He said he didn't earlier remember writing the letters to the Energy and Labor secretaries asking for stimulus funds because they had been mishandled by his office. Summary.
Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan has been one of the harshest critics of President Obama's economic stimulus plan. But months after Congress approved the nearly $800 billion package, the Wisconsin lawmaker was trying to steer money under the program to companies in his home state.
But for years, Ryan said he did not seek stimulus money, saying in 2010: "I'm not one [of those] people who votes for something then writes to the government to ask them to send us money. I did not request any stimulus money."
As recently as Thursday, Ryan said he never sought stimulus funds. "No, I never asked for stimulus," he told WPCO-TV in Cincinnati. "I opposed the stimulus because it doesn't work."
But hours later, he acknowledged that he had requested stimulus cash.
'I take responsibility'
"After having these letters called to my attention I checked into them, and they were treated as constituent service requests in the same way matters involving Social Security or Veterans Affairs are handled," Ryan said. "This is why I didn't recall the letters earlier. But they should have been handled differently, and I take responsibility for that.
"Regardless, it's clear that the Obama stimulus did nothing to stimulate the economy."
In 2009, he wrote to Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis seeking stimulus grant money for two Wisconsin energy conservation companies. One of them, the nonprofit Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corp., later received $20.3 million from the Energy Department to help homes and businesses improve energy efficiency, according to federal records.
In a letter to Chu in December 2009, Ryan said the stimulus money would help his state create thousands of new jobs, save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That contrasted with his public statements denigrating the program as a "wasteful spending spree." It also conflicts with his larger federal budget proposal, which would slash Energy Department programs aimed at creating green jobs.
Yet, in Ryan's letter to the Labor Department in October 2009, he backed the Energy Center of Wisconsin's application for stimulus money "to develop an industry-driven training and placement agenda that intends to place 1,000 workers in green jobs." The company did not win the grant.
Ryan's actions have drawn fresh scrutiny since he was named last weekend as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's running mate. Romney also has said the stimulus was a flawed idea.
A Ryan spokesman, Brendan Buck, noted the congressman's office's previous explanations that he was "providing a legitimate constituent service." The Wall Street Journal reported Ryan's efforts to secure stimulus money two years ago.
Ryan also sent three letters to Chu in October 2009 seeking stimulus money for the Energy Center of Wisconsin, another nonprofit that promotes energy efficiency. The company later received $190,000 in stimulus money to conduct research on geothermal heating and $50,000 to develop a training curriculum for students at Milwaukee Area Technical College.
Ryan's letters to the Energy Department were first reported by the Boston Globe.
Ryan's explanation that he saw the request for money as a form of constituent services is unusual, said Steve Ellis, vice president of the nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense. Ellis said a $20 million grant is considerably larger than a traditional constituent service request, such as helping an individual cut through bureaucratic red tape to get benefits.
"Those are different than getting assistance for a company in the district and getting $20 million," he said.
'Due diligence is required'
But he said a bigger question is why Ryan signed the letters if he didn't know what they were requesting and why. "One would hope that lawmakers are engaged when they are asking the federal government for money," he said. "Due diligence is required on something they are affixing their signature to."
Heather Taylor-Miesle, director of the NRDC Action Fund, the political arm of the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council, said: "It's another example of how he talks out of both sides of his mouth. It goes to show that their energy policy always has been, and probably always will be, disingenuous."
Ryan is not alone among Republicans who criticized the stimulus plan only to seek money later. Georgia's Republican senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, for example, blasted the bill yet for $50 million in stimulus money for a constituent's bio-energy project.
Frank Greb, president of the Energy Center of Wisconsin, said the company sought help from the entire state congressional delegation. He said, "I'm not surprised that any congressman would be supportive of entities within his district if he saw merits in the work."
The Boston Globe and Washington Post contributed to this report.