12/30/2010 11:54 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Ron Johnson Explains Hiring Lobbyist As Chief Of Staff

Incoming Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) successfully ousted Russ Feingold this year, attacking Feingold's "controversial" ties to Washington lobbyists and touting his own ability to create more jobs. So when Johnson turned his alleged job creation skills to providing a plum staff position for a Washington lobbyist, Wisconsinites cried foul.

Now Johnson is explaining his choice to bring seasoned lobbyist Don Kent on board as chief of staff.

"I hired him for his organizational skills, for his ability to identify people of intelligence and integrity to staff my Senate office, and so far he is doing a phenomenal job," Johnson told the Wisconsin State Journal.

During campaign season, Johnson and other Tea Party-backed hopefuls cited the close ties between Capitol Hill and K Street as evidence that Congress was broken, but a recent Washington Post report found that many incoming GOP legislators have already shifted away from this position, drafting high-profile lobbyists as staffers.

Beyond Johnson, Sen.-elect Mike Lee of Utah, as well as Reps.-elect Charlie Bass of New Hampshire, Chip Cravaack of Minnesota, Robert Dold of Illinois, Steve Pearce of New Mexico, Jeff Denham of California, and Raul Labrador of Idaho have all drawn scrutiny for their lobbyist personnel picks, according to the Post.

The Washington Post also reports that a large number of congressional newcomers have wasted no time in taking part in the glad-handing Washington culture they demonized during their campaigns.

Dozens of freshmen lawmakers have held receptions at Capitol Hill bistros and corporate townhouses in recent weeks, taking money from K Street lobbyists and other powerbrokers within days of their victories. Newly elected House members have raised at least $2 million since the election, according to preliminary Federal Election Commission records filed last week, and many more contributions have yet to be tallied.