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
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.