WASHINGTON _ After seeking millions of dollars from a federal stimulus program he opposed on grounds it would not help the economy, Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan then appeared on a Boston talk radio program and denied he lobbied the Obama administration for the home state aid -- a paper trail he sought to deny again on the campaign trail.
On October 28, 2010, after the Wisconsin Republican penned at least five letters to two federal departments seeking grants under the Obama administration’s economic recovery package, Ryan responded to a caller on WBZ’s Nightside with Dan Rea who asked if he sought any of the money. Ryan said that he would not vote against something “then write to the government to ask them to send us money.”
“I did not request any stimulus money,” he continued.
In response to a request from the Boston Globe, the CBS affiliate replayed the audio for a reporter on Thursday.
In an interview Wednesday with an Ohio television station, Ryan repeated the denial, before quickly adding “I don’t recall.”
In an interview with Cincinnati’s WCPO-TV, Congressman Paul Ryan denied asking for stimulus funds, despite having written multiple letters to the federal government requesting stimulus dollars for his district.
Thursday evening, Ryan acknowledged having sent the letters under his signature. “After having these letters called to my attention I checked into them, and they were treated as constituent service requests in the same way matters involving Social Security or Veterans Affairs are handled. This is why I didn’t recall the letters earlier. But they should have been handled differently, and I take responsibility for that.”
Ryan did not explain why he was not alerted to the fact that his office was sending out letters in support of stimulus projects in 2010 when the Wall Street Journal reported on one such letter to the Department of Labor.
Ryan, who was selected to be former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s running mate on Saturday, was one of the most vocal critics of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a $787 billion package of government investment designed to bolster the economy in the midst of a deepening recession.
In voting against it he called the legislation a “wasteful spending spree” and warned that it would not provide the right kind of help, instead advocating more tax cuts.
“This trillion dollar spending bill misses the mark on all counts,” Ryan said in a statement at the time issued by his office. “This is not a crisis we can spend and borrow our way out of – that is how we got here in the first place.”
But beginning in the fall of 2009, the Globe first reported on Tuesday, he sent the first of a series of letters to the Department of Energy on behalf of a pair of Wisconsin energy conservation groups, insisting the funds would help create jobs.
For example, Ryan predicted that a grant being sought by the Madison-based Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation would “create or retain approximately 7,600 new jobs over the three-year grant period and the subsequent three years.”
The letter continued: “I was pleased that the primary objectives of their project will allow residents and businesses in the partner cities to reduce their energy costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and stimulate the local economy by creating new jobs.”
The organization ultimately received $20 million in economy stimulus funds, while another entity that he advocated for, the Energy Center of Wisconsin, was awarded a separate $740,000, according to federal records.
Asked about the letters to the Department of Energy on Monday, Ryan’s spokesman declined to comment and pointed the Globe to a statement from Ryan’s Capitol Hill office from 2010 when the Wall Street Journal reported he had written a single letter to the Department of Labor seeking stimulus funds.
“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 2010 statement said.
But that behind-the-scenes advocacy did not prevent him from continuing his public attacks on the stimulus bill.
“All this temporary booster shot stimulus didn’t work in the stimulus package, didn’t work when the last administration tried these things, so we don’t want to go with ideas that have proven to fail, we want ideas that have proven to succeed,” he said in an interview on MSNBC in September 2011. “I think tax reform is the key.”
Even when asked about it by the caller on WBZ, he stuck to his guns.
“I assume you voted against the stimulus,” the caller began. “I’m just curious if you accepted any money in your district.”
“No, I’m not one (of those) people who votes for something then writes to the government to ask them to send us money. I did not request any stimulus money,” Ryan responded.
The audio of the 2010 show was pulled from the WBZ archives by programming and news director Peter Casey and played for the Globe by a station technician. The Globe was alerted to the exchange by one of the station’s listeners.
Ryan has been on Nightside with Dan Rea several times in recent years, including in April 2011.
It was during the same 2010 interview when Ryan denied seeking stimulus funds that Rea also predicted that the then 4o-year-old congressman would be the GOP vice presidential candidate in 2012.Bender can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeBender