According to a report out this week from ProPublica, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) helped some of his extraordinarily wealthy donors gain millions in additional tax breaks through the 2017 tax law passed by a Republican-controlled Congress and signed into law by then President Donald Trump.
Johnson publicly opposed the GOP tax bill for a time, while calling for a more generous tax break for pass-through companies, which allow business owners to pay taxes on their personal returns. The bill writers granted Johnson his wish and according to the ProPublica analysis, that change was worth $79 million to some of Johnson’s biggest supporters in Wisconsin: Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein, billionaires who own packaging giant Uline, and Diane Hendricks, who has made billions in building supplies.
Johnson has denied that he demanded the changes to benefit his supporters, instead saying that he simply wanted to help small business owners everywhere. But there’s little doubt that the more generous pass-through tax break has benefited the Uihleins and Hendricks, who could save more than half a billion dollars over the eight-year span the tax break is scheduled to be in effect, according to ProPublica.
Though it’s impossible to say what Johnson’s ultimate motive really was, he does have a point: Other extremely wealthy Americans benefited from the tax rule. “In the first year after Trump signed the legislation, just 82 ultrawealthy households collectively walked away with more than $1 billion in total savings, an analysis of confidential tax records shows,” ProPublica’s Justin Elliott and Robert Faturechi write. “Republican and Democratic tycoons alike saw their tax bills chopped by tens of millions, among them: media magnate and former Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg; the Bechtel family, owners of the engineering firm that bears their name; and the heirs of the late Houston pipeline billionaire Dan Duncan.”