Daily Bread for 7.12.22: Ron Johnson’s Cash Payments to His Staffer-Friend

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of 83. Sunrise is 5:28 AM and sunset 8:32 PM for 15h 04m 35s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing gibbous with 97.5% of its visible disk illuminated.

The Whitewater Common Council meets at 4 PM and the city’s Public Works Committee meets at 6 PM.

On this day in 1543, King Henry VIII marries his sixth and last wife, Catherine Parr, at Hampton Court Palace.

 Ron Johnson is odd in more ways than one. Andrew Shur reports that Ron Johnson’s $280k cash gifts to chief of staff and wife draw U.S. Senate ethics complaint

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 longtime friend, Anthony Blando.

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. 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.

Federal records reported on LegiStorm, a website that tracks congressional staffing, show 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.

Blando’s salary was $168,999.85 in fiscal year 2014; $169,458.96 in fiscal years 2016, 2017 and 2018 — 4 cents shy of the maximum in those years; and $172,789.68 in fiscal year 2020, according to the complaint filed by Wisconsin resident Laurene Bach.

The origin of the complaint in this case matters less than whether this was a scheme to avoid compensation limits (and by consequence also avoid taxation). Libertarians would prefer changes to the tax code, but those preferences don’t excuse violations of current tax law. 

And look, and look — one can be a critic of Johnson (as I am) and still find this odd. One can be a supporter of Johnson and still recognize (or at least should recognize) that this is another deviation from a senator who’s already a national oddity. 

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