Most Americans had never heard of a slick Wisconsin congressman, Paul Ryan, when suddenly the corporate-owned media started using the words "serious" and "courageous" in front of his name. Corporate media was already very aware of Ryan, the Member of Congress who has taken more in legalistic corporate bribes than any other politician from his state... ever. Wall Street's darling, Ryan was always pushing their agenda-- whether helping reluctant Republicans to support the TARP bailouts or voting to gut Medicare and Social Security. Other than a precious few local journalists and national bloggers, it was only Paul Krugman who shouted from the rooftops that Ryan was a garden-variety corporate shill with not a single new or worthwhile idea and that he had nothing serious or courageous to add to the national debate.
This week the Daily Beast highlighted the garden-varietyness of Ryan's politics when they pointed out that he and his family personally profited from his financial agenda in Congress. Daniel Stone reported that Ryan "stands to make money from his stakes in four businesses that lease land to energy companies which would benefit from $45 billion in tax breaks and subsidies in his proposed budget."
When House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan unveiled the GOP blueprint for cutting government spending, he asked Americans to make sacrifices on everything from Medicare to education, while preserving lucrative tax subsidies for the booming oil, mining and energy industries.
It turns out a constituency within his own personal investments stood to benefit from those tax breaks, Newsweek and the Daily Beast have learned.
The financial disclosure report Ryan filed with Congress last month and made public this week shows he 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.
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.
Some of these firms would be eligible for portions of the $45 billion in energy tax breaks and subsidies over 10 years protected in the Wisconsin lawmaker’s proposed budget. “Those [energy developing companies] benefit a lot from these subsidies,” explained Russ Harding, an energy policy analyst with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, when presented with the situation, without reference to Ryan. “Without those, they’re going to be less profitable.”
To ethics watchdogs, Ryan’s effort to extend the tax breaks creates the potential appearance of a conflict of interest.
“Sure, senior citizens should have to pay more for health care, but landholders like [Ryan] who lease property to big oil companies, well, their government subsidies must be protected at all costs,” says Melanie Sloan, the director of the nonpartisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “It smacks of hypocrisy.”
...Rep. Dan Boren, a Democrat from Oklahoma who has announced his retirement next year, also owns stakes in three of the four same companies as Ryan. The two lawmakers are related through marriage. Boren is the first cousin of Ryan’s wife.
Boren aligned with his party and voted no on Ryan’s budget. But a month prior, Boren voted with Republicans (and only 12 other Democrats) to oppose an amendment that would have financially constrained major oil companies.
In a written statement, Boren told Newsweek and the Daily Beast, “It should come as no surprise the way I voted because the oil and gas industry is the largest private employer in Oklahoma.”
In addition to the tax breaks, Ryan’s family has benefited in recent years from another form of federal largesse-- farm subsidies. Federal records show his father-in-law and great-aunt have collected more than $50,000 in agriculture subsidies on lands owned by the family.
Ryan’s budget had proposed cutting $30 billion in farm subsidies over the next 10 years, although some conservatives criticized the number for being too low.
Blue America has been urging members to Stop Paul Ryan for some time now. And now that there is a credible Democrat running against him, Rob Zerban, Establishment Democrats in Washington and in Wisconsin are starting to take challenging Ryan seriously. On Tuesday Mike Tate, Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman, said "The least Paul Ryan can do is explain why he should personally profit from Big Oil tax breaks while asking Wisconsin's seniors and disabled citizens to pay for it."