Sen. Ron Johnson’s impressive step to avoid conflicts of interest

posted at 1:20 pm on June 24, 2011 by Tina Korbe

Too cool. Before he ever assumed office, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) liquidated much of his investment portfolio, so as to avoid conflicts of interest, according to the latest financial disclosures released last week. The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire reports:

First-year Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and his wife, Jane, sold their stake in more than 100 companies and mutual funds before he was sworn in, according to the latest batch of financial disclosures released last week.

In a brief interview, the political neophyte said he wanted to start his congressional career with a clean slate and didn’t want to give the appearance that he was conflicted as a legislator. Mr. Johnson’s political career began with a pair of well-received speeches at tea-party rallies about the perils of the president’s health-care bill. He embraced the outsider’s mantle during his campaign and is trying to establish himself as a leading voice for fiscal restraint.

That doesn’t mean he’s struggling financially: The founder of Pacur, a plastics manufacturer, earned more than $10 million last year from the company he recently handed over to his brother, Barry Johnson. But what a beautiful word — “earned.” As an innovative entrepreneur, Johnson created that wealth for himself. Just as it was when he ran for office, Johnson’s business acumen is a point in his favor, as it surely gives him a fresh perspective on the problems that plague the federal government.

What impresses me at the moment is the bold simplicity of Johnson’s decision to sell so many of his stocks. Obviously, he wouldn’t have had to do that. After all, many members of Congress trade stocks and bonds — and I’d even argue it’s reassuring that people who have such power over policy also have a personal interest in the state of the economy, as measured by the stock market. But, by and large, this kind of gesture, even if primarily symbolic in Johnson’s case and impracticable in the cases of most other members of Congress, is refreshing, a reminder that some legislators still strive for impartiality as they consider what laws would be best for the entire country.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

very nice. Too bad more couldn’t be like this.

upinak on June 24, 2011 at 1:23 PM

You mean Feinstein didn’t urge her husband to relinquish control of his company before she helped steer military contracts his way? Oh man, this is disappointing.

Bishop on June 24, 2011 at 1:23 PM

Crap, almost forgot: Johnson only sold his stock because he wanted more money to throw in the faces of poor brown people.

Bishop on June 24, 2011 at 1:25 PM

That’s good. But what about his staffers?

myrenovations on June 24, 2011 at 1:25 PM

Honesty. Integrity. He must be destroyed.

portlandon on June 24, 2011 at 1:26 PM

Has he thought of running for prez? VP?

PattyJ on June 24, 2011 at 1:26 PM

Silly me, I thought blind trusts were developed to handle the potential conflict of interest(s) that could happen as a result of their jobs. So really there is no excuse for what members of congress do regarding stocks and bonds.

chemman on June 24, 2011 at 1:28 PM

After all, many members of Congress trade stocks and bonds — and I’d even argue it’s reassuring that people who have such power over policy also have a personal interest in the state of the economy, as measured by the stock market.

Tina, you’re a lovely and talented lady, but I think you may want to think a bit more about this statement. It’s like arguing it’s reassuring that Pete Rose bet on baseball because it showed his personal interest in the outcome of the games.

PackerBronco on June 24, 2011 at 1:31 PM

Personal assault by the media on Johnson in 3..2..

Badger40 on June 24, 2011 at 1:32 PM

That’s good. But what about his staffers?

myrenovations on June 24, 2011 at 1:25 PM

What about his staffers? They should have to divest as well? Why??

SukieTawdry on June 24, 2011 at 1:32 PM

What impresses me at the moment is the bold simplicity of Johnson’s decision to sell so many of his stocks

What’s the big deal? He’s just getting out before everything crashes and burns.

Knucklehead on June 24, 2011 at 1:33 PM

That’s good. But what about his staffers?

myrenovations on June 24, 2011 at 1:25 PM

Yeah, and don’t forget his barber.

You weren’t serious about that comment, were you?

