Ron Johnson deletes tweet showing he used taxpayer money to travel to his Florida vacation home

The senator billed taxpayers up to $18,781 for his jaunts in Fort Myers, where he owns a waterfront home

By Jon Skolnik

Staff Writer

Published May 27, 2022 11:07AM (EDT)

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., tweeted then deleted a report that he has been dipping into taxpayer money in order to bankroll personal flights between Washington, D.C. and his Florida vacation home, which he visited nine times over the last year.

According to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation, federal records indicate that the Wisconsin Republican has gone on taxpayer-funded jaunts from Washington to Fort Myers, Florida at least 19 times between 2013 and 2021. Each of Johnson's flights apparently cost anywhere from $227 to $1,152. Taken together, they cost anywhere from $5,418 to $18,781. 

On one occasion, the conservative senator – who is reportedly worth at least $16.55 million – billed taxpayers $565 to cover travel expenses for a trip to Washington just before he voted to certify the 2020 election against Donald Trump's wishes. Johnson shortly returned to the Sunshine State in early January, just after the Capitol riot.

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Philip Shulman, a spokesman for the Democratic Party, told the Journal Sentinel that Johnson's reimbursements are inappropriate and fall in line with his "self-serving agenda."

"Whether it's helping pass legislation that enriched himself and his biggest donors or spending thousands in taxpayer dollars to fly to and from his family vacation home in Florida, Ron Johnson's priority is his self-serving agenda, not Wisconsinites," Shulman said. 

However, Johnson spokeswoman Alexa Henning, told the outlet that "the senator has always gone above and beyond to abide by Senate rules."

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"He has never been reimbursed for travel to visit family in Florida but is reimbursed for returning for official business to Washington, D.C," she said. "Any attempt to portray this travel as something other than completely abiding by Senate rules is another coordinated political smear by the media and the Democrat Party."

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Henning also claimed that senators are able to get reimbursed for traveling to their "duty station" from their official residence, so long as their departure flight is equal in cost to their return flight. 

Still, Jacquelyn Lopez, a lawyer for the Democratic Party, disputed Henning's statement, saying that "the rules are clear."

"A senator may not use taxpayer dollars to fund personal travel to or from a family vacation home," she told the Journal Sentinel. "As a matter of federal law and Senate ethics rules, senators may only use official funds for travel that is essential to the transaction of official business."  

Johnson, for his part, has called the Journal Sentinel's story "a coordinated attack by the Dem Party and their allies in the media."

"When the truth isn't on their side, Dems and MSM media lie, distort, and engage in the politics of personal destruction," he tweeted on Thursday. "Wisconsin and America deserve better."

Johnson, an ardent Trump backer, is still pushing the former president's election fraud conspiracy, which the Wisconsin legislature is currently investigating with a GOP-led recount. This week, the Journal Sentinel reported that Johnson told Dean Knudson, a Republican member of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, to step down for his "refusal to embrace false claims about the 2020 election." Knudson resigned on Thursday, claiming that GOP leaders at the "highest levels" called on him to resign.

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By Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, and The New York Daily News.

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