Ron Johnson

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Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson

Ronald Harold Johnson is a Republican United States Senator from Wisconsin. Johnson was elected as part of the conservative Tea Party wave in 2010, defeating three-term incumbent Russ Feingold. Johnson defeated Russ Feingold in a Senate rematch on November 8, 2016.

Ties to the Koch Brothers

Americans for Prosperity: "Tax Reform with Senator Johnson"

The Kochs have spent millions on Johnson's campaigns and the Kochs consider him to be a "model senator." (See below)

On September 1, 2017, Johnson appeared in a video for the Koch's Americans for Prosperity, which he called "one of my favorite groups."

Here are some of his comments highlighted by AFP in a mailing,

  • On AFP's tax plan,
“If you simplify our tax code, you’re going to get good reform, positive for economic growth. … One of the greatest impediments to economic growth is the uncertainty of our regulatory environment, including our tax system. We need to provide certainty to people risking their capital to grow businesses and create jobs.”
“Take a look at the name of the organization: Americans for Prosperity. America faces enormous challenges. … The number one solution is economic growth and prosperity – it’s a goal we all share. [We all want] a safe, secure and prosperous America and Wisconsin. If we concentrate on those shared purposes, I think we can get past the log-jam and hopefully, enact a better regulatory environment, a more competitive tax system and a better health care system. Our nation was founded on a limited federal government, designed to protect our individual liberty and freedom. That, combined with Adam Smith’s concept of a free market competitive system allows people to aspire and build and create things…that allowed for us to create this marvel we call America.”
  • On AFP and its mission,
“It’s a direct correlation: The more government you have, the less freedom we have. We need to limit government. We need a government primarily designed to protect our individual freedom and liberty. Our government is no longer doing that and this is going to be a long-term project. We need individual citizens to jealously guard and fight for the individual liberty and freedom and never give up. My message to Americans for Prosperity is never give up. This [fight] is way too important.”
Koch Wiki

The Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- are the right-wing billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. As two of the richest people in the world, they are key funders of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on the Kochs include: Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, American Encore, and Freedom Partners.

2016 Senate Race

Johnson faced Democratic challenger Russ Feingold in his bid for re-election to the U.S. Senate. Johnson ran as a Washington outsider, focusing on his background in manufacturing as well as national security issues such as the nuclear deal with Iran and ISIS.[1] Feingold is best known as a proponent of campaign finance reform and was a co-author, with Republican U.S. Senator John McCain, of the 2002 Bi-Partisan Campaign Reform Act also known as McCain-Feingold.

The race was notable for the massive influx of early undisclosed dark money that was spent to prop up Johnson, due to polling showing very low name recognition.[2] A January 2016 Marquette University poll measured Johnson's name recognition after 6 years in office hovering between 30-40 percent.[3]

Johnson defeated Feingold by a margin of 50 percent to 47 percent.[4]

Special Interest Groups Spending in 2016 Race

Koch Brothers' Americans For Prosperity

Americans for Prosperity: "Ron Johnson's Vision for Wisconsin"
Americans For Prosperity: "Feingold and the Flood of Lies"

The Koch brothers' network has pledged to spend almost $1 billion in 2016. Ron Johnson was described as a "model Senator" at a Koch summit, according to Politico reporter Ken Vogel.[5]

The Kochs' Americans for Prosperity, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that does not disclose its donors, has pumped money into the 2016 Senate race. Americans for Prosperity launched a $1.1 million positive advertising campaign for Johnson in Wisconsin on April 6, 2016.[6] According to The Washington Post, the ad campaign was reinforced with a canvassing push by AFP volunteers in seven cities. The leaflets they handed out emphasized the national debt and claim, "The politicians are failing us, but Ron Johnson was a manufacturer for 30 years."[7]

On June 3, 2016 Ron Johnson attended the grand opening of an Americans for Prosperity field office in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. According to AFP-Wisconsin, which announced the opening of the office on its website, "U.S. Senator Ron Johnson will be among the officials attending and will discuss controlling irresponsible federal spending and other economic policy."[8] There are currently 9 AFP offices located across the state that will be utilized in the 2016 election cycle.

