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Republican Dark Money in Monroe: Spotlight on John Gonta
By Steven Meyer
Sighting multiple buses in the City of Monroe overlayed full height in yellow John Gonta for City Council ads, sparks the thought: That can’t be cheap. We can add up that cost using Lake Erie Transit’s ad rates from their website (1). Gonta’s ad on the Dart B western Frenchtown bus which covers its entire backside costs $625.00 per month. Gonta’s two ads on the Route 3 Southeast bus, which span top to bottom on both sides, costs $800.00 per month for each side. The ads have been up for two months (2f, 3), so Gonta’s campaign has spent $4,450 on them so far. Sparks another thought: Where is that money coming from? So, I filed a FOIA with the Monroe County Clerk and learned that John Gonta has been lying on his campaign finance records for years (4).
Gonta checked, “Yes” on Box 10 to apply for the reporting waiver on the Statement of Organization for his current City Council campaign. Gonta attested, “The committee does not expect to receive or expend in excess of $1,000.00 in an election.” If Gonta had stayed within that limit, then he would not need to disclosure his campaign’s donations and expenses. As we know, he has far exceeded that limit. Furthermore, Gonta’s behavior suggests that he never intended to honor that waiver limit. Months before those bus ads, Gonta distributed custom campaign keychain tags (2b) and hats (2c), which likely cost hundreds of dollars. Then in June, Gonta’s campaign sponsored a hole at a Golf Outing which cost $250 (2e, 5). Any honorable campaign would never waste a quarter of their waiver budget for one ad at a golf hole five months before the election. He expects us to trust him with our city’s budget? If it was an honest mistake, then Gonta still has time to amend his waiver and submit all his disclosures. Either way, Gonta is long overdue for correcting the apparent fraud on all his previous campaign finance records.
John Gonta’s most recent election loss was in the 2022 Republican Primary for Monroe County Commission, District 6. On January 2, 2020, he applied for the reporting waiver, and then went on a spending spree: ads across two buses (6k) - sponsored three holes at a golf outing (6i) - a large newspaper ad (7) - glossy campaign mailers (6b) – campaign shirts and hats for volunteers (6g, 6j) - canvassed neighborhoods with glossy door hangers (8) - stacks of yard signs (6c) – large custom signs and flags to mount on his personal vehicles and in his business’s front window (6d, 6f, 6h) – in vast defiance of his $1,000 waiver limit. Gonta officially dissolved that campaign committee on January 11, 2023, and the same day opened his City Council campaign. He never amended the waiver nor submitted his required financial disclosures for that dissolved committee. I am not a lawyer, but one lawyer who does fully understand the legal risk of that conduct is John Gonta.
John Gonta described himself in a profile for the Republican National Lawyers Association website: “I am a Veteran, an Attorney and a Conservative. I joined the local Republican Party in Monroe, Michigan in 2019” (9). His current candidate profile page states, “I believe our City Council needs my strong Conservative voice and ideas”(2). In contrast to the “strong Conservative” values that Gonta has proclaimed since 2019, are Gonta’s proclaimed values from 2018 as a Democratic primary candidate. Gonta still has a public Facebook profile picture from May 8, 2018 declaring himself as, “The New Face of Progressive Democrats”(6a). What caused Gonta to make such a sudden ideological pivot, or were any of his ideological pronouncements ever true? In 2022, Gonta pronounced, “Follow the money, I have said it before: I am accepting NO donations/contributions from anyone, it's all self-funded” (6e). Though following John Gonta’s dark money trail leads to dead ends and cover ups to any public accountability.
Gonta stated that his, “top priorty” (sic) if elected to City Council is, “We need to keep businesses from fleeing, resulting in building vacancies, and we need to get businesses to invest in our community through incentives. City Council needs to focus on infrastructure, attracting new businesses, and keeping existing businesses, period” (2a). Notice how that basically paraphrases the Mission Statement of the Monroe DDA (Downtown Development Authority, 10)? If he shares their vision and goals, then why has Gonta never joined the DDA? There are 24 legal service entities that all “invest in our community” through their membership in the Monroe DDA (11), but Gonta has refused to join even though he owns two office suites in the DDA zone with his name stenciled on the sidewalk facing window. One of Gonta’s suites is registered under his name and the other is registered to an unofficial entity that he calls, “Champion Legal Group” (2d, 12, 13). There is no record of any entity with that name in the State of Michigan’s LARA system, nor any other official business entity with Gonta’s name attached as an officer or agent (14). As an attorney, it is unlikely that such negligence was by accident, and it signifies potentially more of Gonta’s dark money misconduct. What would drive a person to work so hard in the pursuit of public office while also working so hard to hide all their business and campaign records from the public?
