Chances are, anyone selected to be Mitt Romney's running mate would have been roundly criticized by environmentalists and highly praised by leaders of the energy industry.
But by tapping House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to run with him, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has stirred up more than predictable partisan chatter. The reaction has been visceral and emotional.
For environmentalists, Ryan is someone who does more than just vote the "wrong way" on their issues. He is the architect of a budget plan that takes a sledgehammer to many programs they hold dear.
And for industry, the 42-year-old congressman is more than just a reliable ally. Through his wife, he's an investor in their companies -- and he's the most prominent proponent on Capitol Hill of drastically reducing the size and reach of federal government, which they often view as trying to thwart their work.
Despite these sharply different appraisals, both sides agreed on one fact about the Wisconsin lawmaker: He's consistent.
In the wake of Romney's announcement in Virginia on Saturday, environmental advocates wasted no time criticizing Ryan's record, focusing in particular on his 2013 budget proposal that would slash the budget for the Department of Energy and other federal agencies.
Among its reductions, that budget -- which Democrats had already seized on as a 2012 campaign issue over the proposed changes to Medicare and Social Security -- would make deep cuts to renewable and efficiency programs, as well as to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and other power overseers, and to national parks and environmental regulatory agencies.
"His record is very firm. He's not wishy-washy," NRDC Action Fund Director Heather Taylor-Miesle told Greenwire on Saturday. "He's out there. He's cutting everything that's valuable to protecting public health. He's out there voting against anything that would further protect public health, and he's taking the side of polluters every time he can."
By way of example, Taylor-Miesle added: "The infrastructure budget he's proposed is so minute that we wouldn't be able to take care of our highways, much less than take care of our subways."
In a statement, League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski highlighted Ryan's support for maintaining tax subsidies to the oil and gas industry -- a measure that environmentalists have sought to capitalize on in numerous Senate and House campaigns this cycle -- and his opposition to tax credits for renewable energy and alternative fuels.
"Mitt Romney has chosen a leading voice in the worst House of Representatives ever on environmental issues to be his running mate," Karpinski said. "Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would continue giving $40 billion in taxpayer handouts to Big Oil, devastate the renewable energy sector and jeopardize thousands of jobs all across this country."
The LCV also points to Ryan's lifetime average of 20 percent on its annual scorecard, which rates lawmakers on a series of votes related to environmental and renewable energy issues.
Among the recent measures the environmental group marked Ryan down for supporting is the 2011 measure aimed at expediting the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
The 1,700-mile project, which the White House rejected early this year over concerns about its route, would extend from Alberta to the Gulf Coast.
Scott Segal, a partner in the energy practice at the D.C. law firm Bracewell & Giuliani, praised Romney's selection of the Budget Committee chairman as his running mate in an interview with Greenwire.
"I think that Ryan has made the right statements and been in the right places legislatively for recognizing how significant energy is to both the economy and to U.S. national security," Segal said, adding that the Wisconsin lawmaker has consistently applied himself as a market conservative during his seven terms in the House. Those views also trace back to Ryan's work for the think tank run by former Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) and as a top aide to then-Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), he said.
As an example, Segal pointed to Romney's recent decision to oppose the renewable energy production tax credit. The former Massachusetts governor has drawn criticism for his stance, particularly in states like Iowa, where the tax credit is key to the wind energy industry.
"I think the selection of Ryan answers that a little bit, because he doesn't like the use of either governmental mandates or tax policies to command particular technological choices," Segal said. "You have to give credit to Ryan for taking a very consistent view at least as far as energy policy is concerned. Energy is important, domestic production in the United States to be encouraged ... but the government ought to tread lightly when it comes to the use of tax politics or mandates to achieve its ends."
Segal said Ryan's defense of tax benefits to the oil and gas industry likewise reflects his economic beliefs.
"It's not that the energy industry receives particular benefits, it's that the energy industry is treated like other manufacturing sectors. Congressman Ryan for one has been pretty clear about calling a spade a spade there," Segal said.
Ryan has also made the elimination of boutique fuels a priority during his congressional career, authoring measures to reduce the number of fuels used to meet Clean Air Act standards while arguing such measures could reduce fuel costs in the Badger State and elsewhere.
"It seems to me that Congressman Ryan is not supportive of energy mandates or use of tax policies to pick winners and losers, but he is supportive of the notion of maximizing the number of domestic energy alternatives available in the U.S., even if that means staying the hand of our regulatory agencies that might otherwise interfere with fuel sources like coal and shale gas," Segal added.
While Ryan objected to congressional efforts in 2001 to promote clean coal technologies, Segal noted opponents to such programs are often at odds with regulatory requirements and not the programs themselves.
"I don't want to prolong an energy source that will ultimately hurt us in the long term," Ryan told the Associated Press in March 2001. "The incentives ought to be toward cleaner-burning fuels."
