As of this weekend the public knows that Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson did know – or at least he suspected – that his aide was sexually assaulted by Wisconsin Rep. Bill Kramer. By now the public knows that Johnson held that knowledge for three years without contacting either police or leadership in the Wisconsin Assembly about the matter.
Ron Johnson has told Politico the victim asked him to stay quiet about it. I hope we’ll get to hear what she says about the matter.
Right now she is quiet and anonymous.
Before this situation, there was an episode that informed us Sen. Johnson places the reputation and finances of institutions above the welfare of sexual abuse victims.
In January 2010, Ron Johnson testified in a state senate committee AGAINST a proposed Wisconsin Child Victims Act [text of SB319, Record of SB319 Committee Proceeding].
The L.R.B. summarized the bill as folllows:
“Under current law, the time a person has to bring an action (the statute of limitations) for an injury resulting from being sexually assaulted or subject to incest as a child, or from being subject to sexual contact by a member of the clergy as a child, is any time before the injured party reaches the age of 35.
This bill removes the time limit for bringing those actions. In addition, the bill applies this unlimited time period to a broader range of actions. Under the bill, there is no limit on the time a person has to bring an action for injury resulting from being subject, as a child, to any sexual contact by an adult or by an adult member of the clergy. The bill also revives any cause of action that was barred by the present statute of limitations and allows an injured party to bring that action for his or her injury within three years after the effective date of the bill.”
At that time, Johnson sat on the Green Bay Diocese finance council. Within that diocese, there were (or are?) 51 priests who the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said were (or are?) linked with claims of sexual abuse upon children and minors. The most infamous of them seems to be John Patrick Feeney who was reassigned by Green Bay Bishop Morneau 14 times in 14 years to be placed with a new and unsuspecting community each time.
Ron Johnson was in a leadership position which afforded him a unique opportunity to give sex abuse victims a chance to tell their stories and seek justice in both a political party and a diocese.
He didn’t take those opportunities to work for the good. He used those opportunities to keep institutional secrets and to protect the powerful, no matter how vile the actors or the acts.
Below is the article “Ron Johnson did not tell police of assault allegations three years ago” from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Madison — U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, his chief of staff and a Waukesha County GOP official were all told three years ago of allegations that a then-aide to the senator had been sexually assaulted by state Rep. Bill Kramer, but none of them took the matter to the police or Assembly leaders.
The woman told her supervisor in Johnson’s office and a number of other people, but decided at the time to have her attorney send a letter to Kramer rather than go to the police, records show. Last month — nearly three years after the alleged assault outside a Muskego bar — the woman learned of Kramer’s alleged mistreatment of other women and filed a complaint with Muskego police that has resulted in two felony charges of second-degree sexual assault.
In the meantime, Kramer’s Assembly colleagues elected him last fall to the job of majority leader, the No. 2 position in that house. Before that vote, some Republicans in the Assembly who opposed Kramer’s bid raised concerns about his behavior.
But neither Johnson nor anyone from his office contacted Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), who has led that body since January 2013, or Jeff Fitzgerald, who served as speaker at the time of the alleged 2011 assault.
“I’ve got to be honest with you, no,” Fitzgerald said, adding he only learned of the allegations when charges were filed last week. “I was never informed of the incident.”
Vos said he, too, was not informed. Vos opposed Kramer’s election as majority leader in September because he disagreed with Kramer’s management style and was concerned by Kramer’s practice of making off-color remarks.
Vos said he was uncertain whether it would have made a difference at the time in blocking Kramer’s election if Johnson or aides had shared details of the incident on their own without direct corroboration from the woman.
Vos said no one told him about the 2011 alleged assault involving the Johnson aide until after Kramer was accused of groping a legislative staffer and harassing a lobbyist in a separate incident this February after a Washington, D.C., fundraiser. After those incidents came to light, Vos said, the woman who formerly worked for Johnson reached out to him to inform him of the April 2011 incident in Muskego.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is not identifying the woman because of the newspaper’s policy to shield victims of alleged assaults unless they choose to be named. She has not responded to interview requests and her attorney, John Cabaniss, also declined to comment.
Johnson declined an interview request, and a spokeswoman for the senator repeatedly declined to comment from Thursday night through Friday evening.
“We won’t comment on an ongoing criminal investigation. This is a matter for the police and the courts,” Melinda Whitemarsh Schnell said.
Whitemarsh Schnell also declined to provide the employee handbook used by Johnson’s office to guide staff in situations such as employee mistreatment.
“Our Office Policy Manual is an internal office document that is only available to office employees,” she said in an email.
However, about five hours after the Journal Sentinel published the information online, Johnson’s office issued a statement saying that when the woman spoke with Johnson and his chief of staff, Tony Blando, she already had an attorney. “Senator Johnson and Mr. Blando conveyed their commitment to be 100% supportive of any actions she chose to pursue on the advice of her legal counsel — up to and including the filing of criminal charges,” the statement said. “She requested that Senator Johnson and Mr. Blando keep the matter confidential and take no further action. Senator Johnson and Mr. Blando fully honored her request.”
Senators’ policies vary
U.S. Senate policies do not appear to directly address cases in which employees are assaulted by individuals from outside the Senate but do require internal reporting of sexual harassment. Each senator establishes his or her own employee policies.
