By Lisa Graves and Brendan Fischer
An activist group called SpeechNow.Org is running ads against Senator Russ Feingold. It blames him for the deficit and claims that clean election laws he spearheaded are “attacking free speech.” But who’s really behind SpeechNow’s folksy, cartoon attack ads?
The Money Bags: One funder is multi-millionaire Fred Young, the heir of the Young Radiator fortune in Racine. He sold his Wisconsin company for over $70 million in 1998 to a group that quickly merged with Wabtec Corporation, a multinational with a history of outsourcing jobs to make goods in China and elsewhere. But even before Young sold the company, he worked to ship well-paying Wisconsin jobs out of state. Back in 1991, Young Radiator closed its Racine plant and fired 120 Wisconsin workers in order to boost his profits by outsourcing work to Iowa and Tennessee plants that did not give union-negotiated benefits. Young donated over $100,000 last month to fund attacks against Feingold, constituting the bulk of the funding. With millions in profits from helping to sell out Wisconsin’s industrial base and time on his hands, Young has become involved in Washington, D.C.-based groups, like SpeechNow.