Things We Do for Free: An Open Letter to Russ Feingold

Sat. 14 January 2012
Dear Russ,

Today is the 60th and final day of signature collection in the effort to recall Scott Walker and Rebecca Kleefisch. This day marks a milestone in a historic victory for all of us, and for me personally in a huge way. I'm a United Wisconsin coordinator for Dane County and a grassroots organizer for the Sun Prairie Action Resource Coalition (SPARC), a local progressive group. And I just finished the hardest political work I've ever done or thought I'd do. Yesterday was the final day of signature collection here in Sun Prairie and our office processed exactly 7,900 signatures to recall Scott Walker and just a handful fewer than that to recall Rebecca Kleefisch. We also collected enough signatures from District 13 residents eligible to sign the petition to recall Senator Scott Fitzgerald to make a difference in that effort as well.  There were many more petitions from Sun Prairie turned in in Madison, but that's how many we processed in our office. On Tuesday, I'll be representing our team and our part of Dane County when I help carry the petitions to the GAB with recall coordinators from around the state.  I couldn't be more proud of the work we've done, or hold more dear the friendships and connections that this recall has generated. The grassroots networks that were just thin webs before are now sturdy and lasting bonds that permanently and intimately connect individuals, groups, communities and all of the progressive minded people of Wisconsin.  With our awakening, we have united, and we take our call to action seriously.  In our town, and across the state, people who were never involved in politics at all are standing together to fight to move forward.  And we know now that it's a fight we can't lose.

One of Scott Walker's most insulting lies about our efforts has been that recall workers were being paid to collect signatures. Obviously, this is a joke of the lamest order and more of his usual attempt to paint the largest grassroots movement America has seen in decades as a "big money" effort by the "union bosses." A joke he actually had the nerve to make, most recently, while fundraising (as usual) for big money out of state for his own campaign, and in the face of his connections to campaign fraud allegations in both a federal John Doe investigation and over 1000 violations of campaign finance law in his own fundraising.

But however Walker tries to spin the recall as an "outside" effort, the truth is, it could not be more grassroots, or more progressive, or more about the power and necessity of citizen action.  In our own office, volunteers funded everything - their donations paid for yard signs, office rent, copy paper, hand warmers, office supplies, flashlights, recall signs, advertisements for our recall events...all of this came out of our own pockets. If the phantom "union bosses" we've heard so much about were supposed to be picking up the tab for this, they can send the check to me any time and I'll go about distributing the reimbursements.

But if the people who paid for this recall can't really afford it, they can afford even less to live three more years under a governor who talks constantly about tools and jobs but only has time (and money) for his corporate sponsors.  That is price none of us are willing to pay, and we expect nothing but justice in return for fighting against it. As one recall worker, Heather Bott, said:
You couldn't pay me enough to stand out there in the cold rain waiting for the next signer. If I were doing this for money, I would have packed it in when it got cold. My fingers hurt as they were warming up yesterday, my daughter gently rubbing them back to body temperature. And would that be minimum wage?? Double that? A hundred an hour? No, the biggest wage is the knowledge I have that I did not remain warm, that I did not remain silent, that I did not remain anonymous or hidden. And no amount of money could compensate me for the guilt I would have if I did nothing in the face of the evil that has come to this state.
We have been out there for the past 60 days working, for free, because we share a common goal for the common good. Because we know that if we don't win this round, we've got three more years of being kicked to the ground. Three more years for Walker and the corporate writers of anti-education legislation to continue their war on public ed. Three more years of families getting kicked off the BadgerCare that keeps their kids up to date on their shots, ensures medicine for those who need it. Three more years of watching our resources being sold out to corporate interests as Walker tries to privatize every last enterprise of State affairs. Three more years of Gaylord Nelson rolling in his grave over the shocking attacks on our environment.

But I'm not going to let that happen. I have worked as hard as my busy life would allow, and did it for free.  I stood with my brothers and sisters in the Capitol for free. I marched with my kids in the snow for free. I wrote letter after letter to Scott Walker for free. I spoke out publicly against his attempts to destroy public education for free. I volunteered my time as a United Wisconsin coordinator for free. I circulated petitions for free. I give up time I would rather be spending with my family because I know I couldn't look them in the eye if I didn't fight as hard as I could to see Walker recalled. And I apologized to them for not having spent more time in 2010 working on your campaign. It's a mistake I will not make in the future.  It's a mistake I tried to rectify by doing my part to see Walker recalled.