But both the LVC and the Sierra Club, which released its own statement criticizing Ryan's nomination, sought to paint the Republican lawmaker as a pawn of the oil and gas industry, highlighting donations to his campaigns tied to energy magnates Charles and David Koch.
"There is a reason big polluters have given Paul Ryan hundreds of thousands of dollars and why the Koch Brothers are one of his top donors -- he's tried to turn their wildest fantasies into law," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in his statement. "From rejecting the reality of climate disruption to attacking good-paying clean energy jobs to trying to gut the EPA's ability to protect our air, our water, and the health of our families, Ryan operates out of the dirty energy playbook."
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign finances, Koch Industries-related donations rank sixth among all contributors to Ryan since his 1998 election to the House.
The donations, made by individuals or political action committees related to Koch Industries, total $65,500, a quarter of the $244,250 he has received in that period from the oil and gas industry, but only a fraction of the $16.6 million Ryan has raised since his first campaign. The largest donations to Ryan's campaigns are related to Northwestern Mutual, which tallied $89,300, and the National Beer Wholesalers Association, which tallied $75,000 in the same period.
According to the CRP analysis, Koch Industries is not among the top 20 donors to Ryan's current re-election bid in the Kenosha-based 1st District. Ryan, who will face Democrat Rob Zerban in November, will still seek re-election to that seat even as he campaigns for the vice presidency.
But Ryan has benefited from nearly $31,000 in electric utilities-related donations this cycle, as he raised $4.3 million as of late July. He is expected to easily win re-election in the GOP-leaning district.
One aspect of Ryan's background that has not received much media attention since Romney selected him is the fact that he is an avid sportsman and hunter.
ConservAmerica President Rob Sisson, whose organization promotes conservation and environmental stewardship within the GOP, told Greenwire in an email that the lawmaker's hobbies translate into his legislative efforts in the House.
"Ryan is an avid hunter who has been vocal about good wildlife conservation practices," Sisson said. Ryan told the AP in 2001 that he spent the congressional recess climbing 14,000-foot peaks in the Colorado Rockies.
"He's also a devout Catholic and no doubt is aware of the Church's position, and Pope Benedict XVI's statements on creation care, including climate protection." Sisson added. "As a congressman who represents a district on the shores of Lake Michigan, he's also very familiar with issues that concern the drinking water source of 40 million people, including the administration's inaction on Asian Carp. I'm hopeful that, as Vice President, his focus will be more statesmanship than gamesmanship, and that he'll be a strong voice for conservation."
Investments in key industries
While Ryan's recreational activities failed to garner much consideration, environmental advocates in the past two days have sought to call attention to his personal finances.
The LCV reissued a June 2011 television ad it ran targeting Ryan family investments in four companies in Texas and Oklahoma that lease land to energy firms.
The 30-second spot was based in part on a June 2011 report in Newsweek and the Daily Beast detailing Ryan's personal financial disclosures, public documents that congressional lawmakers must file annually.
According to Ryan's most recent financial disclosure reports filed in June, which cover the 2011 calendar year, those investments -- including mining, gravel rights, timber and mineral rights -- continue to produce income. Ryan's wife, Janna, holds all of the investments.
The report lists investments in both the Madill, Okla.-based "Ava O. Limited Co., Mining" and "Blondie & Brownie LLC., Gravel Rights," each valued at between $100,000 and $250,000. Like all members, Ryan is required to report his personal assets and liabilities but must do so only in broad ranges.
Ryan reported between $15,000 and $50,000 in partnership income from the mining investment, and $5,000 to $15,000 in royalties from the gravel rights.
Janna Ryan's other holdings include a stake in the Madill-based Little Land Co. LP, valued between $50,000 and $100,000, with partnership income of between $5,000 and $15,000 in 2011. Ryan's income from that investment decreased since 2010, when he reported receiving between $15,000 and $50,000.
That partnership, in which Ryan owns less than 1 percent, includes investments in timber, mineral rights and real estate.
Ryan also reports his wife's investment in "Mineral Rights, Oklahoma" valued between $50,000 and $100,000 with rent and royalty income of between $15,000 and $50,000. Janna Ryan also lists a stake in the Red River Pine Limited timber company, valued between $50,000 and $100,000, but she received no income from the investment in 2011.
When it first analyzed Ryan's investments in 2011, the Daily Beast reported that Ryan's father-in-law, Daniel Little, operated the four companies -- Ava O. Limited, Blondie & Brownie LLC, Little Land Co. LP and Red River Pine Limited. At that time, Little told the publication that the companies leased land for mining and drilling to firms including Chesapeake Energy Corp., Devon Energy Corp. and XTO Energy, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil Corp.
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