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Monday, December 09, 2019

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Abortion May Help Democrats To Oust Ron Johnson From Senate

By James Oliphant

GREEN BAY, Wis. (Reuters) - Nicole Slavin was a reliable Democratic voter in a conservative region of Wisconsin, but she realized casting a ballot was no longer enough after the state's abortion access vanished almost overnight.

Slavin, a business development director, called upon her network of contacts to mobilize a group of women across party lines in support of U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes, a Democrat who backs abortion rights. She knocked on doors for Barnes and organized an event for him last week that drew more than 100 women to a Green Bay brewery.

"There's no option of staying quiet and sitting down anymore," said Slavin, 48.

Evidence is building that a wave of women voters might make the difference if Democrats are to keep their Senate majority and stem their expected losses in the House of Representatives in the November 8 midterm elections.

Wisconsin is one of several states where voter registrations among women have surged since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. That decision gutted national protections for abortion and left an 1849 law outlawing most abortions in Wisconsin on the books, prompting the state's four abortion clinics to end the procedure.

Women have outpaced men in new registrations in Wisconsin by almost 10 percent, according to an analysis by the Democratic data firm TargetSmart. Women vote at a greater rate than men in presidential elections, but that gap usually narrows in midterms.

The battleground state is critical to Democrats' hopes of holding onto their slim majority in the Senate. If Barnes can defeat incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson, it would provide a cushion should the party lose a seat in a state such as Nevada or Georgia.

The Senate Majority PAC, an outside group that supports Democratic candidates, made Johnson the target of the first abortion-centered TV ad it aired after the Supreme Court's ruling. On Friday, the group launched a new abortion ad aimed at Johnson as part of a $1.6 million buy. The ad will run in Green Bay, among other markets.

Tom Bonier, chief executive officer of TargetSmart, theorizes many new registrants are young women who took abortion rights for granted.

"We are seeing these voters now pivoting to some level of action," Bonier said.

Adrianna Pokela, 23, said she cried after Roe's overturn. She will vote in her first midterm election this November and is trying to convince others of her generation to do the same.

In July, she helped plan a protest march in Green Bay that drew several hundred people.

"I am working my butt off to find ways to express the importance of this election," Pokela said.

Motivated Voters

Opinion surveys show the issue of abortion is rising in importance for Democratic voters in an election cycle dominated by concerns over inflation.

A Wall Street Journal poll released last week found support for legal abortion had grown nationwide since the court's decision and that more than half of voters surveyed said the issue had made them more motivated to vote in November.

After voters in Kansas last month defeated Republican efforts to ban abortion in that state, Democrats have zeroed in on women as the voters most likely to help prevent a Republican takeover of Congress.

The advocacy group Galvanize Action released nine digital ads about abortion rights in Wisconsin aimed at moderate white women, one of the state's largest voting blocs. The group has survey data that says those women, many of whom are not traditional Democratic voters, can be persuaded to vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights.

Jackie Payne, the group's executive director, said the ads' messages revolve around compassion for women and keeping government out of personal healthcare decisions.

"You have to connect to voters at their values," Payne said. "And then get them to turn out."

Another group, Democratic Messaging Project, has posted a billboard off a major highway in downtown Milwaukee that reads, "ABORTION GONE, IS BIRTH CONTROL NEXT?," one of 10 billboards the group will have in the state by week's end.

Nationally, Priorities USA Action, which targets swing voters in battleground states, said half the ads it's running in states such as Arizona and Pennsylvania mention abortion rights.

'Fired Up'

Barnes, Wisconsin's lieutenant governor, released a TV ad in which his mother spoke of having an abortion due to medical complications that put her health at risk.

"It's about personal freedom that has been taken away by the Supreme Court," Barnes said in an interview. "People are fired up."

His campaign believes Johnson, a two-term incumbent, is vulnerable on the issue.

Johnson has said he supports making abortion illegal, with exceptions for rape, incest, and to protect the mother's health. He has said he does not favor a federal abortion ban.

But Johnson's campaign rarely talks about abortion. Instead, it has tried to pin Barnes to the high crime rate in Milwaukee, branding him a supporter of liberal criminal justice policies.

