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Despite working-class image, Ryan comes from family of wealth

Paul Ryan was born into one of the most prominent families in Janesville, Wis., and his rise to political power and financial stability was boosted by family money and connections.

August 25, 2012|By Ralph Vartabedian, Richard A. Serrano and Ken Bensinger, Los Angeles Times

The wealth derived from Janna's grandfather, Reuel Winfred Little, a self-made millionaire several times over in oil and gas interests and other ventures. He arrived in Madill in 1927 after graduating from the University of Oklahoma law school, with just $25 and a second-hand typewriter. He invented and patented a type of injector used to poison trees, the Little Tree Injector. He made separate fortunes in legal work and redeveloping former military housing.

Meanwhile, the Ryan extended family was building up its own empire in construction, starting with Patrick Ryan, the congressman's great-grandfather. Ryan's branch of the family did not stay in the construction business, and Ryan has no financial interest in it today, the campaign spokesman said. But in 1998, when Ryan returned to Janesville to begin his first run for Congress, he briefly took a job with Ryan Inc. Central, a Wisconsin-based road grading company.

The Ryan roots run deep in Janesville.

Patriarch Patrick Ryan sent Ryan's grandfather, Stanley M. Ryan, to the University of Wisconsin law school, and he was named U.S. attorney for the western district of Wisconsin when he was 24 by President Harding. He rose to prominence in Janesville as a private attorney, serving on a bank board and as chairman of the fire and police commission. When he died, judges from all over the state came to his funeral. Ryan's father was also a prominent attorney, practicing in Janesville until his death.

Ryan and his family now live in a Georgian Revival home in Janesville that was once owned by the president of the Parker Pen Co. and former chairman of the state Republican Party. The congressman's aunt, uncle, cousin and brother all live within blocks of his home in the historic Courthouse Hill district.

Since first running for Congress in 1998, Ryan has brought in at least $40,000 in contributions from cousins, second cousins and others in the Ryan Inc. construction business. And that's not counting money received from his siblings and many other cousins. Ryan's brother Tobin, an private equity firm executive, has given him $4,250; Stanley, another brother, has given $4,000; and Janet Ryan Rock, a sister, has given $4,000.

Vartabedian and Bensinger reported from Los Angeles, Serrano from Washington. Times staff writer Alana Semuels in Denver and Marie Rohde and Robert McCoppin in Janesville, Wis., contributed to this report.

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