Author Note: I have never met John Gonta. As he is a political candidate, I posted questions raised in this article to his Political Candidate Facebook page on September 10: “As an attorney, based on all of those expenditures that the public can see from your previous campaign, and account for ourselves, weren't you obligated by law to amend your campaign filings and fully report all of your itemized campaign receipts?”. Gonta did not directly respond to that, instead he deleted my comments and blocked me from that page. Three hours later Gonta posted an image to that page of the 2023 campaign filing deadlines, and remarked, “’nuff said”, which seemed prompted by my comments but was irrelevant to my questions about his, “previous campaign”, and contained no assurances that he would honor the current deadlines or disclosure requirements in his current campaign. Even though Gonta blocked me on Facebook, this report cites his public posts regarding public election matters, and other public records. I accept responsibility for this report.
1) Lake Erie Transit Bus Ad Rates: https://www.lakeerietransit.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/LET-Rate-Sheet-8-29.pdf
2) GONTA for Monroe City Council, Political Candidate Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/people/GONTA-for-Monroe-City-Council
a) 2/4/23 – Gonta post about his “top priorty” (sic) is, “to get business to invest in our community through incentives” in the City of Monroe.
b) 2/4/23 – Gonta posted image of a batch of round yellow keychain tags with printed, “Vote GONTA for Monroe City Council”
c) 4/26/23 – Gonta posted himself and Monroe County Treasurer, Jesse Stanford canvassing for signatures wearing matching yellow “GONTA for Monroe City COUNCIL” hats. Gonta wore a fabric patch that said, “GONTA 4 COUNCIL”
d) 5/19/23 – Gonta posted photo of a window stenciled with “Champion Legal”, which he referred to as, “This is my East Side office”.
e) 6/8/23 – Gonta posted photos and video from the “Chamber of Commerce” (sic - Monroe County Business Alliance) Golf Outing where his campaign sponsored a hole.
f) 8/6/23 – Gonta posted photos of the Lake Erie Transit buses with his ads on the side, and on the backside
3) September 26 & 27, 2023 – I took photos on these dates of the “Dart B” and “Route 3 Southeast” Lake Erie Transit buses with Gonta’s ads on them.
4) August 28, 2023 – FOIA response records from Monroe County Clerk’s Office: Statement of Organization (Committee ID 23-001) signed 1-11-23; Statement of Organization (Committee ID 20-001) signed 1-2-20; Dissolution (Committee ID 20-001) signed 1-11-23; Statement of Organization (Committee ID 19-103) signed 7-1-19; Dissolution (Committee ID 19-103) signed 12-17-19
5) June 8, 2023 - Monroe County Business Alliance Golf Outing which shows the Rates for Sponsoring a Hole ($250) - https://business.monroecountychamber.com/events/Details/mcba-golf-outing-849710
6) John Gonta Facebook Profile with Public Posts on Election Related Topics: https://www.facebook.com/john.gonta.1
a) 5/8/18 – Gonta profile picture of text: “The New Face of Progressive Democrats”
b) 3/22/20 – Gonta posted photo showing custom printed glossy campaign mailers with a stamp on the back of one side
c) 9/3/20 – Gonta reposted photo taken by Monroe County Treasurer candidate, Jesse Stanford showing a stack of Gonta’s campaign yard signs
d) 4/16/22 – Gonta posted photo of the front window of his attorney business displaying printed campaign materials: a large fabric flag and smaller yard sign.
e) 4/25/22 – Gonta raised vague suspicions about donations to Democratic candidates, and then asserted, “Follow the money, I have said it before: I am accepting NO donations/contributions from anyone, it's all self-funded.”
f) 5/9/22 – Gonta posted photo of his personal SUV with magnetic campaign sign mounted on the door, and a fabric campaign flag suspended from the antenna.
g) 6/4/22 – Gonta posted photo of himself and Monroe County Treasurer, Jesse Stanford both wearing Gonta’s custom campaign hats and tee shirts.
h) 6/9/22 – Gonta posted photo of his personal van with a large custom campaign sign mounted on the side.
