The Corner

Senator Feingold, the Deficit Chicken-Hawk

A new Rasmussen poll shows Sen. Russ Feingold (D., Wis.) trailing his Republican challenger Ron Johnson by seven points. One of the reasons for Feingold’s sudden vulnerability is that Badger State voters are finally catching on to Feingold’s 18-year act as a self-proclaimed “deficit hawk.”

On his campaign website, one finds a flattering description of Feingold as a “recognized leader in the bipartisan fight to cut wasteful spending and reduce the nation’s growing deficit,” a “multi-year winner of the Concord Coalition’s deficit hawk award,” and a leader to “reinstitute the Pay-As-You-Go budget rule that enforces limits on federal budgeting in Congress.” He proudly touts his partnership with Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) and conservative superstar Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) in eliminating unauthorized spending projects. Interestingly, his bio goes on to mention his work with other Republicans, including Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), but fails to mention President Obama, Majority Leader Reid, and other Democrats.

In the 1,200 town-hall meetings he has conducted in Wisconsin during his 18 year Senate career, Feingold has relentlessly touted his efforts to cut wasteful spending, and patted himself on the back for not accepting a pay raise and returning a portion of his office budget to Treasury, saving $3.2 million to date. Meanwhile, he consistently votes for trillions of dollars in deficit spending in Washington. For instance, Feingold voted for the Obama’s failed $862 billion “stimulus” bill and was the 60th vote to pass Obama’s $2.5 trillion health-care reform, which the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports will cost $115 billion more than Democrats claimed. By voting for these budget-busting bills, Feingold failed to adhere to his own “Pay-As-You-Go” golden rule, which in turn has helped drive the national debt to record levels.

In 1992, while running for the Senate, Russ Feingold had an 82-point plan to cut the national debt (with the bulk of the savings coming from dangerous cuts in our national defense budget). In 2010, his plan, the Control Spending Now Act, has 41-points. The only thing that’s been cut in half is the number of points in his plan.

To brandish his fiscal credentials, Feingold highlights his rare alliances with conservative organizations; for instance, he calls Citizens against Government Waste “a terrific ally in curbing earmark practices.” But the truth is that Feingold’s lifetime rating from CAGW is a pitiful 39 percent, which is only slightly better than Wisconsin’s liberal senior senator, Herb Kohl, and places him in CAGW’s “unfriendly” category. CAGW’s website notes that Feingold voted in favor of 47 appropriations bills, which included at least 32,988 earmarks totaling $98 billion. Feingold’s most recent rating by the National Taxpayer Union (NTU) is 23 percent, and over his time in the Senate, Feingold has never received a grade higher than “C-” from the group. Many of the groups Feingold touts as calling him a “penny-pincher” have endorsed Ron Johnson in this Senate race. Russ Feingold may be trying to save millions, but he has voted to waste trillions of taxpayer dollars.

Senator Feingold is a fiscal fraud, a deficit chicken-hawk who talks a tough about reducing deficit spending but doesn’t have the voting record in the U.S. Senate to back it up. The voters of Wisconsin are on to his charade, and appear ready to give Feingold the hook.

Cesar Conda — Mr. Conda, formerly assistant for domestic policy to Vice President Cheney, is a founding principal of Navigators Global, a Washington, D.C.–based public-affairs firm.


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