Monday, August 13, 2012

Is Paul Ryan Sincere... Or Just A Well-Scrubbed, Grubby Little Crook?


Troha & Ryan-- only in DC does Justice come up with bribers without bribe-takers

Many low-info Americans had never heard of relatively junior Republican Congressman from southeastern Wisconsin, Paul Ryan, even though he had already established himself as the ultimate darling of Wall Street and even though they had mapped out a bright future for him. (Wall Street shills inside the corrupt Inside-the-Beltway Establishment, particularly Rahm Emanuel, Chris Van Hollen, Steve Israel and Joe Crowley had already set the DCCC on a path of giving Ryan, who represents a swing district, a career-long free pass. On behalf of the same Wall Street interests who have financed Ryan, Emanuel, Israel and Crowley have made sure Ryan would never have to worry about reelection.) The first most people heard of Paul Ryan was when one high-ranking Democrat publicly admired him by asserting he was “absolutely sincere about wanting to reduce the deficit,” though he quarreled with his approach. “I give him credit for at least being willing to put out there some tough choices." That wasn't Emanuel, Israel or Crowley. It was Barack Obama. Many of us have been working to discredit that perception ever since. Welcome aboard, Barack.

America might have been better served if, instead of talking about some bullshit "sincerity," he would have mentioned that Ryan is a sleazy, self-serving crook who's grown into a multimillionaire while working as a congressman. Obama could have pointed out, for example, that Ryan had-- and has-- ownership stakes in companies that benefit from oil subsidies while he was pushing $40 billion in taxpayer subsidies for Big Oil. How sincere is that? Aside from serving Wall Street as their top shill for the Bush TARP bailout for banksters, "in 2011, Ryan joined all House Republicans and 13 Democrats in his vote to keep Big Oil tax loopholes as part of the FY 2011 spending bill. His budget would retain a decade’s worth of oil tax breaks worth $40 billion, while cutting “billions of dollars from investments to develop alternative fuels and clean energy technologies that would serve as substitutes for oil.” For instance, it “calls for a $3 billion cut in energy programs in FY 2013 alone” and would spend only $150 million over five years-- or 20 percent of what was invested in 2012-- on energy programs." Not too sincere, huh? Especially not when you consider that Ryan “and his wife, Janna, own stakes in four family companies that lease land in Texas and Oklahoma to the very energy companies that benefit from the tax subsidies in Ryan’s budget plan,” the Daily Beast reported in June of 2011. “Ryan’s father-in-law, Daniel Little, who runs the companies, told Newsweek and The Daily Beast that the family companies are currently leasing the land for mining and drilling to energy giants such as Chesapeake Energy, Devon, and XTO Energy, a recently acquired subsidiary of ExxonMobil.”

Yesterday, Jerry Markton in the Washington Post pointed to another troubling aspect of Ryan's dishonest, self-serving grubby nature-- one that, in fact, comes straight from the amoral, adolescent Ayn Rand philosophy to which he is so enamoured. Like you, I had never heard of crooked Wisconsin businessman Dennis Troha either. Troha was indicted on campaign finance violations involved with an application for an Indian casino that Ryan helped him with the application process-- as well as with some shady dealings for his trucking company "that drew the interest of federal prosecutors because of the contributions Ryan and other congressman had accepted from Troha and his family." In return for all the help Troha had given Ryan almost $60,000 in bribes. Ryan was never indicted. Politicians rarely are.
The Wisconsin congressman was not found to have violated any laws, nor was he a target or key figure in the federal investigation, people familiar with the probe said. He was among more than 20 politicians of both parties who benefited from Troha’s largesse. Troha was convicted of funneling illegal donations to other politicians, not Ryan, and Ryan donated Troha’s contributions to youth programs when the businessman was indicted.

When a Troha associate pleaded guilty in the campaign finance scheme, the only political figure specifically named in court documents for receiving contributions from the associate was Ryan.

...Franklyn Gimbel, the lawyer who represented Troha in the criminal case, described him and Ryan as “friends” but said Troha “was a generous guy to people from all parties."

Between 1999 and 2005, Troha and his family members contributed $58,102 to Ryan’s campaigns, according to campaign finance records. At the time, he was seeking support for his proposal to open an $808 million Indian casino in Ryan’s district.

