WASHINGTON -- As Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has served more than a decade in Congress, President Barack Obama and his allies will surely be scouring his extensive voting record, if they haven't done so already. But along with key votes, the Democrats have begun to highlight some of the questionable relationships that Ryan has acquired during his time in Washington. Among them, expect to see a re-examination of Ryan's ties to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
The pro-Obama super PAC American Bridge has already unveiled an opposition research book about Ryan that documents the Republican's ties to those symbols of Washington excess. Information pulled from the book and elsewhere shows that Ryan was an ardent defender of DeLay.
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."