Report: Ron Johnson Funnels Contracts to Tea Party Crony Who Left Taxpayers With $178,000 Bill

Oct 17, 2010

MJS Reports: Where Ron Johnson Goes, Thousands of Dollars in
Construction Contracts To His Tea Party Crony Follow

MADISON — A new report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel today reveals that millionaire Senate Candidate Ron Johnson has benefited from a fund-raiser and thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from a tea party crony who got millions of dollars in construction projects from organizations while Johnson sat on the boards that managed the nonprofits.

According to the report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this morning:

Just consider his connections to fellow Oshkosh businessman Ben Ganther, the guy who helped
sponsor the tea party rally last year that launched Johnson’s political career.
Over the years, Ganther Construction has won millions of dollars in contracts from
Johnson’s own firm and several nonprofits with which the Republican candidate is affiliated.

The Journal Sentinel reported that among the contracts earned by Ganther were $2.55 million while Johnson sat on the Lourdes Foundation for the Unified Catholic Schools of Oshkosh, contracts for the Grand Opera House while Johnson served on the foundation’s board, and contracts to renovate the Sports Complex at UW-Oshkosh while Johnson was on the fund-raising committee.

Johnson allowed Ganther to benefit from millions in contracts from nonprofit organizations even though according to the Oshkosh Northwestern, Ganther had a spotty track record that includes defaulting a $5.9 million construction loan in May 2007. Ganther, who owed taxpayers $328,527 in 2007 for back taxes for a construction project, was then bailed out by the City of Oshkosh by using the threat of bankruptcy to cut his tax bill to $150,000. Ganther was also allowed until 2013 to pay his back taxes.

The newspaper reported:

Developer Ben Ganther will pay the city of Oshkosh $150,000 to settle a lawsuit stemming from the financial collapse of the apartment complex at 100 N. Main St.
The settlement, approved Tuesday by the Oshkosh Common Council in a closed-door meeting, represents about half of the $320,000 that Ganther and his partner, Robert Niebauer, of Middleton, currently owe the city based on personal guarantees to cover the difference between taxes generated by the property and the amount needed to cover city debt payments on the complex. The city contributed $2.2 million, or 25 percent of construction costs, through a developer’s assistance grant.
It is also very clear to the mediator that if Mr. Ganther cannot reach a settlement, he intends to file for bankruptcy which will result in a discharge of his obligation to his creditors, including the City of Oshkosh,” Basting wrote. [Oshkosh Northwestern, “Ganther will pay $150,000,” Page A1, Oct 11, 2007]

“If Ron Johnson can’t say no to his cronies in Oshkosh, does anyone really think he’ll be able to say no to Washington D.C. lobbyists and special interests?” said Mike Tate, Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. “It looks like Ron Johnson allowed his personal interests to come before the best interests of his own community.”