Drug Policy

Why Is David Brock's Democratic PAC Attacking Paul Ryan for Voting Against More Drug-War Funding?


I spent this morning looking for any record of GOP vice presidential candidate and seven-term Congressman Paul Ryan talking about the drug war. I didn't come up with much on that front: Ryan has apparently never spoken publicly about the drug war; the only clear votes he's cast on drug policy are the three he cast against Hinchey-Rohrbacher, the House bill that would have defunded the DOJ's war on medical marijuana, and the one vote he cast shortly after first being elected to block D.C.'s medical marijuana law and federal funding for a clean needle exchange. Those votes are ugly, but considering that Democrats controlled the House in 2007 (the second time Hinchey-Rohrbacher failed), and that Obama is currently president, Ryan can't be held solely responsible for the continued federal crackdown on medical marijuana. 

But just because I couldn't find a single record of Ryan talking about the drug war doesn't mean my search was entirely without fruit. In the course of digging, I found an oppo research file on Ryan published by American Bridge, a Democratic PAC started by David Brock. Amazingly, that file criticizes Ryan for not voting in favor of increased drug war funding.

Here are the sections in question:

Ryan Opposed Additional Funding for Anti-Drug Enforcement Efforts. In 2003, Ryan voted against the Consolidated Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2003, which included $525.4 million for the Office of National Drug Control Policy: $226.4 million for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, $20 million above the President's request; $145 million for the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign; $70 million (full funding) for the Drug-Free Communities program.

The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program advanced the National Drug Control Strategy in the most critical drug trafficking areas of the country, including Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Washington/Baltimore, and Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands AND the Southwest Border. The purpose of the program was to empower equal local, State, and Federal partnerships to dismantle the most significant drug trafficking and drug money laundering organizations. The program primarily supported progressive initiatives such as co-located task forces, intelligence sharing and electronic networking of Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies, and linkages between the criminal justice system and drug treatment. The bill passed 338-83.

Paul Ryan Opposed Funds for High Intensity Drug Program in 2000. Paul Ryan voted for the $29.1 billion Treasury  Appropriations that represented an $824.5 million increase over the previous year's funding. It funded the US Postal service, the Treasury Department, and Executive Office of the president, as well as $731 million for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and $8.9 billion for the Internal Revenue Service.

I doubt American Bridge would argue that Ryan voted against the appropriations bills above solely (or even partly) because they increased funding for the drug war; the sections above simply highlight what Ryan's votes against various appropriations bills meant for drug spending.

But I nevertheless find it fascinating that a progressive group is hammering a Republican for voting against giving more drug-war funding. That $145 million for the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign? It paid for the Above the Influence ad campaign, which the GAO deemed a failure with unpleasant unintended consequences. Those High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas? They've since been used to crack down on low-level drug offenders and medical marijuana

As for Ryan's 2000 and 2007 votes against funding the Office of National Drug Control Policy: The head of the ONCDP through 2001 was Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a hardcore drug warrior who was later revealed to be a paid shill for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and who recently said that Portugal's decriminalization efforts were "bullshit." The second time Ryan voted against increased funding for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Drug Czar John P. Walters (2001-2009) was in charge. Not only did Walters advocate for randomly drug-testing high school students, he wrote a piece for The Weekly Standard earlier this year decrying any and all legalization or decriminalization efforts. 

So, in addition to wanting to know more about Paul Ryan's stance on the drug war, I'd also like to know why David Brock's super PAC is attacking Ryan for not giving more money to Barry McCaffrey and John P. Walters.