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Ron Johnson Talks Fundraising Strategy for 2016 Re-Election

Johnson is up for re-election in 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., is looking for some fundraising help.  

The senator is one of Democrats’ top targets in 2016. But while his colleagues in competitive seats have built up million-dollar war chests , Johnson had just $606,000 in his campaign account at the end of the year. Asked about his fundraising strategy at an interview in his Senate office on Feb. 12, Johnson was blunt.  

“Well, in terms of fundraising, I haven’t done a whole lot of it the first four years,” he told CQ Roll Call.  

Johnson blamed local politics in Wisconsin. Soon after his first election, the Badger State was embroiled in a contentious debate over the state budget, and Gov. Scott Walker faced a recall election. Then there was a presidential election in 2012, followed by Walker’s re-election in 2014.  

“I think my supporters actually would have been pretty offended by my trying to hit them up for my campaign that wasn’t going to occur until 2016,” Johnson said.  

Johnson, a businessman before coming to the Senate, hopes he can tap into a nationwide donor network to help raise the funds he needs.  

“I think I really can reach out around the country, kind of have a 50-state strategy in terms of fundraising, appealing to business people, appealing to people in the private sector,” Johnson said. “You know, people realize that a private sector person’s perspective here in Washington is pretty important, and I think I have a great deal of support. It’s part of my ‘friend-raising’ over the last four years, I’ve made a lot of contacts with people and now’s the time we’ll start turning on that spigot.”  

Johnson said his primary focus was going to be his role in the Senate, specifically as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. He said he would do the phone calls and the events necessary to raise money for a campaign, but also said he would count on supporters to help make sure he had the money he needed.  

“I’m gonna need a lot of help, and I’ll try and rely on force multipliers and kind of networks to try and do that,” he said.  

Johnson self-funded much of his campaign in 2010, but he has said he does not plan to do that again this year because he thinks he will be able to raise the necessary funds.  

“I’m a salesman; I’m not afraid to ask people for money,” he said. “I certainly stepped up to the plate and made a contribution to getting me elected initially. I’m not gonna be shy about asking people to step up to the plate now to get me re-elected.”  

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