A source who was close to the woman and spoke to her about the alleged assault at the time said that to the source’s knowledge Johnson and his staff had acted appropriately. The Journal Sentinel is not identifying the source because doing so might indirectly identify the victim.
“I think both (the woman) and the senator are people of high integrity,” the source said.
In the Muskego incident, Kramer is accused of shoving the woman against a car, kissing her forcibly and putting his hands up her shirt while she told him no and tried to stop him. Later, inside a car, Kramer is accused of locking the doors, kissing the woman again, grabbing her groin and trying to look down her shirt.
His attorney has indicated Kramer will enter a not guilty plea at an April 14 court appearance.
According to the criminal complaint, the woman decided not to go to police at the time of the incident because she didn’t want to embarrass her family, the Republican Party, Kramer and Johnson as her employer. Instead, she had her lawyer send Kramer a letter saying she had been assaulted, that Kramer needed to seek treatment for drinking and that she would reconsider her decision not to report the incident to law enforcement if she learned of him acting inappropriately toward others in the future.
After hearing about the allegations involving other women in Washington, she went to police last month.
The investigation by the Muskego Police Department reveals the woman told a number of people of the alleged 2011 assault around the time it happened. Among those she told was her supervisor in Johnson’s office, Blando. He went on to tell Johnson, according to the recent police report.
Police blacked out the names of the woman, Blando, Johnson and others in their report, but the names can still easily be read.
Blando did not return calls. Blando told police in a March 5 interview that the woman told him Kramer had “fondled” her and grabbed her breasts after the Republican event and provided him with some specific information about what happened. He said she was distraught and seeking advice on what to do and he had no reason to doubt her character.
Blando listened and the woman eventually decided she wanted to keep the matter private, according to the police report. The report does not say whether Blando gave advice to the woman.
Blando told Johnson about the matter but did not talk to Kramer, the police report said.
Two employment lawyers told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that, in general, employers should follow up on any reports of employees who say they have been sexually assaulted, even if it did not happen at the workplace.
“There is a duty to follow up and address the situation,” said Fred Gants, a Quarles & Brady attorney who represents employers.
When employers learn of such claims, they must evaluate whether to go to police so a proper investigation can occur, he said. Gants spoke generally about what employers need to do in such situations, saying he did not know enough details to say whether Johnson should have gone to authorities.
“Often in that situation (of alleged sexual assault), it is appropriate for that matter to be reported to law enforcement authorities,” he said. “It depends what has been described to you.”
Reporting not required
In deciding whether to go to police in such cases, employers should take into account what the employee wants, he said. “However, when an allegation has been made to one (who is) thinking criminal conduct occurred, there are situations in which the employer may very well elect to report this to authorities,” he said.
Jon Anderson, an employment lawyer with Godfrey & Kahn, said in such a situation an employer should first make sure the employee is physically safe and getting appropriate medical care, including therapy. The employer also should advise the employee of any assistance programs or health care policies that can help the employee.
Anderson said employers should encourage employees who say they have been assaulted to go to police. Employers do not have a duty to go authorities themselves and should leave the ultimate decision up to employees, he said.
Last September, Kramer, of Waukesha, ran for majority leader against Rep. Dean Knudson (R-Hudson).
In a nomination speech before the vote for majority leader, a Knudson supporter, Rep. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield), accused Kramer of acting inappropriately at a recent meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council in Chicago — a reference to off-color remarks Kramer supposedly had made to a table of delegates from another state.
Vos, another Kramer opponent, said he sought without success to track down someone who had heard Kramer’s remarks firsthand. Kramer’s supporters believed that Kapenga’s comments actually helped Kramer by appearing to be mudslinging, Vos said.
Vos said when Kapenga made his remarks last year, other Republicans heard Kramer say, “I just won. I just won.”
Last month, after the allegations from the Washington event came to light, Kramer’s colleagues voted unanimously to strip him of his title as majority leader.
At the time of the alleged assault, the woman also told Waukesha County GOP vice chairman Keith Best, who had witnessed Kramer and the woman at the bar. Best didn’t witness the assault but did confirm later to Muskego police that the woman and Kramer had been present at the bar that night and that the woman had later been distraught.
Best told a police officer that the incident “had been difficult for him” because Best was friends with both the woman and Kramer. He said he had seen Kramer drink too much and make inappropriate comments in the past but not be physically inappropriate.
Best told the officer that he never spoke with Kramer about the incident and that despite the alleged sexual assault, Best hoped Kramer’s promotion to Assembly majority leader would “give Kramer the motivation to ‘clean up his act,’” according to the police report.
Best did not respond to requests for comment.
* Technically Bill Kramer “allegedly sexually assaulted” a woman who was working for Senator Ron Johnson. The criminal complaint is HERE.
Resources and Reading:
15 minutes of testimony on SB319 – heartbreaking stories from survivors included. Hat tip to Jud Lounsbury for all the work he put into this.
The Green Bay, Wis. diocese agreed March 19, 2013 to pay $700,000 to Todd and Troy Merryfield who were sexually abused by Catholic priest Fr. John Feeney decades ago. “Although Fr. John Feeney was convicted and sent to prison for the abuse in 2003, the church fought the civil lawsuit for five years, denying responsibility.” – More at Sex abuse settlement surprises Wisconsin plaintiffs – Marie Rohde, National Catholic Reporter