But as monumental as this victory is, it's just Phase 1. Getting signatures was the easy part. The hard part is getting you elected. We all know Walker has not wasted a single moment of the recall period; he's been taking in massive funds from around the country in unprecedented amounts. Big Money America would like nothing more than to buy him an extended stay in our mansion.  We can't match that money.   But we can work. 

I'm ready to knock on doors. I'm ready to make calls. I'm ready to work in the office, ready to do whatever it takes.  If you think we worked hard to recall Walker, you can just multiply that by infinity to see how hard we'd work for you.  Because the recall means nothing if we don't win the election.  And to so many of us, true "victory" means Governor Russ Feingold.

Don't get me wrong. We've got some other candidates, good and honest people who could win. And let's face it, some of them are obviously more interested than you are in running right now. I'm not trying to dismiss them. I would vote for any of them.

But I want to vote for you. And, more importantly, I want to work for you.

Wisconsin needs you. And not in a rhetorical, only-you-can-save-us kind of way. Not just because we like you best, or know you best. Not just because we think you're the most "electable" among our choices. But because you're the best person for the job. We need you, Russ Feingold, because you have a singular trait that no other candidate in any other state has, and our loss in the Senate would be our gain in the Capitol if we could get you back: because you get it. You get that this is not about politics as usual. You understand what's at stake here. And the work of Progressives United - the work you have done as a Senator in your service for so many years - all proves that you have the antidote to Walker's anti-democratic, corporate-run vision of governance.  You have earned our trust and our respect for all the right reasons, and we know you won't let us down. 

I have been told that you aren't interested in running. I have read interviews where you said you didn't want to run "this year." I've been told that calling for you to run is just a distraction from the job of finding a "viable" candidate. But the people who are telling me that are the same people who said recalling Scott Fitzgerald was a pipe dream not worth investing in.  And when you said you didn't want to run "this year" was 2011.  Now it's 2012. By now you might want to run very much!  I understand it might be a long shot, but the grassroots workers of Wisconsin live for long shots. And I'm not going to be counted among those who gave up before they tried. And I'm certainly not giving up on you. So I'm putting this out there and hoping you'll consider.  Knowing where you stand in your support for the future of Wisconsin does not weaken our efforts; it strengthens our resolve to move forward.

Russ, you have proven to us through your years of commitment and service to the people of Wisconsin that you have the integrity, principle, vision and fearlessness needed to enact real change.  And now, on this 60th and final day of the recall effort, we hope we've proven to you that we have the commitment and power to make your vision a reality.  We can do it.

Grassroots action works. And we are ready to work for you.  

Please run for Governor. 

In solidarity,

Heather DuBois Bourenane
Sun Prairie







49 comments:

  1. Amen, I totally agree with this letter. I was one of those unpaid signature collectors that was out in the cold as well. Russ PLEASE PLEASE run. This is my signature in support for you. You would be and do the BEST for this state.
    Rhonda Heumiller

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    1. I am on the team to ask the senator to take the job of governour of Wisconsin,and when you have completed the work in your home state you will have the platform to take your voice to the people of the nation and become the president in 2016

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    2. Russ Feingold haha the Demo is in deeper than I realized.
      Bring it on Demo, we await you, we the people have voted and will again...

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  2. As much I would like Russ to run and win, if we have to beg him, he doesn't want it bad enough and if he doesn't want it, then my opinion is he's not our best candidate.

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    1. Agreed! We've had candidates who didn't seem to want it, and it doesn't work. We need a candidate who wants it, and has a proven record as a strong progressive.

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  3. I agree, please run! I've spent many hours volunteering to recall Walker and I'll spend many hours volunteering for you!

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  4. I will beg because he is our BEST! PLEASE Russ. Wisconsin needs you more than ever. Just tell us what you need.

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  5. Well said!!! I would be so thrilled to see Russ Feingold's name on the ballot!!!

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  6. My very conservative husband as told me that Russ Feingold is the only candidate he would support in opposition to Walker. If he feels this way, I'm sure there are many more out there

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  7. I'm visualizing my grand children opening their Wisconsin History book to the Chapter where Scott Walker, Roberta Kleefisch and 4 state senators were successfully recalled in 2012. The last paragraph reads: "Scott Walker lost the recall election to then former State Senator Russ Feingold in the largest ever landslide of any statewide election in the United States. Governor Feingold then went on to become the nation's 45th President.

