Russ Feingold tells Salon the post-Citizens United world is "even more shameless" than he imagined
-By Alex Seitz-Wald
September 22, 2012- Former Sen. Russ Feingold is one of the country’s most outspoken voices on campaign finance reform, spearheading several major pieces of legislation to clean up money in politics during his time in Washington. He continues that work today with the group he founded, ProgressivesUnited. As we get close to Election Day and have seen the impact of the Citizens United decision on the first presidential campaign since the Supreme Court handed down the ruling, Feingold spoke with Salon about how campaign finance has changed for the worse and what can be done to fix the system. This conversation has been lightly edited for brevity.
So far we’ve seen at least $600 million spent on ads in this election cycle, almost half of which has been from outside groups. That’s certainly unprecedented, but has the fallout from Citizens United really been as bad as people like you predicted?
Even worse than we expected. I expected it to be very bad, but I thought it would have taken a little longer and there would have been a little more concern on the part of these special interests and corporations that this could hurt them economically in the long run if their participation is revealed. There’s been almost a shameless quality to it.
They’re being egged on by consultants, media firms and media outlets that basically get all this money. I think we sometimes forget that it’s not just those who want to influence elections or have their candidates win, but there’s a huge pot of gold here with regard to those who actually get the money. It’s like a giant bubble, almost like a Wall Street kind of bubble. It has grossly altered our system of government. We don’t have the kind of elections that most of us grew up seeing.