Influence profile: Paul Ryan


Rep. Paul RyanRep. Paul Ryan, whom Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney reportedly will name as his running mate Saturday, is a prolific fundraiser whose most ardent backers are a curious mix of the conservative elite and the blue collar plebian.  

Since winning election to the House in 1998, the Wisconsin Republican has attracted more than $11 million in donations, Sunlight's Influence Explorer shows. Among Ryan's most generous backers: the beer wholesalers, Koch industries — headed by conservative bankrollers David and Charles Koch — and the Carpenter and Joiners union. Over the years, Ryan also has received steady support from the Laborers union. Other major contributors include the health care and insurance industries and retirees.

He's made 45 appearances in Sunlight's fundraising tracker, Political Party Time, including, most recently, for a breakfast event at the headquarters of jeans seller The Gap.

In recent years, Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee, has become a leading voice for fiscal austerity in his party. His ideas for balancing the budget (including privatizing Medicare) have made him  controversial, but have also won him grudging respect even from those who disagree with him — including President Obama. They have also made Ryan a money magnet. 

Contributions to his Prosperity PAC quadrupled, to more than $4 million, between the 2010 campaign cycle and the current one, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. In the 2012 cycle, the top contributor to Ryan's leadership PAC, CRP records show, is Elliott Management, an investment company headed by outspoken investor Paul Singer. Singer is a prolific campaign donor: Influence Explorer shows him making more than $5 million in campaign contributions, mostly to conservative Republicans. But he also is a backer of gay marriage

In March of last year, records on file with the Federal Election Commission show, Ryan established another fundraising committee, Prosperity Action Committee, in Athens, Ga. So far this year, it has reported raising more than $446,000, including $10,000 from Internet entrepreneur Marc Andreessen and $10,000 from Thomas Pritzker, whose cousin, Penny Pritzker, has been one of President Obama's top fundraisers. The Pritzker family owns the Hyatt hotel chain. 

Ryan, whose family owns a construction company, has spent his entire career in politics, having begun work for then-Sen. Bob Kasten, R-Wisc., in 1992, the same year he got his bachelor's degree from Miami University of Ohio. He also served as an aide to the late Rep. Jack Kemp, R-N.Y. (a vice presidential nominee himself in 1996) and for former Sen. Sam Brownback, a staunch social conservative who is now the Republican governor of Kansas.

(Photo credit: U.S. House of Representatives)