Posts Tagged ‘Russ Feingold’

Tommy Thompson: It may happen

March 1, 2010

A weak Republican candidate and a weak Democratic year is looking more and more tempting to Tommy Thompson, according to Politico.

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, who served four terms as Wisconsin governor, is securing financial pledges and ramping up his outreach to longtime political aides in preparation for a possible campaign against Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold.

Another longtime Thompson ally said the governor already has $200,000 in potential donations for a campaign that doesn’t yet exist.

“If you talked to me two weeks ago, I would have put it at a 50-50 shot. Now it’s at 70,” said the Thompson aide, who requested anonymity to avoid offending his friend. “He’s asking serious questions like, ‘Who would run the campaign? Who would do the fundraising? When would we announce? How much could we raise?’”

Avoid offending his friend? Give me a break –– this is a first class “leak” intended to get Republicans excited about a potential run. Politico is the first stage –– it gets the elites (contributors, consultants etc.) and politicos excited. The next stage will be the Wisconsin press, which will give the masses an opportunity to evaluate a Thompson bid.

Democrats cannot dismiss this story. People love Russ Feingold, but there is also a fair bit of nostalgia for Tommy Thompson. Popular governors are generally better-liked than popular senators, if for no better reason than more people come into contact with what they do and senators are derided as “Washington insiders.” The most recent poll shows Thompson slightly ahead of Feingold, while one done in November showed a solid lead for Feingold.

The standards for a senate race are not anywhere near as high as the ones Tommy clearly didn’t live up to during his short-lived presidential bid, but Feingold is a great candidate and a great debater, so Tommy will not be able to win on name recognition a lone. He’d have to bring it. No excuses about hearing aids or diarrhea.

Bad year for Dems could mean Feingold loss

February 24, 2010

Russ Feingold has tons of respect from people who pay attention. I have countless anecdotes about conservatives who vote for Feingold because they respect his honesty, intelligence and commitment to principle. But that only means that history will look kindly on him. That does not mean the 2010 midterm elections will. Here are some polls I forgot to post last week:

In a new Rasmussen poll, Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold (D) fails to garner 50 percent against two announced Republican challengers, while he trails former Gov. Tommy Thompson, who has yet to say whether he will run. Thompson led Feingold by a similar margin last month.

Thompson 48, Feingold 43

Feingold 47, Wall 39

Feingold 47, Westlake 37

For Feingold to lose against Wall or Westlake the Democrats will have to do really badly. If the economy is still in bad shape (and showing no signs of improvement) Obama and his party is going to get hammered. Feingold will not be immune to the damage.

No, that’s not what Tommy Thompson said

February 12, 2010

Terrence Wall’s first TV ad displays the aspiring politician’s willingness to get chin-deep in the mud to beat Russ Feingold. Although Feingold has yet to respond in-kind, his party and his campaign have responded with partisan venom, and in doing so have strayed far from the truth.

For instance, the most recent meme has centered on a comment Tommy Thompson made to reporters about a possible run against Feingold:

“This election…it’s going to be decided on things that aren’t that particular to Wisconsin.”

According to the Democrats, that means Thompson said “the election won’t be about Wisconsin.” The conclusion to that train of logic is that Thompson doesn’t believe Wisconsin issues are important enough to discuss.

This is even more disingenuous than the recent attacks against Terrence Wall for avoiding state income taxes in 12 of the last 15 years. At least the latter case is based on a fact. The Thompson quote is a cynical misrepresentation of what the former governor (notice the Democrats refer to him as “former Bush administration official,” and not “former governor”) said.

It’s unfortunate that a campaign waged on behalf of a candidate known for his honesty and integrity is so dishonest and lacking in intellectual integrity.

What government “takeover”?

February 10, 2010

Terrence Wall’s latest campaign ad accuses Russ Feingold of voting in favor of a “government takeover of health care.”

Analysis of the ad from the Associated Press.

Will income taxes really hurt Terrence Wall?

January 25, 2010

At first the headline sounded dramatic. “Terrence Wall has not paid state income taxes.” I remember getting a call from a member of a Democratic campaign, who told me the news. It sounded so incredible. It sounded like tax evasion, which is how the Democrats want it to sound like.

But alas, one can avoid state income taxes and not be a tax evader. In Wall’s case, he simply had no income tax liability.

But the press releases keep coming and the blog posts keep publishing. The Democrats are going to try and take this meme as far as it goes. I don’t blame them for it – a tax dodger millionaire is the perfect punching bag for a candidate as squeaky clean as Russ Feingold. But the attack is nevertheless disingenuous, and if handled correctly by the Wall campaign, is liable to backfire on the Dems. The GOP has already responded by saying that Wall and his company pay the state millions of dollars in taxes, and that Wall makes up for the income taxes with other taxes, including charitable contributions.

I think the Democrats could take this talking point a lot further if they used it to criticize the system “in which a millionaire like Terrence Wall pays no income taxes,” rather than insinuating that he is a tax cheat. It wouldn’t look as dirty because it would give state-level Democrats the opportunity to propose policy, rather than simply to slime an opponent. The problem is that Russ Feingold is not a state-level candidate, and the issue is state taxes.

Any thoughts? Will Feingold go after Wall himself?


January 21, 2010

New York Times:

Sweeping aside a century-old understanding and overruling two important precedents, a bitterly divided Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.

