Hearting Feingold in Fond du Lac

I didn’t know what to expect before I went to Sen. Russ Feingold’s listening session in Fond du Lac this morning, but all early indications warrant immense confidence that progressive activists in general and Get Fisa Right in particular can leverage these for impressive results. My experience this morning has made me supremely confident that our goals for the “GFR Heart Sen. Feingold” campaign are entirely reachable, and I think it will be a boon not only for our work but for the progressive movement in general if we take advantage of these!

First things first—-a recap of what these listening sessions are like. Sen. Feingold pledged upon his first senatorial run to hold open meetings in all 72 counties in Wisconsin every single year. This must be quite the strain on him, yet this strain did not seem to mitigate the utility of these open meetings as he went beyond the call of duty (and over the time limit) to ensure that he answered EVERY SINGLE QUESTION posed to him.

At the beginning of the session he mentioned that it was a particularly large crowd, which I was very surprised to hear as there were maybe 50-100 people there. The general small town feel of this event helped make it an incredibly welcoming environment for every day citizens to pose questions to him, which I am quite proud to say that I was able to do. This dynamic will make it eminently easy (at least relative to other politicians) to achieve our goal of getting “a better understanding of the situation in Congress and Senator Feingold’s strategy” as we can simply ask him directly. In fact, at this very meeting the senator was adamant in his support for Sen. Leahy’s efforts to establish a Truth Commission designed to investigate Bush administration abuses including “the use of torture, warrantless wiretapping, extraordinary rendition, and executive override of laws.” However, I firmly believe that we could use these meetings to ask extremely detailed questions that our media would not think to ask him both about how these proceedings will move forward and what we can to do help.

Furthermore, I was even more surprised to see the lack of media attention that was present for this rare sort of opportunity for every day citizens to hob nob with the powerful. There was only 1 (!) media member there that I could see, and they merely filmed a 30 second clip in the back of the room at the beginning and then held a short interview after it ended. This was completely unexpected for me as the invite for this listening session specifically cited how he would be available to meet with the media, which apparently no one else decided to take advantage of. In fact, I felt somewhat self-conscious considering I was the only one holding a video camera, and I had these feelings confirmed when his Administrative Director came up to me to ask what I planned to use the video for. Her approach was entirely unthreatening and, in fact, she gave me her card specifically so I could contact her to discuss my plans (and I’ll be looking to the comments section of this thread for ideas!).

The dynamic of these completely underutilized consistent opportunities for media outlets to produce video interviews with him could be an easy answer for our goal of getting “Sen Feingold to make a video on “what it means to get FISA right”.” Plus, considering what a hit this short Open Left produced FISA video with him was, I think these videos could become major drivers of traffic to the blog and to the causes we are pushing if only because there seem to be so few of these—bringing us to yet another goal of getting “blog and media attention, at least at the local and state level, and hopefully nationally as well.”

The potential for a campaign designed to take advantage of these listening sessions is massive! They will make it easy for us to “introduce ourselves to Senator Feingold” and ideally will put us on path to getting “a working relationship in place” for GFR. After the experience I have had today I firmly believe we need to resolutely back our most ambitious goal for this campaign of pilotting “techniques that we can use as part of a 50-state strategy” as we will never have a better opportuntiy to guage what kind of citizen activism and participation will be most warmly received and most beneficial for politicians.

All in all, it was quite the gratifying experience and I plan on going to many more of these. I am already rapidly thinking up next steps we can take, and I am looking forward to discussing how we can best do this both for the short and the long term!



9 Responses to Hearting Feingold in Fond du Lac

  1. jonpincus says:

    Great info, Harry, thanks for sharing! Here’s Jean’s report, from the wiki:

    From the Senator Feingold listening session. I was the last of 72 people in the room and so did not get close enough to video. I did talk to staff and we are free to video at any listening session. If we want to make a video exclusive of the session, we have to make arrangements with staff during press time prior to the meeting…they encouraged us to do so.

    Regarding FISA: Senator Feingold is hoping that FISA will be clarified through the courts, but if it is not, favors introducing legislation to protect communications of US citizens. His example was that when he gets Blackberry messages from his daughter in London or if a soldier texts from overseas, all the content goes to government monitoring agencies,,,,,”and that’s just not the America we want.”

    I am not sure if any cases pending (ACLU?). If we had model legislation, he would look at it.


    EFF and ACLU both have cases pending. EFF’s was argued at the District court in December before Judge Walker; not sure when he’ll rule. Then there are likely to be appeals.

    Excellent suggestion on model legislation. We’ll change our upcoming “What does it mean to “get FISA right”” series to have this focus. Whew, glad we held off on launching it 🙂


  2. This is fantastic news! And it reinforces the opinion I already had of Senator Feingold — that he is one of the true leaders of the Senate.

  3. Steve—what struck me was how resolutely he dealt with the questions from very conservative audience members.

    Fond du Lac is an extremely conservative part of Wisconsin, and I would say about half of the questions were posed about the stimulus bill using some form of Rush Limbaugh speak. However, Sen. Feingold commits to holding these kind of listening sessions and consistently defending his positions while people essentially sneer in his face.

    This is in part why I am certain that Get Fisa Right would be a supremely welcome element to these listening sessions. Sen. Feingold would love to take complex questions regarding issues that he has fought for from Wisconsin citizens trying to decipher how to best help him!

    At the extreme least, it’d definitely be a welcome reprieve from more Rush Limbaugh arguments…

  4. […] the Get FISA Right heart Sen. Feingold campaign took a big step forward when Jean and Harry went to a listening meeting in Fond du Lac (Wiconsin) and asked about the Senator’s strategy on FISA.  Not only do we […]

  5. Rich Gardner says:

    Some progressive buddies of mine objected when I passed around Senator Leahy’s call for a Truth Commission. Their objection was that they wanted prosecutions.
    Sounds to me like Senator Feingold is in favor of both having a commission AND for pursuing prosecutions.
    Are these compatible goals? Can we make sure that a FISA Truth Commission doesn’t end up like the 9-11 Commission, a good start, but no prosecutions on the horizon?

  6. jon says:

    It’s a great point, Rich — Michael has brought up similar issues in another thread.

    Sounds like this is something worth kicking off a topic on in its own right. I’ll try to do that tomorrow …


  7. […] One more reason why Get FISA Right ♡ Senator Feingold! […]

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