Bruce Murphy
Back in the News

How Johnson Avoided Paying Tons of Taxes

Meanwhile his backers are running an ad claiming Mandela Barnes didn't pay his taxes.

By - Aug 22nd, 2022 02:57 pm
U.S. Senator Ron Johnson speaking at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference. Photo by Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson speaking at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference. Photo by Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America, (CC BY-SA 2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

The campaign for U.S. Senate could get very personal when it comes to how the candidates have — or haven’t — paid taxes.

An ad by the Wisconsin Truth Super PAC supporting incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson attacks Lt. Governor and democratic challenger Mandela Barnes for allegedly failing to pay property taxes and income taxes. In fact, Barnes eventually paid the property tax owed for a condo he owned, and didn’t pay income taxes in 2018, the year he ran successfully for Lt. Governor, because he had no paid job that year and didn’t earn enough to be required to pay state or federal income taxes, as Dan Bice has reported. So both claims in the ad are false.

Wisconsin Truth has spent $10.7 million in independent expenditures since the start of the year to support Johnson, as WisPolitics has reported. Where does is money come from? “Through July 20, the group had received $6.5 million from Beloit billionaire Diane Hendricks and $3 million from Illinois businesswoman Liz Uihlein. Dick Uihlein has also contributed $500,000,” the story reported.  The group has a website that attacks Barnes but doesn’t include all the ads it has created.

Meanwhile, Johnson has a history of avoiding income taxes. As a 2016 story by Progressive magazine reported, Johnson reported in required Senate Financial Disclosures that he loaned himself between $1 million and $5 million (the form only reports a range of money) from the Pacur LLC company he owned in 2004, and loaned himself another $1-$5 million in 2007.

As Iowa State University professor Dr. Dave Sly, a specialist in manufacturing corporations and corporate tax structures, explained to the publication, Johnson then had to pay only interest payments on the loan, which were paid back to the company he owned, while he paid not a dollar in income taxes on the payoff he got from the company. If his loans totaled $10 million (the top of the reported range), he thereby avoided paying $3.5 million in taxes (at the federal income tax rate of 35% for income over $319,000). If the loans totaled $2 million (at the bottom of the reported range), he would have saved $70o,000 in taxes.

Johnson is also famous for refusing to support President Trump‘s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act unless it added a tax break for pass-through companies (businesses that pass income onto their owners, and are not subject to corporate income tax).

Who benefitted from this? Johnson has admitted that he benefitted personally from this tax break. “Now, did my business benefit? Sure,” he said.

But the bigger gain may have been for key supporters of Johnson, like the Uihleins and Hendricks. As Politifact reported, an April 2021 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the top 1% of Americans by income have received nearly 60% of the tax savings created by the provision. Most of that amount went to the top 0.1%, the study found.

“Confidential tax records… reveal that Johnson’s last-minute maneuver benefited two families more than almost any others in the country — both worth billions and both among the senator’s biggest donors,” a story by Pro Publica reported.

“Dick and Liz Uihlein of packaging giant Uline, along with roofing magnate Diane Hendricks, together had contributed around $20 million to groups backing Johnson’s 2016 reelection campaign.

“The expanded tax break Johnson muscled through netted them $215 million in deductions in 2018 alone, drastically reducing the income they owed taxes on. At that rate, the cut could deliver more than half a billion in tax savings for Hendricks and the Uihleins over its eight-year life…

“A spokesperson for the Uihleins declined to comment. Representatives for Hendricks didn’t respond to questions. In response to emailed questions, Johnson did not address whether he had discussed the expanded tax break with Hendricks or the Uihleins.”

Johnson has never disclosed how much his company benefited from the tax break he successfully added to the Trump tax plan. But he has admitted he doubled his personal wealth during the years he served as Senator. As Bice has reported, Johnson reported assets worth at least $16.5 million, yet paid just $2,105 in state income taxes for 2017. He has declined to explain how he managed to pay so little.