Before we start lamenting the obvious, what are the arguments that advocates of campaign finance regulation will make to combat the right-wing logic that corporations should be treated the same as citizens. Its an idea that is very popular in America. In no other western country is the disproportionate economic power of a few so easily tolerated as in the United States.

Sen. Russ Feingold, one of the chief authors of current campaign finance regulations, shared a predictable response with the Times:

“Ignoring important principles of judicial restraint and respect for precedent, the Court has given corporate money a breathtaking new role in federal campaigns,” said Mr. Feingold, a Democrat.

The consequences of the ruling –– that corporations and other monied interests will pervert the political process more than they already do –– are important. But there needs to be a constitutional argument that accompanies the appeals to our sense of fairness. Feingold and others need to explain why corporations to not deserve the same rights that the constitution affords individuals.

Republicans are not the only ones who welcome this decision. They may be the only ones who celebrate it publicly, but I know of at least one top member of the state Democratic Party who opposes campaign finance regulation because he believes it hurts Democrats’ ability to raise money from unions.

Terrence Wall has avoided state income taxes

January 15, 2010

According to Wispolitics, U.S. Senate candidate Terrence Wall has not paid his state income taxes in four out of the last five years.

GOP U.S. Senate candidate Terrence Wall paid no personal state income taxes in four of the past five years, according to figures obtained from the state Department of Revenue.

From 2004 to 2008, Wall, a real estate developer who lives in the Madison enclave of Maple Bluff, only had a state personal income tax liability in 2005, when he paid $43,520, according to DOR records. That one-year amount was more than Wall’s GOP primary opponent David Westlake of Watertown and Dem U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold of Middleton each personally paid in total state personal income taxes over the five-year period.

It’s always hard to tell how important a story like this will turn out to be in a campaign, but I will say that this attack would be more effective than usual coming from Feingold, who has not only made a name for himself as a champion of ethics, but is the poorest member of the U.S. Senate.

Granted, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some explanation from Wall. He’s an incredibly rich dude –– there’s little reason for him to deliberately avoid income taxes, especially if he’s been politically ambitious for a while. I would also watch out for the fact that he apparently has paid them in one of the past five years, which indicates that the failure to pay in the other years was likely more of a mistake than a deliberate abuse of the system.

Go after Feingold on healthcare…say progressives

December 29, 2009

The latest in the health care debate:

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold has come under fire from the liberal activist group Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which this week launched a $20,000 television ad campaign that takes the Middleton Democrat to task on health care reform.

In a 30-second spot set to air on broadcast television in the Green Bay, Madison and Milwaukee markets, PCCC urges Feingold to vote against any final health care bill that does not include a public insurance option. Feingold last week voted for a Senate bill that does not include a public insurance option despite the fact that he is a strong proponent of the proposal.

I’m guessing that most people on this committee have health care, unlike the tens of millions of people the current legislation will (hopefully) extend it to.

It’s official: Lieberman works for GOP

December 27, 2009

There’s been a lot of noise about Cap and Trade amongst Democrats  in Washington. Many Democrats from conservative areas are worried about the political consequences of passing meaningful legislation to combat climate change. As a result, it looks like Cap and Trade may not pass the Senate. However, one member of the Democratic caucus is too fearless a proponent of the environment to let public opinion guide his politics:

“We’ve got to keep them together [cap-and-trade and energy policy] because they go together,” said Connecticut Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, who infuriated liberals with his opposition to the public option in the health care bill but who’s trying to keep cap-and-trade alive in a bipartisan climate bill he’s drafting with Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Isn’t it curious that Lieberman only supports the liberal position when it is clearly bad politically? The public option would have passed much easier than cap-and-trade. In fact, even liberal Democrats like Russ Feingold have questioned cap-and-trade because it supposedly would unevenly target coal-dependent areas like Wisconsin.

Truth-be-told (at least my version of it) any major energy policy bill that passes through Congress is so impure and pork-laden that it is unappetizing to idealists like Feingold, however, the same can definitely be said of the health care bill.

How about some Xmas greed from Feingold & Kohl?

December 23, 2009

Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman. The two most unsavory members of the Senate Democratic caucus were naughty all year but Santa Reid still stuffed their stockings full of goodies. Lieberman may be an Orthodox Jew but he at least understands what the Christmas spirit is about: greed.

Meanwhile, our two Jewish senators seem to have missed that point and they’ll be spending Christmas getting what Jews traditionally get: disapproval from self-righteous gentiles.

Voters across the country are angry over sweet deals in the Senate health bill for a handful of Democrats who once threatened to block the legislation. Some Wisconsin residents are also wondering why their own senators failed to cut similar deals for the Badger State.

Conservatives, meanwhile, are trying to use the outrage over these special provisions – from millions of extra Medicaid dollars for Nebraska to $100 million for a medical center in Connecticut – to stoke opposition to a bill that’s becoming increasingly unpopular with American voters.

In Wisconsin, Walter and Elaine Moede of Sturgeon Bay were so angry about the special deal for Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson that they made public their letter to Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl demanding the senators fight to secure more Medicaid dollars for Wisconsin.

“Your vote is every bit as crucial as Senator Nelson’s, so there is no reason to expect that you cannot give us as your constituents the same protection as he has obtained for his,” they wrote.