The GOP senator recently refused to ask Oshkosh Defense to locate new jobs in its own state.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) is refusing to urge a Wisconsin company to reconsider its decision to put 1,000 manufacturing jobs in South Carolina. The business, Oshkosh Defense, is one of Johnson's top career campaign funders.
In February 2021, the United States Postal Service awarded a 10-year, $482 million contract to the Oshkosh, Wisconsin-based company to build its next generation of delivery vehicles.
In June, the company announced it planned to build that fleet at a new dedicated facility in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and to hire "over 1,000 local team members" there. John Bryant, the company's president, called it "the perfect place" to produce the vehicles because "the people of Spartanburg take pride in their work and their community."
Oshkosh Defense's union workers want the company to instead make the trucks in Oshkosh. Bob Lynk, president of the United Auto Workers Local 578, said, "Our fight is to bring it home to where we feel it belongs. Our reputation is what this was awarded on. We need to build back union, especially here in Oshkosh and the surrounding area."
But asked Saturday by reporters if he would urge the company to locate the jobs in his own state, Johnson said he would not.
"It's not like we don't have enough jobs here in Wisconsin," he said. "I think when using federal tax dollars, you want to spend those in the most efficient way and if it's more efficient, more effective to spend those in other states, I don't have a real problem with that."
But Johnson may have another reason for not wanting to criticize the company's decision making.
According to campaign finance data provided by the nonpartisan research group OpenSecrets, Johnson has received at least $20,000 in corporate PAC contributions from Oshkosh Corp., the parent company of Oshkosh Defense, over the course of his political career. Its employees have given him at least $46,652 in individual campaign donations as well over that time.
With at least $66,652 in total contributions, Oshkosh Corp. ranks seventh among Johnson's top career contributors.
Spokespeople for Oshkosh and Johnson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.
Johnson has used his office in the past to help promote the company, highlighting a visit to its factory, cheering for its defense contracts, and pushing for National Defense Authorization Act money for its Army vehicle production.
His campaign site also features a video in which he brags about the pride he feels seeing Oshkosh military trucks "saving lives" during a visit to Afghanistan.
But Johnson's constituents are not happy with his latest comments and actions.
During a telephone town hall on Tuesday, a constituent noted the lack of well-paid jobs open in Kenosha, telling Johnson, "I want your answer to why you shipped jobs to South Carolina and not Kenosha, Wisconsin? We need help!"
Johnson responded, "Economic development is not universally distributed, there's no doubt about it. ... You have to rely on what we know works, and what works, because it did result in the strongest economy on record, was have a competitive tax system and a reasonable regulatory environment, and then you get out of the way and allow entrepreneurs." He then scolded the caller for not listening to his answers.
Johnson revealed in January that he would break his promise to voters not to serve more than two terms in office and would seek a third term in November. Recent polls show his approval ratings at around 35%.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.