Ron Johnson opposed victims’ rights bill at the behest of Catholic officials

The story of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ron Johnson’s testimony to the Wisconsin State Senate in opposition to a bill that would provided a measure of justice to victims of child sexual abuse just won’t go away, as it’s now being revealed that despite Johnson’s assertions that he testified as nothing more than a “concerned citizen,” the Catholic Church actually played a “significant role” in getting Johnson to Madison to testify in opposition to the bill that would have eliminated the statute of limitations on child sex offenses (emphasis mine):

Johnson testified before the Wisconsin State Senate against legislation to eliminate the statute of limitations for such crimes, making it easier for victims of sexual abuse to seek damages from the Church or any other culpable institution.

The testimony first arose in the context of the race in a June article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and has been dogging Johnson more or less ever since. His connection to Morneau raises questions about how familiar Johnson (who is not a Catholic) was with the diocese’s hidden scandals. Those questions couldn’t come at a worse time for the GOP hopeful, who leads Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) in the polls ahead of the November election.

TPM contacted numerous attorneys, advocates, and other members of the finance council of the Diocese of Green Bay to explain the finance council’s role at the church, and the information it was privy to with respect to sexually abusive clergy. What we learned suggests that it’s very difficult to separate Johnson’s role as finance committee member from his role as legislative witness seeking to protect the Church from future lawsuits, when he told the panel, “I urge you to defeat this legislation.”

Johnson insisted at the time that he testified as an active member of the business and non-profit community — not specifically, and most pressingly, as a representative of the Catholic Church. But the road he took to testifying at the Madison statehouse in January of this year belies that contention.

Deacon Tim Reilly, Director of Administration for the Diocese of Green Bay told TPM that the Church played a significant role in getting Johnson to the state capital.

Ron Johnson really needs to start being honest about the role he played in settling lawsuits as a member of the Green Bay Diocese’s finance committee, and he needs to start being honest about how he ended up in Madison to testify on behalf of the Catholic Church – and in opposition to victims of childhood sexual abuse.


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