Democratic Party of Wisconsin
Press Release

Democratic Party of Wisconsin Files Senate Ethics Complaint Against Sen. Johnson

Complaint: $10 Million Corporate Payout Violated Multiple Federal Election Laws and May Have Violated Financial Disclosure Laws

By - Sep 12th, 2016 09:31 am
Ron Johnson

Ron Johnson

MADISON — The Democratic Party of Wisconsin is filing a request with the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate Senator Johnson’s $10 million golden parachute from Pacur.

For years, Senator Johnson has been vague about his arrangement with Pacur, but what we do know is suspicious. In 2010, Senator Johnson loaned his campaign nearly $9 million. Then, as he headed off to Washington, he awarded himself $10 million in violation of federal election law.

Johnson has claimed he had a formal agreement with Pacur, but he refuses to make it public and failed to disclose it on his financial disclosure forms. The failure to disclose the terms of the agreement may have violated the Ethics in Government Act and calls into question whether it ever existed. If Senator Johnson has nothing to hide about his alleged agreement with Pacur he should release it immediately.

Among the charges in the complaint: Johnson violated laws prohibiting corporations from contributing to campaigns; he violated laws limiting the amount candidates can reimburse themselves; and he failed to disclose his alleged $10 million arrangement on financial disclosure forms. Here are highlights from the complaint. You can read a full copy here.

  • “Senator Johnson’s conduct violated federal law. Federal law bans a corporation from making a ‘contribution” to a candidate for federal office’”
  • “There is no evidence that PACUR had a preexisting policy, with objective criteria, to determine whether executives would receive compensation upon their departure…”
  • “Nor has Senator Johnson produced any evidence that the corporation had previously set aside funds to pay for such packages, which is standard practice…When asked who at PACUR agreed to the amount of Mr. Johnson’s deferred compensation, Mr. Johnson responded, “[t]hat would be me.”
  • Most significantly, the amount at issue closely hews to the amount of “personal funds” that Mr. Johnson spent on the campaign.  
  • It seems inconceivable, under these circumstances, that the payment is “genuinely independent of [his] candidacy,” as it must be to avoid an impermissible corporate contribution.

Additionally…

  • “Senator Johnson has defended against the apparent FEC violation by contending that he had a “deferred compensation agreement” with PACUR
  • Senator Johnson told Wisconsin Public Radio that “we went to our accounting firm and developed a deferred compensation agreement.”  
  • “Senator Johnson failed to disclose the terms of that agreement on Part 9 of his Personal Financial Disclosure Report. That failure to disclose may constitute a separate violation of federal law.”

“Senator Johnson’s $10 million golden parachute likely violated federal election law, and for nearly six years he has refused to release even a shred of evidence to prove his corporate payout was legal. If Senator Johnson has done nothing wrong, as he claims, then why won’t he make his multi-million dollar deal with Pacur public? Wisconsinites have a right to know if their state’s senior senator broke the law. He needs to release any and all documentation about his deferred compensation package immediately. Any more delays will raise more questions,” said Kory Kozloski, Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

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