Thursday night’s opening speakers to the nearly 2500 bloggers attending this year’s Netroots Nation were former Vermont governor, Dr. Howard Dean, WI State Senator Chris Larsen, AFT President Randi Weingarten and Yemeni blogger Afrah Nasser. The highlight of the night was the keynote address by former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold who was introduced by Marcy Wheeler of FDL.
Russ Feingold is a hero, and for good reason, to progressives. Russ was one, if not the only one, of the Democratic Senate, make that Senate as a whole, who really stood up for civil liberties in the face of the bipartisan onslaught that has occurred over the last decade, both under George Bush and Barack Obama.
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Former Wisconsin senator Russ Feingold issued Democrats a dire warning at the annual Netroots Nation conference here on Thursday, saying the party was in danger of losing its “soul” if it accepts corporate contributions in the 2012 elections.
“Sometimes we have to be very direct with the Democratic Party,” said Feingold to the crowd of progressive activists and bloggers at the Minneapolis Convention Center. “Just as you have long pushed our Democrats to stand up for their ideals, I’m here this evening to ask you to redouble your efforts. I fear that the Democratic Party is in danger of losing its identity.”
Feingold pointed to Priorities USA, a new Democratic independent expenditure group — known as a super political action committee (PAC) — that is allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of corporate money. It was launched by former deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton and former senior adviser Sean Sweeney in April.
“Creating those kinds of super PACs for Democrats is wrong. It is not something we should do. I disagree,” Feingold said. “I think it’s a mistake for us to take the argument that they like to make — that what we’re going to do now is, we’re going to take corporate money like the Republicans do, then after we win, we’ll change it. When’s the last time anyone did that? Most people don’t change the rules after they win.”