Democrats continue to question a $10 million payment that Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson received from the plastics company he helped run before he was elected in 2010.
In a complaint filed with Senate Ethics Committee this week, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin questioned whether the payout from PACUR violated federal election law and ethics rules. Democrats have claimed the corporate payment was meant to help reimburse Johnson for the $9 million he loaned his 2010 campaign.
In a call with reporters on Tuesday, DPW Executive Director Kory Kozloski accused Johnson of dodging questions about the “golden parachute” he received from the company for the past six years. Kozloski said Johnson has “stonewalled” attempts to get to the bottom of the issue, which he argued is “just a symptom of a larger disease – one that allows rich and powerful individuals to set their own rules.”
Johnson’s campaign argues the Senator has disclosed everything it was required to under federal law, and that the deferred compensation payment is a standard business practice. “Ron Johnson followed the law and disclosed his back pay five years ago,” spokesman Brian Reisinger said in a statement.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Tuesday also published a memo dated August of 2015 from PACUR controller Nancy Braatz, which said the company compensated Johnson for the multiple years he did not receive a salary. Braatz said an outside accounting firm helped determine the amount, and the IRS had no issue with the payment.
Feingold also faces complaint
The Johnson campaign also accused Democrats of reviving a settled issue in an attempt to distract from a recent complaint filed against Democrat Russ Feingold, who is challenging Johnson in November. The complaint filed by the Republicans Party of Wisconsin alleges Feingold violated the federal Hatch Act by planning his 2016 campaign while still working for the State Department. Republicans have also had a languishing open records request for Feingold’s emails at the State Department, where he served as the U.S. special envoy to the Great Lakes Region of South Africa.
“Senator Feingold is obviously trying to distract from his wide-open email scandal with the State Department over allegations he broke federal law with his shadow campaign,” Reisinger said. “Senator Feingold is failing to prove he hasn’t broken the law, and meantime is hiding behind the State Department, just like Hillary Clinton.”
Feingold’s campaign has noted that the Democrat followed the rules while he was at the State Department is not even subject to the Hatch Act, pointing to past statements by the Office of Special Counsel that the agency only has jurisdiction over current federal executive branch employees. Feingold left the State Department in 2015, before launching his campaign.
Kozloski also denied that the DPW complaint is meant as a distraction or to score political points during a heated campaign. “We have been calling on Ron Johnson to release this information for five years now,” he said, “and the truth is he is simply unwilling to do that.”