A liberal advocacy group in Wisconsin accused Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, of breaking the law by using funds from his congressional campaign to advance his run for vice president in a letter sent to the Federal Election Commission this week.
On Wednesday, One Wisconsin Now sent the FEC a letter alleging that Ryan’s congressional race advertisements do not focus on his reelection. The letter said the ads in question are instead aimed at helping his race as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s running mate.
Wisconsin law allows Ryan to run for reelection for his congressional seat while also running for his vice presidential seat.
Although he is running two separate races, FEC law says his campaign funds cannot be transferred from one campaign to the other, the letter noted.
“The Paul Ryan for Congress campaign is clearly utilizing congressional candidate committee funds to advance the presidential campaign effort in violation of federal election laws and FEC guidelines,” the letter said.
The letter also said Ryan has spent more than $2 million in advertisements despite the fact his congressional campaign released a poll that showed him with a 25-point lead over his Democratic opponent, Rob Zerban.
The ads have been running in Milwaukee and Madison television markets, areas that the letter said comprise the largest markets in the state.
“It’s perfectly legal for Paul Ryan to run for Congress and Vice-President at the same time,” One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross said a statement. “But he crosses a legal line if, as it appears with his television ads, he uses congressional campaign funds to promote his run on the GOP presidential ticket.”
Ryan for Congress Campaign Manager Kevin Seifert said the campaign is abiding by the rules.
“We are well aware of what the law requires and we have followed it,” Seifert said in an email to The Badger Herald.
Mike Browne, spokesperson for One Wisconsin Now, said Ryan’s latest advertisement on Medicare says “our” plan, which possibly refers to Romney and Ryan’s plan for Medicare reforms. Browne called it a “thinly-veiled ad campaign” for the Romney-Ryan ticket.
“What he’s doing is highly questionable,” Browne said. “That’s why we asked the FEC to look into this.”
University of Wisconsin life sciences communication professor Dietram Scheufele said he is not surprised concerns are being raised regarding Ryan’s advertisements, as similar concerns have been voiced concerning other candidates in the past. Vice President Joe Biden is among the candidates who have run advertisements in more than one campaign.
However, Scheufele said he is not sure there is anything improper about the advertisements helping both campaigns. If any decision or fines come from the FEC, Scheufele said, it would not occur until after November, which he called “ironic.”
Scheufele said Ryan’s chances of winning the Congressional race are very high because of his high support in the district and the free press he gets from being the vice presidential nominee.
Winning the vice presidency, he added, would not be as easy. As Ryan is among the most influential members of the Republican Party, Scheufele said he is using his influential fallback option.
“For Ryan, this is just the beginning of his career,” Scheufele said. “He’s very much looking for something higher up.”