November 2011

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live in a man's world Russ Feingold The political veteran's second act By Sarah DeRoo Russ Feingold isn't one to sit on the sidelines. After 28 consecu- tive years in political office—from the Wisconsin State Legislature to the United States Senate—he is used to being in the middle of it all. When his 2010 re-election bid ended with a loss to Sen. Ron Johnson, Feingold took a step back—but only for a brief moment. Just three months later he launched Progressives United, a grass- roots political action committee created in response to the 2010 Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court—a ruling allowing unlimited corporate spending in elections that Feingold and his supporters say has not only reshaped, but corrupted the electoral process. Turning down calls to run for Senate in 2012, Feingold has settled into post-public office life. You've had a lot of great victories during your years in office, but how does it feel to be one of the winners of BRAVA's first ever readers' choice poll? [laughs] It's my first time in 18 years spending most of my time here [and not] in D.C. People have been so friendly and warm, so I ap- preciate that folks wanted to hear from me. In an interview after the 2010 election, you alluded to plans for tackling your key issues outside of public office. How long had the idea of launching something like Progressives United been in the back of your mind? Well, obviously we were trying to win the election, but we knew that what had happened because of the Citizens United decision— allowing corporations to do whatever they wanted with our democ- racy—was going to have an overwhelming impact beyond anything one senator could do. As soon as the election was over, we realized we had an opportunity to create an organization that would help focus the fight against corporate domination of our democracy. Why not run for office again? Because this is an issue that goes beyond trying to pass legislation as a senator. It's still very important to have good legislators, but the fact is that this Supreme Court decision cannot be overturned by legislation, it can only be overturned by a constitutional amend- ment or a decision by the Supreme Court reversing it. So we need a broader grassroots strategy that puts pressure at every level to try to get this decision reversed. It seems like people on all sides are frustrated with politics today. Are you? I don't let myself get frustrated because I try to play a role in en- couraging people to come out of that frustration—but there are moments where I can't believe what I'm seeing. For 100 years corporations weren't allowed to do this, and this Supreme Court Quick Questions with Feingold First job? Working for my parents' abstract title service typing property descriptions on 3x5 cards on an old typewriter when I was 15. Favorite Wisconsin beer? Boy, I could get in trouble for this one. I hate to take sides, but some of these New Glarus beers are really good. 24 BRAVA Magazine November 2011 What is a phrase you use too often? Something along the lines of 'I'm going to go home, I'm going to get organized and I'm going to go get some take- out prime rib.' My staff tells me that I've concluded too many trips saying those exact phrases so they made it into an imitation. Time it took to read the Health Care Reform bill? The better part of a weekend. There were huge snowstorms and I was stuck in Washington. Did you order prime rib while you read it? They didn't have good prime rib in Washington. They do have good prime rib at Fitzgerald's in Middleton. issued a lawless decision. I find that beyond frustrating, I find it unbelievable. A lot of people don't quite realize the enormity of it. The fact that you have unlimited secret contributions being given is something we've never really faced before. I refuse to just sit back and let this happen. Though many were hoping to see you run for office in 2012, you've been focused on other goals including "While America Sleeps: A Wake up Call for the Post-9/11 Era." Why this subject? I've been wanting to write about [this] for a long time. I had been concerned that the country has not properly responded to the 9/11 challenge. It's scheduled to come out in mid-February. You're also teaching law at Marquette University. What is more difficult, being a politician or teacher? Depends. [laughs] I can tell you teaching and trying to keep stu- dents interested in a class for an hour and 15 minutes or more is very challenging. Also grading exams for the first time was challenging. Your decision on the 2012 election has been made. Do you ever see yourself getting that political itch again? I honestly can't tell whether I'm going to feel that way again. I've rarely enjoyed my life more than I am right now. I'm a grandfather for the first time. I would much rather be taking a walk in Pheas- ant Branch than sitting in an airport [heading to Washington]. I'm really enjoying my life. But things change over time, so we'll see. •••

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