Sleight of hand

Republicans are completely lacking in shame. They do whatever they want, and lie about it:

After dropping nearly $9 million from his own pocket to win a seat in the U.S. Senate, Ron Johnson didn’t have to feel the pain for very long.

Johnson’s plastics company paid him $10 million in deferred compensation shortly before he was sworn in as Wisconsin’s junior senator, according to his latest financial disclosure report.

The first-term Republican declined to say how his Oshkosh firm, Pacur, came up with a figure that so closely mirrored the amount he personally put into his campaign fund.

“You take a look in terms of what would be a reasonable compensation package, OK?” Johnson said this week. “It’s a private business. I’ve complied with all the disclosure laws, and I don’t have to explain it any further to someone like you.”

Perhaps not, but the deal was enough to raise the ire of the left-leaning good-government types, who are calling for a probe by federal election regulators.

“It looks like a scheme to get around a century-old law” barring corporate donations to candidates, said Mike McCabe, head of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. “It’s a clever scheme, but it still looks like a scheme to get around the law.”

In an interview this week, Johnson emphasized that he has not taken a salary from the plastics manufacturing company since he bought it in 1997.

Records show the Oshkosh businessman still had income of $1.3 million and $2.3 million annually from 2005 to ’08 from capital gains, corporate earnings and real estate. In the first half of 2010, he received $650,000 in what he called “pass-through income” from a limited liability company that owned Pacur.

After the election, in which he defeated Democratic U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, Johnson said he dialed down his active involvement with Pacur and received the deferred compensation package for serving as its CEO over the previous 13 years.

Unlike most deferred package deals, however, it appears that the company had not set aside a specified amount annually that would be paid out when he left the firm. Instead, Johnson said the $10 million payment was “an agreed-upon amount” that was determined at the end of his tenure with the company.

Agreed upon with whom?

“That would be me,” he said.