Sen. Russ Feingold has frequently said he considers himself the underdog in his bid for reelection against Republican Ron Johnson. This would appear to be merely an admission of reality. But lately, Feingold — who has held elective office for the last 28 years — has taken the underdog claim a bit further by insisting he has always been a political odds-beater, especially when it comes to campaign fundraising: “I’ve been outspent by my opponents every time I’ve run for U.S. Senate,” Feingold has said on several occassions. Hardly a believable claim on its surface, but PolitiFact Wisconsin looked into it and found that not only is the claim untrue, it “confounds logic.” The fact-checking website gave it a rating of “Pants on Fire!”
Call it me-against-them math.
For instance, in Feingold’s last election, he outspent GOP nominee Tim Michels by nearly $3.7 million in the two-year period before the general election, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.
But Feingold tosses in what was spent by unsuccessful GOP primary candidates Russ Darrow and Robert Welch. By that measure, all of the GOP candidates spent $11.6 million — more than the $9.24 million spent by Feingold alone.
It’s a convenient argument, especially when you are using the “outspent every time” line in fund-raising appeals.
But it also confounds logic.
Michels, Darrow and Welch all sought the Republican nomination in 2004 — just as Feingold was part of a three-way battle when he won the seat in 1992.
In the 1992 race, FEC records show Feingold spent $1,979,488 — the least among the other major candidates. In the Democratic primary, Feingold defeated Jim Moody who spent $2,828,211 and Joseph Checota, who spent $4,022,344.
Feingold then defeated Bob Kasten, the Republican incumbent, who spent $5,427,163.
Using Feingold’s me-vs-them math, everyone could say they were outspent. So is it possible that everyone spent the least and no one spent the most?
Of course not.