Although state officials had final approval, Ryan agreed to call the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, which was reviewing environmental impact studies. “He stated that his constituents are in favor of the application,’’ according to an e-mail written by a bureau staffer and obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which wrote extensively about the Ryan-Troha relationship.

In a 2006 interview with the newspaper, Ryan described the call as a routine inquiry on behalf of a constituent and said he was “neutral” on the casino project. But Troha said Ryan “made it very clear to me” that he opposed the project and felt it was “not appropriate” for the district. “I just asked him to make contact to see where things stood," he said.

A spokeswoman for Ryan’s congressional office, Smythe Anderson, said Saturday that Ryan, “just as he has done for tens of thousands of constituents in southern Wisconsin, placed an inquiry with a federal agency. It is a simple example of casework, and there was never any allegation of impropriety." [A typical lie from the Ryan camp; there were plenty of allegations, even if Ryan had enough protection that none were ever followed up on appropriately.]

In March 2007, a federal grand jury indicted Troha on charges that he funneled illegal contributions in violation of campaign limits through family members to Wisconsin’s Democratic governor, Jim Doyle, in an effort to win approval for the casino. Ryan immediately announced that he would donate all contributions from Troha and his family to the Kenosha Boys & Girls Club. Troha pleaded guilty to reduced misdemeanor charges four months later and was sentenced to probation.

While Troha was under indictment, the Journal Sentinel revealed that Congress had two years earlier passed a measure that benefited his trucking firm, JHT, by allowing the firm to haul more trucks on each route. The paper obtained bank records showing that JHT had paid a consulting firm owned by Troha $107,238 after the measure became law, and the paper reported that such fees would continue until 2010 because Congress had passed the legislation.

The paper reported that Ryan had been one of several congressmen pushing for the legislation and had signed a letter in support. ...The then-U.S. attorney in Milwaukee, Steven Biskupic, issued a statement at the time saying federal investigators were looking into the legislation, along with donations from Troha and his family to Ryan and two other congressmen. Reached by e-mail on Saturday, Biskupic declined to comment, but referenced his earlier statements and court records.

It is unclear how far that part of the federal probe progressed, but people familiar with it said there was no indication Ryan was aware that he was receiving problematic contributions.

When John W. Erickson, a top Troha associate, pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations in September 2007, court documents said he, Troha and other alleged conspirators had directed illegal contributions to more than 20 candidates of both parties, including the president and the Wisconsin governor, although they were not cited by name in the documents. Troha and others had “identified public officials who supported Indian gaming and/or the relaxation of restrictions on interstate trucking," prosecutors wrote.

The only politician identified by name in the documents as having received contributions from Erickson was Ryan.

Don't forget, while they ruled the roost in DC, Ryan was a firm supporter of the organized crime syndicate at the top of the GOP ruled by Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff.
One year before DeLay was indicted on conspiracy and money laundering charges, Ryan called the attacks "gutter politics at its worst," according to the Washington Post. And added: "You're going to see a big rallying around Tom."

For that remark, a columnist for the Wisconsin State Journal wrote that Ryan had "put his head in the sand." But Ryan only stepped up his defense of DeLay.

Six months before the indictment, Ryan called the investigation and ensuing public outcry over DeLay "an effort to 'lynch him politically,'" according to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Even after a Texas grand jury indicted DeLay on October 3, 2005, Ryan still refused to return $25,000 in donations from the then-former House Majority Leader. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Ryan said he would only return the cash if DeLay was convicted.

Soon thereafter, Ryan, like others in Congress, had to deal with fallout over his ties to Abramoff. In January 2006, the lobbyist pleaded guilty to charges that he committed fraud, tax evasion and engaged in a conspiracy to bribe public officials. Ryan donated close to $2,000 to charity-- the amount he received from a PAC for which Abramoff worked and from the lobbyist personally. Ryan said he wanted "to remove any shred of concern," the Journal Sentinel reported.

A few months later, Ryan began to cut his ties to DeLay. The Capital Times reported in April that Ryan took a $27,500 donation from DeLay's PAC and donated it to charity. Ryan said that he did so because one of DeLay's former top aides pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. "I believe it is appropriate to donate these contributions to charity, even though these contributions were perfectly legal and appropriate," Ryan said in a statement at the time. "I simply want to remove any doubt in this matter."

