Feingold: Nothing for Something

"Helping me," Feingold says, "means you aren't going to get anything out of it except good government."


Sandy Horwitt wrote the book—literally—on Sen. Russ Feingold, so at his book party Monday night he knew what the reaction would be when he offered the progressive a copy of his bio: a stiff-arm. Still, he tried his best to get Mr. Ethics to take a freebie. All wrapped in velvet and a gold ribbon was a first edition of the book. And not just any first edition. It was the first Feingold off the presses. What's more, he signed it, making the value over $100, Horwitt joked to about 100 guests at the Tony Cleveland Park home of Close-Up boss Tim Davis.

So what was the reaction of Feingold, who famously coauthored the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill? "No deal!" In fact, Feingold told well-wishers that he revels in not just refusing gifts but balking at paying back favors with legislative goodies.

"Helping me," he says, "means you aren't going to get anything out of it except good government."

The buzz at the steamy garden party was about how Feingold, who once toyed with running for president, would make a good vice president. But many said that his progressive northern politics would make him an unlikely choice of any of the front-runners. The liberals and progressives in the group felt that front-runners like Sens. Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama would instead choose a southern governor as a running mate. Instead, one key Democratic insider told me, some would prefer that a Republican win the 2008 race because that might push Democrats and independents to open up to a progressive like Feingold in 2012.