Tammy Baldwin’s D.C. Office Would Not Sit Down With Tomah VA Whistleblower

Ron Johnson, Sean Duffy, and Ron Kind's offices all spoke with whistleblower who warned of narcotic use at VA facility

Sen. Tammy Baldwin / Getty Images
• August 22, 2017 4:10 pm


Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin's (Wisc.) D.C. congressional office was the only office visited by the Tomah VA whistleblower that would not sit down and speak with him, he told the Washington Free Beacon.

Ryan Honl, the man who blew the whistle on the abuses and over-prescription of narcotics at Wisconsin's Tomah VA facility that led to the death of a Marine and who was punished for disclosing the practices, was in Washington, D.C. last week to meet with individuals at the new Veterans Affairs whistleblower accountability office.

Honl visited the offices of Sen. Ron Johnson (R.), Rep. Ron Kind (D.), Rep. Sean Duffy (R.), and Sen. Baldwin, all representatives from Wisconsin, following the meeting.

"I went over to the Senate and House offices and went in and met with the Johnson people and sat down and got all the time in the world I needed," said Honl. "We went over VISN (Veterans Integrated Services Network) and the regional reform that needs to happen in the VA about accountability."

Honl then went to Kind's office. Staffers in the office "graciously" sat down with him even though he is "not a fan."

"I sat down with them and they were willing to listen to me on some legislation that Sean Duffy and Ron Johnson put forward—the Chris Kirkpatrick accountability bill," a bill that would provide greater whistleblower protections to Federal employees, he said. "Congressman Kind's office was receptive and sat down with me as well as long as I needed."

Honl got "lots of time" with two staffers in Duffy's office. "I spent a lot of time with them and spoke with them again on VA accountability and VISN reform as well as the Kirkpatrick legislation because Duffy is leading the charge in the House on that," he said.

Honl then made his way to Sen. Baldwin's office.

"I went in and said I want to speak with Bill Murat, who is the chief of staff for Tammy Baldwin, because I know him from meeting him in Wisconsin during the clean up immediately after the Tomah VA thing," he said. "He wasn't in. Then I said, ‘I'd like to speak with Ken Reidy,'" Baldwin's deputy chief of staff.

The staffer said they would tell Reidy and then made their way to the back of the office. After being gone for "quite a while," the staffer returned and said that Reidy was not in the office and would call the front desk.

"I'm standing out in the lobby and basically just let Reidy have it," he said of their phone conversation. Honl said that Reidy deflected issues to the accountability office.

"Mr. Honl stopped by the office unannounced and requested to speak with the staffer who handles veterans issues," Baldwin's office told the Free Beacon. "That staffer wasn’t in the office yesterday so while they were unable to physically sit down, Mr. Honl was able to speak with that staffer by phone while he was at the office about the topics that he came to discuss."

Honl called the office's actions "undignified" and added that he could have done that from Wisconsin. Honl had asked to speak to any staffer in person so they could write down his issues. "Nope, couldn't do that," he said.

"He didn't want a staffer to meet with me. It was just undignified for me to have to stand there—I could have done this from Wisconsin if that's what I wanted. It just wasn't right."

Honl, who was a lifelong Democrat until the Tomah VA scandal, says he has been very critical of both Baldwin and Kind. Honl credited Kind's office for being receptive to him despite the differences they have had.

Baldwin, who was first elected to Congress in 2012, was the only member of Congress from Wisconsin who received an inspector general report warning of the over-prescription of narcotics at the at the Tomah VA facility. Baldwin did not act on the report until it became public nearly four months later and a Marine had died from an overdose in 2014.

Marquette Baylor, the former deputy state director for Baldwin, was fired following the controversy. Baylor was offered a severance package if she were to sign a confidentiality agreement, which she refused.

Baldwin then brought in Marc Elias, a partner at the D.C.-based Perkins Coie law firm who is considered the "go-to fixer" for Democrats in trouble, for assistance with crisis control. Elias, who was also the top campaign lawyer for Hillary Clinton, was paid $90,000 for his services.

Baldwin also quietly left the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee earlier this year, the committee that has oversight of the scandal-plagued Tomah VA.

The issue, which has again taken center stage in Wisconsin, forced a dark money group to air advertisements in defense of Baldwin's handling of the issue. Majority Forward, a nonprofit that does not disclose its donors, began running ads with Vote Vets, a progressive veterans group, defending Baldwin's actions over the Tomah scandal this past June.

Majority Forward was incorporated in 2015 by Elias, Baldwin's crisis control lawyer.

Majority Forward is also associated with the Senate Majority PAC, a super political action committee started by former aides of now-retired Sen. Harry Reid (D., Nev.). Elias also represents the Senate Majority PAC, which shares staff and office space with Majority Forward.

The Tomah VA facility was not the only time the Democratic senator has been accused of failing to act on scandal-plagued issues.

Baldwin's office was the only office that failed to respond to concerns that postal workers in Wisconsin were illegally conducting political activity during the 2016 election, according to Timm Kopp, a U.S. Postal Server letter carrier in Wisconsin who blew the whistle on the activity.

Baldwin's office claimed they never received any warning or correspondence from Kopp.