By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Watchdog
MADISON, Wisconsin — Federal Election Commission filings show returning U.S. Senate candidate Russ Feingold and his liberal political action committee shelled out a lot of money at four-star hotels and restaurants in its mission to “stand up against the exploding corporate interest in our elections.”
Progressives United PAC has spent money on itself and its founder, Feingold, the godfather of campaign finance reform.
But did the PAC pay for Feingold’s D.C. residence?
It appears so.
FEC documents obtained by Wisconsin Watchdog note Progressives United paid more than $23,000 for “office rent” in the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill complex between January 2011 and July 2013 — the entire time Feingold served as an adviser to the political action committee.
That’s on top of the $101,884 Progressives United spent on office rent in Wisconsin between July 2011 and December 2014.
The apartment complex, built in 1931, has been home to scores of congressional representatives’ and Supreme Court Justices men, according to the website for the General Board of Church and Society.
The organization oversees the Washington, D.C., landmark United Methodist Building and its adjacent Maryland Avenue apartment complex.
That was Feingold’s home away from his Middleton home during his 18-year tenure as Wisconsin’s junior U.S. senator. Feingold recently declared his candidacy for the seat he lost to Republican Ron Johnson in 2010’s Republican revolution.
States News Service in December 1992, not long after Feingold won his first election to the Senate, wrote about the apartment the Democrat would long rent.
“So politics does make strange bedfellows. Or it will at least make strange neighbors in Washington next year, if Senator-elect Russell Feingold (D-Wis) decides to move into a Capitol Hill apartment he toured Tuesday. If he takes space in the historic Methodist Building on Maryland Avenue, located across the street from the U.S. Capitol and adjacent to the Senate office buildings, Feingold will be living on the same floor as Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).,” reporter Dunstan McNichol observed.
“The apartment is vacant because its previous tenant, five-term incumbent Rep. Lindsay Thomas (D-Ga.), declined to seek re-election this year. With a monthly rent in the neighborhood of $1000, the two-bedroom apartment features a fireplace and hardwood floors. Its windows overlook the Supreme Court on one side and a narrow alley on the other.”
Feingold penned a description of life in the apartment complex on Sept. 11, 2001, in his widely promoted book, “While America Sleeps.”
“We soon knew. David Corn, a reporter for The Nation magazine, was based in the same place, the United Methodist Building. He stuck his head into the open door of my crowded apartment and said, ‘The Capitol Police say there is a plane headed toward the Capitol and they want everyone to get out.’ We were literally a stone’s throw from the Capitol grounds, so another staff member, Mary Frances Repko, who lived about three blocks farther away on Maryland, suggested we retreat to her place.”
Not long after Feingold joined the State Department as special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in July 2013, the rent payments to the General Board of Church and Society ended.
In October 2013, Progressives United began paying office rent to New Organizing Institute, “a community of organizers … committed to solving the biggest challenges that stand in the way of change,” according to the organizations website.
Progressives United, based in Middleton, Wisconsin, paid NOI $9,200 in office rent between October 2013 and December 2014, according to the PAC’s financial disclosure forms.
Feingold’s campaign did not return email and phone messages asking whether the PAC paid for his apartment rent.
Wisconsin Watchdog contacted the number listed for Progressives for Wisconsin. Earlier this week someone at the Middleton headquarters answered, “Russ for Wisconsin.” A voicemail message at the same number Thursday only noted the office’s phone number.
Earlier this week, Wisconsin Watchdog reported that Progressives United spent more than $40,000 on travel costs between February 2011 and June 2013, while Feingold served as an adviser to the liberal organization.
The political action committee spent $16,421 on hotels alone, including stays at some of the poshest lodging in the country.
Wisconsin Watchdog’s review of the PAC’s organization followed on the heels of revelations that Progressives United has given a miniscule 5 percent of its income to federal candidates and political parties.
“For Senator Russ Feingold, using his PAC to pay himself and his friends and to buy leather-bound copies of his book wasn’t enough — it appears that he added personal living to the long list of expenses that went to everything except other candidates,” Joe Fadness, executive director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin said Thursday.