A 30 second TV spot titled "Ron Johnson's Vision for Wisconsin" touts Johnson as "a businessman who knows how to balance a budget, how to create jobs. Fighting Washington's reckless spending to protect taxpayers here at home."

AFP announced a $1.1 million ad buy on November 1, 2016 as part of a last minute spending push for the Republican Senator. The ad ties Feingold to President Obama and Hillary Clinton, attacking the trio over their support for the Affordable Care Act, deriding it as a "flood of lies".

Koch Brothers' Freedom Partners Launches Attack on Feingold, Ad Retracted by Three TV Stations

Freedom Partners Action Fund: "The Real Story"

According to The Hill, Freedom Partners Action Fund, a super PAC extension of the Koch Brothers' non-profit 501(c)(6) Freedom Partners, launched a $2 million advertising campaign targeting Feingold in Wisconsin.[9]

The ad, titled "The Real Story", focuses on the opioid over-prescription scandal at the VA Medical Center in Tomah, Wisconsin, featuring former secretary in the Tomah VA's mental health department turned whistleblower Ryan Honl. Honl claims that in 2009 Feingold received and ignored a memo from a union outlining the harm occurring at the hospital. "Russ Feingold ignored veteran's concerns while veterans were dying at the facility," He says. The ad closes with an emotional Honl claiming veterans "died at the hands of politicians who looked the other way."[10]

Revised ad "The Real Story"

Lin Ellinghuysen, president of the local chapter of the American Federation of Government Employees and the author of the memo in question told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that she made an error in marking the memo as being hand-delivered to Feingold. She said she made an assumption but that the deliveries did not occur.[11]

"Pulled" - Feingold ad in response to "The Real Story"

On May 10, 2016 lawyers representing Feingold's campaign sent a two page letter to TV stations in Wisconsin disputing the accuracy of the ad calling it "false, misleading and deceptive." Jonathon Berkon of the Perkins Coie law firm told reporters "this is not a question of interpretation. They are simply airing an ad where the central claim is just untrue."[12] In response to the letter three TV stations, WMSM-TV, WLUK-TV and WGBA-TV pulled the ad off of the air.[13]

The Freedom Partners ad's claim that "Russ Feingold got a memo in 2009 that outlined veteran harm at a Wisconsin VA facility and nothing was done," received a rating of False from PolitiFact on May 11, 2016.[14]

Previously, Ron Johnson was under media scrutiny for dropping the ball in the Tomah case. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Ron Johnson and his staff failed to report whistleblower Ryan Honl's complaints about the Tomah VA Medical Center to the U.S. Senate oversight committee, after claiming repeatedly they had done so.[15] Mark Nielsen, Johnson's veterans services staffer, had been in correspondence with and responded to a number of emails from Ryan Honl, "We have forwarded your information and explanation to the D.C. office and they will be sharing with the committee that overseas (sic) jurisdiction of the VA." At that time in January 2015, Honl said that he never heard back from Johnson's office--suggesting he dropped the ball.[16]

After the ads were pulled Freedom Partners walked back on the claim and starting talking about a new memo. According to the Wisconsin State Journal the super PAC revised the ad to show Honl describing a separate 2008 memo alleging that the center's chief doctor was over-prescribing patients and treating staff poorly.[17]

On May 12, 2016 Feingold released a new TV ad "Pulled", highlighting the inaccuracy of the TV spot released by Freedom Partners. The ad also attacks Johnson over his response to the Tomah VA scandal, claiming it was Senator Johnson who "failed" and "just made excuses" for not acting on a memo that his aides received.[18]

Freedom Partners Action Fund put up billboard ads in Milwaukee, Madison and Middleton attempting to link Feingold once again to the opioid scandal at the VA clinic in Tomah, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on May 18, 2016. The ads are part of a $2 million campaign and are set to remain up for three weeks. The billboard allege that "Russ Feingold put politics ahead of veterans" and "When Tomah veterans needed help... Russ Feingold did nothing."[19]

Koch Group Retracts $2 Million Ad Buy, Replace it with $1 Million Ad Buy

Freedom Partners Action Fund: "Service"