Analysts say Johnson may be more in danger than in past years because of his support for former President Donald Trump's bogus election fraud claims, which could alienate moderate voters. Polls show a tight race.

Peggy Phillips, 66, who came out to see Barnes in Green Bay and described herself as an independent, said she was leaning toward backing the Democratic candidate. The main reason, she said, was abortion.

"I believe very strongly that it's an individual issue," Phillips said.

(Reporting by James Oliphant; editing by Colleen Jenkins and Daniel Wallis)


Ron Johnson Hits Trump For 'Failure' To Approve Quack COVID Treatment

Sen. Ron Johnson said in an interview on Thursday with the anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist host of a podcast that President Donald Trump's COVID-19 response team got in the way of what he considered the best approach to handling the coronavirus pandemic. But, the Wisconsin Republican said, he kept quiet about it at the time so as not to hurt Trump's reelection campaign.

Johnson made the comments in a nearly 90-minute interview with anti-vaccine figure Del Bigtree on his program "The Highwire" that was flagged by the political opposition research group American Bridge 21st Century.

Criticizing Dr. Anthony Fauci, the experienced expert on infectious diseases who clashed with Trump and others on the right, as well as Dr. Deborah Birx and others on Trump's COVID team, Johnson discussed hearings he led in 2020 as chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, during which he himself was criticized for inviting anti-vaccine activists to testify in favor of unproven and medically risky treatments for COVID such as the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which has been shown to be ineffective against the virus.

"I don't expect the general public to really listen to hearings. It's kind of the aftermath, and what news reports are written about it. Again, from my standpoint, we were making news, but I wasn't Fauci, I wasn't Birx — they had a different narrative here. And so I realized I wasn't making a whole lot of headway and this was kind of out of my control at this point in time. And you know, quite honestly, I wanted to make sure that President Trump got reelected and I didn't want to get too overly critical on his administration, to be quite honest," he said. "I had some real problems with what was happening inside the administration. I mean, again, he was not obviously aware of these things. But he couldn't get it done. His team wasn't serving him well."

The Trump administration's response to the pandemic failed to prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths due to COVID in the United States.

In the early days, Trump belittled the threat of the virus, falsely claiming that it was "under control" and would not spread in the United States and that it would quickly go away when the weather warmed up.

He admitted to journalist Bob Woodward that he intentionally misled the public, telling him, "I wanted to always play it down."

As the virus spread across the world and shut down the U.S. economy, Trump falsely said the seasonal flu was worse than COVID, pushed hydroxychloroquine as a "miracle cure," refused to wear a mask and mocked those who did, and hosted events that ended up as "superspreaders" of the virus while flouting his own safety guidelines.

Johnson, who has long pushed false claims about the supposed dangers of COVID-19 vaccines and touted dangerous and unproven treatments, had nothing to say about the actual failings of the Trump administration's response, instead arguing that the COVID team's failure to push hydroxychloroquine was because it would make have made it harder to get actual vaccines against the virus approved.

"I can't explain it. But it sure seems at some point in time, the cabal — I call them the COVID cartel — decided, no, it's going to be vaccine," Johnson said. "And, and of course, that's one of the explanations of why they'd want to tank and sabotage early treatment, which they did, was if you have an effective therapy, you're not going to get emergency use authorization on a totally novel therapy that's not a vaccine."

According to a November 2020 article in the scientific publication Microbes and Infection, Bigtree's program frequently presents similar “government and the media are lying to you" themes, like Johnson's, in its continued opposition to vaccination.

Johnson, who had previously promised not to serve more than two terms in the Senate, is facing an uphill race this November against Democratic Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes in his quest for a third six-year term. Polls show Johnson is widely unpopular, with the second-lowest approval ratings of any senator in the country after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Johnson frequently reminds supporters that he has been endorsed by Trump.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Johnson Admits He Wants A Federal Abortion Ban

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) suggests that after states decide what sort of abortion restrictions to adopt, Congress should add national restrictions.

