MADISON, Wis. — While Sen. Ron Johnson is in federal court today in his quest to undermine health care reform, One Wisconsin Now is updating its complaint with federal election regulators over Johnson’s failure to properly disclose his campaign’s spending for his legal costs. One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross noted tax records show over $10,000 in legal fees have been earned, and paid, in Sen. Johnson’s lawsuit to stop health care reform. But Johnson and his lawyers have claimed in both the media and on campaign finance reports that no bills have been issued or paid.
Ross commented, “WILL’s tax forms appear to tell a very different story from the one it’s head Mr. Esenberg and Sen. Johnson have told the media and federal campaign regulators. Sen. Johnson and his lawyers owe the public an explanation and a true accounting of what their legal maneuvering to undermine health care reform is costing and who’s paying the bills.”
Tax filings for the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) from mid-May 2014 state thousands of dollars in legal fees for the suit were “earned in 2013 but not collected until 2014” – in apparent contradiction to statements mere days earlier from representatives of both Sen. Johnson and WILL that no bills had been submitted or paid. Johnson’s first quarter campaign finance report for 2014, covering January through March, did not include any record of a legal bill being paid.
According to the most recent tax records available, the operations of WILL have been almost entirely funded by the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation, headed by Gov. Walker’s campaign co-chair Michael Grebe. In total, WILL reported raising $1,158,128 in gifts, grants, contributions and membership fees in tax years 2011 and 2012. The Bradley Foundation reports having provided or approved $1 million in funding for WILL general operations over the same time.
One Wisconsin Now filed a complaint in May with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) alleging U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson improperly failed to disclose incurred obligations and expenditures associated with his lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act, in violation of federal campaign finance reporting requirements.
According to news reports, Johnson signed a retainer agreement with the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), and its lawyer Rick Esenberg, for legal services. FEC campaign finance reporting guidelines indicate that, “a written agreement to make an expenditure, such as a media contract, constitutes an expenditure.” The guidelines further require that, even if the amount of the debt is unknown at the time a report must be filed, a committee must report an estimated amount and amend it when the actual amount is known.
Ross concluded, “The more we uncover about the scheme involving Sen. Ron Johnson’s campaign and the law outfit financed by Gov. Walker’s campaign co-chair, the more it stinks. It’s time for Johnson and Esenberg and the right wing cabal behind this lawsuit to shoot straight about their scheme that even a fellow Republican has called a ‘stunt’ – and it shouldn’t have to come under oath.”