wisconsin capitol
Press Release
July 9, 2014
Media Contact
Mike Browne, Deputy Director
(608) 444-3483
One Wisconsin Now

Rick Esenberg, the Bradley Foundation and the Case of Ron Johnson’s Missing Legal Bills

The Story Changes, Again, in Response to Questions Over Legal Bills in Sen. Ron Johnson’s Lawsuit Against the Affordable Care Act

MADISON, Wis. — Rick Esenberg, head of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), today changed his story again in response to questions about how his organization, heavily subsidized by the Bradley Foundation run by Gov. Walker’s campaign co-chair Michael Grebe, is being paid for legal work he is doing for U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson. One Wisconsin Now originally 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.

One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross commented, “Rick Esenberg is changing his story, again. We’re now supposed to believe that bills for legal work magically appeared the day after he denied to the media that there were any bills, and probably wouldn’t be any for some time.”

One Wisconsin Now updated its complaint with federal election regulators after tax records filed by WILL in May 2014 reported over $10,000 in legal fees were, “earned in 2013 but not collected until 2014,” in apparent contradiction to statements from representatives of both Sen. Johnson and WILL that no bills had been submitted or 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.

To cut through the obfuscations and changing stories of the suspects, the following is a timeline in “Rick Esenberg, the Bradley Foundation and the Case of Ron Johnson’s Missing Legal Bills”:

January 6, 2014 – Complaint filed in federal court by WILL on behalf of Sen. Ron Johnson against the Office of Personnel Management over provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

January 6, 2014 – At a press conference, Sen. Johnson indicates legal costs in the case will be paid from his campaign account.

April 22, 2014The Washington Post reports Sen. Johnson intends to solicit campaign contributions to fund his legal bills and solicit new donors for his 2016 re-election bid.

April 4, 2014 – Sen. Johnson files his campaign finance report for the first quarter of 2014 (January through March), it does not disclose any expenditures or incurred obligations related to the lawsuit;

May 13, 2014 – Rick Esenberg and spokesperson for Ron Johnson in response to media questions about funding for the lawsuit allege no bills have been issued or paid;

May 15, 2014 – WILL files IRS Form 990 tax form reporting over $10,000 in legal fees were “earned in 2013 but not collected until 2014”;

July 7, 2014 – One Wisconsin Now provides FEC with new information on discrepancy between WILL tax filings and public statements that no legal fees have been incurred or billed;

July 9, 2014 – Via press release, WILL head Esenberg alleges legal bills totaling $51,878.50 were sent to Sen. Johnson on May 14, the day after he claimed in a media report that there were no bills.

Ross concluded, “The latest twist in this case, courtesy of Rick Esenberg’s changing story, does nothing to change the fact that this whole deal stinks. Sen. Johnson and Mr. Esenberg owe a full and truthful accounting of their dealings to the public, and we’re going to make sure the public gets it from them.”

# # #

One Wisconsin Now is a statewide communications network specializing in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values.

shannon zimmerman on language of women video still
Press Release

Shannon Zimmerman Video Raises Red Flags About Attitude Toward Women

The statement from Shannon Zimmerman – an announced candidate for a vacant State Senate seat – that women shouldn't be believed is a huge red flag.
One Wisconsin Logo
One Wisconsin Now
11/21/2017
silhouette shouting into megaphone
In the News

Chet Agni: Board of Regents chills free speech for students of color

Like students across the state, I was shocked by the Board of Regents’ new policy attacking free speech on University of Wisconsin System campuses.
Capital Times
11/16/2017
wisconsin supreme court
Press Release

One Wisconsin Now Calls for Probe of Michael Screnock

Recent newspaper reports detail the arrests of Michael Screnock and his failure to fully disclose the incidents on his application for a judicial appointment.
One Wisconsin Logo
One Wisconsin Now
11/16/2017
voters voting
Press Release

Institute Praises Milwaukee Action to Expand Early Voting Opportunities

Voting rights advocates are celebrating passage of a budget provision adding early voting sites in the City of Milwaukee.
One Wisconsin Logo
One Wisconsin Institute
11/15/2017
us capitol building
Press Release

Gov. Scott Walker Joins ‘If It’s True’ Crowd

Meanwhile in an interview broadcast on Sunday, Gov. Scott Walker, joined those offering aid and comfort to Moore by falling back on the “if it’s true” refrain.
One Wisconsin Logo
One Wisconsin Now
11/13/2017
scott walker in a hole
Press Release

Statements on Gov. Scott Walker Signing Foxconn Contract

Scott Walker literally signed away our future, agreeing to a contract to send billions of our tax dollars to boost the bottom line of a foreign corporation.
One Wisconsin Logo
One Wisconsin Now
11/10/2017
hand holding phone displaying twitter
In the News

Scot Ross: RT if you support the First Amendment

Free speech is not just for the people or organizations whom our state elected officials like or with whom they agree.
Capital Times
11/10/2017
ron johnson
Press Release

Ron Johnson’s Failure to Confront Sexual Abuse Continues

Ron Johnson Offers Only Qualified Condemnation of Sourced Reporting of Abuse of Teens, Minor Women by GOP U.S. Senate Candidate Roy Moore
One Wisconsin Logo
One Wisconsin Now
11/10/2017