Russ Feingold may be well-positioned to return to the US Senate if he chooses, now that Herb Kohl has retired. A normal politician in that position would not make waves with any party leaders, or take up principled causes where both parties have failed. Feingold is not that normal politician. The Hill reports that he publicly shamed several Democrats in an email to supporters of his new organization, Progressives United. But they don’t make clear what the fuss is about.

I got a copy of the email. Feingold, consistent with the mission of Progressives United, is attacking those who have tried to stop President Obama from issuing an executive order that would force government contractors to disclose their campaign spending. Since news leaked this of this potential order, which has not yet been executed, corporate interests, Republicans and some Democrats have criticized the proposal, saying that it could lead to unintended consequences and the use of the information to deny government contracts. This is largely projection, and it’s coming mostly from politicians who have a lot of contractors in their backyards who simply don’t want to disclose their political donations.

So Feingold called these people out in the email. I’ve put the whole thing below, but here’s the key excerpt:

But not surprisingly, corporate interests in Congress want to keep this process in the dark. Sadly, but predictably, it’s not just Republicans. Some Democrats are joining Republicans in pressing to keep the cycle of political money and federal contracts hidden [...]

This culture of corporate influence and corruption is precisely what we as Progressives United want to change. So we’ve decided to take on those legislators who are unwilling to stand up to corporate power, and we’re naming names.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-CT; Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-MO; Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY; Sen. Rob Portman, R-OH; Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-MD; and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA.

These are some of the legislators claiming that if contractors are forced to disclose their political contributions, contracts will start going to the highest contributor.

Here’s why that’s baloney: Legislators already know who’s greasing their palms.

The contractors know where their contributions are going.

The only party who doesn’t know where the money is going is us, the public.

The logic here is compelling. The people making calls on contracting already have the maximum amount of information; they’re complicit in the corrupt game. The public does not have this tool for accountability. That’s all that’s being sought in this particular executive order: full disclosure and transparency. Under this order, corporations can continue under the law to spend on campaigns (whether that should continue is another matter). But they have to stand behind their decisions.

I don’t know what Feingold is really saying wrong here. Hoyer, McCaskill and the others have gone public with their concerns. Feingold disagrees. And he disagrees strongly enough to pick a fight about it. This particular issue aligns Feingold with the President of the United States, incidentally.

Steny Hoyer and Joe Lieberman should be called corporate suck-ups at virtually every opportunity, regardless of the effect on one’s political career. Maybe this suggests that Feingold is not running. It’s completely in character for him to be an iconoclast on these issues, so maybe he’s just doing what comes naturally. But it doesn’t really matter. The important thing is speaking the truth.

Here’s the full email:

Friend,

In American government, corruption thrives through secrecy.

People and corporations shouldn’t be allowed to make behind-the-scenes contributions to sway elections while at the same time applying for contracts with the federal government. It is a corrupt loophole that too many lawmakers and corporations want to keep open.

That’s why members of Progressives United have made thousands of calls to President Obama supporting an executive order to bring political contributions by companies with federal contracts into the light — and it’s gaining steam.

But not surprisingly, corporate interests in Congress want to keep this process in the dark. Sadly, but predictably, it’s not just Republicans. Some Democrats are joining Republicans in pressing to keep the cycle of political money and federal contracts hidden.

Incredibly, they’re claiming that transparency will somehow lead to more corruption. I spent nearly two decades in the Senate, and I can tell you: that’s just baloney.

Contribute $5 now to help us shame some of the anti-transparency senators and representatives by running online ads targeting their constituents.

This culture of corporate influence and corruption is precisely what we as Progressives United want to change. So we’ve decided to take on those legislators who are unwilling to stand up to corporate power, and we’re naming names.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-CT; Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-MO; Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY; Sen. Rob Portman, R-OH; Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-MD; and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA.

These are some of the legislators claiming that if contractors are forced to disclose their political contributions, contracts will start going to the highest contributor.

Here’s why that’s baloney: Legislators already know who’s greasing their palms.

The contractors know where their contributions are going.

The only party who doesn’t know where the money is going is us, the public.

If we make contributions public, we can hold legislators and contractors accountable. We can shine the bright light of transparency on the whole practice of awarding government contracts, so the American people can truly see what is going on.

Let’s start by holding the defenders of corruption accountable to their constituents right now.

Contribute $5 now to help us shame some of the anti-transparency senators and representatives by running online ads targeting their constituents.

It’s the people’s money — our money — that the federal government uses to pay these contractors. So you and I have a right to know who these contractors and their lobbyists are trying to elect with our money — and if they’re getting more contracts in exchange.

This is a big opportunity to take action, and we need to seize it.

Thank you for uniting as a Progressive,

Russ