Paul Ryan’s budget, which means austerity for most Americans, turns out to mean prosperity for Ryan and his family.
That budget, which the GOP-led House adopted as its blueprint, slashes funding for everyone from seniors to the disabled to students while preserving $45 billion in tax breaks and subsidies for Big Oil over the next 10 years, as has been widely reported.
But what we have only just learned from Ryan’s financial disclosure forms for Congress (here) that were made public this week is “he and his wife, Janna, own stakes in four family companies that lease land in Texas and Oklahoma to the very energy companies that benefit from the tax subsidies in Ryan’s budget plan,” as The Daily Beast reported today.
Ryan’s father-in-law, Daniel Little, who runs the companies, told Newsweek and The Daily Beast that the family companies are currently leasing the land for mining and drilling to energy giants such as Chesapeake Energy, Devon, and XTO Energy, a recently acquired subsidiary of ExxonMobil.
These energy giants stand to profit directly from the $45 billion in subsidies and tax breaks. How cozy!
When asked about the blatant conflict of interest, Ryan’s spokesperson offered up the newly-popular “wife” defense:
Ryan’s office says the congressman wasn’t thinking about himself or the oil companies that lease his land when he drafted the budget blueprint that extended the energy tax breaks. “These are properties that Congressman Ryan married into,” spokesman Kevin Seifert said. “It’s not something he has a lot of control over.”
Seriously. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said his wife vetoed his presidential run. Now Ryan’s office says he has no control over his ethics where family is concerned. Apparently nobody ever explained to him what conflict of interest means.
“Sure, senior citizens should have to pay more for health care, but landholders like [Ryan] who lease property to big oil companies, well, their government subsidies must be protected at all costs,” says Melanie Sloan, the director of the nonpartisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “It smacks of hypocrisy.”
In fact, if Ryan had actually cared about the deficit, he would have stripped these subsidies from his budget. Back in 2005, President George W. Bush, a former oilman, explained that the profit potential in the oil industry drives exploration, not the subsidies: “With $55 oil we don’t need incentives to the oil and gas companies to explore. There are plenty of incentives.” Oil prices are hovering around $100 a barrel today.
So Ryan married into four investments whose asset value is between $265,000 and $650,000. His family’s income last year from those investments was between $36,000 and $117,000. Talk about your nest egg.
Presumably he wasn’t thinking about those investments when he voted repeatedly this year to protect Big Oil subsidies.
Finally, no doubt it is also just a coincidence that the House Budget Committee Chairman slashed funding for the major competitors to Big Oil, eliminating billions of dollars in investments in clean energy technologies.
We can be certain that Ryan wasn’t thinking about himself or the oil companies that lease his land when he made that choice. He never does that kind of thinking at all.
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