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Wisconsin Republican Opposed Child Abuse Legislation Because It Would Hold Businesses Accountable

This post first appeared on Think Progress. Wisconsin GOP U.S. Senate candidate Ron Johnson often touts the fact that he comes from outside the political system and has spent his life building busineses in the private sector. Yet before running for Senate, Johnson did have one prominent act of political participation. In January 2010, Johnson testified before the Wisconsin state legislature in opposition to the bipartisan Wisconsin Child Victims Act. The legislation, if passed, would alter Wisconsin law to eliminate the statute of limitations on civil suits for child abuse and allow a three-year window to bring suit for victims who were victimized before the bill. The legislation also specifies that the entities that can be sued would include not just individuals, but also a “corporation, business trust, limited liability company,” and other formal organizations that could be held accountable for the illegal behavior of their employees. As the bill’s authors write, “We believe that there should be no deadline on justice for child sexual abuse victims.” But Johnson did not place protecting victims as his highest priority. In his testimony before the Wisconsin legislature, he said it was “extremely important to consider the economic havoc…and the other victims” that the new law would “likely create” — ridiculously comparing child abuse victims to the economic damages faced by employers being sued. Johnson warned that the Child Victims Act would lead to businesses or other organizations that work with children to be “damaged or destroyed” by civil suits and that it would “send a chilling signal” to civic-minded organizations like the Boy Scouts to not work with children in the future. He then opined that if the bill were passed, “I have no doubt trial lawyers would benefit, I’m not so sure that the actual victims would“:
JOHNSON: I think it is extremely important to consider the economic havor and the other victims [the Wisconsin Child Victims Act] would likely create. [...] 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. [...] It would also send a chilling signal to avoid this civic minded activity in the future. [...] I have no doubt trial lawyers would benefit, I’m not so sure the actual victims would.
Watch it: In an interview with a Wisconsin radio host, Alsion Arngim — child advocate, Little House on the Prairie actress, and a former victim of child abuse herself — said that Johnson’s statements “blew her mind.” Reflecting on Johnson’s positions, she asked, “Do you have to flunk a course in logic to run for office?” (HT: FDL).