Republican Rep. Paul Ryan stopped by a soup kitchen in Youngstown, Ohio, over the weekend for what seemed to be your typical campaign photo opportunity. During his 15-minute visit on Saturday morning, the vice presidential candidate donned a white apron and offered to wash some dishes that—as several bloggers and a pool reporter later pointed out—did not appear to be dirty.
“We just wanted to come by and say thanks for doing what you do,” Ryan said. “This is what makes society go. It makes it work. Helping people.”
But according to the president of Mahoning County’s St. Vincent De Paul Society, the faith-based charity that runs the soup kitchen, the campaign did not have permission and “ramrodded their way” into the facility.
“We are apolitical because the majority of our funding is from private donations,” Brian Antal told the Washington Post. “It’s strictly in our bylaws not to do it. They showed up there, and they did not have permission. They got one of the volunteers to open up the doors.
“The photo op they did wasn’t even accurate,” Antal continued. “He did nothing. He just came in here to get his picture taken at the dining hall.”
An aide for Mitt Romney’s campaign told the paper that the campaign sent a staffer to the soup kitchen ahead of Ryan’s visit and “spoke with a woman in charge on-site, who said that it would be fine for the congressman to stop by.”
Ryan spokesman Michael Steel told ABC News, “It was a great opportunity to highlight the importance of volunteerism and local charities.”
Antal, though, said it was just too risky for the charity to appear to be favoring one party over the other.
“I can’t afford to lose funding from these private individuals,” he told the Post. “If this was the Democrats, I’d have the same exact problem.”
It may sound silly, but there’s a reason even a soup kitchen controversy could impact the presidential race. Why? Because it took place in Ohio.
“You can probably win the presidency without Ohio, but I wouldn’t want to take the risk,” Ohio Sen. Rob Portman said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “And no Republican has.”
“We need to win Ohio,” Romney said on Friday. “If we win Ohio, we take back America.”