Feingold challenger may not be blank slate

Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson, the expected Republican challenger to Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), has been gaining notoriety among conservatives.

He was profiled recently in a column by George Will, who noted that Johnson's philosophical foundation is built on Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Will also wrote that Johnson is "what the Tea Party looks like."

Other than his conservative views, Johnson's attractiveness as a candidate is that he carries very little baggage, having never run for or held public office.

But a new story out today might undercut that idea somewhat.

From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

[T]here is one issue that Johnson feels passionately about - passionate enough to insert himself into the debate.

Prodded by a Catholic official, the Oshkosh businessman earlier this year jumped into the controversy over legislation aimed at making it easier for victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue their abusers.

Johnson, a Lutheran, sided with Catholic Church leaders in opposing the so-called Child Victims Act before a state Senate committee in January. The bill failed to win approval.

Here was the heart of his testimony:

"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."

Johnson had little to say about the victims of sexual abuse in his testimony. His was largely a financial concern.

He followed that up with this suggestion.

"This bill could actually have the perverse effect of leading to additional victims of sexual abuse," he argued, "if individuals, recognizing that their organizations are at risk, become less likely to report suspected abuse."

That argument doesn't sit well with victims of pedophile priests.

Peter Isely, the Midwest director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the Catholic Church has been more likely to cover things up if it is not faced with court action.

"He's just wrong," said Isely, who was not aware that Johnson had testified.