Executives and employees of major financial and insurance companies are Ryan’s biggest and most reliable sources of money. But his recent prominence as the author of a conservative budget plan has attracted the attention of some of the nation’s wealthy conservative donors, including Paul Singer, a hedge fund founder who has donated millions to the Republican Party. Singer and employees of his Elliott Management Co. have given Ryan’s campaign more than $70,000 since 2010.
Ryan has raised nearly twice as much during the 2012 election cycle as he did during the last campaign. And much of that is from thousands of small donors nationwide, aided by millions of dollars he has spent on direct-mail appeals. Corporate PACs also have stepped up donations, giving Ryan more than $3 million since 2009.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney introduced Ryan as his running mate Saturday in a rollout that highlighted Ryan’s Midwestern charm and small-town roots. But like many top lawmakers, Ryan — who also is seeking reelection to the House — has spent money raised through his political committee to underwrite the expenses common to a Washington power player. He has used donor money for two stays at the Four Seasons in New York in February 2011 and spent $3,600 at a luxury golf resort on an island off the coast of Georgia. Lawmakers are allowed to use money from their political committees for travel and personal expenses.
Brendan Buck, a spokesman for the Romney campaign, said that Ryan’s spending is typical of lawmakers in his position.
Although Ryan chairs the House Budget Committee, that is less likely to explain his popularity among donors than his emergence as an ideological leader of House Republicans devoted to reducing the size of government.
“I don’t think he’s attracting money because he’s chairman of the Budget Committee,” said Jan Baran, a longtime Republican campaign lawyer. “That has never been known as a money magnet. Congress hasn’t even passed a budget in years.”
But Ryan also serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax policy, a topic of keen interest across the corporate world.
His largest source of money is Wisconsin-based Northwest Mutual, a life insurance company whose employees and PAC have given Ryan $121,000 over his career. The second-largest source is Koch Industries, a chemical conglomerate owned by two billionaire brothers known for their generosity to conservative causes.
Ryan is well-rooted in Washington, having run for the House in 1998 after having worked as a Capitol Hill aide and at a D.C.-based advocacy group. His wife, Janna, was a registered lobbyist for three years at two Washington lobbying firms, representing clients such as the Cigar Association of America and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, which represents health insurers.