After a campaign appearance in Germantown, Wisconsin, the Washington County Daily News asked Johnson — who believes "life begins at the moment of conception" — about the recent election in Kansas, where voters decisively rejected a proposed constitutional amendment restricting abortion rights.

Rather than acknowledge the Kansas decision, however, Johnson discussed ways to further restrict abortion rights.

In a somewhat self-contradictory response, Johnson praised the July Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade and said that states should make their own laws governing abortion — while hinting that Congress could eventually override them.

"Completely agree with the decision. It's been 50 years since the Supreme Court, nine justices, made this decision for all Americans, which of course didn't solve the problem, it exacerbated the divide. So, I look forward to every state, the people in every state, hopefully having a serious, compassionate, and sympathetic discussion to decide this question, and this is what needs to be decided. At what point does society have the responsibility to protect life? That's the question on the table. I don't think nine justices should decide it. I don't think 535 members of Congress should decide it. I think it should be decided by the people, state-by-state. Maybe sometime in the future, you know, maybe Congress can take a look at what the states have done and say, 'We probably ought to place this limit here,' based on new information or whatever."

Asked about the comments on Wednesday, a Johnson spokesperson said in an email that "no where does he talk about a national abortion ban" and said that Johnson "emphasizes this is on each state to decide and the people through their elected representatives."

Pressed about what sort of national rules Johnson does back, the spokesperson pointed to his previous record.

In his first run for Senate in 2010, Johnson said on his website that he was committed to "preserving Wisconsin values," promising to support a "culture of life."

Johnson has subsequently backed a ban on nearly all abortions and promoted anti-abortion "crisis pregnancy centers" which manipulate people with deceptive and dishonest tactics.

"It might be a little messy for some people, but abortion is not going away," Johnson predicted in May, before the Supreme Court's ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health. "I just don't think this is going to be the big political issue everybody thinks it is, because it's not going to be that big a change."

He also noted that while Wisconsin has an archaic 1849 abortion ban on the books that offers almost no exceptions, his constituents could just drive to a neighboring state if they wanted to end their pregnancy.

Following the Supreme Court's July decision, Johnson posted a lengthy explanation of his abortion positions on his "Just The Truth" campaign site.

He noted that he had backed federal abortion bans but that he thinks states should get to determine what sort of bans to adopt.

"I believe society has a responsibility to protect life at some point in the womb. As a U.S. Senator, I have voted in favor of protecting life after 20 weeks (5 months). I also signed an amicus brief supporting Dobbs in overturning Roe, and also in protecting life after 15 weeks (~4 months). I personally believe life begins at the moment of conception, but I fully support allowing the democratic process in each state to decide at what point society should protect that life. This is the profound moral question that must weigh the interests and rights of the mother against the interests and rights of the unborn child within her."

Polling shows that Johnson's position is well out of the mainstream among Wisconsin voters.

A June poll conducted by Marquette University Law School found that 58 percent of the state's adults back abortion rights in "all" or "most cases," while 35 percent say abortion should be illegal most or all of the time.

"There has been little change among preferences in abortion policy in recent years," the pollster noted while highlighting a small uptick in the percentage of people saying abortion should be legal in all cases.

Johnson, whose own approval rating hovers at around 35 percent is facing an uphill battle for reelection this November.

Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, the Democratic nominee, has been endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Barnes responded to Johnson's comments in a statement Wednesday.

"Ron Johnson's disregard for the rights and freedoms of Wisconsin women is disqualifying," Barnes said. "We deserve elected leaders who will go to the mat to protect our freedoms, but instead Ron Johnson is putting women and doctors at risk by supporting a federal abortion ban. He is dangerously out of touch with Wisconsinites and it's time to send him packing."

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

'Self-Serving Millionaire' Johnson Targets Medicare And Social Security

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) has suggested that he believes federal programs like Medicare and Social Security should be included in annual budget discussions; an initiative that could ultimately threaten to impact the lives of millions of benefit recipients.

On Tuesday, August 2, the Republican lawmaker made his remarks during an appearance on "The Regular Joe Show." During the discussion, show host Joe Giganti asked Johnson about the PACT Act — which was passed to provide aid for veterans who suffered from exposure to toxic burn pits — as well as the debates surrounding discretionary and mandatory spending.

