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New Obama Campaign Co-Chair: ‘The President Is Wrong’

Posted on Feb 23, 2012

Russ Feingold

By Amy Goodman

“The president is wrong.” So says one of the newly appointed co-chairs of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

Those four words headline the website of the organization Progressives United, founded by former U.S. senator and now Obama campaign adviser Russ Feingold. He is referring to Obama’s recent announcement that he will accept super PAC funds for his re-election campaign. Feingold writes: “The President is wrong to embrace the corrupt corporate politics of Citizens United through the use of Super PACs—organizations that raise unlimited amounts of money from corporations and the richest individuals, sometimes in total secrecy. It’s not just bad policy; it’s also dumb strategy.” And, he says, it’s “dancing with the devil.”

In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt said to Congress, “All contributions by corporations to any political committee or for any political purpose should be forbidden by law.” He signed a bill into law banning such contributions in 1907. In 2012, this hundred-year history of campaign-finance controls died, thanks to five U.S. Supreme Court justices who decided, in the 2010 Citizens United case, that corporations can use their money to express free speech, most notably in their efforts to influence federal elections.

After 18 years representing Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate, Feingold lost his re-election to self-funded Republican multimillionaire and tea party favorite Ron Johnson. Since then, Feingold has been teaching law, started Progressives United and, while supporting the effort to recall Wisconsin’s embattled Gov. Scott Walker, has steadfastly refused to run against him or for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl.

Feingold was the sole member of the U.S. Senate to vote against the USA Patriot Act. He was a fierce critic of the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. Although Obama, as a senator, originally threatened to filibuster any legislation that would grant retroactive immunity to the telecom corporations involved with the wiretapping, he reversed himself on the eve of the Democratic Convention in 2008 and voted for the bill. Feingold remained adamantly opposed. On the war in Afghanistan, Feingold told me: “I was the first member of the Senate to call for a timeline to get us out of Afghanistan. Even before Obama was elected, when it was between [John] McCain and Obama, I said, ‘Why are we talking about a surge?’ ... Sending our troops over there, spending billions and billions of dollars in Afghanistan, makes no sense. And I think it was a mistake for the president to do the surge, and I think he’s beginning to realize we need to get out of there.”


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Feingold opposed Obama’s Wall Street reform bill, saying it was too weak, and supported the state attorneys general, like New York’s Eric Schneiderman and another of the new campaign co-chairs, California’s Kamala Harris, who, at first, opposed the proposed settlement with the five largest banks over allegations of mortgage-service fraud and “robo-signing.” Feingold’s reaction to the $25 billion settlement that the White House pushed through? “We were among the few that refused to do a little dance after this announcement ... whenever it ends up being Wall Street, somehow there’s always a clunker in there.”

As I interviewed Feingold, just hours after he was named one of the 35 Obama campaign co-chairs, I asked him if he was an odd choice for the position. Feingold responded: “How about a co-chair that’s proud of him for bringing us health care for the first time in 70 years? How about a co-chair who thinks that he has actually done a good thing with the economy and helped with the stimulus package, and we’ve had 22 months of positive job growth? How about a co-chair for a president that has the best reputation overseas of any president in memory, that has reversed the awful damage of the Bush administration, who in places like Cairo and in India and Indonesia has reached out to the rest of the world. Believe me, on balance, there’s no question. And finally, how about a co-chair of a president who I believe will help us appoint justices who will overturn Citizens United?”

Until then, as the Obama campaign “dances with the devil” of super PACs, perhaps campaign co-chair Russ Feingold will help us follow the money.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,000 stations in North America. She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.

© 2012 Amy Goodman

Distributed by King Features Syndicate

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, February 25, 2012 at 4:23 am Link to this comment

Fred Astaire - I’m Putting All My Eggs In One Basket

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, February 24, 2012 at 10:19 pm Link to this comment

I was pretty dissappointed when Feingold expressed his approval of Obama’s foreign policy specifically praising his dealings with India and Indonesia.

Big Business & Arms Deals, Not Poverty, Top Obama’s Agenda in India

EXCLUSIVE: As Obama Arrives in Jakarta, Secret Docs Show U.S.-backed Indonesian Special Forces Unit Targets Papuan Churches, Civilians

The Obama administration has been terrible on the international “playing field”, “front”, or whatever you want to call it.

