OXFORD, Ohio - Congressman Paul Ryan is one of the most outspoken critics of the economic stimulus program championed by President Obama.
Did he ask the Obama administration for some of the $800 billion program?
He told WCPO exclusively he did not ask for any stimulus money.
The Associated Press reports Rep. Ryan sent letters to Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis asking for stimulus grants for two Wisconsin companies. The AP reports the nonprofit Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corp. got $20.3 million from the Energy Department.
WCPO was granted one of the first sit-down interviews with the newly-minted vice presidential candidate on Wednesday. This is an excerpt from our Miami University interview, in which Ryan denied asking for any stimulus money, and renewed his criticism of the grants.
Brendan Keefe question: "You were also very outspoken against the stimulus, the Obama stimulus plan. A report came out again today in the AP, it was a repeat of that Wall Street Journal from a couple of years ago, where you had asked for stimulus money for your district. Is that accurate?"
Rep. Ryan's response: "No, I never asked for stimulus. I don't recall--and I haven't seen this report so I really can't comment on it. I opposed the stimulus because it doesn't work, it didn't work."
Earlier in the week, a Ryan spokesperson confirmed that the congressman had requested stimulus grants for his district office, telling the AP it was, "a legitimate constituent service."
WCPO learned of the AP report just an hour before the scheduled sit-down with the congressman, reading the story on a mobile tablet while setting up for the interview. Since we did not have the letters in question, we were unable to press the congressman further after his denial.
On Thursday, WCPO provided the Romney/Ryan campaign with a copy of the original AP story. The campaign did not respond to our requests for comment prior to the interview airing, nor by the time this story was published.
The rest of the interview focused primarily on issues related to the economy.
Rep. Ryan clarified his support of legislation to bail out the auto industry, bringing his position in line with Mitt Romney's. Ryan said he did not vote for President Obama's rescue of GM, but rather against using TARP funds to save the auto industry.
The bailout, "didn't help Janesville," said the congressman, referring to his hometown where a GM plant closed, eliminating 2,400 jobs.
"They shut our plant down," Ryan added. "Didn't help Kenosha. I represent there. Shut down the Chrysler plant. What I voted for was to prevent a worse bailout."
We asked, "would you vote for it again today, the Obama bailout of the auto industry?"
Ryan answered, "I didn't vote for the Obama bailout of the auto industry. I voted for the house bill which was to use the energy department money instead of using TARP money."
By the the end of the day Thursday, the Washington Post picked up the WCPO interview for a story on the auto bailout, adding "Ryan also talked with 9 News anchor Brendan Keefe about how his time at Miami University in Oxford, his alma mater, marked a turning point for his career, and about how his budget proposals match up with Mitt Romney’s."
The Associated Press included Ryan's denial to our cameras in its update to the original report on the stimulus requests. The AP wrote, "Ryan's new denial in an interview with Cincinnati's WCPO-TV contradicts letters that Ryan wrote in 2009."
Ryan gained national prominence as the architect of the Republican budget. In the interview with WCPO, Ryan distanced himself from his own economic plans in order to embrace the proposals of the GOP ticket.
Brendan Keefe question: "Does your vision, does the Ryan budget become subordinate to the Mitt Romney budget?"
Rep. Ryan response: "I'm joining the Romney ticket. It's not the other way around. So I'm supporting the Mitt Romney plan, which is very similar to what we've been doing. We share the same values, we share the same vision for the country."
Brendan Keefe question: "Do you think your two plans merge well together?"
Rep. Ryan response: "Sure."
Brendan Keefe question: "You don't have to abandon any of your principles to join the Romney ticket?"
Rep. Ryan response: "Mitt Romney chose me because we share the same principles. I'm proud of the work we did in the house, and I'm more proud now to be joining Mitt Romney on his ticket."
Update 9:13 p.m. EDT
Congressman Ryan gave a statement to the Washington Post and ABC News in response to his denial to WCPO about the stimulus request. ABC has also posted the letters online. The Post is reporting the following quote, attributed to Paul Ryan:
“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. “This is why I didn’t recall the letters earlier. But they should have been handled differently, and I take responsibility for that.”
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