PackerBronco on June 24, 2011 at 1:35 PM

Golly, a businessman,but don’t those businessmen actually deal with that awful word -PROFITS? How do explain that evil to the nation’s Marxists, who believe that earning a lunch is evil, but getting a free one from the almighty state is the higest moral ground a man can reach?

Don L on June 24, 2011 at 1:37 PM

You weren’t serious about that comment, were you?

PackerBronco on June 24, 2011 at 1:35 PM

It was rather ridiculous.
I’m hoping the sarc tage was missing.

Badger40 on June 24, 2011 at 1:37 PM

tage=tag :P

Badger40 on June 24, 2011 at 1:38 PM

Conflicts of interest? How about no lawyers make laws? They’ve manage to make such conflicting legislation to keep their own in business forever. Sort of like those firemen who set fires.
Conflicts of interest? How about setting their own wages, helathcare and pensions? Why isn’t is shipped out to random citizens and a formula decided. Conflicts of interests -not having to live with the laws they pass is the biggest of all.
How about all those pacs -don’t they expect and get rewarded by legislation favorable to them or are they just being good patriots giving millions to be nice?

Don L on June 24, 2011 at 1:42 PM

you won’t see nancy doing that….

cmsinaz on June 24, 2011 at 1:43 PM

Very refreshing..Good for Ron Johnson..:)

Dire Straits on June 24, 2011 at 1:43 PM

Mr. Johnson could put the 10 million in several savings accounts w/ an awful interest rate of 0.15% & still earn 150K/yr for life.

Admire what he has done.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have that kind of security?

There will be some way that our dear dumba$$ leader will still try to take this man’s money.

Danny on June 24, 2011 at 1:44 PM

you won’t see nancy doing that….

cmsinaz on June 24, 2011 at 1:43 PM

I agree!..:)

PS..Is it 5 o’clock yet?!?..:)

Dire Straits on June 24, 2011 at 1:45 PM

Dire Straits on June 24, 2011 at 1:45 PM

somewhere…almost time for a lunchtime cocktail :)

cmsinaz on June 24, 2011 at 1:45 PM

What’s the big deal? He’s just getting out before everything crashes and burns.

Knucklehead on June 24, 2011 at 1:33 PM

He “liquidated” his accounts. Where did the money go? Did he buy gold (or other commodities) or keep it in cash?

If cash: He’s got an interest in keeping the current ponzi-debt-currency system afloat.

If gold: He’s got an interest in seeing the current ponzi-debt-currency system crash.

Either way, he’s got an interest in something. It’s a nice gesture though.

ZenDraken on June 24, 2011 at 1:48 PM

Are you listening, other members of the House, and Senate? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm?

capejasmine on June 24, 2011 at 1:48 PM

cmsinaz on June 24, 2011 at 1:45 PM

Shaken not stirred on the cocktail..:)

PS..I hope you have a good weekend!..:)

Dire Straits on June 24, 2011 at 1:48 PM

You mean Feinstein didn’t urge her husband to relinquish control of his company before she helped steer military contracts his way? Oh man, this is disappointing.

Bishop on June 24, 2011 at 1:23 PM

And Medicare auditing, under different names, having been caught with their hands in the cookie jar, deeply. She and he are total scumbags. S/b thrown out in 2012.

Schadenfreude on June 24, 2011 at 1:50 PM

PS..I hope you have a good weekend!..:)

Dire Straits on June 24, 2011 at 1:48 PM

you too good buddy :)

cmsinaz on June 24, 2011 at 1:51 PM

I respect Ron Johnson much less for this stupid stunt. I want our Congressmen to be invested up their gills in US index stock funds which index the entire stock market. I want them to understand that their wealth depends on the results of their legislation on the economy. Johnson’s stunt if done universally would just lead to more socialism and we would poorer for it.

thuja on June 24, 2011 at 1:52 PM

That doesn’t mean he’s struggling financially: The founder of Pacur, a plastics manufacturer, earned more than $10 million last year from the company he recently handed over to his brother, Barry Johnson. But what a beautiful word — “earned.”

