Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan on Thursday reversed course and acknowledged lobbying the government for millions of dollars in economic stimulus money after twice denying he had done so.
The Wisconsin congressman said he had forgotten that his office sent letters — with his signature — to the Energy and Labor departments asking for money from the stimulus program on behalf of two companies in his home state.
"They should have been handled differently, and I take responsibility for that," Ryan said in a written statement released only after he again denied requesting stimulus funds Thursday in an Ohio television interview.
Ryan's denial in an interview with Cincinnati's WCPO-TV contradicted letters he 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.
"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," Ryan said in a statement late Thursday. "This is why I didn't recall the letters earlier."
The congressman's denial came 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 in his request to Chu for 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.
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 then-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 Romney'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.
Despite the letter, Ryan echoed Romney's position on Thursday.
"Regardless, it's clear that the Obama stimulus did nothing to stimulate the economy, and now the president is asking to do it all over again," he said.
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