All of which is likely to be used in attack ads by Democratic groups supporting Barnes.

8 thoughts on “Back in the News: How Johnson Avoided Paying Tons of Taxes”

  1. Swblackwood says:

    As if being a thoroughly repulsive human being wasn’t enough. And why WAS he in Russia during the July 4th holiday in 2018?

  2. Jeffrey Martinka says:

    Wow. I am richer than I thought! I paid far more WI income taxes than Senator Ron Johnson and he is a millionaire many times over.

    Or maybe I just don’t cheat the people of the State …..

  3. TransitRider says:

    And, assuming that Johnson (and/or his family) own all of Pacur LLC, he really doesn’t even pay interest. Yes, he pays interest to Pacur, but since he owns Pacur, he’s actually paying interest to himself.

  4. ringo muldano says:

    The FU-Line couple and broom hilda Hendricks gorging and drunk on the blood of working class babies.

    Waiting for the hyenas to circle back since the violence will come from these fauxtians. Ugly is ugly.

  5. Duane says:

    It is also a stretch for Ron Johnson to imply PACUR is a company he and his brother in law started on their own. From what I have read the company was started a couple years earlier by Howard Curler’s son Pat Curler. (PACUR was a shortening of Pat Curler’s name). Ron Johnson joined the company a couple years later after he married Pat Curler’s sister. Father in law Howard Curler was also a big figure in plastics. He was a CEO of Bemis Company which was the biggest customer of PACUR.

  6. frank a schneiger says:

    There is something especially scary about this story. What’s scary is that it will be a one-day story, and wouldn’t be a story at all if not for Urban Milwaukee. It will be a “so what’s new?” story. The immortal line in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina has more and more applications in our country: “There are no conditions to which people cannot become accustomed, especially if they see everyone around them living in the same way.”

    Hey, everybody does it, right? Or, we have the Republican “what abouts.” What about Hunter Biden? What about Hillary’s e-mails? Why isn’t Dr. Fauci in prison? What about Benghazi? Meanwhile some 40% of Wisconsin voters still support Johnson for re-election despite his corruption, willful ignorance and his multiple roles in the destruction of American democracy.

    Wisconsin Democrats have an opportunity to keep a far-right Republican majority from controlling the Senate. All they have to do is put pessimism on pause and produce a big turnout to vote Johnson out. It should be easy, but, like Tolstoy said, too many people are accustomed to it all being hopeless.

  7. MrTea says:

    This foolish lying corrupt man must go. Wisconsin needs to stop watching extreme TV news and try READING for your self. See for yourself that Johnson is a liar and a man who believes in conspiracy theories and would have invalidated your VOTE by giving Trump Wisconsin with fake electors to up end the election. Unforgivable. This lame tax avoiding man cares nothing for anyone other then his rich extremist pals and keeping power in Wisconsin and in Washington for themselves anyway they can do it! He is corrupt and Wisconsin deserves better from our senators regardless of your party. Thinking that anyone who is liberal as evil is just crazy and wrong. Liberals independents democrats we are all the same we are Americans and deserve to be treated better by these rabid crazy extremists on the right. A vote for Johnson is a vote for anarchy. He has done enough damage to us and his participation in Trumps coup attempt was disgusting and could have destroyed our nation. We cant avoid another minute of the stink of him. And Micheles is another rich nut who wants power and he will divide the state more and cause more rot here in WI don’t let that happen! Voting for extremists is a nightmare for Wisconsin and our nation. Just do not do it. Vote Johnson to hell then bring him in and explain his tax avoidance and perhaps evasion. The dumbest Senator in congress must go how embarrassing. Mr Barnes will do the Job for all of us and is more then capable to do the real work. Johnson is only interested in power and money and enriching his pals and speaking about green Lizard people space lasers and other bs. Please spare us another minute of this insanity.

  8. kaygeeret says:


    God willing and the creek don’t rise………MANDELA BARNES WILL PREVAIL!

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