Or, in the words of progressive socialists: “Stole from the working man’.

Vashta.Nerada on June 24, 2011 at 1:53 PM

cmsinaz on June 24, 2011 at 1:51 PM

..:)

Dire Straits on June 24, 2011 at 1:53 PM

ZenDraken on June 24, 2011 at 1:48 PM

Exactly.

Knucklehead on June 24, 2011 at 1:54 PM

I respect Ron Johnson much less for this stupid stunt. I want our Congressmen to be invested up their gills in US index stock funds which index the entire stock market. I want them to understand that their wealth depends on the results of their legislation on the economy. Johnson’s stunt if done universally would just lead to more socialism and we would poorer for it.

thuja on June 24, 2011 at 1:52 PM

Excellent point.

He may be a brilliant businessman, but politically, I think this was a poorly thought-out knee-jerk move.

UltimateBob on June 24, 2011 at 2:06 PM

Looks like some one has a crush on Ron Johnson,

first the vid link about Milton Friedman, then this.

/quickly duck out of sight

Sir Napsalot on June 24, 2011 at 2:12 PM

I respect Ron Johnson much less for this stupid stunt. I want our Congressmen to be invested up their gills in US index stock funds which index the entire stock market. I want them to understand that their wealth depends on the results of their legislation on the economy. Johnson’s stunt if done universally would just lead to more socialism and we would poorer for it.

thuja on June 24, 2011 at 1:52 PM
Excellent point.

He may be a brilliant businessman, but politically, I think this was a poorly thought-out knee-jerk move.

UltimateBob on June 24, 2011 at 2:06 PM

I guess the poor ba$tard just can’t win no matter what.
Really I thought it was a nice gesture.
It’s a shame everybody gets so damned critical about stupid $hit like this.

Badger40 on June 24, 2011 at 2:13 PM

If I’m not mistaken, the capital gains tax rate is set to go up to the pre-Bush tax cut level in 2013. Hence, given his considerable wealth, he probably saved millions in taxes by selling this year instead. If that’s the case, smart move.

TXUS on June 24, 2011 at 2:17 PM

After all, many members of Congress trade stocks and bonds

What makes my blood boil is not that they trading stocks – but that they are exempt from insider trading rules. It’s the ultimate slap in the face.

BTW – I’m thinking this exemption has at least something to do with Nancy Pelosi’s more than doubling her net worth (from $32M to $64M) in the teeth of the recession.

Eat cake you ignorant tea partiers!

Deafdog on June 24, 2011 at 2:33 PM

Honesty. Integrity. He must be destroyed.

portlandon on June 24, 2011 at 1:26 PM

Trust me; the local presstitutes are doing everything they can to do just that.

Steve Eggleston on June 24, 2011 at 2:54 PM

This action is a luxury only the rich can afford. For even an upper-middle-class freshman senator to have done the same would be financially ruinous.

What would make far more sense to me (and this is a model I think every Congressman should follow) is either: a) put all your money in a trust, where it can be managed to the Congressman’s financial advantage but without the Congressman’s knowledge of what companies the trust is invested in, or b) sell off all individual holdings and instead buy broad-based index funds of US stocks and bonds.

Option B is especially a good idea, as it would provide individual financial incentives to pass legislation that worked for the good of the US economy as a whole. Heck, maybe we should pay Congressmen 10 times as much but solely in long-term bonds and stock options, options that can’t be cashed in for 10 or 15 years. The costs to the taxpayer would be minuscule compared to the benefits to the economy.

hicsuget on June 24, 2011 at 3:03 PM

He looks likes the Celtic GM, an older Danny Ainge.

tessa on June 24, 2011 at 3:18 PM

After all, many members of Congress trade stocks and bonds — and I’d even argue it’s reassuring that people who have such power over policy also have a personal interest in the state of the economy, as measured by the stock market.

