Why I Like Russ Feingold

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Why I Like Russ Feingold

I've made no secret of my admiration for Sen. Feingold. Like most politicians, he occasionally does things with which I disagree, but I believe that he has a genuine integrity that is sorely lacking in much of Washington.

He was interviewed not to long ago on C-SPAN and I think this exchange serves as a pretty good example of what I am talking about
LAMB: On the pay raise thing, as you know all too well, the way it's done now is that there's an automatic increase in the salaries. And it's been every two years at the rate of about $3,000, $4,000 a year.

When did - go back to what you agreed to do. Now that you're starting your third term, what pay are you taking?

FEINGOLD: I've been the leading opponent of this system. I've been the only person that's offered amendments to get rid of it. And I generally try to make us have a vote on it.

My pledge was that during a six-year term I get no pay raise. So, whatever the salary was in 1992, that's all I got for six years. And the only way I could get a raise is if people say, we want to hire you again. And then I would be hired at the new, higher rate.

But in the meantime, I've had to return about $50,000, in checks to the federal Treasury, in order to make up for the increases that occurred during the periods.

I basically follow what was the, what I think, the initial intent of the framers, which is that you shouldn't be able to get a pay raise during your term of office.

And, of course, that's exactly what's happening, even though they say it's just a cost of living increase. Somebody said it's just a COLA. I said, back home we call that $3,000.

So, I send back the checks for any pay raise that occurs during the term.
In and of itself, this is a rather meaningless gesture - but that is what makes Feingold's position so admirable. Normally in Washington, when faced with breaking a rather meaningless pledge, you find a way to justify breaking that pledge, especially if keeping it directly harms you.

Feingold, on the other hand, is keeping this pledge and losing money in the process for the sole purpose of maintaining his credibility and integrity. And that is rare in Washington, DC.

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