A day after Ron Johnson spoke at the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 Freedom Partners Action Fund pulled $2 million in ad time they had previously reserved to support Johnson. The group said that it was realigning its Senate strategy.[20]

Citing "some shifts in the polls", Freedom Partners announced it was jumping back into the Wisconsin Senate race with a $1 million ad buy supporting Johnson on August 4, 2016.[21] The new ad, titled Service, continues to focus on the VA hospital system and narrows in on the case of a veteran named Marlyn. It claims that "For years the Tomah VA put veterans like Marlyn at risk... Russ Feingold was told, but did nothing to help. Then we elected Ron Johnson."

Club For Growth

Club for Growth Action: "Can't Afford"

The national Club for Growth, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that does not disclose its donors, has indicated that it plans to spend more than $2.5 million in the Wisconsin Senate race, $1.5 million directly to Johnson's campaign and over $1 million of independent expenditures through its affiliated entities. President of Club for Growth David McIntosh told USA Today, “My goal would be to run several statewide messages, which I think effectively means you’ve got to be north of $1 million on the independent expenditures.”[22]

Club for Growth has many campaign finance vehicles. On September 22, 2015, Club for Growth Action, a 527 PAC,[23] released two separate 30-second negative ads targeting Feingold as part of a $700,000 ad buy in Wisconsin.[24][25] "In 2010, Wisconsin voters had enough of Feingold's support for bailouts, big government, and record debt," said McIntosh. The ads focus on Feingold's "liberal record" and paint the former Senator as an establishment politician of the past.[26] Conservative mega-donor Richard Uihlein has given $1.5 million to Club for Growth Action since May of 2015. Other notable donors to the group include Robert Mercer, who gave $250,000 on July 31, 2015 and Terry Kohler, who contributed $100,000 on April 3, 2015.[27]

Club for Growth Action announced an additional $750,000 ad buy against Feingold on October 19, 2016, hammering the Democrat on voting to increase taxes.[28]

Club for Growth Action: "Remember"

Ron Johnson earned the score 95 out of 100 on the Club for Growth's 2014 Congressional scorecard, which purportedly serves to "reward free-market champions and exposes big-government, tax-and-spend politicians."[29]

The Executive Vice President of the Club for Growth is Chuck Pike.[30] Pike formerly served as Chief of Staff to Sen. Pat Toomey, who was once President of Club for Growth;[31] and as Chief of Staff to Mark Neumann, a perennial Wisconsin Republican candidate and Feingold's Republican challenger to the Senate in 1998. Pike also previously served as Vice-President of The Neumann Companies,[32] a company that works on "land development, green building and solar energy." The company was founded by Mark Neumann.[33] Pike is also listed as Assistant Treasurer of Club for Growth Action in the organization's 2016 Statement of Organization.[34]

Club for Growth Action: "18 Long Years"

Reform Wisconsin and Reform America Funds, Bankrolled by Wisconsin Billionaires Attack Feingold

Reform Wisconsin Fund: "Russ Feingold Supports Partial Birth Abortions"
Reform America Fund: "Feingold Supports Iran Nuclear Deal"
Reform Wisconsin Fund: "Feingold Supports Funding Terrorists"

Reform Wisconsin Fund released a six-figure ad buy on September 28, 2016 attacking Feingold for "vot[ing] to allow partial birth abortions," and for spending 30 years as a "radical politician." The organization also launched the website[35]

Reform America Fund: "Feingold's Foreign Job Stimulus"
Reform America Fund: "Obamacare was a lie."

