TO: Interested Parties
DATE: June 23, 2015
RE: Ron Johnson’s Shady Campaign Finance Reimbursement Scheme
Ron Johnson’s got a campaign finance skeleton in his closet and it just won’t go away. Johnson is hopeful that by refusing to answer questions on it and dodging the outside money “Badger Pledge” proposed by Russ Feingold he can make it go away, but he’s wrong.
A Look Back At 2010
In 2010, Ron Johnson famously self-funded his campaign with about $9 million, which was a vast majority of the $15 million he raised that year. However, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that Johnson “didn’t have to feel the pain very long.” After the election, Johnson conveniently received a “deferred compensation” package from his company, Pacur. The amount? $10 million. Almost the exact same amount that Johnson had just spent from his own bank account on the Senate race.
It would seem, then, that Ron Johnson orchestrated a plan to be reimbursed by his company for the money he spent self-funding his campaign, and essentially allowed a corporation to spend $9 million on his election.
Here’s some of the headlines Johnson got when his scheme was realized:
- Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Johnson proves to be a big spender – and taker: Firm pays him $10 million
- Talking Points Memo: Ron Johnson Defers Himself Enough Compensation To Cover Costly Senate Campaign
- Talking Points Memo: Johnson Has Yet To Produce Written $10M Compensation Agreement
- Huffington Post: Ron Johnson Has Found A Creative Way To Recoup His Campaign Investment
“I Don’t Have To Explain It Any Further To Someone Like You”
After the payment was reported, an election lawyer explained that if Johnson could show written proof that the deferred compensation package was agreed to before he ran for office, then he would be fine. But “if there was no deferred compensation agreement at all, and the company is paying for his campaign, that would be a problem.”
Surely Johnson would just share the pre-agreed upon contract to clear the air and eliminate the appearance of impropriety, right? The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel took a look:
Unlike most deferred package deals, however, it appears that the company had not set aside a specified amount annually that would be paid out when he left the firm. Instead, Johnson said the $10 million payment was “an agreed-upon amount” that was determined at the end of his tenure with the company.
Agreed upon with whom?
“That would be me,” he said.
Still, Johnson said he couldn’t see why anyone would raise any questions about the going-away present he gave himself. His LLC now owns only 5% of Pacur.
The sum he put into his campaign fund and his deferred compensation payment were “totally unrelated,” he said.
“I have no idea what could be suspicious or cynical about this,” Johnson said before cutting short the interview.
Shorter Ron Johnson: Don’t worry about it guys. I funded the campaign and I made the decision on how much to reimburse myself. Nothing to see here.
He ultimately snapped when being questioned by the Journal-Sentinel, jabbing to the reporter that “I don’t have to explain it any further to someone like you.”
Why It Matters
To date, Ron Johnson has offered no proof or evidence that his reimbursement scheme was above board. It’s clear that Ron Johnson doesn’t want to answer questions about the payment, but perhaps even more troubling is that he doesn’t believe that Wisconsin voters deserve those answers.
But Ron Johnson can’t hide from this shady arrangement forever, and his childish responses and petulant behavior won’t cut it as he heads into the 2016 election cycle as one of the most vulnerable incumbent in the country. And for over a week, Johnson has refused to answer as to whether he will accept Russ Feingold’s proposed “Badger Pledge” that would bar outside groups from spending to influence the Wisconsin Senate race. On both issues, the ball is in Ron Johnson’s court. He just needs to give some straight answers for a change.