Russ Feingold, a Rhodes Scholar and the only senator to vote against the USA Patriot Act, is campaigning to win Wisconsin back from the Republicans this time around.
By Nigel Holloway
Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin (below), a Rhodes Scholar at Magdalen College in 1975-77, is running for the office that he lost in the 2010 election to Republican Ron Johnson. A political newcomer, Johnson said that Feingold was emblematic of a senate intent on expanding the role of government. Feingold’s loss ended a distinguished 18-year career in the senate.
He is best known for working with Republican Senator John McCain to pass the Campaign Reform Act of 2002, in an effort to limit lobbyists’ influence. He was also the only senator to vote against the USA Patriot Act that became law soon after 9/11, saying its provisions infringed upon civil liberties.
Campaign finance and civil liberties will remain important issues to Feingold as he girds for battle, but U.S. domestic policies are not the only matters that preoccupy him. After losing his senate seat, Feingold served in 2013-14 as United States Special Representative for the African Great Lakes region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a region wracked by civil wars in which more than 5 million people have died. During his time in the position, one of the warring factions agreed to surrender, but this leaves more than 30 other groups continuing to fight. 'I wanted to make sure there were opportunities for economic co-operation because the region has enormous natural resources and great potential for ecotourism,' says Feingold.
Growing up in Wisconsin in the 1960s, the assassinations of John F Kennedy, his brother Robert, and Martin Luther King Jr. had a “searing effect” on him, but it wasn’t until he studied at Oxford that “the immediacy of Africa” came alive. At the time, white-ruled Rhodesia was fighting a guerrilla war against two black nationalist organizations. 'At Oxford, there was an understanding of issues that still concerned swathes of the world; we didn’t feel that in the U.S.,' he says.
His ties with Oxford never frayed; in fact, they’re stronger than ever. Feingold is married to Dr Christine Ferdinand, Librarian of Magdalen College. They met at a college dinner in 2008. Whatever happens to his re-election bid, Feingold will continue to spend plenty of time at Oxford.