SPRINGFIELD, Va. – After initially denying he had requested stimulus funds, GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan has acknowledged that his office had sought the money for his Wisconsin congressional district and took responsibility for it.
“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.”
Ryan said he would take responsibility for the way the letters were handled, but said “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.”
The Wall Street Journal raised controversy over this issue with a 2010 story detailing how Ryan and other Republicans hustled to get money for their districts after fighting stimulus funding. Then, a story this week in the Boston Globe revealed that Ryan’s congressional office wrote four letters to Energy Secretary Steven Chu on behalf of two Wisconsin conservation groups. One group received a $20-million grant from the stimulus bill to help businesses and homes become more energy efficient.
Ryan had been asked repeatedly about the difference between his rhetoric and actions, including during an interview with a Cincinnati television station earlier this week.
"I never asked for stimulus," he told Cincinnati's WCPO-TV. "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.”
Congressional offices frequently write letters on behalf of constituents. Ryan seems to be implying that this request was handled in such a way that he was not made aware of it.
The new vice presidential pick has come under fire for seemingly reversing his positions on a number of issues. He was questioned at a hot dog stand in Ohio on Thursday about why he now criticizes the president for cutting $716 billion from Medicare, when his own budget plan proposed similar cuts.
Friday morning, in Virginia, he criticized the White House for placing too many restrictions on small businesses, but had voted against a 2010 bill that loosened regulations for small businesses and that made it easier for them to get money.
Ryan, an advocate for smaller government, often opposes spending.
“One of the key things we have to do if we want to get this economy back on track -- we have to cut spending,” he said earlier this week. “We can't keep spending money we don’t have.”
[For the Record, 3:22 p.m. Aug. 17: A previous version of this post referred to Energy Secretary Henry Chu. The secretary of Energy's name is Steven Chu.]