The organization was registered in September, 2016 as a separate group from Reform America Fund, however both groups have the same Treasurer, Lorri Pickens and the same spokesperson, Chris Martin. Per FEC filings Reform America Fund is managed by Scott Walker campaign guru R.J. Johnson and both entities are also registered to the same address in Black Creek, Wisconsin.[36]

Reform America Fund dropped a seven-figure ad buy criticizing Feingold for voting in favor of the 2009 federal stimulus bill on October 17, 2016.[28] A second ad, released October 25 shows children counting down from ten in various languages before a bomb explodes revealing text that reads, "A nuclear Iran is a threat the world. Russ Feingold supports the Iran nuclear deal." The super PAC, which has also spent on advertising criticizing Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, is funded primarily through Wisconsin billionaire Diane Hendricks' fortune, although mega-donors Richard Uihlein, David Humphreys, Terry and Mary Kohler and Jere Fabick have also contributed to the organization.[37]

Richard Uihlein and Restoration PAC

Restoration PAC started running $500,000 worth of TV ads in Green Bay, Madison and Milwaukee in 2015, praising Johnson for opposing President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran.[38] According to the FEC, 96 percent of Restoration PAC's $1.9 million in contributions have come from Wisconsin businessman Richard Uihlein. Wisconsin businessman and active conservative donor Terry Kohler has also given $50,000 to the PAC.[39] The FEC does not list any independent expenditures made by Restoration PAC supporting Johnson; however, the 2015 year-end filing includes a $490,000 expenditure to Strategic Media Services Inc. for TV and cable advertising on July 17, 2015 and a $225,320 expenditure on September 4, 2015.[40] FCC records provided by the Sunlight Foundation indicate that Restoration PAC ran a number of ads in Milwaukee and Green Bay between June and October of 2015 totaling $575,795.[41]

Restoration PAC: "How Out of Touch?

A negative ad by Restoration PAC released on September 10, 2015 targets Russ Feingold, claiming that he would "rubber stamp Barack Obama's toothless deal with Iran, the world's number one state sponsor of terrorism." The ad calls Feingold out of touch, claiming that America and Wisconsin are waking up to this dangerous deal, they have realized it could destabilize the world and make Americans less safe, but Russ Feingold has not.

The super PAC has spent $1,318,470 on advertising in the 2016 election cycle according to the Center for Responsive Politics, as of September 6, 2016.[42]

"Pants on Fire" Rating for Ad Using Faked Obama Photo

A television ad attacking the Iran deal released by Restoration PAC on July 22, 2015 appeared "to show [President Barack] Obama shaking hands with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Both men are smiling." However, the two have never met in person, and the image was likely edited from a photo of Obama meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.[43] The faked photo, which according to Restoration PAC was produced by Rick Reed, the man behind the infamous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads, earned a "Pants on Fire" rating from Politifact.[44][45]

The ad has been pulled from Youtube and the organization's website, but is still available on Restoration PAC's Facebook page.

Let America Work, SuperPAC Started by Former Johnson Staffer

Let America Work: "Running Wild"

On December 2, 2015, Politico reported that Johnson's former chief strategist, Mark Stephens, launched a new super PAC, Let America Work, which was expected to to be the central super PAC supporting Johnson. Stephens is the former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.[46] On his LinkedIn account Stephens claims to be a self-employed strategy and media consultant in the Raleigh-Durham North Carolina area. He lists his experience as: "four decades of strategic and message planning for large campaigns and organizations. Senator John East, Senator Jesse Helms, Americans for Reagan, Senator Lauch Faircloth, Senator Elizabeth Dole, Senator Ron Johnson, Executive Director for National Republican Senatorial Committee, National Congressional Club, formerly a Board of Director for American Conservative Union."[47] "Let America Work is well on its way to amassing the necessary resources to wage a major campaign to combat the coming all-out assault against Sen. Johnson from far left groups and wealthy liberal donors," spokesperson Gail Gitcho said in a statement.[48]

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the new super PAC had reported $407,204 in independent expenditures as of April 2016,[49] and received $974,000 in contributions. The largest single donor as of April 19, 2016 is Bernard Marcus with a contribution of $250,000.[50]

Let America Work: "Demanding Truth from Washington"

Let America Work released a 60-second positive ad on January 6, 2016, pushing Johnson as an outsider fighting to get things done. After showing a clip from CNN highlighting problems at the Veterans Administration, the ad's narrator says, "Washington is broken and nothing gets done. One Senator is fighting Washington and demanding answers, Ron Johnson." Johnson is then shown on the Senate floor demanding answers, and the ad reads: "Ron Johnson: demanding truth from Washington."