i) 6/13/22 – Gonta sponsored the “Bogey & 2 Tee” for Habitat Monroe’s Golf Outing: ($500 Bogey + $150/each for 2 Tees) = Total: $800
j) 6/17/22 – Gonta posted photo of two other volunteers both wearing his custom campaign shirts.
k) 6/21/22 – Gonta posted photos of his campaign Ads on the sides of two Lake Erie Transit buses
7) September 2, 2020 - John Gonta Youtube Video of his campaign for County Commissioner holding up a newspaper featuring his campaign ad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnTLyr4xqyw
8) July 2022 – John Gonta’s Campaign canvassed my neighborhood and left one of his glossy printed campaign door hangers at my house, which featured a custom green stamped ink marking on the back that said, “Republican; GONTA 8-2-22; VOTE”.
9) September 17, 2021 - John Gonta joined the Republican National Lawyers Association that day and wrote a Member Profile for himself - https://www.rnla.org/11166
10) Monroe Downtown Development Authority Mission and Vision Statements - https://downtownmonroemi.com/about_the_dda/mission_vision_statements.php
11) Directory of Business Members of the Monroe DDA: https://downtownmonroemi.com/find_a_business/directory.php
12) BS&A Online Property Search: https://bsaonline.com
13) Facebook Public Group page for “Champion Legal Group”, administered by John Gonta. The most recent post in that group was from Gonta on September 19, 2021 - https://www.facebook.com/groups/132666077428059
14) Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) Corporations Online Filing System – Business Entity Search - https://cofs.lara.state.mi.us/SearchApi/Search/Search
Seeing Red! We are paying attention!
By Shawna Farley
Union workers stand up, in solidarity and UAW President Shawn Fain exposes fallacies the CEO’s billionaires club regurgitate. Workers are tired of tolerating hypocrite Republicans who claim they are pro-union and yet voting no on repealing the “right to work” nightmare that stopped working class Americans dreams.
We haven’t forgotten Vice Chairman of the Monroe County Board of Commissioners, former Majority Leader of the Michigan State Senate Randy Richardville and his chicken actions in 2012. “Shame on you” union workers chanted for breaking his promise to union workers and supporting “Right to work” Dr. Denise Brooks Local Monroe Democrat personally handed him a live chicken for his foul actions because in her eyes, he was a backstabbing chicken. We haven’t forgotten Randy. (1) We are paying attention to the politicians who support corporate greed, built off the backs of Union Worker. We see you Senator Joe Bellino, State Representative Jamie Thompson, State Representative Jim Desana Representative Dale Zorn, and Congressman Tim Walberg. Shame on you. (2)
In 2009, the U.S. government bailed out struggling auto companies and forced GM, Chrysler to restructure. The UAW accepted concessions. (3). Today the big three profits have gone up and it’s time they share those profits with workers.(4)
We witnessed at the Detroit UAW strikers Rally, United States Senator Bernie Sanders, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, U.S. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, U.S. Representative Haley Stevens, Secretary of State of Michigan Jocelyn Benson, standing up. We watched President Joe Biden walking with picketers.
What we don’t need are theatrical displays of deception by Former President Donald Trump at a non-union shop, with non-union workers holding signs. (5) If he was vying for votes, he fell flat. UAW President Shawn Fain called it “pathetic irony” and when asked by CNN if Fain would meet with Trump he responded “I see no point in meeting with him, because I don’t think the man has any bit of care about what our workers stand for, what the working class stands for.”
MCDP Chair and Uaw Local 245 member since 1976 Rick Kull weighed in on witnessing politicians supporting unions with their fist raised in the air, at the Detroit strikers rally. “This is for our future, and allowing workers a career path.” Rick believes solidarity is key to right the wrongs. “We as workers are both equally breaking our back, knowing we do not have equal benefits. Solidarity means unity, Civil resistance, the good of all and making under $17.00 an hour for 8 years as a temp, no job security, no pension, is unacceptable and not good for my brothers and sisters, and I’m proud to be a union member and Democrat, it was inspirational to watch each speaker step up to the podium”
UAW President Shawn Fain responded to the narrative in the media by president and chief executive officer Jim Farley and CEO Mary Barra. “They pretend that the sky will fall if we get our fair share of the quarter of a trillion dollars the Big Three has made over the past decade. They want to say that our righteous fight for a higher quality of life for the working class would wreck the economy. We’re not going to wreck the economy, we’re going to wreck their economy because it only works for the billionaire class.”