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  8. Brava Heather! Well said. And thank you for your kind words for your people; I feel that you include all the collectors in the state, of which I am one. The friendships I have made I will hold dear forever. This is after finding out that there is, indeed, another Democrat in Washington County.

    Mr. Feingold, this is your decision, but please really consider this request. You did so much for us in the Federal government, now we need you HERE. Thank you for all you do.

    Sally Lacy - Germantown, WI

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  9. Sandy Frei-Sun PrairieJanuary 14, 2012 at 6:51 PM

    There has never been a time Wisconsin has needed you more. I would be proud to campaign for you.

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  10. I am amazed by the activists of Wisconsin. I'm sure Mr. Feingold is too. Dear Mr. Feingold, your state is calling!

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  11. YES! I could not think of anyone else that I would work harder for than RUSS FEINGOLD!!! He does GET IT, and that is why he should run.

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  12. Mr. Feingold has been a credit to Wisconsin and this writer would be a proud and motivated supporter.

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  13. Dear Mr. Feingold, it is not a coincidence that you are able to run for Governor of Wisconsin at this time. One door closes and another opens. Please listen to your gut and the over 700,000 Wisconsin voters who signed petitions to recall Scott Walker.

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  14. Sorry Russ, I have heard your thoughts on this but man, in order to succeed, we need a hero like you Buddy!

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  15. Yes Russ, usually the system is best fought from the outside, you are right. But these are unusual times. RUN RUSS RUN.

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  16. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Russ-Feingold-for-Wisconsin-Governor/182146011826625

    http://www.facebook.com/events/250282411708508/

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  17. Dear Heather, you are a gifted, talented, most wonderful worker and writer. Thank you deeply. I LOVE what you did and wrote.

    Dear Lynette, I also LOVE what you wrote.

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  18. Thank you Heather - very well said.
    Russ - I'm ready to work in Waukesha!

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  19. Please ad my name to the above well written letter...

    Henry Grant, Manitowoc, WI 54220

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  20. We need you, Russ Feingold. Please reconsider and run against Scott Walker.

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  21. Respectfully, Senator Feingold, you know Heather DuBois Bourenane is right. We need you, and we need you now.

    No pressure. Just facts.

    We Need You.

    larry

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  22. Wisconsin needs you now more than ever before. I have always respected and admired your commitment to the people of Wisconsin and this country. If you reconsider and decide to run, I would be one of your many, many proud supporters.

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  23. Russ I am begging you to run as our governor of our fine state if there is one person who is for the people it is you. I hope that you will consider this offer and say YES we need you Russ to take back our state from the Koch Brothers and restore our faith in our government Thank you Jill Bemis

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  24. Thanks Heather, for being Forward on this issue.
    Your writings are solid.
    Your blog knocks me out.
    Russ is too young and correct thinking to disappear into the scholastic realm.
    He must continue his political work in the progressive real world.
    We all get over our own setbacks and now is his time.
    He can still fight back...it is easy...we do it...so can he.
    Solidarity Forever,
    Frank Dederich
    Progressive Windsor

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  25. Sacrifice.It's the inconveninent and sometimes painful thing we all do for friends, family and lately, for the state we live in. Senator Feingold,the sacrifice you would make in running for govenor would be more than some men could could make, but one I feel you were destined for. I know you love history, now is your opportunity to write a new chapter. I pledge my undying volunteer support to your election. Polly Richland Center Wi.

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  26. Russ everything happens for a reason, one door closes so that another one can open. It's destiny, yours and ours. Please allow it to happen, we've done our part, now it's time to do yours.
    Sonja, Madison, WI

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  27. As a PROGRESSIVE and a dedicated man of the people, I see this as a great opportunity for you to advance the progressive movement in this country, to get National attention for a movement that deserves the people's support..Please bring this to the table, be the next Governor of Wisconsin.

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  28. I know it was so hard losing the Senate seat, Russ--but you can win this. Please, for the sake of all Wisconsin Democrats, Progressives and those who feel Walker is hurting this state--Please run for Governor!! You will win this!! You can be our hero.

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  29. Well said, Heather. If Russ stands by his word to not run, do you have a favorite of the people who've said they're interested?

