Thursday, June 15, 2006

Feingold on Net Neutrality

Senate Judiciary Committee

WASHINGTON - June 14 - Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing today on the important issue of ensuring competition in our communications laws.

I hope that the Judiciary Committee will make this hearing one of a series addressing consumer and competition concerns in the telecommunications field. There are a number of significant issues we should look at, such as media consolidation, preemption of state rights, and anticompetitive practices in the radio and concert industries. In fact, as I think about the issue of Internet competition, it makes a lot of sense to me to consider it through the lens of the problems with the radio and concert industries that I have been concerned about for some time.

Ten years on, the radio and concert industries have not recovered from the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which I opposed. The massive consolidation that resulted from that law took a toll on the local flavor of radio, and it also allowed the problem of payments for airplay, or “payola,” to reemerge. Within the radio industry, payola effectively created a two-tiered system of the labels and artists with the resources to purchase airtime under the table and those who could not or would not. Consumers looking for diversity and localism were the big losers.

I see a parallel situation potentially developing if we allow Internet access providers to create another pay-for-play system and become de facto gatekeepers to the Internet. Without a non-discrimination requirement, certain websites on the Internet could gain an unfair advantage. For example, the major record labels and music stores might be able to pay what the broadband providers demand to prioritize their music distribution, while smaller rivals might not. The independent labels and musicians who have found a niche on the Internet after consolidation and payola drove them from radio could again face an unfair pay-for-play system. Moreover, without protections, Internet users could have fewer choices as only those content providers who could afford to pay the corporate toll-keepers would be able to offer a competitive level of service. We need to make sure that the Internet retains its crucial role as an open forum for the free exchange and dissemination of information.

While antitrust protections such as net neutrality’s non-discrimination concept might not be needed if we had truly competitive markets, the current landscape, which amounts to an emerging duopoly, does not meet this threshold. Perhaps this will change if WiFi, municipal broadband or other technologies become widely available and competitively priced, but for the time being the principle of non-discrimination is a very important one. I also understand that there are legitimate reasons for broadband providers to prioritize one type of data over another to manage their network efficiently. I support the core net neutrality proposals I have seen that allow for this legitimate management of the network, while preserving the basic principle of equal access to the Internet.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Russ Feingold on Death of al-Zarqawi

WASHINGTON - June 8 - “I commend our military forces for their great accomplishment. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a ruthless terrorist who led an insurgent campaign of brutal suicide bombings, kidnappings and hostage beheadings in Iraq. This is great news for the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people. It is also a testament to the professionalism and capability of the men and women in uniform in the U.S. military and the effectiveness of well-planned and targeted operations.

Unfortunately, al-Zarqawi’s death will probably not end the insurgency. As long as large numbers of U.S. troops remain indefinitely in Iraq, that country will remain a crucible for the recruitment and development of a wide range of terrorist networks determined to fight so-called American ‘occupiers.’ It’s time to refocus our global fight against terrorism. We must move away from the Iraq-centric policies that are draining our resources and focus on Al Qaeda and its affiliates who are reportedly operating in reportedly some 60 to 80 countries around the world.”

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Statement on Marriage Amendment

Statement of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold
On the Proposed Constitutional Amendment on Marriage
As Prepared for Delivery from the Floor of the U.S. Senate

June 6, 2006

Mr. President, the Constitution of the United States is an historic guarantee of individual freedom. For over two centuries it has served as a beacon of hope, an example to people around the world who yearn to be free and to live their lives without government interference with their most basic personal decisions. I took an oath when I joined this body to support and defend the Constitution. I am saddened, therefore, to be once again debating an amendment to our Constitution that is so inconsistent with our Nation's history of expanding and protecting freedom.

There are serious issues facing this Congress -- the war in Iraq, health care, high gas prices, relief and recovery after Hurricane Katrina, the economy. These are the issues on which the American people are demanding that Congress act. But instead, we are spending much of this week debating this poorly thought out, divisive, and politically motivated constitutional amendment that everyone knows has no chance of success in the Senate.

The proposed constitutional amendment before the Senate today, S. J. Res. 1, has no better chance of getting a two-thirds majority in the Senate than it did in 2004, another election year. There are no new court decisions that supporters of the amendment can legitimately argue make it any more imperative now than it was then that such an amendment be passed. Yet the Judiciary Committee was ordered to mark up this amendment to fit a schedule announced by the Majority Leader months ago.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Feingold on C-Span

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and former Virginia Governor Mark Warner
(D) address the New Hampshire Democratic Party's annual covention. It
takes place at St. Anselm's College in Goffstown, New Hampshire. New
Hampshire is expected to hold the nation's first presidential primary
in 2008.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Many among crowd urge Russ to run

Published Tuesday, May 30, 2006 1:37:23 PM Central Time

By Brian Gray

of the Times

NEW GLARUS -- If Saturday's listening session is any indication, voters in Green County support a Sen. Russ Feingold campaign for president in 2008.

"Someone mentioned that if Hillary Clinton isn't the nominee in 2008 you will be," one member of the audience told Feingold as others applauded vigorously.

Feingold, D-Middleton, smiled at the comment.

"This is supposed to be a non-political meeting," he joked. "But you're certainly free to say whatever you like."

