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Dispatch from Netroots: Fiery Feingold focuses on Citizens United

It’s understandable that he would be a bit bitter.

Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) lost his seat after corporations sent a flood of money into his race with the aim of defeating him. It worked.

Feingold was the keynote speaker last night here at Netroots Nation, the progressive bloggers’ conference being held this year in Minneapolis. Feingold’s entire speech centered around the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the decision that

Lady Liberty explains our QR code sticker to a booth visitor.

upended 100 years’ worth of campaign finance jurisprudence and said that it was fine for corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to sway elections.

Feingold got angry. He got funny. He got wonky.

He explained to the packed convention hall the history of campaign finance law, explaining how restrictions were a reaction to the Robber Baron era when corporations ruled. He described the toxic effects of the Citizens United ruling. Here are some of the more notable things he said:

“Speech doesn’t corrupt. Money corrupts, and money isn’t speech.”

“The Democratic Party is in danger of losing its identity.” (Context: The Dems shouldn’t take oodles of corporate money to keep up with the GOP.)

“We simply need to overturn Citizens United.”

One of his best points was about Democratic and Republican toothpaste. His point was to urge people to buy products from companies that don’t take the profits and use them to work against the public interest.

So goes Netroots, which has attracted a record crowd of about 2,400 people. Public Citizen has a booth, and we’re meeting lots of great people. It doesn’t hurt that Rachel Lewis, our social media guru, who brought her Lady Liberty costume. It’s quite a conversation-starter.

And if you haven’t already, make sure to sign a petition for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.