If it is wrong for Republicans to fuel their campaigns with corporate cash, then it is wrong for Democrats to do so.
“Sometimes we have to be very direct with the Democratic Party itself,” the former senator from Wisconsin told the thousands of bloggers, thinkers and activists who packed the great hall at the Minneapolis Convention Center. “I fear the Democratic Party is in danger of losing its identity.”
Feingold was talking about the decision by some Democrats that the party must form so-called “super-PACS”—political action committees that use corporate money in much the same way that Republicans have.
If Democrats fuel their campaigns with corporate cash, the senator said, “we’ll lose our souls.”
“I don’t just think it’s wrong. I think it’s a dumb strategy,” he continued, to the enthusiastic crowd hushed and listening to a speech that went far beyond the standard rhetoric of this pre-presidential election year. “Democrats should never be in the business of taking unlimited corporate money…. It’s dancing with the devil…. [The voters] will see us as corporate-lite.”
Anyone who thought they were going to hear a feel-good speech from Russ Feingold got a surprise.
The former senator from Wisconsin, long a favorite of the progressive blogosphere, did not come to suggest that all the world’s problems were caused by awful Republicans or that all the solutions would come from Democrats.
The fiercely independent Democrat, who cast the sole vote against Patriot Act and took the lead in opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, may have made a name fro himself fighting the worst excesses of the Bush administration. But he was never a yes-man for the Obama administration. Feingold cast a relatively lonely vote against making Tim Geithner the secretary of the Treasury, and an even more lonely vote against banking reforms that failed to address the threat posed by “too-big-to-fail” banks. And he fought Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama on trade policy.
Feingold’s speech was framed around the Citizens United ruling by the US Supreme Court, which struck down legislative barriers to corporate spending on campaigns. He decried the court’s 5-4 ruling as he has since it was issued last year a "lawless decision” that “overturned more than one hundred years of statutes and case law” designed to keep special-interest money out of politics.