I think what makes me the most sad about Senator Feingold’s loss is the amount of outside money spent against him. Or, as an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published back in October put it:
“We thought he would be the perfect first target,” says Keating, whose efforts are part of a national surge in spending by outside groups hoping to tip the balance for control of Congress.
All that spending is drawing attention, for at least two reasons.
One is its political impact. The “outside money” this year is overwhelmingly on the Republican side, which is galvanized by the chance to take back the House and Senate. That’s a change from years when Democratic groups were the big spenders, and it could help put Republicans over the top.
The other is its source. Much of the money that interest groups are spending is coming from undisclosed givers, thanks to a steady loosening in recent years of legal curbs on donors and organizations. Corporations, unions and nonprofits can now air campaign ads using contributions of unlimited size, and anonymous donors can fund a wider range of election activity than they used to.
His defeat really is the one that’s the most difficult to swallow. I like the way Matthew Rothschild summed it up:
The old rules of politics no longer apply.
You can win every debate, as Feingold did.
You can get practically every newspaper endorsement in the state, as Feingold did, including some very conservative ones.
You can be a loyal and dutiful servant of your constituents, coming home every weekend and visiting every county every year, as Feingold did.
And you can still lose.
It’s sickening to see a champion of campaign finance reform lose this way. I guess it goes to show you…if you have enough money you can buy just about anything.