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Letter to the editor

Feingold not ruled by big money

October 14, 2010

The other night, I listened to the broadcast debate between Sen. Russ Feingold and his Senate challenger Ron Johnson in Wausau. Seldom have I heard arguments as insubstantial as those Johnson put forward against the Senator.  While Johnson did nothing but regurgitate broad-stroke right-wing talking points, Feingold made informed and specific replies to the questions asked by the panel.

Johnson is a millionaire, while Feingold is one of the few members of the Senate who is not a millionaire. In a time when it has become increasingly clear that the influence of big money in Washington is one of the gravest threats facing American democracy, why would we want to elect yet another rich man?

As a senator, Johnson would be another lockstep Republican with no ideas of his own, in contrast to Feingold, whose voting record has defined him as a genuinely independent-minded public servant. In his book “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future,” the economist Robert Reich describes how money buys the typical Washington politician. Most listen so continually to the concerns of the rich and powerful that they tend to keep the voices of ordinary constituents at a distance. This “access to the network of the wealthy does not necessarily buy a politician’s vote. It buys his mind,” Reich said.

Feingold’s mind is his own. He is an extraordinary senator. He travels to each of the 72 counties of Wisconsin to listen to constituents every year.  Let’s not lose our heads when it comes time to vote. It would be a shame if in the heat of the present anti-incumbent fever we threw away one of the best friends the people of Wisconsin have ever had.

Thomas R. Smith