Less than 48 hours after being introduced as Mitt Romney's choice for vice president, a story in the Washington Post says Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) took $60,000 and did favors for a now-convicted businessman. He later donated the money to charity.
According to the Post, Ryan accepted nearly $60,000 in contributions from businessman Dennis Troha and his family, records show. Troha was later indicted on campaign finance charges over an Indian casino he sought to open. During the casino application process, Troha said, Ryan called federal regulators at his request.
Ryan also supported a bill in Congress that benefited Troha and his trucking company, legislation that drew the interest of federal prosecutors because of the contributions Ryan and other congressmen had accepted from Troha and his family.
Ryan was ultimately found to have not broken any laws, nor was he the target or main focus of the investigation according to people familiar with the inquiry, the Post reported.
Troha was convicted of funneling illegal donations to other politicians, not Ryan, and Ryan claims to have donated Troha’s contributions to youth programs when the businessman was indicted.
According to a campaign spokesperson who talked to the Post anonymously as he was not authorized to discuss the matter, the Romney campaign looked at the incident and found it to be a non-factor.
According to the Post, between 1999 and 2005, Troha and his family members contributed $58,102 to Ryan’s campaigns, as verified by campaign finance records. At the time, Troha was seeking support for his proposal to open an $808 million Indian casino in Ryan’s district in south central Wisconsin.
The report says that the decision to approve or disapprove the casino was a state matter, but Ryan agreed to write to the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs and say his constituents supported the project.
Troha told the Post, however, that despite Ryan's letter of support to the BIA, Ryan personally opposed the project and did not think it was appropriate for his district.
In March 2007, a federal grand jury indicted Troha on charges that he funneled contributions in violation of campaign limits through family members to Wisconsin’s Democratic governor, Jim Doyle, in an effort to win approval for the casino. Ryan immediately announced that he would donate all contributions from Troha and his family to the Kenosha Boys and Girls Club. Troha pleaded guilty to reduced misdemeanor charges four months later and was sentenced to probation.
According to the Post, when John W. Erickson, a top Troha associate, pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations in September 2007, court documents said he, Troha and other alleged conspirators had directed illegal contributions to more than 20 politicians, but the only politician identified by name was Ryan.
A spokesperson for Ryan's congressional office said Ryan, “just as he has done for tens of thousands of constituents in southern Wisconsin, placed an inquiry with a federal agency. It is a simple example of casework, and there was never any allegation of impropriety.”
UPDATE: Wally Graffen, CEO of the Kenosha Boys and Girls club since 1993, confirmed that Ryan made a $58,802 donation to the club on March 17, 2007.