Senator Ron Johnson (Q) Hit With Federal Ethics Complaint


Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) just had an ethics complaint filed against him for giving his former chief of staff and longtime friend Anthony Blando $280,000 beginning in 2014 and ending in 2020.

The 542-page U.S. Senate Ethics Manual reads that cash “is not an acceptable gift” except as part of an inheritance or from a relative. Neither was the case in this instance:

‘A gift of cash or a cash equivalent (for example stocks or bonds) is not an acceptable gift, unless it is from a relative or is part of an inheritance.’

Wisconsin resident Laurene Bach works with the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and filed the complaint against Johnson. In her complaint, she wrote that giving away cash “was a violation of Senate gift rules,” according to The Madison News:

‘Senator Johnson violated both the Ethics rules and the clear intent of Congress to set salary and compensation maximum thresholds. Bach, who federal filings show has donated hundreds to Democratic efforts, called for the committee to investigate “this violation of Senate gift rules” and refer the case to the Department of Justice “if necessary.”’

As a result, GOP employee Alexa Henning released a statement that read “these were all legitimate gifts of the senator’s personal funds.” In addition, he has disclosed them “for years:”

‘These were all legitimate gifts of the Senator’s personal funds that have all been previously disclosed for years and fully comply with all Senate rules and the Senate Ethics Committee.’

‘”[Johnson] has always gone above and beyond to abide by Senate rules” and is confident this “frivolous” complaint will be dismissed because “he has done absolutely nothing wrong, and in fact, has been a faithful steward of taxpayer dollars.”’

Blando, told The Oshkosh Northwestern back in 2010 that he had been good friends with Johnson for approximately seven years. And he released a statement that mentioned he had been diagnosed with cancer. From all reports, the senator told him that he would pay for his treatment, and it extended over the next 20 years:

‘The senator first contacted Tony in 2003 after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, The senator heard about a treatment at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and offered to pay for Tony’s continued treatment. For almost 20 years, they have been in each other’s lives, on family vacations and their children’s weddings.’

An executive at the government watchdog group Campaign Legal Center, Kedric Payne, commented on the exemptions. Ethical uses include cash gifts except when it is done to “violate the staff compensation rules:”

‘[The Senate Ethics Committee] will interpret the rule to allow cash gifts from Senators, but not when the gift is used to violate the staff compensation rules.’

The watchdog decided that an investigation was required to determine whether the money was meant as “compensation for staff work.” In that case, taxes, withholdings, and other issues would have had to be applied:

‘These “gifts”appear to violate the rules for when a Senator uses personal funds to compensate staff. An investigation is needed to determine if these payments were intended as compensation for staff work, which requires tax and other payroll withholdings under the ethics rules.’

According to a congressional tracking staff system, LegiStorm, the Johnsons gave Blando a total of $280,000:

  • ‘Each gave $24,000 in the fiscal year 2014
  • $28,000 each in 2016 and in 2017, and
  • $30,000 each in 2018 and 2020.’

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In 2010 The Oshkosh Northwestern reported Blando would “join Johnson’s office as the state director.” He became chief of staff in 2012 and left in 2021. The newspaper received a copy of a Madison school systems letter, where he had been employed, that he had sent to its families. In it, Blando told them he was going on leave and go full-time with Johnson:

‘I have given this venture a great deal of thought and prayer and have come to the conclusion that God is calling me to this. Ron and Jane Johnson have been great friends and stewards of UCS — we would not be where we are today without them.’

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The WisDems filed an earlier complaint accusing Johnson of using taxpayer funds for vacation travel in an unrelated instance.

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