Politics & Policy

Wisc Sen Race Takes An Ugly Turn

GOP candidate Ron Johnson is under fire over a recently unearthed video of his testimony before the Wisconsin state legislature this past January (see below). Johnson testified in opposition to a bill known as the Child Victims Act that, among other things, would have “eliminated the statute of limitations for future victims of child sex abuse and opened a three-year window for past victims.”

Johnson’s testimony centered on what he considered the many unintended negative effects the bill could have on certain organizations, including “any and all private schools, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA’s, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, and churches of all denominations.”

The attacks on Johnson have been predictably outlandish. Sen. Russ Feingold’s campaign had this to say:

“People want a senator who is going to fight for victims of abuse, not lobby against them. If [Johnson] won’t stand with children who are victims of abuse, who will he stand with?”

And then there’s this post from Jed Lewison at Daily Kos:

The issue here isn’t that just that Ron Johnson is opposing victims of predators — it’s that he’s doing so to defend the interests of a tiny elite. If he can’t even stand up for children — sexually abused children, in fact — who in their right mind believes he would stick up for the interests of everyday Wisconsin families?

Most people involved in the many organizations Johnson mentioned during his testimony, which he acknowledged was only “a brief listing,” might be surprised to hear that they belong to a “tiny elite,” ill-deserving of defense. Unfortunately, like most people looking for a cheap, smear-worthy soundbite, Lewison probably stopped watching after 0:53 seconds in, when Johnson says, “I think it is extremely important to consider the economic havoc and the other victims [the Wisconsin Child Victims Act] would likely create.”

You can probably guess which two words in that sentence Johnson’s opponents have picked up on. Because as many Democrats and lefties have made clear the past couple of years, the potential for “economic havoc” ought not be a major factor in deciding whether or not to pass a bill (you can always find out what’s in it later).

Not to mention the fact that Johnson begins his testimony by clearly stating the following: “We all share a deep sense of sympathy for anyone effected by these crimes, and the punishment for the actual perpetrator should be severe.”

Or the that the bill failed to win the support of a Democratic-controlled legislature.

Here’s the video (watch the whole thing):

Johnson issued the following statement today in response:

“In January, I spoke against some of the language of the bill in the Wisconsin Legislature because I believed the way it was written could lead to unintended consequences against honorable non-profit groups like the Boys and Girls Club of America, education non-profits and churches across Wisconsin.  I sought to warn legislators of those consequences in order to correct legislative language so that any bills that passed would punish the perpetrators and those that protect them, not honorable organizations that do so much good for our communities.  We must rid our society of people who prey on children.”

Given the commanding lead in the polls Johnson has opened up in recent weeks, and the clear, effective advertisements his campaign continues to roll out, it’s hardly a surprise that his opponents are reaching for the mud, essentially trying to smear him as “pro-pedophile.” Feingold himself has yet to stick his neck out on the matter, but it will be interesting to see going forward how hard the embattled incumbent is willing to press the issue.

Andrew Stiles — Andrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online. He previously worked at the Washington Free Beacon, and was an intern at The Hill newspaper. Stiles is a 2009 ...

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