More than once, Ron Johnson seemed to regard pursuing justice in sexual crime cases as bad for business | WisCommunity

More than once, Ron Johnson seemed to regard pursuing justice in sexual crime cases as bad for business

Last week, newspaper headlines told the appalling story of how Sen. Ron Johnson didn't bother three years ago to inform law enforcement authorities that one of his Senate aides had been sexually assaulted by Wisconsin state Rep. Bill Kramer, who thereafter rose to become the second most powerful legislator in the Wisconsin Assembly and who was named in connection with a later groping incident. Johnson and his chief of staff didn't bother to report the incident involving the aide to GOP Assembly leaders, either. Neither did a Waukesha County Republican official in the district that Kramer represents.

But let's focus first on Johnson. Because, in matters involving sexual crimes, this wasn't the first time he seemed to choose the wrong side.

[ON EDIT: Johnson told that he stayed quiet about his staffer's revelation of the sexual assault because she asked him to. We only have his word on that. However, when anyone reports a sexual assault, especially a woman within a male-oriented power structure, and especially when the power structure includes the alleged perpetrator as a member of its tightly knit community, decisions to remain silent must be regarded with great skepticism and scrutiny. Victims sometimes fear losing their jobs by speaking up, not to mention the unwelcome public attention. Police and the justice system are positioned to protect the identity of a victim, and with more credibility than a self-interested group of politicians, in this case males from a state political party who know each other. Most employers have procedures in place regarding cases of sexual assault involving staffers; some employers urge victims who have privately come forward to report the matter to the police. Otherwise, as reportedly has happened in the case involving Kramer, further people may be victimized. Capper over at Cognitive Dissonance has a thorough piece on how many Republicans knew about this case, in private, yet kept on donating money to Kramer's campaign fund. See URL below.]

Short-attention-span America and the news media in particular seem to have forgotten an incident about a year earlier when Johnson was running for US Senate. The purportedly family-values, law-and-order Republican testified against the Wisconsin Child Victims Act, which would have eliminated the statute of limitations on lawsuits brought by victims of Catholic priest sexual abuse. The measure failed.

Johnson, a millionaire businessman at the time, served as a volunteer on the Catholic Church's Green Bay Diocese financial council. A self-avowedly ardent supporter of using public funds to support private school "choice," Johnson was active in the Catholic schools community in Oshkosh. Here's a piece of what fellow Uppity Wisconsin blogger Jud Lounsbury wrote in 2010:

Earlier this year, Ron Johnson, testified before the Wisconsin State Senate on behalf of the Green Bay Diocese Finance Council, which has ultimate decision power in deciding whether to settle abuse law suits and can even overrule a diocese’s bishop decision in how to proceed. 

Johnson was there to oppose the so-call[ed] Child Victims Bill, which would have made it easier to go after child predators.  Under current law, many children do not come forward until after the statute of limitations has expired– this law would have made exceptions in such circumstances.

From the Green Bay Diocese Finance Council perspective, this meant that many more child victims of predator priests would come forward and that they would be forced to deal with more law suits.  And more law suits mean spending more money, which Johnson and the Finance Council obviously opposed.

At the hearing, citizen Johnson argued that such lawsuits would hurt “non-profit organizations.” Johnson then listed a group of nonprofit organizations with which he was involved, including his affiliation with the Catholic church, which vigorously opposed the legislation (Johnson is Lutheran). Shamed for these remarks by concerned citizens groups, Johnson eventually issued a statement asking the diocese to "provide the utmost transparency" in answering lingering questions about decades-old child-abuse allegations. There. Problem solved.

The two reactions by Johnson seem similar in one very fundamental way: To him in each case, it apparently was just a prudent business decision not to go public or support more transparency. Thus, if you're a public employee in the Republican's U.S. Senate office, the revelation that you were sexually assaulted by an important, powerful Republican state lawmaker stays unreported. Meanwhile, if you're a pedophile priest, your victims should continue having a hard time going after you in court, because ensuring you have true justice might hurt the finances of the Catholic Church, a "non-profit organization."

Family values? Law and order? Nope. Johnson is but a GOP loyalist. Given the above history, one must consider that Johnson's decisions really did not depend on whether someone was a sexual victim. It seems more likely he was focused on a rather cold, characteristic, dollars-and-cents approach to these incidents. Transparency and justice in the case of sexual crimes are, apparently, to be regarded foremost as bad for business. That seemed his default concern, whether the "business" in question is his own, elite-friendly political party or a church that hasn't kept rein on evildoers within its fold.

If you examine Johnson's wider policy views, this overriding attention about what's best for business -- a focus on money over people -- reappears frequently.

But this isn't all on Johnson. His behavior may be skewed and even outrageous, but it's emblematic of a wider, increasingly dominant political culture that emphasizes protecting one's compatriots, no matter how sordid their behavior. Look at the current John Doe probe into Scott Walker's campaign finances, for example. Republicans and conservative interest groups are working overtime to derail the investigation, lest any of their secrets emerge. Which is laughable in that the very point of the secret inquiry is to determine if any of those secrets should emerge.

Johnson's business bias aarguably explains why the Republican Party is so focused on avoiding transparency in government, while passing laws that offer greater anonymity to their own political party and wealthy donors to that party, both individuals and businesses. Everyone else not only can go suck air, but are to be exposed as much as possible, whether through petition-signature black lists, deep-background voter identification standards or selectively filled open-records requests. Not to mention the innuendos and false information spread around by the likes of conservative web sites like Media Trackers. Because, in fact, while misinformation from places like Fox News and top-down tea party groups may upset an increasing number of voters, it also turns out to be rather profitable. And except for the narrow handful of nonprofit organizations he likes, Ron Johnson is focused on profit. Because free markets rock!

Political cloaking is not an instinct present in all Republicans nor is it an instinct unique to Republicans. But for the modern breed of GOP-based, tea party lawmakers like Johnson, constantly spouting off about "freedom" as a basis for their every action seems mostly about maximizing the freedom of themselves and their associates -- especially those shadowy, third-party, right-wing "educational" groups that really exist to launder billions in dark campaign funds. For them, freedom concerns their ability to operate at will in the figurative dark of night. That, and their freedom to, in effect, tell the rest of America: Our dealings and affairs are none of your damned business.


April 6, 2014 - 11:57am