Though Senator Feingold's carefully spun claim can seem true at first glance, we've found evidence that the statement is "False." Feingold uses a misleading measurement to make this assertion, which he has stated repeatedly on the campaign trail. While Feingold was outspent in his first two elections in 1992 and 1998, his spending dwarfed that of his opponent in 2004. That is, unless you count spending the way that Feingold does, by comparing his spending to that of all the other candidates in an election combined
Federal Election Commission records
show that Feingold was indeed outspent by his opponents in his first two races, no matter how you do the math. Certainly, if you compare his spending to that of the Republican candidate in a head-to-head matchup, Feingold did more with less, being outspent by over $3 million in 1992 and by over $500,000 in 1998.
However, in the 2004 election, Feingold outspent his opponent, Republican Tim Michaels, by a margin of between $3.7 million
and $5.7 million
, depending on how you source your information. PolitiFact
arrived at the more conservative figure, which is derived from this FEC document
, but NewsTrust member Gerard Barberi
posted a detailed and factual report from OpenSecrets.org
, which is transparent about its methodology and arrives at a much higher figure. The difference appears to be whether you count spending by outside groups, which Feingold does not. Still, giving the campaign that caveat, Feingold clearly outspent his opponent by a wide margin.
So how does Feingold get away with claiming that he's been "outspent every time?" According to Feingold campaign adviser John Kraus, Feingold compares his campaign's spending to the combined
spending of all other candidates
in the election, even the ones who aren't nominated
. We can thank PolitiFact
's Tom Kertscher for getting this clarification from Kraus. This excellent bit of fact-checking helps us explain the baffled feeling we have when looking at these numbers from OpenSecrets.org
and considering Feingold's statement. Despite Feingold's creative mathematics, we conclude that his statement is "False."
-- By Jon Mitchell, on behalf of NewsTrust Editors