The Wisconsin lawmaker, who is currently campaigning for a third Senate term, admitted that he seeks to shift the full federal budget toward discretionary spending. The proposed change would include Social Security and Medicare, programs he believes need to be re-evaluated and restructured.

"Defense spending has always been discretionary," Johnson said. "VA spending is discretionary. What's mandatory are things like Social Security and Medicare. If you qualify for the entitlement you just get it no matter what the cost. And our problem in this country is that more than 70 percent of our federal budget, of our federal spending, is all mandatory spending. It's on automatic pilot. It never ... you just don't do proper oversight. You don't get in there and fix the programs going bankrupt. It's just on automatic pilot.

"What we ought to be doing is we ought to turn everything into discretionary spending so that it's all evaluated so that we can fix problems or fix programs that are broken that are going to be going bankrupt," he said.

Johnson also insisted that "as long as things are on automatic pilot we just continue to pile up debt, mortgage our kids' future, this massive debt burden, combined with this massive deficit spending that sparked this inflation that's wiping out people's wage gains, making it impossible for them to make ends meet. Again, this didn't just happen."

"The fact that you're struggling economically it's because of Democrat governance and Democrat policies in the federal government that is spending way more money than it should and doing things that never was even envisioned by our founding fathers to be doing."

However, Johnson's Democratic election opponent, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D), argues otherwise. In a new statement, he pushed back against Johnson's remarks criticizing him for his stance.

“Self-serving, multimillionaire senator Ron Johnson wants to strip working people of the Social Security and Medicare they’ve earned. Wisconsinites pay into Social Security through a lifetime of hard work, and they’re counting on this program and Medicare – but Ron Johnson just doesn't care,” Barnes said in a statement.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also offered her perspective via Twitter. "While [POTUS] and congressional Democrats fight for the Inflation Reduction Act, which would let Medicare negotiate lower drug prices, congressional Republicans like @SenRonJohnson want to put Medicare on the chopping block. That would devastate families."

Despite his remarks, Johnson's spokesperson Alexa Henning has also responded to the backlash insisting the Republican lawmaker seeks to keep both programs financially stable.

"The Senator’s point was that without fiscal discipline and oversight typically found with discretionary spending, Congress has allowed the guaranteed benefits for programs like Social Security and Medicare to be threatened," Henning said in a statement.

"This must be addressed by Congress taking its responsibilities seriously to ensure that seniors don’t need to question whether the programs they depend on remain solvent. As he said, we need a process to save these programs and no one is doing anything to save them long-term. We just continue piling up debt, mortgaging our children's future, and putting these programs at risk."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

GOP Fears Its Mediocre Senate Candidates Will Ruin Midterm Campaign

After months of sharpening their knives in anticipation of the midterms, Republicans' glee has turned gloomy as the election cycle's contours shift.

That is particularly true in the Senate, where a several-point post-Roe bump for Democrats in the generic ballot is perhaps the least of Republicans' worries. The main problem is that Republicans are saddled with subpar, Trumpian candidates in the most critical Senate races at a time when Donald Trump's star appears to be falling.

On background, one GOP strategist warned of "massive problems on the candidate front.” On the record, veteran GOP operative Kevin Madden offered a more tempered view: “There are warning signs that some of these candidates are not as strong as they could be given the opportunity at hand."

Take Trump's hand-picked candidate in Georgia, the verbally challenged former football star Herschel Walker, where the National Republican Senatorial Committee is already trying to perform an intervention, according to The Washington Post.

The Senate GOP campaign arm recently installed several trusted Republican operatives to help right Walker's ship, including veteran strategist Gail Gitcho as a senior adviser, Chip Lake as a consultant, and Brett O’Donnell, the party’s "most celebrated debate prep strategist," according to the Post.

O'Donnell's in for a treat with Walker, who is making a strong bid for the most consistently incoherent candidate on the trail in modern memory.

Walker's latest triumph was dumbing down the climate change debate by 'splaining how America is cleaning up China's air quality.

