OTR Interviews

Senator reveals 'Victims of Government'

Wis. Sen. Ron Johnson unveils new project aimed at showing how big government hurts everyday Americans


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 28, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: OK, are you a victim of our government? And have you finally had it? Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson might be looking for you. He is trying to crack down on government regulations that are essentially strangling Americans, and in some instances really ruining their lives.

Senator Johnson has launched a new project called Victims of Government. Senator Johnson is here to tell us more. Senator, good to see you. And tell me, what is this program you've started?

SEN. RON JOHNSON, R-WIS.: Well, Greta, well, it's interesting your opening story there talking about the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of government, what we're actually talking about is, you know, far too often American -- government's actually abusive. And we're trying to do is put a human face to some of that governmental and bureaucratic abuse.

And our first video here highlights Steven Lathrop, who is a gentleman who is just trying to actually create economic activity by developing a neighborhood, actually was trying to solve a flooding problem in a neighborhood, and just basically followed what the recommendation was of the Army Corps of Engineers to take a dump that was causing flooding, turned into a lake.

But the moment he did it, the Army Corps of Engineers said, No, that was a wetland. You've got to return that lake back into its original state. Twenty-three years later, Steven Lathrop is on the verge of bankruptcy because of just bureaucratic abuse.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, it's stunning. I watched the whole video, and I'm posting it on GretaWire and the viewers can see it. I mean, it's just a -- it's breathtaking, it's so terrible what happened to his man in terms of dealing with government bureaucracy.

But what also caught my attention and what I particularly like about your project, it is that I have a copy of the letter that you've written to the commanding general chief of engineers at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. And I note that Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... is also a signatory. So this is a bipartisan effort to at least help this man.

JOHNSON: Listen, you know, Senator Coburn is our ranking member on Homeland Security. Senator Tom Carper is supportive of this effort, as is Senator Claire McCaskill in our subcommittee. So you know, the Homeland Security has got an awful lot of oversight capability. That's what we're going to be dedicated to doing over the next couple years here. And this is a bipartisan effort.

These are a bunch of senators that really want to take a look at government, make sure that it is as efficient and as effective and as unabusive as possible. And so I'm looking forward over the next couple years -- we're certainly soliciting more Americans to tell us their stories so we can basically show these anecdotal pieces of evidence and so we can start correcting these problems.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, if you have a -- if you're out there watching us and you think that you've just been in regulation hell with the government, or red tape hell, or whatever you want to call it, where -- what do -- where do they go on your website? What do they do so that they can at least pitch their problem to you?

JOHNSON: Well, they can certainly go to my Senate website, RonJohnson.Senate.gov, and conduct our oversight committees, the financial and contracting oversight committee of the Homeland Security Committee. And we will certainly get in contact with them and we'll track down their story and we'll do everything we can to help them navigate their way through the federal bureaucracy.

VAN SUSTEREN: Don't you sometimes get enormously frustrated? You're out of the private sector. I mean, you come to Washington and you see, you know, like -- you heard the first story where we're paying for employees that are AWOL. We've got stand-by employees who are doing nothing that we're paying. There's so much government waste. Now you go out and you find the story in Illinois, where this man is for 20-some years been fighting this -- fighting the government. Now he's about to go bankrupt. I mean, it must drive you nuts.

JOHNSON: Greta, I'm enormously frustrated 100 percent of the time. Listen, the reason our founding fathers wanted a limited government is they realized that as the government grew, our freedoms receded. They realized that government was not efficient and effective. We got to return to those founding principles of a limited federal government, government close to the governed.

VAN SUSTEREN: I take it that others besides Senator Claire McCaskill, the Democratic Party, you know, they're going to get on board. They want to get involved in this, as well, because I -- I can't imagine anyone wants to see someone strangled by regulations or -- or -- I mean, I -- I assume that fundamentally, people want to make this go better.

JOHNSON: The wonderful thing about anecdotal stories is it puts a human face on the abuse, and it's almost impossible not to feel sorry for these individuals. And the more example of government abuse, the easier it's going to be for us to actually pass legislation to fix it.

VAN SUSTEREN: How did you find this man, this one that we put the video on GretaWire? How did you find him, or did he find you?

JOHNSON: Well, we have this concept, Laci, of putting a face to government abuse, and so we started, you know, searching the Internet for some of these stories, and this one just really popped out. We contacted Steven Lathrop. He had a blog. I think he published back in 2003. We found it.

Of course, you know, he's just a small individual, so he doesn't get the publicity, so we're trying to utilize the offices of the United States Senate and our Homeland Security Subcommittee to make that -- this story public so that, again, we can start solving these problems.

VAN SUSTEREN: I take it you've seen a lot of this, where the government regulations, government bureaucracy, and several different government agencies trying to deal with certain -- with -- with the same situation. I assume that there are a lot of them out there.

JOHNSON: Well, I think -- it's going to be a pretty long series. We've already had close to 39,000 views of this video. We've had dozens of people sharing their stories already. And again, I really encourage any American who's really coming under the yoke of federal government abuse, please contact our office. We'll look into it. And if you want us to public size your story, we're going to be happy to do that for you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you. And enjoy Green Bay.

JOHNSON: Will do. Have a great night, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, sir.