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  30. I have never seen so many dedicated citizens in such a short time come together and work so hard to get the required signatures. Heather's letter expresses what we all feel and I join her just as I did out in the cold. I know that you express you are content with your work now, but imagine your talents back at work as our Governor! We need to take back our state. Your sound judgement and actions while in the Senate is what our state needs. I will do whatever it takes to assist you to become the State of WI next Governor. You have thousands of citizens who worked so hard to get this far recalling Gov. Walker and Scott Fitzgerald and we will work just as hard for your election. Our state and country needs the progressive dedicated man you are.

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  31. Masterful work, Heather! Russ Feingold should consider becoming our candidate for governor because HE GETS IT! Since I have been awakened to the work of state government, I have become aware that many in our state government really DO NOT GET IT! We need Russ Feingold at this point in our journey to reclaim our state from the people who have no interest in us. I, too, would give all of my energy to a Feingold campaign.

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    1. how about Jon Erpenbach for Lt. Gov?

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  32. Please Russ run! We need you now the most. Help us to protect ourselves from what Scott Walker has done and will do in the future to the working people of Wisconcon.

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  33. Russ you are the best one for the job of governor in the recall election. Please reconsider!

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  34. As someone who has several teachers in her family, and is also the parent of children with disabilities, I please ask that you consider running against Scott Walker. I think there are a lot of people who rashly voted for Ron Johnson just because they were "fed up" with Democrats. They didn't realize that YOU were not part of that problem, and now are sorry that they replaced a man of integrity with one who is nothing but another "lockstep" Republican. There is a general consensus that you would easily beat the man who has harmed our state so badly.

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  35. If you want to really understand how long Russ has been trying to stop the banks ALL ALONE you must read the biography written about him by Sanford D. Horwitt: FEINGOLD, A NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY. In less than 3 years as a state senator in the mid 80s, he sat on the bill that would have allowed concentration of wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer banks. Tim Cullen and the banking lobby redesigned a similar bill and sent it to a committee that Russ was not chair of and that did not normally handle such questions. They muscled the bill through by by-passing him. To really understand how far ahead of everyone he was and how hard he has worked alone...to really understand how much work he deserves that we do for him whether he runs or not... to truly know who we want to work for and who he really is...it is time to read or re-read this book. If he ever does agree to work for us again, we owe him that much and more. It is required reading for anyone who wants to be worthy of working for him on a campaign.

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  36. Chrissy in NW WisconsinJanuary 17, 2012 at 9:06 PM

    Russ, please hear our call and know that our state really needs you! I believe in you and will do what I can to help!!

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  37. Russ,
    I'm sure you remember the night of your primary election for the Senate as I do because I was staffing your sign-in table and the feeling was electric. You were on the way back from some last minute campaigning and this was before cell phones so you were out of touch, but your staff was standing just behind me with great anticpation awaiting your return. The local TV stations were calling the election in your favor and the general feeling was, whoever won the promary would probably be the next Senator. You walked in, stopped in front of me, bent over to look at who had signed in and I said congratulations Russ. Your head snapped up, and with a grin you said you mean I won? The crowd then engulfed you and you were gone with out ever talking to me but I have always had a good feeling about being the first with the news that instant recognition of yours of this new future. Please Russ dont take away my good feelings. Wisconsin now needs you and all that you can bring to the recall Walker campaign.

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  38. Please Sir, Wisconsin needs you. My daughter needs you to ensure she gets the best education possible. We continue to ask you due to our respect and admiration for who you are, what you represent, and the work we have already seen from you.. She is right, "You get it". Please consider it... Amanda, Milwaukee Wi

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  39. I am ready to work for you, sir... Will you once again work for me?

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  40. Mr.Feingold, I have been wearing a "Feingold for President" tshirt that I bought on the Capital square back in 2007 from some goofy guy. I have worn it proudly these past years, and would be thrilled to find that same goofy guy to buy a "Feingold for Governor" tshirt. Please, please consider running. You alone have the power and influence to restore our faith in our state and our government and in basic human decency. Run, Russ, Run...
    Sarah Waterworth Rahaman

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  41. AS we move "forward" toward correcting the "Mayhem" that Scott Walker has placed upon the political scene in our great state... I feel you are the candidate that can restore dignity to the office of Governor of the state of Wisconsin.... Go Russ

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  42. Very interesting... I really like it... Thank you so much...

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