the state would see what was wrong here. The congressman who was challenging a senator had far more ads, why was that? Because he was taking advantage of soft money. That's why we ran an ad called the 'high road' which showed that we weren't doing that and we basically took the issue and essentially made their strength a weakness by pointing out that they were trying to buy the election... That's what's going to happen this time."

If Feingold was exhibiting a bit of nonchalance about the effect Citizens United could have on his re-election hopes, he did so for a variety of reasons. For starters, his opponent, businessman Ron Johnson, is poised to spend an unprecedented amount (much of it his personal wealth) during the course of the election, making the need for outside help somewhat moot. Secondly, Feingold predicted that the corporate entities that have compelling reasons to dabble in electoral politics may end up holding their fire until 2012 -- at least when it comes to Wisconsin.

"I don't think [Citizens United] will be particularly relevant to my future," Feingold said. "But I think it will be enormously relevant to the presidential race. That's where I think it is going to explode."