"Since we don’t control the air, our good air decide to float over to China bad air. So when China get our good air, their bad air gotta move. So, it moves over to our good air space. And now, we gotta clean that back up," Walker clarified. Got that?

It doesn't help that Walker's staff was reportedly blindsided by the discovery that the candidate fathered three children he had never publicly acknowledged. But Walker's biggest deficit appears to be that his campaign doesn’t trust him to ... well ... talk.

When Georgia conservative radio host Erick Erickson invited Walker on his show for a one-on-one, hour-long chat, the campaign declined because aides didn't want him going "free form" for an entire hour, per the Post.

“I don’t know anyone who has confidence in the campaign including people on the campaign. He doesn’t have standard candidate discipline,” Erickson said. “He just doesn’t have a deep grasp of the issues nor really the desire to learn those issues."

Senate Republicans are also haunted by flashbacks from the 2010 and 2012 cycles, when wackadoodle GOP candidates doomed their chances of regaining control of the upper chamber.

In Ohio, Trump-backed GOP Senate nominee J.D. Vance has compared abortion to slavery, saying they had both "distorted" American society.

“There’s something comparable between abortion and slavery, and that while the people who obviously suffer the most are those subjected to it, I think it has this morally distorting effect on the entire society,” Vance said in an interview with the Catholic Current last October. “I think that’s one of the underappreciated facts about abortion," Vance added.

Vance's Democratic challenger, Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, called the comparison "absolutely disgusting" in a tweet about the remarks.

“We cannot let him anywhere near the Senate," added Ryan, who has pledged to end the filibuster in order to codify abortion protections into federal law. On Friday, the Ryan campaign announced that it hauled in an eye-popping $9.1 million in the second quarter.

In Pennsylvania, TV huckster Dr. Mehmet Oz quickly fell behind the Democratic Senate nominee, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who has been recovering from a stroke he suffered in mid-May. Early polling last month showed Fetterman leading Oz by 9 points.

Fetterman is expected to return to the campaign trail within weeks. In the meantime, Fetterman has been pounding Oz for being a carpetbagger from New Jersey.

Even GOP incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin isn’t exactly on a glide path to reelection this fall.

Though some election analysts have just begun to recalibrate their predictions in this post-Roe environment, Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg doesn't view abortion as the only driving force favoring Democrats.

For the past two cycles, he says, nothing and no one have galvanized a coalition of voters to vote against Republicans more than Trump and the MAGA movement have. Rosenberg expects November to follow in similar fashion.

“The question is, are there forces in the election more powerful than the disappointment in Biden?” posited Rosenberg. “The answer is yes, and that is opposition and fear for MAGA, which is the thing that has driven the last two elections.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Ron Johnson Comically Flubs Attempt To Smear Biden (VIDEO)

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), whose involvement in former President Donald Trump's coup to overthrow the federal government and ensuing insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021 has recently come to light, appeared on the right-wing media network Real America's Voice on Thursday and pushed conspiracy theories about President Joe Biden.

Stumbling over his words, Johnson accused Biden of facilitating purported behaviors and activities for his son Hunter, whom Republicans frequently invoke when they need a distraction. Johnson then suggested that Biden had concurrently run a global human trafficking network during last year's military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

"I'm highly concerned that Joe Biden is comprised," Johnson stammered (presumably meaning to say 'compromised'). "The fact that he might have funded his son's use of, potentially, escorts in part of a sex scandal – a global sex scandal, sex, uh, operation – is also troubling."

Watch below via Ron Filipkowski:


The rumors proffered by Johnson, which have also been peddled by Donald Trump Junior, are false, and have been debunked by reputable fact-checkers.

Johnson's remarks ignited social media, where observers were dumbfounded.






Johnson's struggle to make his case was telling, users noted.