We are supporting the coup in Honduras, obstructing climate negotiations (and not making any good use of the EPA), kissing Isreal’s ass, supporting the austerity/pillage schemes being inflicted on Greece and other suffering european countries, selling arms to Bahrain and other repressive regimes in the middle east, making job killing (to borrow a phrase from Boehner) free trade deals in Korea, and the list goes on.

Perhaps it is Russ who is “dancing with the devil” by too narrowly focusing on Citizens United, and thus choosing Obama as a partner.

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vector56's avatar

By vector56, February 24, 2012 at 7:37 am Link to this comment

“The fact is, that Feingold is likely correct. Yes, we are at war (the GWOT) and al-Awlaki choose to position himself on the other side, he was killed for it, those are the rules of war”


Anyone Remember Jane Fonda’s little trip to Vietnam? Basically, Fonda took a crew and filmed the after effects of our “carpet bombing” in urban areas on the civilian population. Awlaki did far less than Fonda; both were US Citizens. To this this day I have unlimited respect for Jane Fonda and Julian Assange; but I can’t help but wonder if their White skin (hers then and his now) played/plays a part in their survival?  After all, how would it look for even the first “Brown” president to order the Blue eyed, Blonde haired “Extra-White” Assange murdered in cold blood?

“Killing little Brown Muslim men is our new hobby” (George Carlin).

Awlaki, like Fonda and Assange did nothing illegal or wrong! Many here (including myself) could be considered “targets” if we expressed our opinions outside of the US.

When Amy asked Russ about Awlaki’s 16 year old son, he like most in the media ignore the question.

Again, I ask; what exactly did Awlaki do?

What was his 16 year old son put to death for?

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Not One More!'s avatar

By Not One More!, February 23, 2012 at 10:17 pm Link to this comment

The president is wrong and that is why I am his co-chair. Even though I am against the war, I support the person responsible for countless civilian deaths because, well just because he is a democrat.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, call me a democratic party supporter.

I did buy into the ‘myth’ that Feingold was a true maverick, but seeing him on Amy’s show today, I realize that he is just another democratic party apologist.

Stop throwing away you vote by voting democrat. It is called the Charlie Brown syndrome. Vote third party. Make your vote mean something.

“I’d rather vote for what I want and not get it than vote for what I don’t want, and get it.” - Eugene Debs

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By Outraged, February 23, 2012 at 7:31 pm Link to this comment

The fact is, that Feingold is likely correct. Yes, we are at war (the GWOT) and al-Awlaki choose to position himself on the other side, he was killed for it, those are the rules of war. Again and again legal scholars come to the conclusion that Obama was well within the boundaries of the law.

But this sudden outrage I find ridiculous. It’s been going on for YEARS, but it’s Obama now, so it’s somehow doubly wrong in some circles. It’s the same thing!

Certainly there are details that need to examined by the courts regarding the AUMF, but this is true of ANY law and challenging them in the courts is a method used to tweak them. I disagree with the AUMF, otoh how do you fight an enemy without a state?  We were attacked and they vowed to do it again and they declared war against us, that’s not conjecture.

Feingold is a good person and I think it shows Obama’s willingness to engage all perspectives when making decisions.

But now suddenly Feingold is being depicted as some sort of untrustworthy villian. It’s stupid. I think it’s great that Feingold’s experience, knowledge and fortitude will be a perspective that Obama will engage in the future.

I couldn’t say enough good things about Feingold, he’s always been an excellent senator for the people of WI, well liked by all (including old school Republicans, not right wingers though since they’re another breed altogether). He’s a very fair minded, hard working individual, Obama’s lucky to have him.

Yep, I’m voting for Obama. Another good sign.

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By Catzmaw, February 23, 2012 at 6:57 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Gee, I wish I could be as pure as all you very, very pure progressives who pine for a leader who’ll be a cardboard cutout of yourselves, and who are so very pure you’ll withhold your support even from a President MOST of whose policies you support because there are others you don’t support. Yeah, withhold support. That way, when someone a thousand times worse gets into office because you and yours were too pure to support him, you’ll be able to pat yourselves on the back and say at least you maintained your purity.

