Wisconsin Senate Race Gets Dirtier: Johnson Defends His Record On Sex Predators

Jillian Bandes
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Posted: Oct 01, 2010 7:50 AM
It's hard to take a shot at the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). Those who have suffered from sexual abuse are pretty much an untouchable type of victim, and the crime is all more egregious when it's committed by a religious authority.

That said, why are they coming out with allegations against Wisconsin GOP Senatorial candidate Ron Johnson right at this particular moment in time?

As Guy mentioned yesterday, Johnson is up against Democrat Russ Feingold by 12 points. He's doing well with messaging in a state that had elected a Democrat, Feingold, for three consecutive terms. So what does SNAP do, with just about four weeks left in the election?

It starts pressuring Johnson to push his local Diocese to release the names of anyone who has even been accused of sexual misconduct, ever, in the entire history of the Diocese. SNAP doesn't want names of convicted criminals — those of already public record. They want the individuals who have simply been accused.

To further publicize their demands, SNAP dredges up a video where Johnson speaks against a bill that would've eliminated limitations on civil suits for child abuse. It also would've made corporations, business trusts, limited liability companies, and other corporate entities fiscally responsible for the illegal behavior of individuals under their charge. The time horizon for pursuing action against perpetrators would be extended to three years, and the damages won could be much more lucrative.

Johnson was on the Green Bay Dioceses Finance Council during a time when this legislation was up for discussion. That was the same the time when the Council was managing sex abuse claims from children who had been assaulted by the Green Bay Diocese. So there's a direct conflict of interest. But that doesn't make the interest illegitimate.

Statutes of limitations are an essential part of our legal structure, and sexual offenses can be among the most difficult to suss out. Entities who serve children, such as the Girls and Boys club, could be unfairly penalized as the result of this legislation, a point that Johnson made shortly after the allegations came out.

Here's Peter Isely, Midwest director for SNAP, speaking to the Green Bay Press Gazette:
We think (Johnson is) in a really unique position. He's put himself out there on this issue already. So now we're asking him to put himself out there on this issue in a way that we can all agree will bring upon a common result that we are looking for.
Let's be clear: if they were truly seeking a "common result," they wouldn't have held a high-profile press conference at the height of the campaign season. They wouldn't have made a demand that would be unreasonable even for a non-corporate entity. And they wouldn't have brought out a video that could oh-so-easily be used for selective editing, like this quote:
I think it is extremely important to consider the economic havoc and the other victims [the Wisconsin Child Victims Act] would likely create.
You don't even need to listen to the whole clip to pick up on how cherrypicked that one was. But here it is:



This isn't the first time SNAP has come under fire for politicizing a very delicate issue.