About 60 people attended Feingold's listening session in New Glarus and questions ranged from the recent theft of veterans' personal information to Feingold's call for a censure of President George W. Bush.

"I don't think President Bush should be censured. I think he should be impeached," one woman told Feingold.

"I thank you for your comment because that makes me look like a moderate," Feingold laughed. "We do have a serious Constitutional crisis here. It's troubling."

Feingold said he's concerned the president has signed bills into law and then has written that he won't abide by things in the law he disagrees with.

"In December the president said he could do anything he wanted. I thought 'Oh really.' That's why I proposed a censure," he said.

Some senators have supported the idea of a censure. Feingold said it's something that's going to take time, but it's something that needs to be done.

"The president broke the law and there needs to be some accountability," he declared.

Many of those at the meeting just wanted to tell Feingold they support what he's doing. Others asked about issues recently in the news.

Joe Cousin, Albany, told Feingold he would like to see a war on poverty, similar to the efforts in the 1960s, with Pres. Feingold standing in front of a sign that reads "mission accomplished."

Feingold said health care and poverty continue to be a problem throughout the country and need to be addressed.

"I think there's going to be a rude shock when people realize how far behind we are when it comes to those issues," he said.

Mike Furgal, Monroe, said he was upset about the theft of veterans' identification information and said the government's response was not adequate.

"They want veterans to call an 800 number but a lot of veterans have problems seeing or hearing and can't call. Other veterans live in nursing homes and can't call."

Furgal encouraged Feingold to support a plan by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., for the government to monitor veterans' credit for free for one year. Feingold said he would look into the plan.

One person asked Feingold why he thinks it's important for the Democrats to win control of either the House of Representatives or the Senate in November.

"It's important we not have one party rule," he replied. "We could block a lot of bad things. For example, gay marriage and flag burning are distractions to real issues.

"I love and respect the flag and I think anyone who burns the flag is an idiot. But I don't think we need a Constitutional amendment. Even horrible speech is protected."

Feingold also spent time Saturday at a listening session in Darlington.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Feingold Opposes Hayden Nomination

Statement of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold
On Opposing the Nomination of General Michael Hayden to be the Next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

I voted against the nomination of General Michael Hayden to be Director of the CIA because I am not convinced that the nominee respects the rule of law and Congress’s oversight responsibilities. General Hayden is highly experienced and talented. But, as Director of the NSA, General Hayden directed an illegal program that put Americans on American soil under surveillance without the legally required approval of a judge. Having finally been briefed about this program last week, I am more convinced than ever that it is illegal. Our country needs a CIA Director who is committed to fighting terrorism aggressively without breaking the law or infringing on the rights of Americans. General Hayden’s role in implementing and publicly defending the warrantless surveillance program does not give me confidence that he is capable of fulfilling this important responsibility.

General Hayden failed in his testimony to express any reservations about this Administration’s lack of respect for the rule of law. Rather than committing to follow legally binding restrictions on the authorities of the CIA, such as those prohibiting the CIA from engaging in domestic security, he spoke about presidential authority and consultations with government lawyers. Given that Administration lawyers continue to assert presidential authority to override the law, General Hayden’s answers were less than reassuring.

General Hayden’s conduct and testimony also raise serious questions about his willingness to respect congressional oversight. He was complicit in the Administration’s failure to inform the full congressional intelligence committees about the warrantless surveillance program, even though this notification is required by law. In his testimony, he repeatedly failed to explain or criticize the Administration’s failure to inform the full committees about the program. And he declined to commit to notifying the full committees about all intelligence activities, as is required by law.

Finally, I remain concerned about previous misleading testimony by General Hayden regarding warrantless surveillance and his explanation for that testimony. In 2002, he told a joint congressional committee that, under FISA, persons inside the United States "would have protections as what the law defines as a U.S. person and I would have no authorities to pursue it." In fact, the President had already authorized the NSA to bypass those legal protections. General Hayden’s explanation for this statement, that he was speaking in open session at the time and had earlier given a fuller briefing to the committee in closed session, does not justify a public misleading statement.

The stakes are high. Al Qaeda and its affiliates seek to destroy us. We must fight back and we must join this fight together, as a nation. But when Administration officials ignore the law and ignore the other branches of government, it distracts us from fighting our enemies. I am disappointed that the President decided to make such a controversial nomination at this time. While I defer to Presidents in considering nominations to positions in the executive branch, I cannot vote for a nominee whose conduct raises such troubling questions about his adherence to the rule of law.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Energy Emergency Consumer Protection Act

Statement of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold
On the Need for Real Energy Solutions

"While I agree with the President’s call for investigations into possible price gouging, stronger action is required, such as passage of the Energy Emergency Consumer Protection Act, a federal price gouging statute introduced last September that I supported, and serious investigations of consolidation in the oil industry. With Americans being squeezed by out-of-control gas prices, the administration must get tough with big oil, and get serious about moving forward with real energy solutions.

We have to get at the root cause of these high gas prices – what the President has called our nation’s addiction to oil. It poses a significant threat to our economy, our national security, and our environment and it is past time that we came to grips with it and rid ourselves of that addiction by developing an energy policy that brings us into the 21st century."