MADISON, Wis. — Based on new federal campaign finance filings, One Wisconsin Now has updated their Federal Elections Commission complaint over U.S. Senator Ron Johnson and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty’s lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act. Johnson initially failed to disclose any legal fees for his lawsuit. In subsequent filings, including most recently in October, Johnson fails to provide sufficient details to determine if he is complying with federal campaign finance laws and the conditions for his legal service set by the Senate Ethics Committee.
“A fellow Wisconsin Republican called Sen. Johnson’s lawsuit a ‘political stunt’. But the continuing lack of transparency and disclosure from Sen. Johnson suggest that it’s a sleazy deal too,” said One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross.
In January 2014 Sen. Johnson announced he would sue in federal court to stop implementation of the Affordable Care Act health insurance reform law. He indicated that he had retained the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) to provide legal services for the suit. WILL is a Milwaukee based non-profit organization that has relied on funding from the right-wing Bradley Foundation for almost its entire budget.
Johnson said he would pay for these services with campaign funds. The Senate Ethics Committee indicated it was allowable for Johnson to do so as long as he paid fair market value for the services he received.
One Wisconsin Now filed an initial complaint against Sen. Johnson after his campaign finance reports covering October of 2013 through March of 2014 failed to disclose any payments for legal services despite legal work clearly being done on his behalf.
In fact, as late as May 13, 2014 in a press story the Executive Director of WILL alleged that no bills had been submitted to Sen. Johnson for their services. Yet in July, days after One Wisconsin Now uncovered tax records showing WILL had reported legal fees being earned in 2013, they indicated that they had billed Sen. Johnson for services May 14.
Johnson’s campaign finance reports have subsequently reported payments made to WILL for legal services. However, he has refused to provide any details of the hours spent or services rendered. To date, Sen. Johnson’s suit was been heard by a federal court and dismissed and Johnson has appealed the dismissal.
Ross concluded, “From day one of this whole stunt Sen. Johnson has been vague and evasive about how he’s funding his sham lawsuit. His continuing refusal to be transparent and accountable in his disclosures makes it impossible to determine if he’s abiding by the guidance he received from the Senate Ethics Committee or if he’s getting a sweetheart deal from a front group of one of the biggest right-wing foundation in the nation. It’s far past time for Sen. Johnson to come clean.”