Republican senator’s wealth bolstered by stake in company with ties to China | Wisconsin
Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson, a vocal critic of Beijing who has pledged to open investigations into the Biden family’s alleged dealings with Chinese companies, reported $57 million in earnings in his first 10 years mandate in connection with his participation in a company whose growth is closely linked to China.
Financial disclosures show the senator’s wealth rose sharply during his years as a Senate candidate and service through his stake in Oshkosh-based Pacur, a plastics maker where Johnson was previously a top executive.
Johnson is seeking re-election to a third term in a tough contest against Democrat Mandela Barnes, who polls show has a slight advantage over the incumbent Republican.
When first running for public office before his election in 2010, Johnson presented himself as a successful businessman who knew how to create jobs. An ad he used in his successful 2010 and 2016 campaigns showed the 67-year-old standing in front of a whiteboard, touting his own record as a maker, a fact he says made him stand out in a sea of lawyers who serve in the Senate.
A careful review of Johnson’s financial disclosures and other public filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, legal documents and other public documents reveals that Johnson’s wealth was bolstered by his company’s ties to another company owned and managed by his family, which in turn grew. its operations in China, acquired businesses in China and said it had a loan worth tens of millions of dollars from the Bank of China.
In one instance, Johnson’s family-run company sued the US government in an attempt to push for softer trade relations with Beijing, a stance Johnson himself has taken in a rare break from US policies. Trump administration.
Johnson sold his stake in Pacur in 2020, though documents show an LLC owned by Johnson and his wife, Jane, still receives up to $1 million a year in rent and royalties as landlords of the building where Pacur operates.
Pacur was co-founded by Johnson and his brother-in-law in the 1970s. It was indeed closely tied to a larger company called Bemis, which was founded and run by Johnson’s father-in-law, Howard Curler.
SEC filings show that from around 1998 to 2010, Bemis paid tens of millions of dollars to Pacur, which was a supplier to Bemis. Johnson also personally owned Bemis stock, valued at between $1 million and $5.2 million on financial disclosure forms. The stock was then donated to the senator’s family foundation, called the Grammie Jean Foundation.
A spokesperson for Johnson said the senator has no beneficial interest in the foundation.
Bemis, records show, had a steady and growing presence in China under the leadership of Jeffrey Curler, Howard Curler’s son and Ron Johnson’s brother-in-law. The company has factories in China and in 2013, according to records, appears to have acquired tens of millions of dollars of Chinese debt in a Chinese acquisition. SEC filings show that Bemis also disclosed in 2016 that it had a $50 million loan from the Bank of China.
Bemis was sold to Australian company Amcor in 2018 in a deal valued at $6.8 billion. The Guardian has contacted Amcor for details of the $50 million loan, which appeared in documents filed by Bemis before Amcor acquired the company. An Amcor spokesperson said Amcor was not involved in the loan and had no idea of the transaction.
Bemis was also active on trade-related issues during Johnson’s tenure in the Senate.
In two cases, the group sued the US government’s trade policies in China, including one in 2018. In the lawsuit brought by Bemis and Rollprint Packaging Products, the plaintiffs sued the US to challenge a conclusion of the International Trade Commission in favor of tariffs on China. The lawsuit does not seem to go beyond the complaint. At the same time, Johnson was a vocal critic of US trade policy against China, marking a rare disagreement with Trump.
Johnson also gave speeches in the Senate criticizing Hunter Biden’s financial dealings, which he said were linked to “Communist China” and meant American Joe Biden was “probably” compromised with China.
The Biden family’s “extensive web of foreign financial entanglements,” Johnson alleged, had serious implications, and Johnson said he and fellow Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa would continue to investigate them.
“Our challenge is that the Deep State does not easily give up its secrets,” Johnson said in a speech to the Senate in March.
A recent Washington Post investigation found that CEFC China Energy, a Chinese energy conglomerate, paid nearly $5 million to entities controlled by Hunter Biden and his uncle. But he found no evidence that Joe Biden personally benefited from or was aware of the deals, which took place after Biden left the vice presidency and before he announced his candidacy for president.
Alexa Henning, a spokeswoman for Johnson, denied that Johnson had any ties to his own family business’s previous business interactions with Chinese companies.
“He never had any management involvement or knowledge of any management actions taken by Bemis Company” and had “no ties to China or any conflict of interest there.”
“Until your investigation, he had no knowledge of Bemis’ business interests in China or of any legal action in which Bemis was involved. The Bemis company was one of many customers to whom Senator Johnson’s company sold plastics,” Henning said.
She also defended Johnson’s stance on tariffs. “His belief is that politicians from both parties have used China’s trade abuses to rant against their political opponents without adopting effective solutions.”
Henning also denied that Johnson accrued $57 million in Pacur-related income from 2009 to 2020, as she claimed some of the funds were designated as “gross receipts” even though they are listed in financial disclosure forms as revenues”.
Gross revenue is the amount of business an organization reports before removing expenses. When asked by the Guardian to explain why Johnson listed the funds as revenue in his financial statements and what the gross receipts referred to, Henning did not respond.
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