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Ralph Nader > Special Features > Statement by Ralph Nader about Senator William Proxmire

Senator Proxmire was the legislators’ legislator. No one worked harder, studied more, listened to more witnesses or cast more votes in the Senate without being absent. He was honest, diligent, intelligent, congenial, forthright and sensitive to the needs and rights of the American people.

In an age of big money corrupting politics, Senator Proxmire was

elected five times to the U.S. Senate. He pioneered the zero

fundraising election campaign, spending two or three hundred dollars of

his own money for postage to send back unsolicited contributions. Talk

about clean elections.

He perfected the campaign practice of walking around the state of

Wisconsin—thousands of miles—meeting regular people and taking various

jobs for a day or two—like collecting garbage—to get a feel for what

ordinary workers go through.

Senator Proxmire was good for consumer protection, the environment,

worker safety, small farmers, fair taxation and efficient government.

He was instrumental in getting through the Senate the Consumer

Cooperative Bank bill.

Meetings in Senator Proxmire’s office were unlike any meetings I have

had with members of Congress. First, he listened intently and had a

conversation with you. He didn’t talk like a politician. He was a man

without guile. He focused on the issues and their relevance to the

public interest.

The Democratic Party, in its interminable quest for electoral victory,

would do well to study the political stands of Senator William Proxmire

and why he was elected in landslides from a politically divided state

without spending any money. The Proxmire formula for the Democrats is

a winning one throughout the country.

We will not see his likes for a long time in the U.S. Congress. He

came as close to being “one of a kind” as any politician can be on

Capitol Hill and still represent the people first and foremost.