MADISON, Wis. — U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson’s lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the subject of a recent direct mail fundraising shakedown by the Republican National Committee (RNC). For his legal counsel in the case, Johnson has retained a self-described public interest law firm, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), underwritten with at least $1 million in funding from the Milwaukee-based, right-wing Bradley Foundation.
“Sen. Johnson’s Republican colleague was absolutely right when he termed this lawsuit a political stunt,” said One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. “Besides using the right-wing Bradley Foundation funded law firm and getting a sweetheart delayed billing deal, Johnson is trying to milk this lawsuit for campaign cash for himself and his pal Reince Priebus at the Republican National Committee.”
One Wisconsin Now has obtained a copy of a letter from Sen. Ron Johnson soliciting funds for the Republican National Committee to help him with his lawsuit. Ironically, Johnson’s fundraising pitch rails against “special treatment” for members of Congress. Yet nearly six months after announcing his lawsuit, Johnson claims he has not been billed for any legal work. He has also refused to include any estimate of the legal bills he will incur, potentially in violation of Federal Election Commission (FEC) guidelines.
Subsequent to Sen. Johnson’s failure to include actual or estimated legal costs in his campaign finance report and his admission that he signed a retainer with WILL for legal services, One Wisconsin Now filed a formal complaint with the FEC. According to FEC guidance for federal candidates and officeholders, “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.
One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross noted that the Bradley Foundation connections in this case go beyond funding the “law firm” doing Johnson’s legal work. Bradley head Michael Grebe personally lobbied for the selection of current RNC chief Reince Priebus. Grebe also serves as the co-chair of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s campaign. Walker himself authorized the use of state tax dollars for legal action to try to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He also refused expanded federal funding for health care under the ACA, costing state taxpayers millions of dollars and resulting in Wisconsin kicking more people off their healthcare than any other state in the nation.
“It’s no surprise Sen. Johnson and the Bradley Foundation concocted this political stunt lawsuit to promote their right-wing political ideology, or that he’s teamed up with RNC chair Reince Priebus to exploit it for a crass, political cash grab. The question that remains to be answered is if there’s impropriety besides unseemliness in this sordid affair,” concluded Ross.