US Senator Ron Johnson used taxpayers’ money to cover the cost of flights between a family vacation home in Florida and Washington, DC, including nine such trips last year, according to federal records.
Democrats say the multi-millionaire Republican’s spending is a waste of public money because they say the trips have nothing to do with his official job representing Wisconsin on the US Capitol.
But Johnson officials say these are legitimate expenses that were all approved by the Senate Rules Committee.
“The senator has always gone out of his way to follow Senate rules,” Johnson’s spokeswoman Alexa Henning said. “He was never reimbursed for a trip to visit family in Florida, but is reimbursed for returning on official business to Washington, DC”
Last month Johnson invited scrutiny of his government spending, telling Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade he was for “full disclosure”. He added, “The public has a right to know. I’m for full transparency. I’m for the truth.”
Federal records show Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, was reimbursed for 19 flights from Fort Myers, Fla., to Washington between 2013 and May 2021.
JFT Investments LLC purchased a 3,400 square foot waterfront home in Fort Myersnear Sanibel Islandfor $1.6 million in October 2013. JFT investments is a subsidiary of the Johnson Family Trust, which was established by the senator and his wife, Jane Johnson, for their three children, Johnson’s office confirmed.
The limited liability company, a holding company for various properties, used to share the same address with Pacura Oshkosh Plastics Company formerly owned by Johnson. Ben Johnson, the senator’s son, had been listed as a registered agent of the companyand Jane Johnson once signed a house repair notice.
Johnson’s adult children also own a private business jet which he used to travel between Wisconsin and Washington at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Johnson, first elected in 2010, made no trips to or from Fort Myers until the Florida home was purchased by JFT Investments in 2013.
In contrast, the senior senator from Wisconsin flew to Fort Myers at least nine times between Jan. 1, 2021 and May 10, 2021. Those flights between Florida and Washington are costing taxpayers anywhere from $227 for $1,152.
Travel records show that Johnson attended a meeting, via teleconference from Floridawith MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and some Republican Senators at the Trump International Hotel for discuss election fraud allegations on January 4, 2021. Johnson too did a TV interview with host Chuck Todd of NBC’s “Meet the Press” from Fort Myers.
Johnson then charged taxpayers $565 to fly to Washington two days later to vote on certification of the 2020 presidential election results. Johnson was among those who voted in favor of certification, after initially indicated that he planned to join 10 other Republican senators in opposing certification.
He returned to Florida on January 7, the day after the Capitol was attacked by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.
It’s impossible to determine the exact cost of Johnson’s getaways from Florida, as many reimbursements were lumped in with expenses from other trips, including some to Wisconsin.
But Senate records show the trips cost taxpayers at least $5,418 and no more than $18,781.
Johnson is candidate for re-election for a third term in the Senate, a race that could help determine which party controls the body next year.
Philip Shulman, spokesman for the Democratic Party, said the wealthy two-term senator should not ask taxpayers to pay for flights between Florida and Washington.
Johnson and his wife recently signed up assets worth between $16.55 million and $78.3 million at the end of last year, about the same as the year before. Johnson was not required to declare his $174,000 annual salary as a U.S. senator.
“Whether it’s helping pass legislation that has enriched himself and his biggest donors or spending thousands of taxpayer dollars to and from his family’s Florida vacation home, the Ron Johnson’s priority is his selfish agenda, not the people of Wisconsin,” Shulman said.
But Henning, Johnson’s spokeswoman, said the flight refunds were approved by auditors and the Senate Rules Committee.
She pointed out a Senate rule she said allows senators to be reimbursed for traveling to the Capitol from a location other than their “duty station,” usually their official residence, as long as the cost is equal to or less than the trip from their place of residence. assignment.
“Any attempt to portray this trip as anything other than full compliance with Senate rules is another coordinated political vilification by the media and the Democratic Party,” Henning said.
But a lawyer for the Democratic Party challenged this interpretation of the rules.
Jacquelyn Lopez, a partner at the Elias law firm in Washington, said taxpayer money was for official business, not personal travel.
“The rules are clear,” Lopez said. “A senator may not use taxpayer dollars to fund personal travel to or from a family vacation home. In accordance with federal law and Senate ethics rules, senators may use official funds only to travel which is essential to the transaction of official business.”
Contact Daniel Bice at (414) 313-6684 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @DanielBice or on Facebook at fb.me/daniel.bice.