Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan as his runningmate will thrust budget issues like Medicare to the forefront in the fall campaign. And while Democrats accuse Ryan of trying to ruin Medicare, the Wisconsin congressman seems to have found a healthy cash constituency among retirees.
Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s newly selected running mate, amassed a healthy campaign warchest during his time as House Budget Committee chairman, starting August with more than $6.1 million in cash in the bank.
But unlike many powerful committee chairmen, Ryan’s biggest source of political money to his re-election campaign and leadership political action committee aren’t the well-oiled special interest groups and their lobbyists who hover the halls of Congress.
Rather, the very retirees affected by Ryan’s proposed budget plan to convert Medicare to a voucher program are by far his largest contributors.
Nearly a tenth of the $8.5 million the Wisconsin Republican raised for his re-election campaign and leadership political action committee since taking over the Budget Committee in 2011 have come from people who listed their occupation as retired, according to Federal Election Commission records posted online by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which studies political money.
Ryan’s haul of $786,299 from retirees, dwarfs his next four largest sources of campaign contributions, which given his role in overseeing the federal purse strings come not surprisingly drom Wall Street securities and investment firms ($487,216), the insurance industry ($173,225), the real estate industry ($139,300) and health professionals ($134,700).
Democrats wasted no time in attacking Romney’s new running mate, launching ads and email blasts accusing Ryan of being unfriendly to retirees and senior citizens.
Ryan’s budget proposal “ends Medicare as we know it,” the liberal Center for American Progress think tank declared in an email Saturday afternoon. “The budget would move toward a privatization of Medicare, proposing that those currently in the health program get vouchers for private insurance. To stick with Medicare and retain access to their current doctors, many seniors would get stuck with markedly higher premium costs, and anyone new to the Medicare program could see costs rise by nearly $6,000 by 2050.”
President Obama’s campaign added its own barbs in a new online posting entitled “Who is Paul Ryan.” The site denounced the Wisconsin congressman as the “architect of the extreme GOP budget plan.”
The so-called Mediscare attacks will almost certainly continue through Election Day, but they can’t mask a truism of Republican fund-raising: since the days of Ronald Reagan, conservative senior citizens have been one of the biggest sources of small, frequent GOP donations, usually in response to direct mail appeals.
In fact, large numbers of the Tea Party movement that has embraced Ryan for offering new ideas to a stale budget debate are seniors who are worried about the future burden of debt on their children and grandchildren, polls have shown.
It didn’t take long for Romney’s campaign to make the first effort at tapping Ryan’s donor base: Saturday afternoon the campaign sent out a fundraising appeal from the candidate’s wife, Ann Romney, seeking small donations to get the first Romney-Ryan bumper stickers.
“I hope you will display your support for the Romney-Ryan ticket with this bumper sticker. Let your friends and neighbors know that you support the team that will take back America,” Ann Romney wrote in the email blast.
To get the full download on Ryan’s campaign fund-raising and spending, click here.
The House Budget Committee is chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and is the main architect of budget planning and spending in the House of Representatives.
A Leadership PAC is a political action committee set up by lawmakers that allows them to collect additional donations beyond those already made to their re-election campaigns. Committee chairmen frequently set up such PACs and use the money to sow good will among others in their party and to help fellow candidates at the state and federal level run for re-election.