MADISON — A longtime aide to U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson is firing back at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, setting the record straight on the newspaper’s falsely biased assertion that Johnson was cutting backroom deals for expanded tax relief to benefit wealthy donors.
Ben Voelkel, in an op-ed published Friday in the Journal Sentinel, wrote that the newspaper’s editorial board got it “flat-out wrong” when it opined last week that Johnson engaged in “secret, closed-door maneuvering” to win changes to the 2017 Republican tax cut bill.
“I know because I was there,” wrote Voelkel, who was Johnson’s communications director at the time. He noted he was in the room when the Oshkosh Republican told The Wall Street Journal he opposed the Senate’s tax bill and that he was prepared to buck Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate leadership on a major piece of legislation.
“But I was also right there when he did countless interviews with national and local outlets — even the Journal Sentinel — explaining why pass-through businesses in Wisconsin and throughout the country deserved to be treated as fairly as corporate behemoths such as Google and Microsoft,” Voelkel wrote. “There was nothing secret about his conversations on the Senate floor that convinced his colleagues to adopt some of his proposed changes to the bill, either.”
The Johnson-hating Journal Sentinel last week published a hit piece from liberal activist investigative reporting outlet ProPublica that falsely paints a picture of Wisconsin’s senior senator doing the bidding of wealthy Wisconsin donors to his campaign.
In fact, as the authors begrudgingly concede, Johnson sought and received through legislative horse-trading a better deal for so-called pass-through businesses in the Republican tax cut of 2017. More than 90 percent of U.S. businesses are classified as pass-through businesses, whose income, unlike corporations, is reported on the owners’ tax returns and taxed under the individual income tax. Johnson has said he did not want the historic Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to leave millions of businesses behind in the kind of pro-growth tax relief corporations would be receiving.
But the Journal Sentinel editorial board, which has long been at open war with Johnson, doubled down with an editorial headlined,” “Nobody’s senator but theirs: Ron Johnson’s backroom dealing shows who he’s working for. It’s not you.” It’s garbage, from a newspaper that has published a ton of liberally slanted garbage.
“Though he tried to defend himself on Wednesday, Johnson’s secret, closed-door maneuvering on the tax bill is one more reason he’s unfit to represent Wisconsin citizens. The sooner he’s removed from office, the better for our democratic republic.,” sneered the “enlightened” editors of the state’s largest daily newspaper.
Voelkel reminded the board what they probably should already know, that pass-through businesses “are not some special, shady, or otherwise strange entity.” They represent 96 percent of all businesses and they employ 57 percent of the nation’s workforce. The tax classification includes every kind of business, from florists to manufacturers.
“Why shouldn’t pass-through businesses get a fair shake?” Voelkel wrote. “While too many in Washington just vote the party line, Senator Johnson took the time to gather facts, argue principles, and change minds to make a massive piece of legislation a little bit better.”
The tax savings wrought have played no small part in keeping U.S. economic expansion rolling, even through a paralyzing pandemic.
“At a time when confidence in institutions — and particularly journalism — is at a low, the Journal Sentinel owes more to its remaining readers than baseless partisan smears,” Voelkel wrote. “All the editorial board would have to do is read its own newspaper to know its straw man arguments are baseless. No one is expecting fairness from the editorial page, but honesty shouldn’t be too much to ask.”