Ron Johnson’s Chicago Fundraiser Co-Host Is a Slumlord Turned Trump Ambassador

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By Pat Kreitlow

June 27, 2022

Ronald Gidwitz allowed low-income housing to fester while rubbing elbows with GOP power players. Billionaire co-hosts Dick and Elizabeth Uihlein reaped a windfall from Johnson’s 2017 sweetheart tax deal.

Monday evening’s scheduled fundraiser for Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson—being held somewhere across the border in Chicagoland—has some notable co-hosts on the invitation, including an infamous slumlord-turned-ambassador and the owners of a Wisconsin business who got millions cut off their tax bill thanks to Johnson’s actions.

According to the invitation, Ronald Gidwitz is one of the co-hosts of the event. Gidwitz previously served as former President Donald Trump’s ambassador to Belgium for the final eight months of Trump’s term. Gidwitz was also the Illinois finance chair for Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, having donated $700,000, according to the Guardian.

Gidwitz has given Johnson nearly $17,000 over the years. and ran unsuccessfully for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2006. 

The owner of a private equity firm, Gidwitz is better known and likely lesser-regarded in Joliet, Illinois for his other job title: landlord.

“Like Trump, Gidwitz inherited a business from his father, a beauty supply company called Helene Curtis Industries that was acquired by Unilever, the multinational conglomerate, in 1996. But Gidwitz may have less in common with Trump than with the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, whose family business, Kushner Cos., owns thousands of rental apartments and has been accused of providing substandard housing to lower-income tenants,” reads a 2020 article in Politico. “Gidwitz and his family owned an interest in a low-income housing complex in Joliet, Illinois, where rents were subsidized by the US federal government, but where residents and local politicians, including then-Sen. Barack Obama, had complained about ‘inhumane’ conditions at the apartment complex, including a persistent stench of urine.”

That complex, Evergreen Terrace, was described in 2017 by the Chicago Tribune as a “356-unit housing project where staff dealt drugs, a little girl fell from a window and died during a hot summer when the building’s air conditioning was malfunctioning and broken window screens were not replaced, and a man who was shot lay dying in the building’s courtyard for an hour before police were called.”

Gidwitz eventually had to surrender the complex to the city of Joliet after a years-long court battle that included his own lawyers taking him to court and winning nearly $6 million because he’d refused to pay his full bill. Gidwitz claimed there was a verbal agreement for a lower amount, but could provide no documentation of it.

Two of the other co-hosts for Johnson’s fundraiser are billionaires Dick and Elizabeth Uihlein, owners of the packing supply company Uline. They have poured millions of dollars into a new superPAC to run political ads supporting Johnson—an expense made less onerous by a massive corporate tax loophole Johnson inserted into Trump’s 2017 tax package. According to ProPublica, that loophole saved the Uihleins $118 million in deductions the first year after the law went into effect. Long before the break provided by Johnson, the Uihleins had been described by the New York Times as “the most powerful conservative couple you’ve never heard of.”

Author

  • Pat Kreitlow

    The Founding Editor of UpNorthNews, Pat was a familiar presence on radio and TV stations in western Wisconsin before serving in the state Legislature. After a brief stint living in the Caribbean, Pat and wife returned to Chippewa Falls to be closer to their growing group of grandchildren. He now serves as UNN's chief political correspondent and host of UpNorthNews Radio, airing weekday mornings 6 a.m.-8 a.m on the Civic Media radio network and the UpNorthNews Facebook page.

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