Let America Work: "Chaos"

On April 12, 2016, Let America Work released an ad attacking Russ Feingold, focusing on foreign policy and tying Feingold to Obama. The ad shows a clip of Feingold discussing Obama: "he is going to be a very important president in our history with regard to foreign policy." This is followed up with an accusation that Obama's foreign policy is weak and pointing out Feingold was the only Senator to vote against the USA PATRIOT Act.

Let America Work: "Senator Tough Guy"

Let America Work released a $400,000 digital ad buy on September 1, 2016 hammering Feingold's record, "Feingold voted against authorizing our military 11 separate times" and "Feingold voted against creating the Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Security." The ad comes after the super PAC released its own poll showing Johnson trailing Feingold by 3 points.[51][52]

Words on the screen claim that Feingold was "only senator to vote against Homeland Security." This claim was rated "false" by PolitiFact Wisconsin, Feingold was one of nine Senators to vote against the law that created the Department of Homeland Security.[53]

Since 2001 the PATRIOT Act has been an increasingly unpopular law. In a 2015 poll by the ACLU Americans favored reforming it by a nearly 2 to 1 margin.[54] One of the Patriot Act's authors, U.S. Representative Jim Sensenbrennener (R-Wisconsin), even introduced the USA FREEDOM Act in 2013, an Act aimed at increasing transparency and curbing some of the NSA's surveillance authority that was granted in the PATRIOT Act.[55] "The Patriot Act never would have passed... had there been any inclination at all it would have authorized bulk collections," Sensenbrenner told an audience at Georgetown University Law School on November 19, 2013.[56]

Let America Work released a six-figure ad supporting Johnson's campaign on October 31, 2016. The ad, which appears to concede that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will lose to Democrat Hillary Clinton in the general election on November 8, criticizes Feingold for voting the party line, "That's why we need Ron Johnson. To cut the crap and keep Hillary Clinton and the Washington politicians from running wild."

Richard Uihlein's America's PAC

According to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, another super PAC, America's PAC, is also supporting Johnson's Senate bid. Richard Uihlein, who contributed $500,000 in 2015, accounts for nearly all of the contributions to the group since the 2014 election cycle. In an email, Uihlein told the newspaper that the Johnson-Feingold contest is among the most important U.S. Senate races in 2016.[57] The Journal Sentinel reported on August 23 that the group had spent $200,000 on radio advertising in Wisconsin urging people to vote Republican.[38] FEC filings indicate that Americas PAC spent $60,000 on radio ads targeting Feingold on January 5, 2016[58] and over $300,000 targetting Hillary Clinton in 2015.[59][60][61][62]

On July 6 The Cap Times reported that Americas PAC released a radio ad in Spanish criticizing Feingold over abortion. A man asks Feingold if he knows that "Hispanic babies are twice as likely to be aborted as white babies." A woman later ask in Spanish, "I have a question for Feingold. Why should you have my vote if you don’t want our babies?"

The group spent $66,000 on the ad.[63]

Listen to the ad here.

Wisconsin Alliance for Reform (WMC & Wisconsin Club for Growth)

The Wisconsin Alliance for Reform is a 501(c)(4) non-profit that does not disclose its donors. The organization claims that it is "a coalition of concerned citizens and community leaders committed to creating greater economic opportunities for Wisconsin families... we will advance public policies aimed at creating jobs and economic opportunity, limiting government, reducing the tax burden on citizens, and improving the economy."[64] The Center for Media and Democracy reported that the web domain of Wisconsin Alliance for Reform was originally registered by Lorri Pickens, a former leader of Americans for Prosperity, and its Executive Director is Luke Fuller, "a former staffer for Sen. Leah Vukmir (who is also the number two at the Koch-backed American Legislative Exchange Council, or "ALEC.")"[65]

WAR was a major spender in the 2016 Wisconsin Supreme Court race; while it does not disclose its funding sources, many speculated that it was funneling money from Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and/or Wisconsin Club for Growth, which had formerly been top spenders in court races.[66]

Wisconsin Alliance for Reform Radio Ad 1/25/2015

In a radio ad released on January 25, 2015, WAR attacked Feingold over the scandal at the VA Medical Center in Tomah, claiming that "Senator Russ Feingold failed to act. The abuse of veterans continued and in 2014 a 35-year-old died from an overdose of narcotics at the VA center in Tomah. An autopsy revealed 14 different drugs in his system. Now Russ Feingold is claiming he never received the memo, but documents included in a police report show that the report was hand delivered to his office."

