Ryan’s Maximum Fans

A lot has been said, by me among others, about Paul Ryan’s popularity among grassroots-activist and chattering-class movement conservatives, and it’s all true. But as Nick Confessore explains in abundant detail at the New York Times, his maximum fans are the tiny but powerful class of right-wing funders, whom he has worked as assiduously as anyone in politics:

When Mr. Romney announced that Mr. Ryan would be his running mate, his campaign emphasized the congressman’s detailed knowledge of the federal budget and his chemistry with Mr. Romney. Less well-known are Mr. Ryan’s close ties to the donors and activists who have channeled Tea Party anger into a $400 million political machine, financed by a network of conservative and libertarian donors that now rivals, and occasionally challenges, the Republican establishment behind Mr. Romney.

Mr. Ryan is one of a very few elected officials who have attended the Kochs’ biannual conferences, where wealthy donors sit in on seminars on runaway government spending and the myths of climate change.

He is on first-name terms with prominent libertarians in the financial world, including hedge fund billionaires like Cliff Asness and Paul Singer, and spent his formative years immersed in the Republican Party’s supply-side wing, working for lawmakers and conservative policy advocates like Jack Kemp.

He has appeared for years at rallies, town hall meetings, and donor briefings for groups like the Club for Growth, which spends millions to defeat Republicans deemed squishy on taxes and spending, and Americans for Prosperity, a grass-roots group focused on economic and budget issues that is now trying to channel Tea Party energy into a permanent electoral force. Its fourth chapter was founded in Mr. Ryan’s home state, Wisconsin.

Nick goes on and on with info on Ryan’s intimate relationship with the most radically ideological of the big money folk. The simple way to put it is that up until now, these people have viewed the Romney campaign as a close and essential ally, but ultimately as no more than a means to the desired end of policies that reflect their business interests–and the “constitutional conservative” principles aimed at permanently protecting their business interests. Now they’ve got one of their own in a critical position near the top of that campaign. That should keep the pursestrings loose, and the carping demands at a minimum. If the selection of Ryan was truly a close proposition, this factor might have been a big tie-breaker.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.