- The Washington Times - Monday, October 28, 2019

Former House Speaker Paul D. Ryan is charting a post-Trump political comeback, starting a new issue-advocacy group and renting a house for his family in Washington’s leafy Maryland suburbs.

The Wisconsin Republican left Congress after riding a rocky road working with President Trump that culminated in Mr. Ryan reportedly labeling retirement an “escape hatch.” Mr. Trump teamed up with Mr. Ryan on tax reform legislation in 2017, but the former speaker’s critical comments prompted Mr. Trump to brand Mr. Ryan as a “baby” and a “terrible speaker” this year.

Mr. Ryan, however, cannot seem to quit the political circus in Washington. On Monday, he announced he was leading a new nonprofit organization, the American Idea Foundation, as president.

The group will have a presence in Washington and in Wisconsin and intends to focus on the issues of expanding economic opportunity, combating poverty and promoting “evidence-based” policy solutions.

“The American idea means the condition of your birth does not determine the outcome of your life, and I am excited this foundation will educate individuals about solutions and efforts that give more people the opportunity to realize their versions of the American Dream,” Mr. Ryan said in a statement. “The American Idea Foundation will demonstrate that it is bottom-up dynamism of individuals and communities that truly makes America a land of prosperity.”

Next month, Mr. Ryan will get back in the mix as Washington political heavyweights gather for the 10th-anniversary celebration of the Jack Kemp Foundation. The late-Rep. Jack Kemp was a mentor to Mr. Ryan, who served as an aide to Mr. Kemp before entering Congress himself.

Several Washington Republicans already have begun cheering Mr. Ryan’s return to the fray.

“Issues like upward mobility, expanding opportunity, combating poverty, and championing freedom have always been top priorities for Speaker Ryan, and it’s great news for the country that he’s going to continue offering his unique and aspirational voice to the causes he’s most passionate about,” said a senior Republican operative in Washington. “As conservatives, we should all be grateful that even though he’s no longer an elected official, he’ll be a leader on these issues and upholding our movement’s ideals.”

Mr. Ryan’s return to Washington will place him squarely between Mr. Trump and his former Republican presidential running mate, Sen. Mitt Romney, over the white-hot issues of impeachment and 2020 presidential politics. As House Democrats prepare a vote formalizing the next steps of their impeachment inquiry, Mr. Romney looks to be a rare ally for Democrats among Republicans in the Senate.

Whether Mr. Ryan aligns himself more closely with Mr. Romney or Mr. Trump remains to be seen, but Mr. Trump has been highly critical of Mr. Ryan’s work with Mr. Romney in the past.

“When Mitt chose Paul I told people that’s the end of that Presidential run,” Mr. Trump tweeted in July 2019. “He quit Congress because he didn’t know how to Win. They gave me standing O’s in the Great State of Wisconsin, & booed him off the stage. He promised me the Wall, & failed (happening anyway!)……”

Mr. Trump continued in a threaded-tweet saying, “He had the Majority & blew it away with his poor leadership and bad timing. Never knew how to go after the Dems like they go after us. Couldn’t get him out of Congress fast enough!”

The foundation will be manned by a pair of Mr. Ryan’s former staffers — one based in Wisconsin and the other in Washington.

Andrew Speth, a native of Mr. Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, is the foundation’s executive director. Mr. Speth is the former speaker’s longest-serving aide, having started with Mr. Ryan on his 1998 campaign for Congress.

Kevin Seifert will be the group’s man in Washington. Mr. Seifert is senior adviser to the foundation and was previously Mr. Ryan’s communications director, D.C. chief of staff, and executive director of Team Ryan, his political advocacy organization.

Mr. Seifert said in an email to expect to see Mr. Ryan speak publicly in the next couple of months on the foundation’s mission of promoting upward mobility and expanding economic opportunity.

The University of Notre Dame, where Mr. Ryan recently joined the faculty, is one venue that may provide Mr. Ryan a platform to speak more about his new group in coming months. The American Enterprise Institute, which Mr. Ryan joined last month as a distinguished visiting fellow in the practice of public policy, is another potential host.

In addition to his work at the American Idea Foundation, Notre Dame, and AEI, Mr. Ryan is also a board member of the new Fox Corp., the parent company of Fox News.

Monday’s launch of the American Idea Foundation coincided with the Oct. 28, 1886, dedication of the Statue of Liberty.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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