News Column

Paul Ryan Revealed Trust Fund in June as 'Inadvertent Omission'

Aug. 17, 2012

Kevin McCoy

While being vetted by Mitt Romney's campaign, GOP vice presidential hopeful Rep. Paul Ryan amended two years of his financial disclosure statements to add an income-producing trust worth between $1 million and $5 million that he had previously neglected to report.

The trust, an inheritance of Ryan's wife, former Washington lobbyist Janna Little Ryan, represents one of the couple's largest assets. Letters and amendments Ryan filed June 6 with the Clerk of the House show the trust produced income of between $15,001 and $50,000 in 2010, and between $100,001 and $1 million last year.

Financial disclosure rules only require members of Congress to report assets and income in ranges.

Members of Congress often make mistakes in their disclosure filings, and congressional ethics panels have been historically forgiving of errors and omissions. Moreover, there is no evidence that Ryan tried to hide the family income or was pressured to make a late disclosure.

The trust was created in 2010 following the death of Janna Ryan's mother, Prudence Little, a prominent Oklahoma attorney.

Ryan's amended reports were hand delivered to the House Clerk with letters characterizing the belated disclosures as an "inadvertent omission."

Beth Myers, who headed Romney's vice presidential search team, told reporters last week the campaign began vetting a short list of potential running mates in early May. Preliminary results went to Romney in mid-June, and staffers then asked some of the contenders to clarify some issues. In a CBS 60 Minutes interview Sunday, Ryan said he gave several years of his tax returns to the Romney team during the process.

Ryan campaign spokesman Brendan Buck did not provide responses to USA TODAY's questions about the filings, including whether the omissions were revealed during the vetting process.

"Did you read the letter? Seems to answer these questions," Buck wrote in an e-mail.

Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, said "the amount and timing of this new disclosure suggests that Ryan had not sought to be fully transparent about his income and investments until he felt compelled to do so."

But Rob Walker, former chief counsel and staff director for both the Senate and House ethics committees, said the omission was not a serious matter. "It certainly doesn't appear on the face of anything that's been filed, including the forms and the letters, that this was anything other than inadvertent," he said, noting that many members of Congress file amendments to their filings.

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2012

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