In the aftermath of Republican Gov. Scott Walker “dropping the bomb” on Wisconsin public employees in the form of his union-busting Act 10, which stripped public employees of virtually all of their collective bargaining rights, a number of groups came into being with the mission of working towards a recall of Gov. Walker.
Among those groups was the Defending Wisconsin PAC, led by its Executive Director (and professional protester) Jeremy Ryan. You may remember Jeremy Ryan as the same individual who in 2011 solicited online donations to support his lifestyle because he didn’t want to get a job, and at the time I opined that if I were someone looking to support the recall efforts here in Wisconsin, I’d be hesitant to donate to Defending Wisconsin, given the financial difficulties of its Executive Director.
According to the January 2012 Continuing Report filed with the state Government Accountability Board by Defending Wisconsin PAC, the group raised $2,507.89 during the last reporting period (July 2011 to December 2011). During that same period, Defending Wisconsin PAC spent a total of $2,941.51, with $2,283.50 (just over 77%) of the total spent having gone towards food, lodging, and travel expenses.
Interestingly, much of the money spent on food, lodging, and travel expenses during the January 2012 reporting period seems to center on a trip Jeremy Ryan made to Washington, D.C. in early October 2011 to attend the Take Back the American Dream 2011 conference and do a little protesting with the “Occupy D.C. K Street” protests. While in Washington, D.C., it appears Ryan (pictured, left with Van Jones) stayed at the Historic Churchill Hotel (total bill: $1,048.48). Between October 2 and October 12, 2011 nearly $300 ($294.01, to be exact) was spent on meals in Washington, D.C., while another $683.05 was spent on travel/transportation. If you add in the $264.40 spent on plane fare to Washington, D.C., the Defending Wisconsin PAC spent $2,289.94 for one trip to Washington, D.C. – a trip that may have had absolutely nothing to do with the political upheaval in Wisconsin in 2011 and more to do with Jeremy Ryan’s desire to take a trip to Washington, D.C. to do some protesting without having to foot the bill himself.
To be honest, as I’ve investigated the Defending Wisconsin PAC, I’ve had a hard time figuring out exactly what role the Defending Wisconsin PAC has played in “defending” Wisconsin over the past year. A quick glance at the Defending Wisconsin PAC Facebook page shows a lot of activity by Jeremy Ryan to promote his personal blog, but there’s not much to be found to clarify what the Defending Wisconsin PAC is doing to “defend” Wisconsin. What’s more, the Defending Wisconsin PAC website is equally devoid of any concrete information on how the group has “defended” Wisconsin over the past year.
Attempts to reach Jeremy Ryan for comment on this story went unanswered, leaving far too many questions (not to mention concerns) left unanswered about how responsibly – or perhaps more appropriately, how irresponsibly – Defending Wisconsin PAC has been spending the contributions it’s been receiving.
Considering Jeremy Ryan has announced he’s a candidate for the State Assembly, the public deserves some transparency about how the PAC he runs spent the contributions it received and the citizens he aspires to represent deserve to know that he’s trustworthy and deserving of their votes, not just an individual looking for yet another helping of publicity to fuel his ego.