Rep. Paul Ryan, (R-Wis.) makes a point while talking to supporters during… (Jack Dempsey / AP Photo )
Paul Ryan really gets irritated about the way the federal government has driven the debt to new heights, trying to boost the economy with stimulus spending. But he’s also of a mind that once the Bush and Obama administrations put the pork on the table, he wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t get some hunks for his Wisconsin constituents.
The Boston Globe had one of those neat stories this week showing how politicians don’t let the hobgoblin of consistency clutter up their minds or actions. Ryan fulminated against “wasteful” federal spending at the same time he wrote at least four letters to President Obama’s secretary of energy to win funding for a pair of conservation ventures in his home state. He was against the spendthrift expenditures, until he was for them — at least when it came to his home turf.
PHOTOS: Paul Ryan's past
This sort of double-speak is not confined, by any means, to the 42-year-old congressman or to one of the political parties. There is hardly a politician out there who doesn’t talk about cutting costs, while simultaneously trying to rake in as many perks as possible for the voters back home. Sen. Barack Obama was no piker in grabbing earmarks for the state of Illinois. During Campaign 2008, he reported getting about $220 million in spending requests approved by Congress over three years.
The report on Ryan quoted an official for the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense as saying that the congressman “was not a heavy practitioner of earmarks.” But Ryan also didn’t spare the enthusiasm in writing a 2009 letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu on behalf of the Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corp. He said a $20-million grant to the company could create or retain 7,600 jobs, while helping residents and businesses “reduce their energy costs [and] reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Ryan also backed federal stimulus support for a nonprofit group under the Recovery Act’s program for geothermal technologies. The head of the firm told the Globe that the company received $240,000.
The new reporting echoed a 2010 Wall Street Journal story about how Ryan and other Republican lawmakers fought the stimulus spending and then got in line to get some of the benefits for their constituents.
The Ryan camp declined to comment for the Globe story, referring reporters Bryan Bender and Brian MacQuarrie to its response to the Wall Street Journal report.
“If congressman Ryan is asked to help a Wisconsin entity applying for existing federal grant funds, he does not believe flawed policy should get in the way of doing his job and providing a legitimate constituent service to his employers,” the Ryan spokesman said in 2010.