The group also took out a full page ad in the Green Bay Press-Gazette claiming that "Feingold received a memo outlining the over-prescription of narcotics to veterans." Lin Ellinghuysen, the author of the memo, said the ad was "not truthful".[11]

Wisconsin Alliance for Reform: "Hypnosis"
Wisconsin Alliance for Reform: "Liberal Game Show"

Another WAR ad, "Hypnosis," is a 30 second ad released on November 18, 2015, attacking Feingold. The ad shows a photo-shopped Feingold hypnotizing the viewer with a pocketwatch, while a narrator says, "Forget the 278 times I voted to increase taxes, forget I voted to give amnesty to illegals and forget I voted against raises for the military 15 times. Forget that I was the deciding vote on Obamacare." The ad concludes with the narrator telling Wisconsin to wake up and the state won't forget his 18 year liberal voting record.

Another attack ad uses a Jeopardy!-like setting to attack Feingold's record, claiming he voted to raise taxes, voted against raising military spending, and voted to give "amnesty" to undocumented immigrants.

Wisconsin Alliance for Reform also runs the website, a website which claims to provide information on "Russ Feingold's failed liberal agenda."[67]

Nate Nelson is listed as treasurer of WAR.[68] Nelson also serves as field director at American Majority,[69] a 501(c)(3) non-profit conservative training organization that was established by Eric O'Keefe.[70] Based in Wisconsin, O'Keefe has been a long-time Koch associate and conservative operative, who was deeply involved in the Scott Walker John Doe investigation into potential illegal coordination with outside money groups.

Steven Law's Senate Leadership Fund

Senate Leadership Fund: "Failed"

The Senate Leadership Fund is a super PAC run by Steven Law, former chief of staff to McConnell, and president of Rove's dark money groups. The Fund dropped a $2.2 million ad buy November 2, 2016, painting Feingold as anti-Veteran.

The Super PAC is one of the top spenders in the 2016 campaign cycle, spending over $75 million in an effort to preserve the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.[71] Its largest donor is casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

Chamber of Commerce Endorsement

U.S. Chamber of Commerce: "Give & Take"
U.S. Chamber of Commerce: "Russ Feingold: Obamacare's Deciding Vote"

Johnson received the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a 501(c)(6) that is a powerful corporate lobbying group, on March 23, 2016. This was the U.S. Chamber's first public endorsement of the election cycle. After the endorsement Johnson said, "You just look at who the Chamber represents, it really is mom-and-pop shops, retailers, really the backbone of this economy....This means a lot to me. I was highly active in the Chamber." In fact, as reported by U.S. News and World Report, "most of the Chamber's funding comes from a small number of companies and industries and is used to advance a relatively narrow special-interest agenda."[72]

On May 20, 2016 the Chamber released its first digital ad for the Wisconsin Senate race, a six-figure buy airing in Milwaukee and Green Bay which is part of the Chamber's multi million dollar push in swing state Senate races. The ad compares Johnson and Feingold, painting Johnson as the candidate who will grow the economy and create jobs while career politician Russ Feingold will raise taxes, grow government, increase spending and expand Obamacare.[73]

The Chamber has been known to fight policies that many businesses support, such as legislative action to combat climate change,[74][75] and, as revealed by The Center for Media and Democracy, widely supported measures providing paid sick leave and increasing the minimum wage. In 2016, "a top GOP polling firm instructed state Chamber of Commerce lobbyists how to try to defeat popular measures like increasing the minimum wage, despite polling data from business leaders that shows overwhelming support for such progressive workplace policies."[76][77]

The Center for Public Integrity reported that the Chamber successfully spent tens of millions of dollars to elect a Republican Congress in 2014: 94 percent of the 268 federal candidates it publicly endorsed were elected. In Wisconsin the U.S. Chamber of Commerce previously spent $2.8 million opposing the 2012 campaign of Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat.[78]

For more information on the Chamber's lobbying, political spending, and other activities, see the article U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

For more information on the documents leaked by CMD, see the article on the Council of State Chambers.

