ICYMI: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Ron Johnson suggests business groups suffering from Stockholm Syndrome
By Daniel Bice
July 21, 2016
To hear U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson tell it, Wisconsin businesses are like people who are kidnapped and suffering from the Stockholm Syndrome.
Let the first-term Republican senator explain the concept:
"You all know what that is -- it's when a kidnapped victim starts thinking fond thoughts of their kidnappers when they offer them a glass of water to allow them to survive another day," Johnson said in a speech to the Heritage Foundation last year.
Johnson told the Independent Business Association of Wisconsin in a talk on June 17 that he sees this situation every day. Johnson, a Republican, is being challenged by former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, a Democrat.
"When we've got business groups or other organizations coming in and saying, 'Oh, please, would you support this bill? It'll drop my permit times from six years to five years and nine months. I'd be so grateful,'" Johnson said. "Actually, in the span of a half an hour, I had two groups coming in asking me to support increased funding for their regulators so they can get those permits on time."
Sound reasonable? Not to Johnson.
"And I said, 'I understand what you're talking about. I mean, you're chained to the basement. You're looking for a glass of water to survive an extra day. I'll help you get that glass of water. But you know what you're asking me to do? You're asking me to hire more kidnappers.' That doesn't work very well."
It's a story that Johnson tells often -- at least six times since April 2015. The only difference is that sometimes it's a business group or a business that is looking for help in his telling and other times it's the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Feingold allies say the analogy is offensive to Wisconsin businesses and kidnapping victims.
"Comparing Wisconsin's businesses to kidnapping victims 'searching for water in a basement' is distasteful even by Senator Johnson's standards," said Harry Hartfield, spokesman for the Democratic Party.
"But this is exactly what we've heard from business leaders across the state: Senator Johnson puts his far right ideology ahead of helping them with real issues. Unfortunately, Senator Johnson is more interested in lecturing small businesses than listening to them."
But Brian Reisinger, spokesman for Johnson, said Democrats are twisting what Johnson says and means.
“Leading small business groups and entrepreneurs across the state have endorsed Ron because he's on the side of good jobs and economic growth," Reisinger said. "A career politician like Senator Feingold just doesn’t get it because he’s been on the side of Washington, living on the taxpayer’s dime for 30 years instead of holding a job in the real world."
In addition, Reisinger noted that leading business groups such as theU.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business are endorsing the Republican incumbent because they see a difference in the two candidates.
The Johnson aide said it's important to listen to the senator's entire statement. Johnson doesn't say he won't help Wisconsin businesses. He just wants them to understand the implications of their requests.
Here is what Johnson told the Heritage Foundation last year:
“I recognize the reality of the situation, and I’m happy to help provide those businesses that glass of water to get them to survive. What I’d really like people to start thinking about, though, is being set free – realizing they are being held captive by this massive government. Now let’s get one thing on the table: we’re not opposed to regulations. We actually do need a federal government, but we need a limited one.”