Climate Denier Ron Johnson Topples Russ Feingold

Pete Marovich/

And so bows out one of the Senate’s liberal legends, Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold. Since he was elected in 1992, Feingold has carved out a career as an independent-minded Democrat, a politician hardly in lockstep with his party. For instance, Feingold was one of two Democrats to vote against the financial reform bill passed by Congress this summer.

Yet Feingold couldn’t overcome his party’s enthusiasm gap in 2010, nor the anti-incumbent wave sweeping the country, nor the attack ads against him funded by outfits like the US Chamber of Commerce, which spent $750,000 to defeat him. All told, outside groups spent $1.32 million opposing Feingold’s reelection campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics; the shadowy, conservative American Action Network lead the way, pouring $910,000 into the race. Meanwhile, Ron Johnson, the conservative businessman who defeated Feingold, funelled $8.2 million of his own money into his campaign.

A surprise winner at the state GOP’s convention, Johnson ran on a traditional conservative platform: He opposes same sex marriage and the Obama admnistration’s stimulus; supports protections for the Second Amendment and a balanced budget amendment; and wants to lower taxes and repeal the Obama administration’s health care reform legislation, which he described as the “single greatest assault to our freedom in my lifetime.” What landed Johnson in headlines earlier this year was his claim that climate change wasn’t created by humans but instead was the result of “sunspot activity.”


The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.