WASHINGTON -- Russ Feingold has raised more than $130,000 in less than a week for the nine Democrats running in Wisconsin's recall elections. The fundraising is an indication of the strong investment in the race from progressives around the country and the former senator's ability to harness the energy of the grassroots.
Feingold's political action committee Progressives United sent an email to its supporters on June 2 asking them to donate $36 to help defeat the GOP state senators who backed Gov. Scott Walker's (R) legislation that stripped public employees of their collective bargaining rights.
"The energy is on our side. Now is the time to do everything we can to change the course in Wisconsin," read the solicitation. "With your help, Progressives United will support every single Democratic candidate on the ballot in July. We only need to elect three new state senators to stop Scott Walker's radical agenda permanently."
According to the PAC, the donations for the recall candidates came from more than 2,400 individual donors around the country.
"With the kind of support we are seeing for the Democratic recall candidates, the runaway Walker agenda can end in July," said a Feingold aide.
The state's Government Accountability Board has already approved recall elections for six Republican state senators, though that decision may be challenged in court. The body is meeting on Wednesday to discuss recall elections for three Democratic state senators.
As soon as Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) announced his retirement last month, Feingold became one of the most-named figures that Democrats in the state would like to see run for the seat. In a straw poll of Democratic activists at the state party's recent convention, Feingold emerged as a top pick for both senator and governor.
He has said he plans to make a decision on whether he will run by Labor Day.
Since the controversy over collective bargaining erupted in February, Feingold has been a visible public figure supporting the labor movement, rallying protesters in Madison in February and as recently as Monday.
Charles Franklin, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin, said if Feingold does decide to run for elected office again, his fundraising on behalf of the recall candidates will only help him, particularly with the more institutional segments of the Democratic Party.
"Feingold's strength with grassroots Democrats in Wisconsin is still very strong, despite November's outcome," said Franklin. "But I think anything he can do to solidify his ties to the more organized party, the party itself -- not to mention the candidates of the party -- I think is very important for him. So to that extent, I think he improves his organizational standing by raising money and supporting the recall campaigns."
"We are grateful to Senator Feingold for his support for our efforts to take back the Wisconsin state Senate," said Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesperson Gillian Morris when asked for comment about the Progressives United fundraising numbers. "It is clear support for these efforts are strong across Wisconsin."
Feingold launched Progressives United in February, aimed at building a grassroots effort to mitigate the effects of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision that struck down longstanding limits on U.S. campaign spending by corporations and other groups.
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