Will Sen. Ron Johnson Extend Call for Transparency to Himself?

Senator Continues to Hide Cost of Health Care Lawsuit, Called Political Stunt by Wisconsin GOP Colleague, in Potential Violation of Campaign Disclosure Requirements

MADISON, Wis. — In a recent press release Sen. Ron Johnson announced he is calling for more “transparency” in the Congressional Budget Office’s fiscal analyses of the Affordable Care Act. Yet Johnson continues to ignore federal campaign finance regulations and hide how much he will spend on a lawsuit to stop health care reform termed a “political stunt” by a fellow Wisconsin Congressional Republican.

One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross commented, “If Sen. Johnson is so adamant about transparency in health care reform, you’d think the least he could do is reveal how much campaign cash he’ll be raising to pay for his lawsuit to protect insurance company profits instead of his constituents.”

In May, One Wisconsin Now filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) over U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson’s failure to disclose any incurred obligations and expenditures associated with his lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act, in possible violation of federal campaign finance reporting requirements.

Johnson has signed a retainer agreement with the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), and its lawyer Rick Esenberg, for legal services. WILL receives generous funding from the right-wing Bradley Foundation, headed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign co-chair Michael Grebe. Johnson’s lawyer said there is no set timetable for when they might bill for legal services.

FEC campaign finance reporting guidelines stipulate, “… 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.

In response, Sen. Johnson indicated that he believes he is not obliged to make any disclosure until he receives a bill for services. Ross noted that under Johnson’s interpretation he could hide information from the public, potentially for years, and undermine the very purpose of requiring campaign finance disclosure.

“From this latest hypocritical call for ‘transparency’ to his outrageous opposition to common sense relief for student loan borrowers, Sen. Johnson has shown he simply doesn’t accept that the same rules apply to him as everyone else.” Ross concluded, “It would be a nice if Sen. Johnson led by example for once, but I don’t expect pigs to take flight anytime soon.”

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