Ron Johnson's Testimony Opposing the Child Victims Act
Ronald H. Johnson
The first question I asked myself when I was made aware of this legislation was: "What is its purpose?" On its face, it appears that it is intended to financially compensate victims of past sexual abuse. The reason I am here today is to discuss the many unintended consequences this legislation might produce. I think it is extremely important to consider the economic havoc and the other victims that it would likely create.
I have listed the many organizations I am currently involved with below, hopefully to demonstrate my direct knowledge of the struggles that non-profit organizations face on a daily basis. With a $50,000 cap on damages from public institutions, it is obvious that any lawsuits under this bill would be directed at private organizations, and any private organization serving minors would be at risk.
We all share a deep sense of sympathy for anyone affected by these crimes, and the punishment for the actual perpetrators should be severe. But I believe it is a valid question to ask whether the employer of a perpetrator should also be severely damaged, or possibly destroyed, in our legitimate desire for justice.
What type of organizations am I talking about? A brief listing would include any and all private schools, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA's, the Boy Scouts & Girl Scouts, and Churches of all denominations. Less obvious, would be private businesses and organizations that donate employee time to teach and mentor students in and out of a school environment. As the business co-chair of the Oshkosh Chamber's Partners in Education Council, one of our primary goals is to help facilitate these contacts between students and businesses. This legislation could make private businesses that generously donated employee time in the past vulnerable to future action, and it would also send a very chilling signal to avoid this civic minded activity in the future.
It is also valid to ask: After a long, emotionally draining, and very expensive legal process, what are the chances the victims would receive any meaningful compensation? I have no doubt trial lawyers would benefit, I'm not so sure that the actual victims would. I simply don't see the big pots of money available that this bill must assume exist.
So who are the other victims that could be the result of this legislation?
1) The children and individuals who will no longer benefit from organizations that are damaged or destroyed in this process.
2) The many wonderful and dedicated individuals that devote their lives to serving their fellow man through their work in these organizations.
3) To the extent organizations have built endowments to fund future operations, those that generously gave to support the good work would see their donations diverted to an entirely different use. Any organization that relies on fundraising would suffer as this would make their fundraising efforts significantly more difficult.
And finally, this bill could actually have the perverse effect of leading to additional victims of sexual abuse, if individuals, recognizing that their organizations are at risk, become less likely to report suspected abuse.
I am a confirmed Lutheran that has agreed to serve on the boards of Catholic and other non-profit organizations because I strongly support their important missions. The people I work with in these organizations are fine, decent human beings working hard to help improve lives. I urge you to defeat this legislation so that we can all continue to benefit from their good and noble work.
Ronald H. Johnson
Owner/President, PACUR, LLC.
Past President & Current Board Member, Oshkosh Opera House Foundation
Business Co-Chair, Oshkosh Chamber Partners in Education (P.I.E.) Council
Board President-Elect, Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce
Member, Investment Committee - Oshkosh Community Foundation
President, Oshkosh Friends of Talent Organization (Suzuki Music Organization)
Board President, Lourdes/UCS Foundation
Member, Finance Council of the Diocese of Green Bay
Board Member, St. Francis Xavier Investment Corporation