Criminal enterprises like DeLay's and Abramoff's don't thrive and take root without lieutenants like Ryan to validate them and fight for them. Ryan has been on the wrong side of every single battle he's been involved in since coming to Congress. And, as Ron Brownstein pointed out in the National Journal yesterday, it's all going to catch up with him now as he sinks whatever slim chance Romney ever had to win the presidency.
Though Ryan’s budget is often described as a deficit-reduction package, it is focused at least as much on fundamentally reducing Washington’s role in society. Ryan’s plan envisions continuing (though reduced) deficits until 2040, largely because it maintains the tax cuts passed under George W. Bush and seeks a further reduction in the top marginal rate for the highest earners to 25 percent-- the lowest level since 1931. (Romney has proposed cutting the top rate to 28 percent.) Simultaneously Ryan’s plan aims to significantly reduce long-term federal spending by converting Medicaid into a block grant, transforming Medicare into a premium support program, and squeezing domestic discretionary programs over time to levels unseen since World War II. Still, the Congressional Budget Office calculated in March that Ryan’s plan would shrink federal spending, as a share of the economy, to just 16 percent by 2050-- a level not seen since 1950, before not only Medicare, Medicaid and federal education aid, but the interstate highway system.

In broad strokes, that agenda generates enthusiastic support among blue-collar and older white voters who have grown increasingly resistant to government spending, particularly for transfer programs to the poor, and the taxes required to fund them. In the 2010 national exit poll, for instance, two-thirds of non-college whites said “government is doing too many things better left to businesses and people,” while only 29 percent agreed that “government should do more to solve problems.” In a Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey last year exploring the contrasting attitudes among American generations, 62 percent of the aging white baby boom-and an even more resounding 67 percent of the older “silent” generation-said they preferred a smaller government that offers fewer services to a larger government that provides more. And in that same survey, a majority of both the baby boomers and seniors said they supported the repeal of the new Obama health care law, which according to other polls many of them primarily view as a welfare program for the poor. In the 2010 exit poll, nearly three-fifths of non-college whites also supported repeal.

But among both blue-collar and older whites attitudes about Medicare are very different. In March, the United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll offered respondents two options for the program. Just 19 percent of whites older than 65 endorsed Ryan’s approach, which said “Medicare should be changed to a system where the government provides seniors with a fixed sum of money they could use either to purchase private health insurance or to pay the cost of remaining in the current Medicare program.” Fully 74 percent of white seniors said instead that “Medicare should continue as it is today, with the government providing health insurance and paying doctors and hospitals directly for the services they provide to seniors.” Among non-college whites, 63 percent said they preferred the current system, while only 26 percent backed Ryan’s approach. (Ryan’s plan also drew opposition not only from 66 percent of college-educated white women-- consistently the most Democratic-leaning component of the white electorate-- but even 60 percent of college-educated men, an audience usually receptive to anti-government arguments.)

Generally surveys find white women more resistant to changes in the safety net than white men (although the specific Congressional Connection Poll on Ryan’s plan didn’t show that pattern.) If Ryan’s plan remains a central focus through the fall, it would not be surprising if that debate widened the gender gap-- potentially helping the Republican ticket with men most receptive to the sort of broad anti-government arguments Ryan unfurled in his announcement speech Saturday, but hurting it with white women.

At a Rick Santorum campaign event late last year in Marshalltown, Iowa, Carlene Illum, a retired credit-union loan officer, embodied the tension written in these polls. She cheered Santorum’s promises to retrench government entitlements for the poor and denounced Obama as “a socialist” for his health care plan. The budget deficit, she insisted, was rooted in “Obamacare and all those entitlement programs” like food stamps. But she blanched at the idea of converting Medicare into a premium-support plan or retrenching Social Security in any way. “I don’t think Social Security is an entitlement because I paid into it,” she said. “I feel the same way about Medicare.”

...[I]f Ryan’s dream of restructuring Medicare provides Democrats a beachhead for recapturing any meaningful number of voters like Illum-- particularly blue-collar women already displaying hesitation about Romney-that could enormously complicate the electoral math for the GOP. “The positions that [Ryan] has taken on Social Security and Medicare reform could alienate older white voters, and especially older white women, whose support is crucial to Romney's chances,” said Alan Abramowitz, an Emory University political scientist. “These older white voters don't care very much for President Obama, but they love their Medicare and Social Security benefits.”

If they ever find out that Ryan is also a self-serving crooked political hack, his miserable career would be as dead as it should have been without the intercession of Wall Street and their puppets in both parties.

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