The campaign finance rules of the post-Citizens United world are, broadly speaking, that there are no rules. That can be seen in Sen. Ron Johnson’s brazen display:

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.”

That’s a good slogan for his re-election in 2016: “Ron Johnson: He Doesn’t Have to Explain It to Someone Like You.”

So let’s break this down. Ron Johnson lends himself $9 million to beat Russ Feingold in a Senate election. In between election and inauguration, his company pays him $10 million in deferred compensation. The negotiation was held between himself… and himself, the owner of the plastics manufacturing company. Johnson admitted that he consulted nobody else, not the corporate board, nobody, in making the agreement. So when you strip all that away, Pacur donated $9 million to Ron Johnson for his Senate campaign, and added a $1 million cherry on top besides. Nobody in Wisconsin has never seen anything like this, even with other self-funded candidates.

The idea that corporate donations to individual candidates are still banned is only a technical theory at this point. As you can see, corporate-funded candidates have ample opportunity to get around the law. Ron Johnson is literally a plastic Senator.

And it’s sadly fitting that he defeated Russ Feingold in the process, literally beating the author of McCain-Feingold with tactics that repudiate McCain-Feingold.

David Dayen

David Dayen