WASHINGTON -- Janna Ryan was introduced to America on Saturday as a stay-at-home mom who has raised three children while her husband, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), built a career in Washington.
But the wife of Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick spent a decade in Washington herself, first as a congressional aide and then as a corporate lobbyist, whose clients included the cigar industry, a logging company, drugmakers, the health insurance industry and a nuclear power plant.
The details of Janna Ryan's lobbying career come as Democrats and Republican party insiders question whether Paul Ryan's career in government, and his scant private sector experience, are at odds with Mitt Romney's pro-business, anti-Washington message.
Ryan, born Janna Christine Little, quit her lobbying job shortly after marrying her husband in late 2000, but by all accounts she was an effective lobbyist before that. Over just three years, Ryan's 20 corporate clients paid more than $2.7 million in lobbying fees to her two employers, Pricewaterhouse Coopers and Williams & Jensen, according to records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Her clientroster reads like a who's who of some of America's most politically polarizing corporate interests. Drug industry clients included the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers Alliance (PhRMA), Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and Novartis. Oil industry clients included Conoco and Marathon Oil. Big health insurance companies Blue Cross Blue Shield and Cigna were also on the list.
From 1998 to 2000, Ryan was part of a small team that lobbied the House, Senate and White House on behalf of the Cigar Association of America to exclude cigars from many of the same regulations placed on cigarettes, like warning labels and excise taxes. PwC received $760,000 from the cigar lobby during Ryan's tenure.
The cigar lobbying effort was launched to fend off congressional scrutiny of the industry, following revelations in the late 1990s that cigar manufacturers had orchestrated a decades-long campaign to make cigars look cool, and to minimize their health hazards. This included paying celebrities to smoke cigars at events and coincided with the launch of Cigar Aficionado, a magazine that glamorizes cigar smoking and relies heavily on industry advertising (its former landlord was also the CEO of General Cigar Holdings, one of the nation's largest cigar manufacturers). Cigars contain as much nicotine as several cigarettes.
During the same period, Ryan and her colleague Pat Raffianello also represented cigar industry interests through the National Association of Convenience Store Operators, a trade group seeking to limit the impact of potential cigar regulations on booming convenience-store cigar sales. Together, they brought in at least $240,000 from the group over three years of lobbying the House and Senate.
Ryan and Rafianello had worked together before -- he was the former chief of staff to Rep. Bill Brewster (D-Okla.), for whom Ryan also worked in the early 1990s. A pro-business, fiscally conservative Democrat from Janna Ryan's home state, Brewster was the subject of a damning profile in The American Prospect, which in 2001 labeled him "a vivid illustration of what the system still permits: fundraising practices that skew politics in favor of wealthy interests."
Today, Brewster is a lobbyist and founder of the Capitol Hill Consulting Group, a lobbying firm. Brewster did not return a request for comment. Like Paul Ryan, Brewster served on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, charged with determining how taxpayer funds are spent -- and vigorously lobbied by corporate tax lobbyists.
Ryan and Rafianello also represented the Vermont Yankee Corp., a nuclear power plant, on "nuclear waste issues," according to federal lobbying registration forms. The company paid $180,000 over three years between 1998 and 2000, while Vermont Yankee was being sold; its owners hoped more favorable tax laws would make it more attractive to buyers.
In 1998, the same year that her future husband was elected to Congress, Ryan was also part of a team that received $220,000 in fees for lobbying on behalf of United Parcel Service, part of the company's ultimately successful effort to defeat a postal reform bill, which would have made the U.S. Postal Service more profitable.
The effects of that effort can still be felt today. Earlier in August, after a decade of continued revenue decline, the Postal Service defaulted on payments due to the U.S. Treasury.
Ryan and her then-boyfriend's work appear to have overlapped. In February 2000 while Janna Ryan still was working on behalf of UPS, Paul Ryan made one of only two corporate-funded trips he took that year, from Milwaukee to Atlanta, where UPS is headquartered. The trip was paid for by UPS, which also flew the congressman back to Washington, according to his financial disclosure reports.
The Romney campaign declined to comment on the UPS trip, nor did the campaign comment on her lobbying clients.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that Cigar Aficionado magazine was launched by cigar manufacturers as part of a public relations campaign. The magazine was founded and continues to be published by Marvin Shanken.
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