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Ryan denied stimulus while quietly seeking it

Posted: August 17, 2012 - 12:05am

WASHINGTON — Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan on Thursday denied for a second time that he ever lobbied the government for stimulus money, even though he sent letters —with his signature — to the Energy Department and Labor Department asking for millions of the program’s dollars on behalf of two companies in Wisconsin.

Ryan’s new denial in an interview with Cincinnati’s WCPO-TV contradicts letters that Ryan wrote in 2009 to Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis seeking stimulus grant money for two Wisconsin energy conservation companies. One of them, the nonprofit Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corp., later received $20.3 million from the Energy Department to help homes and businesses improve energy efficiency, according to federal records.

The congressman’s denial comes as new audio surfaced of Ryan telling Boston’s WBZ Radio two years ago that he “did not ask for stimulus money,” in response to a caller’s question about the recovery program. “I’m not one who votes for something and then writes to the government to ask them to send us money,” Ryan said. The exchange was first reported Thursday by The Boston Globe.

But a year earlier, Ryan asked Chu to set aside funds for the Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corp. Ryan said the stimulus cash would help his state create thousands of new jobs, save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The apparent contradiction underscores Ryan’s conflicts with his larger federal budget proposal as the House Budget Committee chairman. That plan would slash Energy Department programs aimed at creating green jobs and calls for “getting Washington out of the business of picking winners and losers in the economy — and that includes our energy sector.”

Ryan’s actions in Congress have been drawing fresh scrutiny since he was named last weekend as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s running mate.

Ryan’s campaign spokesman, Brendan Buck, told The Associated Press earlier this week that the congressman’s lobbying for the stimulus funds was part of a “a legitimate constituent service.” But he did not immediately respond to questions seeking comment on either Ryan’s denial Thursday or on the newly surfaced audio.

The vice presidential contender is not alone among Republicans who criticized the stimulus plan only to seek money later. Georgia’s Republican senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, for example, blasted the bill as a bloated government giveaway yet asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates to steer $50 million in stimulus money to a constituent’s bio-energy project.

Ryan’s views are also consistent with his running mate’s long-held position that the stimulus was a flawed idea that did not create private sector jobs.

“That stimulus didn’t work,” Romney said at an Ohio speech in June. “That stimulus didn’t put more private-sector people to work.”

Yet in Ryan’s letter to the Labor Department in October 2009, he backed the Energy Center of Wisconsin’s grant application for stimulus money “to develop an industry-driven training and placement agenda that intends to place 1,000 workers in green jobs.” The company did not win the Labor Department grant, federal records show.

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