Thursday, October 29, 2009

Is Paul Ryan Out of Touch with his Constituents?

The Washington Post is tracking the voting records of Congressional members including the number of missed votes and how often they vote with their party. Paul Ryan continues to vote against the interests off his District with 93% of his votes following the GOP party line. This compares to the voting records of Representatives Petri at 89.6% and Sensenbrenner at 90.2%, who represent far “redder” districts than the 1st District. Ryan’s voting record is also a sharp contrast when viewed in light of the fact that his district went for Obama 51% to 48% according to Swing State Project. If the 2,600 residents of his district who signed a petition asking for a public option are a sample of what’s wanted there, he’s even more out of touch.
Given the recent Washington Post/ABC poll as reported by Chris Cilliza of the Fix “Less than one in five voters (19 percent) expressed confidence in Republicans’ ability to make the right decisions for America’s future while a whopping 79 percent lacked that confidence”, it is curious why Ryan continues to vote his party rather than his constituents.
My conclusion after doing some research, is that his votes are based on satisfying his contributors, on his personal ambitions and his beliefs rather than on serving his District and the State of Wisconsin. Let’s look into this a bit more.

So why does he continue to vote this way? It appears that Mr. Ryan feels that his giant war chest gives him the freedom to vote his way rather than to represent his district. In his quest for national fame and higher office as a conservative Republican, he votes against his district’s interests. His war chest and name recognition makes it difficult for relatively unknown and less-funded opponents from within or outside his party to gain traction in the 1st District.

According to Open Secrets he has an amazing $1.441 million in cash on hand, results that place him at the 21st highest ranking among congressional candidates (see Open Secrets rankings).
So where is Ryan collecting his seemingly impregnable war chest? In the 2008 election cycle, Mr Ryan collected $875,065 or 52.9% of his total contributions from Political Action Committees and $655,264 or 47.1% from individuals according to Campaign Money. Of these individual contributions, 77.8% came from within WI, although not necessarily in his District.

How about today? Larry Everhart, his Campaign Treasurer, filed his most recent report on October 2, 2009 according to the Federal Elections Commission. You can see a PDF of the 170 page filing here.

In the election cycle to date, he has reported net contributions of $829,770.81 according to the report. Of these contributions, $343,396 (41.2%) were from corporate PACS and $489,337 (58.8%) from individuals, both those itemized and un-itemized. I did not analyze the location of his donors, but in a Janesville Gazette article from July 15, 2009 following the prior period’s report, Paulette Garin, an unsuccessful 2008 Democratic opponent said that “Of the money contributed for the 2010 election cycle, 40.5 percent was itemized contributions from individuals, and only 12 percent came from within the 1st District” according to reporter Frank Schultz.

Open Secrets revealed that Paul Ryan’s major contributors (both PACs and Individuals) for this election cycle when categorized by industry were: Insurance, Health Professionals, Retired, Securities and Investments and Misc Finance.

How about his legislative record?According to Open Secrets, he ranks 272nd out of 441 as a sponsor of a bill, at 7 bills and 417th as a co-sponsor at 76th. It looks like he’s been too busy raising money and hobnobbing with his party’s leadership to get much done.
Meanwhile provides a means for you to see his votes for this year and for prior periods.

Given his 93% following of the GOP Party line, it isn’t too surprising to see that he was on the losing side of the vote in voting against a number of significant pieces of legislation that benefit his district including the following:

H.R. 2749 Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 – 283 yes, 142 no
H.R. 1622 R&D on Natural Gas Vehicles – 393 yes, 35 no
H.R. 1728 Mortgage Reform and Predatory Lending Act – 300 yes, 114 no
H.R. 1 American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (Stimulus) – 244 yes, 188 no
H.R. 2657 Defense Authorization Act 281 yes, 146 no

(This act is the one that finally brings the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill into law once it is signed by the President. Paul Ryan voted against funding the military in an effort to assuage the right wing of his party’s hatred and fear of gays and lesbians.)

While I’m not a resident of the 1st District, I’d encourage informed voters to look behind his blow-dried good looks and articulate speaking style to the substance and implications of his votes when you decide who should represent your District. From all indications it isn’t Paul Ryan. I’d recommend that you retire him to K Street where he belongs.

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