Johnson is currently vying for a third term in the Senate. Recent polls indicate that while he leads a handful of GOP challengers, he is trailing Democratic candidates who want to flip his seat. One of them is Wisconsin's incumbent Democratic Governor Tony Evers.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Ron Johnson Has Opposed Every Gun Safety Measure

Voters might not know it from Sen. Ron Johnson's congressional or campaign issue webpages, but the Wisconsin Republican has spent his two terms in the Senate opposing virtually every gun safety proposal that has been introduced. Last month, he even opposed the bipartisan compromise gun bill that passed in the wake of the mass shooting in May at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Johnson was one of 34 Republican senators who voted against even debating the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, a compromise package designed to improve background checks on would-be gun purchasers under age 21, prevent convicted domestic abusers from acquiring firearms, and provide funding for states that opt to adopt red flag laws to temporarily disarm people judged to be a danger to themselves or others. The bill became law over their objections.

It won support from every Democratic senator and even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. But Johnson denounced it as "flawed gun legislation."

"The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act is a classic example of Washington dysfunction," he said in a June 23 press release explaining his vote in opposition. "Negotiated by a 'gang' with no committee process and no ability to offer amendments, billions in spending with a phantom pay for, and provisions that ignore constitutional rights."

Despite promising not to seek a third term in the Senate, Johnson is currently doing so anyway. Polls show Johnson faces an uphill battle, with among the lowest approval ratings of any incumbent senator in the country. The Democratic primary will be held Aug. 9 and will determine his general election opponent out of a field of eight candidates.

The issues pages on Johnson's Senate and campaign websites omit any mention of his positions on gun violence. His spokespersons did not respond to an inquiry for this story, but a review of his past comments and votes makes clear he has opposed virtually every proposed measure to curb gun violence.

Johnson has opposed multiple efforts to make sure that everyone goes through a background check before obtaining a firearm.

In a May 5 ABC News interview, he argued that there was no need to have universal background checks because some gun purchases already require them. "We have background checks. What we ought to do is enforce the laws that are on the books," he said, seemingly contradicting his own longstanding efforts to roll back existing state gun restrictions.

In September 2019, he told constituents that background checks could criminalize people who disobey them, and some people might ignore them. "My reluctance is: I don't want to turn into a criminal some guy up in northern Wisconsin who transfers a gun to a friend," Johnson said. "You can pass all the background checks. It's not going to solve this. It probably won't even stop one of these."

"It doesn't take a whole lot of imagination to realize if someone is going to break the law and slaughter a fellow human being, they're not going to have a whole lot of problem violating gun laws either. We have 400 million guns. People are going to be able to get them," he added.

He voted against a 2013 proposal by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), which would have required a background check prior to any online or gun show firearms purchases, even though their compromise proposal explicitly exempted transfers between family and friends.

Johnson also voted in 2017 to block a federal rule to stop gun purchases by people adjudicated to be mentally unable to handle their own finances.

In August 2019, Johnson told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that legislation to stop sales of semi-automatic assault weapons was also unnecessary. After questioning whether semi-automatic rifles are even assault weapons, he said he was against banning them because "You can create a lot of carnage with not using a gun. People attack crowds with trucks." (Truck drivers typically are required to obtain a license.)

Johnson voted against proposals in 2013 to ban the sale of those assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

During a 2012 interview, he told Fox News that he believes large ammunition-feeding devices are a constitutional right. According to a HuffPost report at the time, Johnson told the network, "People will talk about unusually lethal weapons, that could be potentially a discussion you could have. But the fact of the matter is there are 30-round magazines that are just common all over the place. You simply can't keep these weapons out of the hands of sick, demented individuals who want to do harm. And when you try and do it, you restrict our freedom."

In 1996, an amendment proposed by then-Rep. Jay Dickey (R-AR) was included in the appropriations bill for the following year that stipulated "none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control." A 2012 appropriations law similarly prohibited the National Institutes of Health from researching ways to curb gun violence. In practice, this meant that for years the federal agencies were blocked from studying how to prevent the tens of thousands of gun deaths each year in the United States.

Dickey, who lost his seat in the 2000 election, told NPR in 2015 that he regretted that result of his amendment and that more research was needed.

But when Congress finally lifted the prohibition in December 2019, as part of a broader budget agreement, Johnson was one of just 23 senators to vote no on the bipartisan package. He complained in a press release that "the price for funding necessary programs was simply too high to obtain my overall support."

