A top Democratic political operative has signed off on a Federal Election Commission complaint against Sen. Ron Johnson, alleging a $10 million payout that the Wisconsin Republican received from his former employer actually functioned as an undisclosed corporate contribution to his 2010 campaign.
The seven-page complaint states that Johnson loaned himself nearly $9 million in the months leading up to the election, then disclosed in May 2011 that he had received $10 million in compensation from his Oshkosh-based plastics company, PACUR, shortly before being sworn into the Senate. Signed by Brad Woodhouse, on behalf of the American Democracy Legal Fund, it was mailed to the FEC on Thursday. When the payout first surfaced, Johnson told Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Daniel Bice that the deferred compensation package reflected an "agreed-upon amount." He also emphasized that he had not taken a salary as CEO since he bought the company in 1997 — though he still had an income from capital gains, corporate earnings and real estate.
Johnson's campaign reiterated to CQ Roll Call that the money reflected deferred compensation for serving as CEO of PACUR for 13 years. The amount was calculated using Internal Revenue Service and judicially established compensation models, and has been fully disclosed to the FEC, IRS, and Wisconsin Department of Revenue, a spokeswoman stated in a Friday email response.
The funds from PACUR have surfaced as fodder for debate as Johnson attempts to fend off a challenge from former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, in one of the nation's most closely-watched races.
Feingold's campaign and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have demanded documentation that the PACUR compensation package wasn't an undisclosed corporate campaign contribution. In 2010, individuals could contribute up to $2,400 per election to each candidate. Federal law prohibits candidates from accepting corporate contributions for federal elections.
"The campaign has hardly started and already Senator Feingold is using an outside group to attack Ron," said Johnson campaign spokeswoman Betsy Ankney in an email to CQ Roll Call. "After over two decades in Washington, Feingold has become everything he once said he was against."
According to campaign finance records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, employees or family members of people employed by PACUR have contributed more than $22,000 to Johnson since 2009.
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