Ron Johnson becomes target of ethics complaint over $280,000 cash gifts to chief of staff and wife

Ron Johnson becomes target of ethics complaint over $280,000 cash gifts to chief of staff and wife
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Wisconsin will have some closely watched statewide races in the 2022 midterms, including a gubernatorial race and a U.S. Senate race. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and far-right Republican Sen. Ron Johnson are both seeking reelection. Democrats would love to unseat Johnson, who is running for a third term even though, in the past, he promised he would retire from the Senate after two terms. But it remains to be seen how strong a candidate the Democratic nominee will be in the general election; Wisconsin’s primaries are set for Tuesday, August 9.

Johnson, who was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010 and reelected in 2016, has become the target of a new ethics complaint. On Monday, July 11, according to Wisconsin State Journal reporter Alexander Shur, an ethnics complaint was filed against Johnson for allegedly violating Senate rules.

Shur reports, “U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and his wife paid his former chief of staff and his wife $280,000 in cash gifts while they worked together — an arrangement Democrats say is a breach of Senate rules, according to an ethics complaint filed Monday. Noting the cash gifts in the complaint had been publicly available for years, Johnson spokesperson Alexa Henning called the complaint frivolous and said the Oshkosh Republican hasn’t done anything wrong by gifting money to his former chief of staff and long-time friend, Anthony Blando.”

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According to Shur, Henning “declined to specify why Johnson made the payments” but “noted Johnson first contacted Blando in 2003 after Blando was diagnosed with cancer, and Johnson offered to pay for his continued treatment.”

“The Senate has ethics rules meant to limit how much congressional aides can be compensated and also how much and from whom they can receive gifts,” Shur observes. “The Johnsons’ cash gifts to Blando appear to follow one guideline allowing aides to receive gifts from senators, but appear to clash with another guideline saying cash gifts aren’t acceptable. They also raise questions about whether they are an attempt to circumvent the compensation limits.”

Shur reports that according to federal records reported on the website LegiStorm, Johnson and his wife “gave Blando and Blando’s wife each $24,000 in fiscal year 2014, $28,000 in 2016 and in 2017, and $30,000 in 2018 and 2020, for a total of $280,000.”

The ethics complaint against Johnson, according to Shur, was filed by Wisconsin resident Laurene Bach “in conjunction with” the Wisconsin Democratic Party.”

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