Ron Johnson Set to Launch Divisive, Deceptive Campaign on Monday (5/12/10)

May 11, 2010


 Multimillionaire Republican Candidate Hires Second GOP Hatchet Man,

Adds DC Insider Responsible For Fear-based Campaigning and Deception

As multimillionaire extremist Ron Johnson gets ready to officially launch his U.S. Senate Republican primary campaign on Monday, he has doubled down on distortion and has now apparently brought on a Republican Party, D.C. insider with a history of peddling fear and deception.  Johnson has already hired the Republican political operative responsible for the most “highly offensive and deliberately misleading” political ad in Wisconsin history.

Mark Stephens, who is now reportedly working for the multimillionaire Johnson, has helped run divisive campaigns for the late Senator Jesse Helms and the former Senator Elizabeth Dole.  He was the executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the major losses for Republicans during the 2006 election cycle.  And before he left his job with Chairman Michael Steele at the Republican National Committee in 2009, Stephens was able to appoint his replacement Rob Bickhart. As finance director Bickhart encouraged using “fear” to solicit contributions and depicted President Obama as the Batman villain, “The Joker,” and caricatured top Democrats in fundraising presentations.  Brickhart was recently fired from his post at the RNC for his role in spending RNC contributions at a bondage-themed club in West Hollywood.

“The false, race-baiting ad Ron Johnson’s operative created on his last campaign was the subject of an ethics complaint and now Ron Johnson is associating with a Washington insider who uses fear,” said Mike Tate, chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. “Ron Johnson is gearing up to run a divisive and deceptive campaign meant to serve his own interests, not the people of Wisconsin.”

Johnson’s first hire of the campaign was Darrin Schmitz, who is responsible for the notorious ad on behalf of Mike Gableman’s 2008 campaign for Wisconsin Supreme Court. 

An independent group that monitored the state Supreme Court race, the Wisconsin Judicial Campaign Integrity Committee said that the spot was “in the offensive, race-bating style reminiscent of the Willie Horton ad from the 1988 presidential race.” In fact, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is still deciding what sanctions to take to resolve the ongoing ethics complaint regarding Schmitz’s ad. 

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel called Schmitz’s ad “purposeful distortion” and said it was “unworthy of any campaign.” In the ongoing Wisconsin ethics complaint case against Schmitz’s ad, Gableman’s attorney, James Bopp defended the “right to mislead voters in campaign ads,” saying, “I don’t think misleading is something good, (but) it can’t be sanctioned.”

The Racine Journal Times wrote that “Gableman’s attack ad essentially linked four true statements that, taken in their totality, ended in a lie.”