Ron Johnson tried to subvert democracy. These corporations are backing his reelection.
Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) was directly involved in the last-ditch effort to subvert the 2020 presidential election, according to text messages released by the January 6 Committee. Just before former Vice President Mike Pence (R) was scheduled to count electoral votes on January 6, Johnson's Chief of Staff, Sean Riley, sent a text message to one of Pence's aides, Chris Hodgson. "Johnson needs to hand something to VPOTUS please advise," Riley wrote. Riley indicated Johnson wanted to hand Pence an "[a]lternate slate of electors for MI and WI." This was a euphemism for a fake set of pro-Trump electors for Michigan and Wisconsin, two states that Biden won. "Do not give that to him," Hodgson responded.
In other words, Johnson attempted to participate in a plot to discard millions of voters in his home state of Wisconsin and neighboring Michigan, and install Trump for a second term.
The text messages were part of an elaborate strategy concocted by John Eastman and other lawyers representing Trump. Eastman initially attempted to persuade state legislatures to certify fake electors pledged to Trump. The idea was to "present Pence with an apparent controversy: competing slates of electors certified by different government bodies — governors and legislators." But Eastman and other Trump allies were unable to convince any legislature to participate.
Then Eastman sought to enlist the Republican National Committee to simply identify slates of fake electors. Pence, however, received the certified results from the National Archives. And the National Archives did not accept the slates of fake electors it received for Michigan and other states.
So Johnson attempted to pass these fake electors directly to Pence, circumventing the processes set up to safeguard the democratic process.
Johnson's unbelievable "explanation"
Johnson's efforts to explain his conduct and tamp down the controversy have not gone well.
First, his spokesperson issued a statement emphasizing that Johnson "had no involvement in the creation of an alternate slate of electors." But that wasn't the allegation. The issue was that Johnson wanted to pass the fake electors to Pence. His spokesman also claimed that it was "a staff to staff exchange." The text messages did involve two staffers. But the request was for Johnson himself to pass the document to Pence. That request would not have been made without Johnson's knowledge and approval.
Johnson then defended himself while talking to reporters near the Capitol building. According to Johnson, a "staff intern" in the House of Representatives delivered the document to his office and said, "the vice president needs this or whatever." Johnson says he doesn't know the identity of the intern and does not plan on finding out. Nevertheless, Johnson claims that was enough for his Chief of Staff to contact the Vice President's staff. It also doesn't explain why Johnson's Chief of Staff said that Johnson "needs" to deliver the document to the Vice President. But, according to Johnson, his "explanation" proves that his effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election is a "complete non-story."
In another exchange with reporters, Johnson initially pretended to be on a phone call to avoid answering questions. When a reporter called him out for faking the call, he claimed he was "basically unaware" of his Chief of Staff's actions. But Johnson said he believed his Chief of Staff "did the right thing" in trying to get the fake electors to Pence.
Johnson's central role in promoting lies about the 2020 election
Even before the latest revelations, Johnson played a central role in advancing Trump's false claims about the 2020 presidential election. He devoted his final hearing as chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to promoting conspiracy theories about voter fraud.
The hearing featured "two Trump campaign lawyers" who "described rampant fraud in Nevada, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, some of which had been considered and scrapped in court, others of which had no basis." Johnson himself "insisted without evidence that fraud had undoubtedly occurred at an indeterminable scale."
Johnson also joined an effort led by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) urging Congress to delay certification to allow time for "an emergency 10-day audit of the election returns in the disputed states." After this audit, "individual states… could convene a special legislative session to certify a change in their vote, if needed." Eastman advocated for exactly such a delay to give him more time to execute his scheme. It was consistent with the larger effort to certify electors pledged to Trump in states won by Biden.
The corporations supporting Johnson's reelection
Johnson narrowly won his 2016 campaign with 50.2% of the vote. In 2022, Johnson is considered the most vulnerable Republican incumbent. While most of the 21 incumbent Republican Senators are expected to cruise to reelection, Cook Political Report rates Johnson's seat a "toss-up."
Despite Johnson's role in the effort to overturn the election, he is receiving financial support from major corporations — including corporations that condemned the events of January 6 and the efforts to install Trump for a second term.
"We condemn the violence that occurred in Washington, D.C., and fully support the results of the U.S. general election," FedEx said in a statement issued January 11, 2021. "We congratulate and look forward to working with the Biden administration on policy issues important to our company and our customers."
On February 17, 2022, FedEx's PAC donated $5,000 to Johnson's reelection campaign. Other corporate PACs that contributed directly to Johnson's campaign include Charter Communications ($5,000), Chevron ($10,000), Experian ($2,500), Honeywell ($2,500), Koch Industries ($5,000), Home Depot ($10,000), Kraft Heinz ($1,000), and UPS ($5,000).
Since his seat is at risk, Johnson is expected to receive extensive financial support from the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). Corporations that are supporting Johnson through their PAC contributions to the NRSC include Amazon ($30,000), AT&T ($30,000), Comcast ($15,000), Google ($30,000), Intel ($30,000), Verizon ($30,000), and Walmart ($60,000).