Back in 2010, Ron Johnson ran a searing ad title “Maverock” against then-U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, mocking his reputation for bucking party or corporate wishes.
The implication was that Wisconsinites needed to send a real maverick to the Senate. And what says "maverick" like Ron Johnson: A self-made man who built his plastic empire from nothing but reading Atlas Shrugged and eating boot-strap salads with elbow-grease dressing. (Don't believe the liberal spin that his father-in-law, plastic magnate Howard Curler, gave him a limo ride to third base and let him brag that he hit a triple.)
Yes, we here in Wisconsin were told over and over again that Ron Johnson would be a "citizen legislator" who would venture to Washington only when he had to, and who would steer clear of those special interests that had led "career politician" Russ Feingold astray.
Now, here we are, six years later. Ron Johnson has had the opportunity to demonstrate his maverickness and the results are . . . well, not so mavericky.
While Russ Feingold was always among the top ten of Senators who voted out-of-step with their party, Johnson has been a reliable rubber stamp. According to The Washington Post's analysis of the 113 Congress, Johnson voted with his party 93 percent of the time—putting him near the top among Republicans in being most likely to tow the party line. (In Feingold's last Congressional term, he voted with his party only 80 percent of the time, putting him at 62nd out of 65 democratic Senators.)
Ron Johnson loves Washington, D.C., so much, he bought a house right on Capitol Hill. (Feingold rented a small apartment and returned to Wisconsin every weekend.)
And those special interests that Ron Johnson hates so much? While Feingold never accepted free trips from special-interest groups and wrote many of the rules aimed at curbing corporate influence on Senators, Johnson has been a mirror opposite.
On any given weekend, when he is not in D.C., you're likely to find Johnson at an all-expenses paid luxury corporate retreat that has been thinly disguised as a think tank seminar.
Johnson's favorite is the Koch-funded American Enterprise Institute, which recently got busted by The New York Times for having corporate consultants moonlight as their "AEI scholars." The Times article features a nice picture of Johnson at an AEI event yacking it up with one of Verizon's hired guns. The Verizon guy was there under the pretext of being an AEI scholar specializing in the dangers of the government regulating anything related to the internet.
On one recent AEI-paid vacation, they paid the airfare for Johnson and his wife to the resort area of Sea Island, Georgia. They paid for the limo to and from the airport. They paid for five meals at four star restaurants. And best of all, they paid for a two night stay at The Cloister, a $435-a-night luxury resort that made the “Top 25 Resorts” list in the most recent edition of Conde Nast Traveler!
Ahhh, yes: Nothing says maverick, like having the Koch brothers put you up in a far away four-star paradise while a Verizon siren sings sweet nothings in your ear.
Jud Lounsbury is a political writer based in Madison, Wisconsin and a frequent contributor to The Progressive.