In what may have been a campaign-related search for political donations, U.S. Speaker of the House and Rep. Paul Ryan made a fairly clandestine visit to the headquarters of TSYS in Columbus on Monday.
Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, had abruptly canceled a previously scheduled stop at the campus of credit-card processor TSYS in November. The company confirmed Monday the visit had finally taken place between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., but little else in the way of details was disclosed.
“I don’t know who all he met with when he was here,” TSYS spokesman Cyle Mims said. “I wasn’t in the room. I was given a heads up when he was coming and how long he would be here, but I didn’t know the rest of the agenda. I’m sure he met with (TSYS Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Troy Woods), but I don’t know if it was individually or if he met with a group.”
As Speaker of the House, Ryan is third in line for the nation’s highest office should something ever happen to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
Security for the visit by Ryan, who was accompanied by U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson of Georgia’s 3rd District, wasn’t off the charts, Mims said. The politicians had a security team with them, while the Columbus Police Department provided an escort for the drive from the Columbus Airport.
“But a normal team member didn’t see any sign of (extra security) outside of seeing them on campus,” Mims said. “I don’t think they noticed a difference in extra security today.”
A couple of hours on the TSYS campus would have given Ryan and Ferguson enough time to listen to a briefing on TSYS and its political needs. The global card and payment processor has frequently expressed a desire for looser financial regulations for both its card-processing business and that of its prepaid card specialty subsidiary NetSpend.
Columbus-based Synovus Financial Corp., a regional banking firm that also would benefit from less regulation in its financial business, did not have anyone at the TSYS gathering, said the bank’s spokesman Lee Underwood.
Ryan’s office could not be reached for comment, with a standard automated phone message answering the phone at his offices in Washington, D.C., and in Wisconsin, including his hometown of Janesville, then asking callers to leave a message.
Amy Timmerman, Ferguson’s communications director, would only say via email that she could not comment “on any campaign matters,” referring the Ledger-Enquirer to campaign contact Dan McLagan. He said via email that the Columbus visit was a roundtable discussion with local business leaders on the impact of tax reform.
Both Ryan and Ferguson are up for reelection this November, which would make fund-raising an absolute necessity. Ferguson, a freshman Republican congressman who took office in January 2017, also would benefit from his association with the high-profile Ryan, who first took office in January 1999, then was elected in October 2015 by House members to become the 54th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. He succeeded the retiring John Boehner.
There have been multiple media reports recently that Ryan is considering retiring from the U.S. House, although his office has denied that is the case. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Monday that Ryan’s campaign has raised just over $11 million in the first quarter of this year and more than $54 million during the current election cycle.
The House Speaker also was in Texas last week for a three-day retreat to promote last year’s tax overhaul and raise money during private events, The Texas Tribune reported.
With its campus overlooking the Chattahoochee River, TSYS does business in 13 countries around the world, employing about 12,000 people. It processed more than 27.8 billion credit-card transactions in 2017, racking up revenue of just under $5 billion.