The Chamber launched an additional $600,000 ad buy October 28, 2016, painting Feingold as "the deciding vote on Obama care," a charge that has been ranked "mostly false" by PolitiFact as it has been used against many of the 60 senators who voted to advance the Affordable Health Care Act in 2010.[79]

National Rifle Association

NRA Institute for Legislative Action: "Defend Freedom. Defeat Feingold!"

The National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, released a $115,000 ad buy on October 30, 2016.[80] According to the Center for Responsive Politics the NRA and its affiliated organizations have spent $295,880 supporting Senator Johnson and $147,378 attacking Feingold as of November 1, 2016.[81]

National Republican Senatorial Committee

On April 6, 2016, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) released a 60-second digital ad attacking Senate Democrats on national security issues, singling out Russ Feingold for being the only Senator to vote against the USA PATRIOT Act. The NRSC describes itself as "the only national organization solely devoted to strengthening the Republican Senate Majority and electing Republicans to the United States Senate."[82]

National Republican Senatorial Committee: "Feingold - Failing to Secure"
National Republican Senatorial Committee: "Hypocrite"

The ad charges that President Barack Obama's foreign policy is dangerous and weak, tying in Senate Democrats who "support him step for step." It goes on to blame Obama and Senate Democrats for allowing the rise of ISIS and supporting the "dangerous" Iran nuclear deal. "Russ Feingold, who lost his Senate seat, shares their same weak judgment," the ad continues. "When asked about being the only senator to vote against intelligence surveillance of terrorists after 9/11 he said: 'That was probably one of the best things I've ever done.'" The ad concludes with a declaration that Feingold is just another supporter of Obama's weak foreign policy.

NRSC launched a $333,000 ad buy on November 2, 2016, claiming that Feingold is an insider who changed when he moved to Washington, DC.

Wisconsin Republican Party

WISGOP Radio Ad: "Senator Feingold's Damaging Foreign Policy"

On December 10, 2015, the Republican Party of Wisconsin released a 60-second radio ad attacking Russ Feingold on national security. The ad quotes Feingold, "I think President Obama is doing an excellent job on the international front." In reference to Iran, "It is not an inherently enemy country," and over his remarks about American exceptionalism, "Its just a phrase... the way in which this phrase is used is damaging." As reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the quotes come from a Feingold speech to the World Affairs Council in 2013. "The trouble is that the way in which this phrase is used is damaging. . . . Do you believe in American exceptionalism? . . . I'm for American exceptionalism. It's just a phrase."

In the speech Feingold later predicted his quote on American exceptionalism would produce ammunition for his political opponents, "I know I’ll be criticized for saying 'criticizing American exceptionalism,'" he said. "But I’m not going to take second place to anybody in my patriotism. But I refuse to have a phrase used that only hurts us in the way that it’s being used. I think we can do a little better than that."[83]

Ron Johnson Climate Change Denial

"Mankind Has Actually Flourished in Warmer Temperatures"

On October 24, 2016 Ron Johnson told Wisconsin radio station WBAY that he was not concerned about finding a solution to climate change justifying his climate denial by claiming that historically "civilization thrives" in warmer weather.

“Climate has already changed, always will. I’m just not an alarmist. We will adapt,” Johnson said. “How many people are moving up toward the Antarctica, or the Arctic? Most people move down to Texas or Florida, where it’s a little bit warmer.” He continued, “Mankind has actually flourished in warmer temperatures."