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By oakland steve, February 23, 2012 at 10:57 am Link to this comment

I am afraid that Mr. Feingold was suffering withdrawal from the narcotic that is political power.  He didn’t have to empty the family savings account, turn tricks or mortgage his home to get money to slake his hunger—he had his soul to sell.  He’s done that and now he’ll get to go to lots of private meetings with people still in power, be on stage at well-attended rallies and hear his name introduced over loudspeakers to the roar of the party faithful.  Viagra for the over-the-hill politico.

He is more to be pitied than censured.  I’m sure that there’s more than one person in his family who is mortified at this pathetic turn of events.

I am so very thankful that I never gave a cent to this guy’s insistent email solicitation for donations to support his “progressive” voice.

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By ribbie149, February 23, 2012 at 10:30 am Link to this comment

BTW, on Feingold’s Progressives United website, he
asked whether it was a good idea for the president to
use Super Pacs.  Fully two thirds of the respondents
said the president should use the existent rules to
gain reelection and then work to overturn Citizens
United.  Clearly, Feingold does not put much stock in
the opinions of those who support his organization.

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vector56's avatar

By vector56, February 23, 2012 at 10:27 am Link to this comment

“People who will say he must be a sell-out
because he’s working for reelection of Obama are probably inclined to ignore the…”

“You trolls and screamers out there,
you don’t have to use your real names, or address crowds of people, or show up at
working meetings, do you?”

“Trolls”; so that is what you call those who dissent here?

I watched Russ Feingold’s interview on Democracy Now this morning; it would seem he agrees with the extra judicial murder of US citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki. When Amy asked about Al-Awlaki’s 16 year old son being killed Russ totally avoided the question.

You mentioned the killing of Awlaki. Did you support that in Yemen?

Well, obviously I wasn’t consulted in advance. The question there is, is there a doctrine where if somebody is an American citizen and they are clearly affiliated with an enemy power and it is impossible to get them—if that’s true, and that’s what I don’t know—if it’s impossible to get them any other way, is it justified? I would say, probably. But how do I know whether that’s true. You have to tread very carefully when you’re dealing with American citizens. But I am not shedding any tears over the loss of that person, who I think did horrible things.

The President—the ACLU has sued President Obama most recently. “The targeted killing program violates both U.S. and international law,” writes the ACLU in their press release. They said, “As we’ve seen today, this is a program under which American citizens far from any battlefield can be executed by their own government without judicial process, and on the basis of standards and evidence that are kept secret not just from the public but from the courts. The government’s authority to use lethal force against its own citizens should be limited to circumstances in which the threat [to] life is concrete, specific and imminent.” And they not only killed Awlaki, but then, in a separate killing, they killed his 16-year-old U.S.-born son.

I agree with the proposition of the ACLU’s lawsuit, and I think it should be litigated. I think it will be very interesting to see whether the killing of al-Awlaki fits that definition. I think that’s going to be a close question. As to the other ones, it’s a fair point. And, of course, I agree, as a general policy, as something that’s an excuse to do whatever you want and assassinate U.S. citizens anywhere near a conflict, that cannot be justified. But I think as to the actual person who was the target, I think it’s a fair question that needs to be litigated.”

In other words, Russ basically said that he was “generally” against extra-judicial killings of US citizens, but he just did not like this guy (Awlaki), so it is ok. Notice how Russ implied that only the lives of US citizens should even be considered.

So, DornDiego, if I seem like a “Troll” to you “centrist” Progressives from you perspective it may be so. You see I am “not a team player; I am a Liberal!

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By ribbie149, February 23, 2012 at 10:24 am Link to this comment

Did Feingold win his last election?  No.  Are Super
PACs a part of the rules of this election cycle?  Yes. 
Would the president be operating at a severe
disadvantage by not using the resources which these
rules make available?  Yes.  Will any progressive like
the results if the president does not win reelection? 
No.  Is there any chance that Citizens United will be
overturned if the president does not win reelection? 
No.  Should we work to get the president reelected and
THEN work to get Citizens United overturned?  Yes.  So
what’s the question here?

