WASHINGTON — Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan is a fiscal conservative, champion of small government and critic of federal handouts. But as a congressman in Wisconsin, Ryan lobbied for tens of millions of dollars on behalf of his constituents for the kinds of largess he’s now campaigning against, according to an Associated Press review of 8,900 pages of correspondence between Ryan’s office and more than 70 executive branch agencies.
For 12 years in the House, Ryan wrote to federal agencies supporting expansion of food stamps in his Wisconsin district. He supported city officials and everyday constituents who sought stimulus grants, federally guaranteed business loans, grants to invest in green technology and money under the health care law he opposes.
On the campaign trail, Ryan has called those kinds of handouts big-government overreaching. He tells crowds he supports smaller government and rails against what he calls President Barack Obama’s wasteful spending, including the president’s $800 billion stimulus program. Ryan renewed his criticism about stimulus spending in Thursday night’s vice presidential debate.
“Was it a good idea to spend taxpayer dollars on electric cars in Finland or on windmills in China?” Ryan said. “Was it a good idea to borrow all this money from countries like China and spend it on all these various different interest groups?”
Yet the AP’s review of Ryan’s congressional correspondence showed that he sought stimulus funding on behalf of residents and at one point told federal regulators that cutting a stimulus grant in his district at the 11th hour would be “economically devastating.”
Vice President Joe Biden cited during the debate Ryan’s letters seeking stimulus money: “I love that. This was such a bad program, and he writes me a letter saying, writes the Department of Energy a letter saying, ‘The reason we need this stimulus, it will create growth and jobs.’ His words. And now he’s sitting here looking at me,” Biden said.