Tina, you’re a lovely and talented lady, but I think you may want to think a bit more about this statement. It’s like arguing it’s reassuring that Pete Rose bet on baseball because it showed his personal interest in the outcome of the games.

PackerBronco on June 24, 2011 at 1:31 PM

Exactly, and to add to the outrage, Congress and staffers are exempted by the SEC from insider trading laws. This is exactly why getting elected to Congress is so lucrative. Just take a look at the fortunes made shorting stock in for-profit schools.

slickwillie2001 on June 24, 2011 at 3:26 PM

Mr. Johnson could put the 10 million in several savings accounts w/ an awful interest rate of 0.15% & still earn 150K/yr for life.

He would need an interest rate of 1.5% to earn 150K/year. At 0.15% interest, he would be eligible for food stamps.

Steve Z on June 24, 2011 at 4:21 PM

Nice, but not something anyone other than Mr. Johnson should be taking credit for, especially given how bold other GOP members have been. I’m looking at you, Gov. Scott.

ernesto on June 24, 2011 at 4:24 PM

Gosh, in talking about the 10 million cash-out from his company I wonder why nothing in any of these stories also mentions that it had been a number of years since Johnson actually took any income from his company and that he was just cashing out his options for having held off doing so.

No one has any real legitimate complaints back home about Johnson’s conduct in his business UNLIKE JUST ABOUT EVERY DEMOCRATIC CONGRESS-PERSON, SENATOR, OR OBAMA – every last one of these which has been up to his or her ears in one nefarious dealing after another – all of them whitewashed by the media.

babylonandon on June 24, 2011 at 6:08 PM

Gosh, in talking about the 10 million cash-out from his company I wonder why nothing in any of these stories also mentions that it had been a number of years since Johnson actually took any income from his company and that he was just cashing out his options for having held off doing so.

No one has any real legitimate complaints back home about Johnson’s conduct in his business UNLIKE JUST ABOUT EVERY DEMOCRATIC CONGRESS-PERSON, SENATOR, OR OBAMA – every last one of these which has been up to his or her ears in one nefarious dealing after another – all of them whitewashed by the media.

babylonandon on June 24, 2011 at 6:08 PM

Because that would destroy the “Slime Johnson” narrative being pushed by the Left, the local pressitutes and the DemocRATs (though I keep repeating myself).

Steve Eggleston on June 24, 2011 at 8:26 PM

If you’re saying the urinal-sentinel is biased and corrupt, SteveEgg, I agree.
If you’re not saying that, then let me posit the statement.

Apparently the urinal put forth a hit-piece insinuating some malfeasance on RoJo’s part for accepting deferred salary or whatever… While I have to rely on second-hand info because I just don’t bother reading that librag, do they truly believe Johnson isn’t light-years better than the contemptible Feingold?

Probably.

But isn’t it the case that the safest bet is do the exact opposite of whatever the lib drones preach?

And to you, SteveEgg… You do a lot of great work and don’t think your fellow cheeseheads don’t notice and appreciate it. Best regards to you and your loved ones!

Rosco

roscopico on June 24, 2011 at 10:33 PM

He liquidated his portfolio, eh? So what did he do with it? Stuff it in his mattress? More likely he stuffed it into a savings institution. Suddenly he’s savings institution friendly because the survival of his portfolio depends on it.

Impressive move? Yes, it impresses me on several things. He’s a hypocrite; he’s prone to stupid gestures; and he thinks voters are stupider than I do.

{^_^}

herself on June 25, 2011 at 3:09 AM

What about his staffers? They should have to divest as well? Why??

SukieTawdry on June 24, 2011 at 1:32 PM

Congressional staffers have been making out like bandits on stocks because they have access to information before other investors.

myrenovations on June 25, 2011 at 8:16 AM