Romney's Veep Choice: Paul Ryan, Koch Ally and 'Right-Wing Social Engineer'
This piece has been updated.
It's official: The Republican Party is now officially a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Koch brothers' political enterprise. How else to explain Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's pick of Rep. Paul Ryan, Wis., as his running mate. Yes, that Paul Ryan -- chairman of the House Budget Committee and author of the infamous Ryan roadmap budget plan, which promises to turn Medicare into a privatized voucher system, and yank health care from millions of children whose parents happen to be poor. And that's just the beginning. In addition to a raft of cuts, the Ryan plan would end the Earned Income Tax Credit, which millions of parents count on.
It's a plan that even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich deemed too "radical." Asked by NBC's David Gregory to respond to Ryan's proposal, Gingrich famously said (video): "I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering. I don't think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate." (Of course that was before Gingrich walked back those remarks, apparently reminded by some savvy operative that he might not want to anger the Kochs, to whom Ryan, 42, is something of a youthful ward, having been the beneficiary of years of support from the Koch-founded Americans For Prosperity.)
In case anyone should miss the point that Ryan is a very Kochy guy, Romney did his big reveal of running-mate Ryan this morning aboard the U.S.S. Wisconsin, a decommisioned ship docked in the all-important swing state of Virginia. However important Virginia is to the electoral math, Wisconsin is a highly symbolic icon for the Tea Party. It's not only Ryan's home state; it's the poster state of right-wing triumph, the place where Gov. Scott Walker successfully fended off a recall attempt made by progressives in response to a bill he rammed through the state legislature that all but ended collective bargaining for the state's public employees. Much of the credit for Wisconsin's right turn goes to Americans For Prosperity, which boasts a particularly aggressive Wisconsin chapter, which began building a network of activists there in 2005.
Ryan's association with the group goes back almost that far. In 2008, he was granted the Wisconsin AFP chapter's "Defending the American Dream" award, handed to him by a young county executive who served as emcee for those festivities -- a guy named Scott Walker. Since then, he has made countless appearances on the group's behalf, at anti-health-care reform rallies on Capitol Hill, on conference town halls across the country and at Americans For Prosperity and Americans For Prosperity Foundation events. (Just enter Ryan's name into the search engine on the Amerians For Prosperity Web site, and you'll come up with eight pages of citations.) In fact, Ryan was due to speak at last week's conference sponsored by the AFP Foundation in Washington, D.C., forcing increased speculation about his running-mate prospects when he failed to show.
For Romney, the pluses in picking Ryan are these: the Tea Partiers, who are less than wild about Mittens, really love them some Paul Ryan -- as does David Koch, who will be seated as a Romney delegate at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Koch and his brother, Charles -- the mbillionaire owners of Koch Industries, the second largest privately held corporation in the U.S. -- are major donors, not only to political candidates, but to a range of right-wing think tanks and groups. In the post-Citizens United world, those donations add up to millions in political advertisements by all manner of non-profit groups. Already, Americans For Prosperity has made a $27 million air-time buy for running anti-Obama ads.