An image purportedly showing a cease and desist letter sent from by the staff of Ron Johnson, a Republican U.S. senator representing the state of Wisconsin, to a resident of Milwaukee was published by the group Citizen Action for Wisconsin in February 2017. The letter ordered the constituent to refrain from calling or visiting the senator’s office and staff and to limit any further communications to written form:
Dissent is patriotic, that’s what we believe. That’s why for months we’ve been showing up to Congressional offices, calling every day, writing letters/emails/postcards & more. And it’s why our members took part in town halls and rallies across the state last week during the Congressional Recess, including a 500+ person rally in Greenfield and 150+ in Wausau. Complete with empty chairs for, and a large cardboard cutout of, Senator Ron Johnson.
And what do the people who come to our actions get? A “cease and desist” letter (click for full letter) from the Senator’s office (signed “staff”). Senator Johnson is trying his best not to hear our concerns about the future of healthcare, about the future of our country and the fate our of families.
There’s another Congressional Recess coming up, and the ACA hasn’t been repealed yet. Join us in saying “We will NOT Cease and Desist!”.
Although the provenance of this letter was initially met with some skepticism online, Milwaukee station WDJT reported
that it had indeed been received by Milwaukee resident Earl Good, a Vietnam veteran, after he made multiple attempts to personally contact the senator. Good admitted that he had been aggressive in his efforts and had once called Senator Johnson’s office 83 times in one day before someone answered the phone:
Good is a Vietnam veteran and calls himself a concerned citizen. He is a registered Democrat and has taken issue with many of the things President Trump has said and done, things he says impacts him directly.
“The reason I reached out to Ron Johnson, I disagreed with several of the cabinet appointments that were made, and I was concerned about the Affordable Health Care Act, privatizing the veteran’s administration, the Russian hacking,” says Good.
He started calling Senator Johnson’s D.C. office to voice his opinion after President Trump’s inauguration. He says his goal was to influence how his U.S. Senator votes. Good admits he’s persistent; so persistent, on one occasion he called Senator Johnson’s office 83 times until someone picked up.
“The day before was 40 to get through. The day before that was 8. The day before that was 29, so they’re very aware of who I am by my cell phone number,” says Good.
Good says he’s been to Johnson’s Milwaukee office on two occasions. He calls the local office “accommodating,” but takes issue with the response in D.C.
“I have been aggressive, but the reason I call multiple times is the issue of the day and also because I am a concerned citizen. And I will keep calling, and the reason I continue to dial is until I talk to someone in the office,” says Good.
Although the WDJT report contained no indication that Good had ever visited (or attempted to visit) Senator Johnson’s office in Washington, a spokesman for Johnson told the station that this occasion was the second time in the last two years that his office had issued a cease and desist letter to a constituent to “ensure the well being of visitors to the office”:
A spokesperson for Senator Johnson responded, saying, “Constituents are always welcome and encouraged to contact our office with their concerns, regardless of political viewpoint. Unfortunately, very infrequently a pattern of inappropriate behavior emerges that crosses the bounds of decency and requires action to ensure the well being of visitors to the office and staff.”
Good wasn’t the only Wisconsinite who went to great lengths to communicate with Johnson. On 22 February 2017, roughly 500 constituents held an “empty chair town hall” to voice their concerns to their senator despite his absence from the event:
Roughly 500 constituents gathered at what was termed an “empty chair town hall” for Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., at the First Congregational Church in Madison.
Lawmakers across the country have faced increasingly antagonistic town halls, and many have stopped holding open meetings as a result. In response to this, activists have begun holding town halls “in absentia” to highlight the perceived lack of communication with constituents.
The town hall was organized on behalf of Johnson since he had not scheduled one himself during the congressional recess. Johnson was invited to the event but did not attend.
Although he didn’t show up, almost 500 people came out to voice their concerns on federal policy.
Senator Johnson’s office has not yet responded to our request for comment.