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Family lured Jerrianne and her husband to South Milwaukee in 2002 from Southern California where she worked as, first, a journalist, then, as a court information officer. She now stays busy with media-relations consulting, playing with her three grandchildren (part of the lure), writing, discovering her new environs, and hoping her garden will produce before the first fall frost.

The People's Loss

Russell Feingold, tea partiers, cut spending

Dear Sen. Feingold,

You conceded defeat last night, but it is the people of Wisconsin—and the country—who lost.

In your 18 years in the U.S. Senate, you have had our backs.

  • You tried to save our jobs.
  • You fought for our rights—sometimes as the only Senator standing.
  • You bucked Washington lobbyists and powerful interests.
  • You worked to level the campaign-finance field so anyone—not just the rich and well-connected—could run for elected office.
  • You helped pass the largest tax cut for 95% of Americans in U.S. history and voted against George W. Bush’s immoral and budget-busting war of aggression.
  • You saved taxpayers $3.2 million over your 18-year tenure, thanks to your personal credo of fiscal responsibility.

During your re-election campaign, I posted blogs, wrote letters to newspapers, commented on other blogs and news articles, sent emails, tweeted and re-tweeted on Twitter, shared your posts and linked to articles on Facebook, knocked on doors, made phone calls, had a Feingold sign in my yard, wore my Feingold t-shirt when I went on errands and sported Feingold stickers on my clothes, waved Feingold signs at Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity, and contributed financially.

And I would gladly do it all again. I am proud to have worked to try to keep you in the Senate. Even though you didn’t prevail in this election, you are, at heart, a public servant and will certainly find other ways to serve us, the people. I stand ready to support you in whatever role that might be.

The nation’s future, so far as Wisconsin’s junior senator-elect is concerned, remains to be seen since other than saying he thinks shipping U.S. jobs overseas is a good thing, he, like many of his tea party comrades, refused to say how they would affect anything if elected. Wasn’t his reply to such a question that he would discuss solutions and details once he was elected?

You are one of the most courageous and fearless public officials I have ever known. I will miss your transparency, candor, honesty and fiscal responsibility, all rare qualities that I and many others value in elected officials.

Well-resourced known and anonymous entities pumped vast sums of money into tea party-affiliated candidates, including the one about to replace you in the Senate. He and his fellow tea partiers might somehow manage to act independently of their financiers and influence, but as you know so well from others’—not your own—experience, it is nearly impossible for politicians not to be beholden to and cave in to those who got them elected. The irony in this election is that the powers that financed and enabled those candidates are the very ones that want to drown them.

Another irony is that in the end, that Feingold, who more than any other Senator tried to limit the poisonous influence of corporate money in politics, was felled by that very poison.

Two of the themes of this election were to cut government spending and reduce the size of government.

Ohio’s John Boehner echoed that theme last night when he said, “...our new majority will be prepared to do things differently... to take a new approach that hasn't been tried before in Washington—by either party. It starts with cutting spending instead of increasing it.”

Kentucky’s Rand Paul has talked about the sacrifice Americans have had to make and that now it’s time for Washington to start making sacrifices.

Those who are calling for cuts and sacrifice need to lead by example. They need start with themselves. They need to put their own wallets where their mouths are. I have a suggestion for how you can help affect those objectives in your remaining weeks in the Senate.

You can introduce a bill that, for starters, would:

  • Roll back Congressional salaries from $174,000 to $129,000 (for senators), which was the annual pay when you took office, and which is the pay you have continued to accept despite the annual pay raises Congress lavished on itself during your 18 years in office. And to make a similar roll back for Representatives' salaries.
  • Cut their office staffing by 10%.
  • Cut their office budgets by 10% over an above the staffing cuts.
  • Cut their benefits to reflect cuts in benefits that have been inflicted on American workers in the private sector.

That would be a meaningful finale to your legacy of public service in the U.S. Senate, particularly after the $3.2 million you returned to taxpayers during your 18 years in office by refusing the annual pay raises Congress gives itself and not spending your entire office budget allotment. It would also force those who campaigned on smaller government and reduced spending platforms to lead by example—or to show themselves to be the hypocrites I suspect them to be and no better than all the other NIMBYs in this country who want cuts in spending for any- and everything that doesn’t directly affect them or their own pocketbooks.

It was an honor to have been served by you as Wisconsin’s U.S. Senator, and I eagerly anticipate the next phase of your public service.

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