A liberal government watchdog group said it filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics Wednesday alleging that House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Amazon.com aren’t playing by the book when it comes to selling his new book.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington contends that Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee and a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, is receiving improper preferential treatment from the nation’s largest bookseller on his ‘The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea’ book.
Basing its complaint on a New York Times story, CREW notes that Ryan’s book is published by a division of Hachette, which is in a battle with Amazon over terms of e-books. As part of the skirmish, Amazon has refused pre-orders of almost all Hachette books. And some Hachette items are hard to locate on the site, apparently including ‘The Way Forward.’
That changed, CREW contends, when Ryan vented his frustration with Amazon last August on CNBC’s ‘Squawk Box.’ On the show, Ryan prefaced his comments with ‘As a congressman I have to watch what I say for ethical reasons.’ But he later labeled Amazon’s actions ‘a very frustrating thing.’
‘I wish this dispute got settled up,’ he added. ‘Clearly Amazon is making kind of a power play in my opinion.’
In its complaint, CREW alleges that Ryan’s book has received better treatment from Amazon since his televised remarks. In a press release, the organization claims that ‘In short order – and in marked contrast with its treatment of other Hachette authors – Amazon suddenly made Rep. Ryan’s book easily discoverable, discounted it by 25 percent, and shipped it immediately.’
Amazon declined to comment Wednesday afternoon. Robert Swift, a Ryan spokesman, said in an email that ‘All activities related to the book were done in compliance with House rules.’
CREW remains unconvinced.
‘Rep. Ryan’s way forward appears to be accepting improper favors from the nation’s largest bookseller,’ CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a statement. ‘While he promotes the old canard that the poor must pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, he’s happy to have Amazon tug up his.’
Sloan said House of Representatives ethics rules forbid lawmakers from accepting gifts, including favors and discounts, as the result of their congressional employment.