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By boston blackie, February 23, 2012 at 10:17 am Link to this comment

Is this the same Russ Feingold who approves of Obama’s extrajudicial assassination of American citizens; without charge, trial or conviction? Yes, it turns out that good old Russ finds that the Constitutional requirements to charge and prove treason are just too inconvenient and that the president has the right to be a citizen’s judge, jury and executioner! I wonder how he would have responded if Bush were still president. Just another liberal betrayal.

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By shenebraskan, February 23, 2012 at 10:15 am Link to this comment

HuffPo had a story yesterday, in which Feingold declared himself to be “pleased” about the assassination of Anwar al Awlaki, based on having been a member of the Intelligence Committee (a misnomer if there ever was one).

I think Mr. Feingold is going to be a fine fit with the Obama re-election campaign. He seems to have forgotten the Constitution just as thoroughly as Obama. Wish I had my campaign contributions back from both of them, so I could send the money to the ACLU or Amnesty International.

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By shenebraskan, February 23, 2012 at 9:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

HuffPo had a story on Feingold yesterday in which he described himself as “pleased” about the assassination of Awlaki.

Link is here:

Justification was something along the lines of secrets known only to the Intelligence Committee in the Congress. I think he fits in very well with Mr. Obama.

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By DornDiego, February 23, 2012 at 9:44 am Link to this comment

Russ Feingold is one of the real people in politics, and one of those independent
democrats in the tradition of LaFollete who’ve taken education and transparency
and reason as their guiding lights.  People who will say he must be a sell-out
because he’s working for reelection of Obama are probably inclined to ignore the
fact that the McCain-Feingold bill was a serious attempt to limit campaign cash,
and a non-partisan piece of legislation.  Politics is a dirty business for sure, and
no one gets out of it untarnished these days.  You trolls and screamers out there,
you don’t have to use your real names, or address crowds of people, or show up at
working meetings, do you?

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By James M. de Laurier, February 23, 2012 at 8:22 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Amy Goodman,          2/23/2012
  “Feingold writes:The President is wrong to embrace
the corrupt corporate politics of Citizens United…
sometimes in secrecy.It’s bad policy,it’s also dumb strategy - it’s dancing with the devil.”
    It’s the music that millions of Americans are
dancing too.The real progressives united message.
    Thanking you for this opportunity to comment -
    James M. de Laurier

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vector56's avatar

By vector56, February 23, 2012 at 6:55 am Link to this comment

The saying “to little to late” comes to mind when I read Goodman’s artificial.

“After 18 years representing Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate, Feingold lost his re-election to self-funded Republican multimillionaire and tea-party favorite Ron Johnson.”

I ask again, should stupid people be allowed to vote? The people of Wisconsin (mostly Cops and Firefighters) voted in every Republican that wasn’t nailed down (voting out guys like Feingold) and now they have “buyer’s remorse.

If Russ served them well for 18 years what was the point of voting him out? In my humble opinion “term” limits are anti-Democratic.

So, now old Russ is “working for the man”.

“Feingold was the sole member of the U.S. Senate to vote against the USA Patriot Act.”

Having the “guts” not to vote with the pack on important issues displays character; something Obama has lacked from the start.

So, now Russ, like Hilliary and Eric Schneiderman has been sucked into the Obama camp; another potential adversary neutralized.

Back during the campaign Obama used the strategy of “keeping his potential enemies close” by giving them a job within his administration; Clinton, Schneiderman and now Feingold.  Once they are “sucked” into the Obama machine any “push back” against his plans is marginalized. Van Jones originally, was suckered in this way. Jones these days has “drank the Kool-Aid” and now operates as a fully functional “Obamabot”.

Feingold, the man most Liberals thought would primary Obama from the left is now working for Obama; talking up the Big Pharma, Health Insurance Company “back door” bail out thinly disguised as health care.

No Single payer
No Public Option
No Negotiating drug prices
No Federal Exchange

Like Clinton,Jones and Schneiderman, Russ Feingold is just another “sell-out”,  “working for the man!”

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By Start Loving, February 23, 2012 at 5:11 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Amy, nothing you say is ‘news’ anymore.  News is not that which is 100% predictable.  Just pull the left wing dogma off the shelf, the left wing ‘Bible’ and there you’ll find whatever Amy is going to say next.  If ever you were a conscience-driven person wrestling with the real world, not some idealized world that doesn’t exist, that Amy is no longer with us, just a fundamentalist hack.  Pity.

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