In April 2019, during a discussion with high school students in Columbus, Wisconsin, Johnson was asked why he did not support modernizing gun laws as other countries have successfully done to curb gun deaths.

"Australia and Japan took away gun rights and gun violence in those countries went way down," a student said.

Johnson responded, "Those are different cultures. I support our rights to have guns and defend ourselves."

During his 2010 and 2016 campaigns, the National Rifle Association endorsed Johnson and gave him its highest ratings. In the later race, the group praised his "proven record of support for our Second Amendment freedoms." Its endorsement release noted his agreement with the group on basically every issue: opposing "anti-gun Supreme Court justices" and "anti-gun bureaucrats," supporting "right-to-carry," and opposing background checks.

With its endorsement, the group also invested heavily in his campaigns. In addition to giving him at least $13,400 in political action committee contributions, the NRA spent more than $1 million in dark money to support him and attack his Democratic opponent.

The anti-gun violence group Giffords filed sued two NRA affiliates and a number of campaign committees in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in November 2021, charging: "Over the past seven years, the National Rifle Association ("the NRA") has engaged in an ongoing scheme to evade campaign finance regulations by using a series of shell corporations to illegally but surreptitiously coordinate advertising with at least seven candidates for federal office." The suit is still working its way through the courts. An NRA spokesperson dismissed the suit, telling NPR it was a "misguided" attack and a "premeditated abuse of the public by our adversaries."

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Johnson Is America's Most Unpopular Senator (Except For McConnell)

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) is deeply unpopular among his own constituents, according to a new poll released Monday. In fact, the only current senator with a lower approval rating is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has infamously blocked hundreds of popular pieces of legislation.

According to a Morning Consult Political Intelligence survey of all 50 states, just 37 percent of registered Wisconsin voters approve of Johnson, while 51 percent disapprove. The remaining 12 percent said they did not know or had no opinion.

This made him the second-most unpopular senator out of the 100 currently serving, after only McConnell; Kentucky voters disapprove of him by a 60 percent -- 33 percent margin.

Though Johnson's 37 percent approval rating in the poll is dismal, it is actually slightly higher than in other recent polling. Some recent surveys put his approval at 35 percent, while a March Marquette University Law School poll found him at just 33 percent support.

The Republican is currently seeking reelection to a third term, breaking a promise to serve no more than two.

He has refused to take responsibility for his unpopularity, claiming in January that it is all the news media's fault. "First of all, I'm not a polarizing figure. It's just that people in the legacy media call me one and all of a sudden, you become one. I'm not a polarizing figure at all. I'm just trying to convey the truth. I've done a really good job as Wisconsin's United States senator," he told Milwaukee television station WISN.

But in fact, he has been quite polarizing.

Johnson has come under fire in recent months for his votes to cut taxes for himself and his very rich donors while backing "most of" National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Rick Scott's 11-point "Rescue America" proposal — which includes a large tax hike for more than 100 million lower-income and retired Americans — and fighting against efforts to make child care more affordable. In October, Johnson said that the top 1% of earners already pay "pretty close to a fair share."

He also has angered Wisconsin workers by refusing to even try to bring home good jobs. He backed a decision by Oshkosh Defense — a large Wisconsin-based manufacturing company and one of his largest campaign funders — to locate over 1,000 jobs in Spartanburg, South Carolina, instead of his state. Johnson said it was not his "job is not to micromanage a private company" and that putting the jobs in a different state would actually "benefit Wisconsin, Oshkosh, and Oshkosh workers."

"It's not like we don't have enough jobs here in Wisconsin," he told reporters in February. "I think when using federal tax dollars, you want to spend those in the most efficient way, and if it's more efficient, more effective to spend those in other states, I don't have a real problem with that."

Johnson has also refused to fight to locate jobs in the United States instead of abroad. Last month, he opposed federal funds to help the American microchip industry compete against China, indicating that he did not want to "have government picking the winners and losers."

President Joe Biden narrowly carried Wisconsin in the 2020 election. The Cook Political Report lists the 2022 Senate race as a toss-up.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.