On Friday, Paul Ryan, the presumptive Republican
vice-presidential nominee, made the most populist speech of this
"It's the people who are politically connected, it's the people who
have access to Washington that get the breaks," he told an enthusiastic
crowd of over 2,000 at a high school gym in Virginia.
"Well, no more. We don't want to pick winners and losers in
Washington. ... Hardworking taxpayers should be treated fairly and it
should be based on whether they're good, whether they work hard and not
who they know in Washington. That's entrepreneurialism. That's free
Sounds good, but earlier this week -- three days after being picked as
Romney's running-mate -- Ryan went to Las Vegas to pay homage to Sheldon
Adelson, the casino billionaire who is the poster boy for using money
to become "politically connected" in Washington, and getting the
"breaks" that come with it. Adelson has promised to donate up to $100
million to make sure Romney and Ryan are in the White House next year.
Much of Adelson's fortune comes from his casino in Macau, in China, via his money-greased access to Washington.
When China's pitch for the 2008 Olympics was endangered by a House
resolution opposing the bid because of China's "abominable human rights
record," Adelson phoned Tom DeLay, then House majority whip and
recipient of Adelson's political generosity -- urging him to block the
resolution, which DeLay promptly did. The next day, according to the New
York Times, a Chinese vice premier promised Mr. Adelson an endless line
of gamblers to the Macau casino.
The money Adelson has committed to putting Romney and Ryan into the
White House is a business investment. Adelson has a lot riding on the
Last year, his Las Vegas Sands Corporation came under investigation
by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission for
possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act -- bribing
Chinese officials to help expand its casino in Macau.
The U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles, meanwhile, is
investigating whether the Sands Corporation violated federal
money-laundering laws by accepting more than $100 million from
high-rolling gamblers accused of drug trafficking and embezzlement,
rather than reporting the suspicious funds to the government.
Ryan has also been a major recipient of contributions from
billionaire energy moguls Charles and David Koch. Koch Industries PAC
has donated more than $100,000 to Ryan's campaigns and his leadership
PAC -- more than any other corporate PAC, according to a NY Times
analysis of campaign records.
You see, Koch industries spans a variety of oil and gas investments --
whose value would be compromised if Congress and the White House got
serious about climate change.
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Small wonder Paul Ryan has emerged as one of Congress's most
outspoken skeptics of climate change. He has also repeatedly voted
against energy efficiency standards, including a House vote to prohibit
the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.
Several months ago, when I debated Paul Ryan on ABC-TV's "This Week,"
he said we need to shrink the size of government because big
corporations and wealthy individuals otherwise use government to their
"If the power and money are going to be here in Washington, that's
where the influence is going to go ... that's where the powerful are going
to go to influence it," he said.
It's an odd argument coming from Ryan because his proposed budget
doesn't shrink government by cutting benefits and payments to big
business and the rich. He increases military payments to defense
contractors, for example, slashes Wall Street regulations, and gives
giant tax benefits to the rich.