Wisconsin Republicans accuse Russ Feingold of violating federal law
MADISON — The Republican Party of Wisconsin has filed a complaint with federal investigators alleging that Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Russ Feingold violated a federal law that prohibits political activity by government employees.
“To fuel his desired return to Washington as a United States Senator in the upcoming election in November 2016, Russ Feingold illegally organized a partisan political campaign while also serving as a member of the Executive Branch in the Department of State,” Mike Duffey, executive director for the Wisconsin GOP, wrote to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.
The Hatch Act, a federal law passed in 1939, limits the partisan political activities of federal employees to ensure that government business is conducted in a nonpartisan way. Among other restrictions, it prohibits federal workers from soliciting political contributions or meeting with others to plan the strategy of a complaint.
Feingold served as U.S. special envoy in Africa from June 2013 until March 2015. He didn’t announce his Senate candidacy until in May 2015, but the Republicans allege Feingold set up a political action committee and began coordinating with fellow Democrats about a potential campaign strategy while he was still State Department employee.
It’s not unusual for political parties to file such complaints against candidates from the other party during campaigns. Generally, little comes of it.
Over the weekend — before Wisconsin Republicans filed their formal complaint — Feingold denied wrongdoing in an interview with FOX6.
“I knew the law, I know the law, and of course I was extremely careful to make sure that I didn’t do anything of the kind,” he said.
Feingold is running against Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson. Johnson’s campaign said Wednesday that Feingold was “apparently guilty” of dishonesty.
“These allegations are serious, and Sen. Feingold should come clean about the conversations he had and the shadow campaign that continued to operate while he was at the State Department,” said Betsy Ankney, Johnson’s campaign manager, in an emailed statement.