Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr and Tristan Schmurr/Flickr
As its name implies, the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress contains short biographies of every member of the U.S. House and Senate. It is put together by official historians who carefully research the background of each senator or representative in the book.
At least that’s what I thought they did.
I recently looked up the entry for U.S. Senator Ron Johnson and was surprised to read, "plastics manufacturing company owner and founder."
The image of Ron Johnson as a "self made man" who "started" his plastics company "from the ground up" is a big lie that has plagued Wisconsin politics since 2010. And it had oozed its way into the official Biographical Directory!
Instead of describing him as a "founder," the bio should have read:
Ron Johnson, a struggling class-ring salesman, married the daughter of plastics magnate Howard Curler. Curler founded a plastics manufacturing company with his son Pat Curler in the late 1970s called Pacur (a shortening of Pat Curler). Pacur was built right across the street from Bemis corporation's Oshkosh plant. Bemis is a huge multinational plastic corporation of which, at the time Pacur was founded, Howard Curler was CEO. For the first several years Pacur’s operation, it served only one customer: Bemis. Johnson, by his own admission, started working at Pacur as an employee after it was founded. In fact, in 2010 he shrugged-off criticism that Pacur accepted a $75,000 handout from the the federal government to build a rail spur connecting Pacur to a nearby railroad, pleading that he wasn't even working for Pacur at the time the money was sought and accepted. Later, he deflected other criticisms of Pacur, saying he was simply an employee at the time.
I contacted Mary Baumann of the U.S. Senate Historical Office and was told that if I could document that anything in Ron Johnson's biography was in error, the office would revisit the entry and make changes, if warranted.
Unfortunately, Ron Johnson is still spinning the fairy tail that he "started" Pacur. He likes to brag that he’s hit a homerun in life, but to this day has never once publicly acknowledged that his father in law carried him to third base.
Even more unfortunate, Wisconsin media continues to mostly let Johnson get away with it. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's version of Politifact, recently rated Johnson's claim that he "started" Pacur as "half-true.” The paper fails to even reference Howard Curler, using the logic that because Johnson was an early employee of Pacur, it's half true that a 24-year-old ring salesman "started" a multi-million dollar company.
Makes me wonder how Politifact would rate Billy Bob—one of the early burger flippers at the first McDonalds—on his claim that he "started" McDonalds.
Jud Lounsbury is a political writer in Madison, Wisconsin and a frequent contributor to The Progressive. Note: In the past, Jud Lounsbury has served as a press secretary for several politicians, including Ron Johnson's opponent, Russ Feingold.