In the days following the BP oil spill in the Gulf, many people were conflicted as to whether to buy BP gasoline. The choice came down to whether they cared more about supporting local business owners or expressing their disdain for the company’s negligence. Owning stock in the company, though, only affects the BP board, and is thus the true evil, right? While this makes for a seemingly more black-and-white decision, it turns out that it is not such a good campaign argument.
While both Democratic U.S. Senator Russ Feingold and his challenger, Republican candidate Ron Johnson, both have financial ties to BP, Johnson’s are the stronger. For that he has come under criticism for being too “lenient” on the company, as well as just generally having a dirty soul. However, a closer look at those criticisms finds that they are just a desperate attempt to bash a competing candidate in the race for Senate.
With regard to leniency, it is true that Johnson criticized how the damages that BP would pay were handled. However, he did not criticize the damages themselves. Instead, he noted that it troubled him to think that it was the executive branch determined the damages, rather than the judicial, which has the longer precedent of handling lawsuits and awarding damages. It was also argued that Johnson tried to hide his connections to BP, but those can be easily disregarded due to the simple fact that he made it clear in his financial disclosure report that clearly listed BP among the publicly traded assets and unearned income sources- three times.
When it comes to his soul, Johnson should be far more worried about the fact that he is now a politician than his investments in BP. Within the report, the list of publicly traded assets and unearned income sources is about five pages long. While Johnson has made his wealth no secret, it should not come as a surprise that a successful businessman has a very diverse portfolio that does happen to include a popular stock owned by many other members of the American public. Its commonplace status is only highlighted by the fact that Feingold himself owns stock in BP almost without knowing it. Overall, this is a very non-unique attack along the campaign trail.
The investment attacks themselves lack purpose. They do not address the candidate’s merit to serve as a representative of the public, they do not accurately attack his viewpoints, which he has already made clear, and they do not address his character. They are at best a petty attempt to associate a social bad with an individual person. Strategic? Sure. Meaningful? No.
I don’t believe that we have run out of differences between the two candidates, so why not choose better tactics than this?
Besides, Johnson can’t be all that bad; he has stock in John Deere too.