Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ryan Launches October Surprise -- On Himself

In big elections like this year's, people - well, okay, politically geeky people - are often speculating on what the "October surprise" is going to be. October surprises are generally used to discredit a candidate's opponent just before an election.

However, Paul Ryan sprung an October surprise on himself as well as his running mate.

Hunter Walker at Politicker broke the story and has all the details, but the gist of the story is that Ryan may have spent some of his congressional campaign funding on activities related to his national campaign as the Republican nominee for Vice-President. But that is only one of the problems that they found with Ryan's campaign:
We asked Mr. Seifert for more specific details about who used the rooms, but he hasn’t responded to that request. After reviewing his email, we also noticed that the $4,183.20 was identified in the Ryan campaign’s disclosure report as having been spent at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, while the Wisconsin delegation was staying in a different hotel operated by the same chain, the Hyatt Regency Tampa. Based on their own disclosure reports Mr. Seifert’s claim Mr. Ryan’s congressional campaign purchased rooms at the hotel where the Wisconsin delegation was staying is untrue. Mr. Seifert has also not responded to a request asking for an explanation of this discrepancy.

While it may be theoretically possible the as-yet-unidentified “other staff members” from Ryan’s congressional campaign did in fact use the rooms, it is doubtful so many people were integral to his re-election bid. Additionally, paying for guests or essential staffers to attend the convention simply to view Mr. Ryan’s speeches, which were part of his national campaign for the vice presidency, would seem to constitute a clear violation. For example, there was no mention whatsoever of Mr. Ryan’s congressional campaign in his keynote speech.

Since we began working on this story, Mr. Ryan’s congressional campaign released a new financial disclosure report covering the period from October 1 through October 17. That report contained an additional expense that appears to be connected to the convention. At the start of the month, Mr. Ryan’s congressional campaign paid $16,411.36 for “rooms for national convention.” The payment was listed as going both to a Virginia-based consulting firm called the Townsend Group and to the Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel. The Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel is approximately six miles from the RNC and, based on Mr. Seifert’s descriptions, would not seem to have been associated with the Ryan for Congress hospitality suite or “beer and brats” event, which were both located at the site of the RNC. Mr. Seifert has not responded to a request for information about this expense. We also reached out to the hotel and the Townsend Group, but, as of this writing, we have not received a response.

Jerry Goldfeder is an attorney with the law firm of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP who specializes in election and campaign finance law. We detailed the convention expenditures made by Mr. Ryan’s congressional campaign to Mr. Goldfeder and asked whether he thought it seemed like a potentially improper use of campaign funds.

“It sounds as if he used congressional campaign funds for national campaign purposes and that’s highly problematic,” Mr. Goldfeder said.

The FEC typically investigates possible campaign finance violations only after receiving a complaint. We also asked Mr. Goldfeder whether he thought the RNC spending by Mr. Ryan’s congressional campaign would be investigated by the commission.

“If they see it, they will,” he said.

Perhaps the person most likely to file an FEC complaint in this instance would be Rob Zerban, Mr. Ryan’s Democratic opponent in his House race. When we informed T.J. Helmstetter, a spokesman for the Zerban campaign, about our findings, he said they would wait until they had more information about the situation to file an official complaint. However, he characterized the situation as part of a “pattern of dishonesty” on Mr. Ryan’s part.

“It’s definitely something that is troubling to us,” he said. “It’s not surprising to us given, Paul Ryan’s overarching pattern of dishonesty in this race, that something like this could pop up, but we’re going to wait until we have all the details before we rush to judgment or jump to file a claim.”

Mr. Helmstetter also pointed out that Mr. Ryan has faced allegations that his television ads in the race, which do not all specifically mention his congressional campaign, constitute improper use of campaign funds. He said both the issue of the commercials and the RNC spending raise “very important” questions.

“I think these questions are very important and the Ryan campaign needs to answer them,” said Mr. Helmstetter.
And remember, Ryan is supposed to be one of the smarter Republicans.

If this story grows legs, just ten days out from the election, it could spell big trouble for both of Ryan's races. Obviously, this is something that Ryan doesn't want to become common knowledge because of the negative impact it would have for him.

So let's help him out by making sure we tell everyone.


  1. Well it doesn't quite have the stink of, say, depositing funds donated for veterans into your personal bank account.

    I love that picture. Whenever someone asserts that "Paul Ryan is the poster child for [whatever]," they should be required to use that photo on the poster.


  2. When I was a child things were more dangerous, but at the same time, more fun. I am sure that Scott Walker and Paul Ryan would have been the idiots standing in the hula hoop target as they launched the lawn darts on their vertical flight. Watching carefully, they would jump out of the way at the last moment, when it was necessary.

    Mitt Romney was both smarter and less capable. He probably paid the younger children to do this as he spectated and kept score.