Rep. Paul D. Ryan received nearly $60,000 from a campaign donor who was later… (Alex Wong, Getty Images )
WASHINGTON — Rep.Paul D. Ryan began his congressional career in part with the generosity of Dennis Troha, a wealthy trucking company owner who gave the new Republican vice presidential candidate close to $60,000 in campaign donations over nearly a decade.
But after Troha was indicted for fraud and convicted of misdemeanor campaign contribution violations involving other politicians, Ryan gave the full amount of Troha's donations to charity and cut ties to him.
The episode drew attention to his connection to Troha, who at one point was trying to build an Indian casino in Ryan's Wisconsin district and had asked the congressman to urge the Bureau of Indian Affairs to speed up a decision on the project.
Troha said in an interview that when he sought Ryan's help, the congressman told him he opposed the casino.
"He was pretty blunt with me," Troha said of Ryan. "But he said he would inquire with the BIA just as he would for any constituent."
George Tallchief Skibine, at the time a top official with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, said in an interview that he and a colleague were summoned to Ryan's Capitol Hill office in February 2006 to explain why the casino license application was stalled.
Although Ryan did not demand approval on the application, Skibine said it nonetheless was clear that the meeting was meant as a message for some kind of action on the proposal.
"This happens a lot," Skibine said in an interview. "A lot of tribes and their developers push their congressmen and senators to lobby for them."
In the end, the casino project was rejected.
Ryan's congressional spokeswoman, Smythe Anderson, said Monday that just as he had done for innumerable constituents, Ryan made an inquiry with a federal agency.
"There was never any allegation of impropriety," she said.
After Troha was indicted for fraud and later convicted of campaign contribution violations involving other politicians, Ryan called the accusations "very troubling" and donated the $58,802 Troha had given him between 1998 and 2007 to the Kenosha Boys & Girls Club.
Today, Troha said he was hurt that Ryan abandoned him despite his years of financial backing, and said he had not heard from the congressman since.
"I got indicted and I was convicted of misdemeanors," Troha said. "I had cancer too, and two operations. It would have been nice to have a phone call from him at least to see how I was doing."