Despite an overwhelming scientific consensus on man-made contributions to global warming, Johnson said “The jury’s out. The models have not been predictive. They were predicting much higher temperatures, and that hasn’t panned out yet.”[84]

"The Climate Hasn't Warmed In Quite a Few Years. That is Proven Scientifically"

In a radio interview on August 1, 2016 Johnson compared efforts to address climate change to the regimes of Joseph Stalin and Hugo Chavez. He also claimed that it has been scientifically proven that global temperatures are not warming,[85] despite the fact that 2015 was the hottest year on record, monthly average temperatures continue to rise and a 2013 study found there to be a 97.1% scientific consensus that humans are responsible for recent global warming.[86][87][88]

The whole climate change debate gives, and there are all kinds of quotes from adherents of and promoters of climate change, the reason they're doing it is it's such a great opportunity to control, you know, pretty much, government, and control your lives... There's an arrogance of power there that they're utopians, that they really think they can create heaven on earth, and where it's failed in the past, those people like Stalin and Chavez and the Castros, the nutcases in North Korea--by the way, if you want equal results, go to North Korea, you have equal misery.

First of all, the climate hasn't warmed in quite a few years. I mean, that is proven scientifically. So, that's why they've changed the terminology from global warming to climate change--that covers everything.

Johnson Claims Global Temperatures Rise Due to Sunspot Activity, "I Absolutely Do Not Believe In The Science of Man-Caused Climate Change,"

On August 16, 2010 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Johnson "A global warming skeptic, said extreme weather phenomena were better explained by sunspots than an overload of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as many scientists believe."[89] Johnson, who said that attempts to address climate change were "a fool's errand", described people who believed in anthropogenic climate change, a category which includes 97.1% of scientists,[86] as "crazy" and dismissed the scientifically proven fact as "lunacy".

"I absolutely do not believe in the science of man-caused climate change. It's not proven by any stretch of the imagination," Johnson said. "It's far more likely that it's just sunspot activity or just something in the geologic eons of time." Further explaining his skepticism, Johnson said that average Earth temperatures were relatively warm during the Middle Ages, "it's not like there were tons of cars on the road."[89]

When asked about his claim that sunspots cause climate change six years later Johnson said, "I’ve never denied climate change. It has always changed, always will. The sun has the primary effect on weather and climate on planet Earth, so I’m just not a climate change alarmist.”[84]

2010 Senate Race

In 2010, Johnson, a little-known challenger, defeated incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold 52 percent to 47 percent.[90] Ron Johnson became the first Republican Senator in Wisconsin since Feingold defeated Bob Kasten in 1992. Johnson's campaign raised $15.2 million, $9 million of which was his own money.

It was a wave election year, with the public upset about the 2008 financial crisis, Wall Street bailout and traumatic recession.

Aided by heavy spending by outside groups, Johnson painted Feingold as a Washington insider and career partisan politician. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Johnson ranked second in the country for the number of ads in a U.S. Senate race, ranking first between September 1 and October 20 in 2010. Groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Action Network Inc. and Club for Growth Action spent more than a million dollars to defeat Feingold.[91]

Shortly before being sworn in Johnson received $10 million in deferred compensation from Pacur, his plastics company. Johnson claimed that he had not received compensation for the 13 years he served as CEO of Pacur. The figure, closely resembling the amount of money he put into his campaign, drew suspicions from various groups. "He put $9 million of his own money into the campaign, and then he has the company pay him back shortly after the election," said Mike McCabe, executive director of of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign at the time. "That looks like the company has paid for his campaign."[92]

"I've complied with all the disclosure laws, and I don't have to explain it any further to someone like you," Johnson told reporter Daniel Bice of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.[92]

A key issue in the race for 3rd party groups was the 2010 Affordable Care Act. In an interview with Laurie Rice of The Atlas Society, which seeks to keep alive the memory of right-wing icon Ayn Rand, Johnson called the law the "greatest assault on freedom in our lifetime."[93] Feingold, on the other hand, publicly supported the health care law.


Milwaukee office
517 East Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 408
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Phone: (414) 276-7282
Fax: (414) 276-7284

Oshkosh office
219 Washington Avenue, Suite 100
Oshkosh, WI 54901
Phone: (920) 230-7250
fax: (920) 230-7262

Washington, D.C. office
328 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-5323
Fax: (202) 228-6965



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