A longtime Ryan friend and a top career donor who provided more than $787,000 in campaign cash and services, Stuart Levine has admitted to fraud and money laundering in a scheme to shake down investment companies that wanted to do business with the state teachers retirement fund.
But Ryan says he doesn't have a relationship with Levine and hasn't in some time.
"Stu Levine is absolutely a non-issue and it's -- I mean, it's a smokescreen," Ryan said during a sit-down interview on Wednesday.
He said Levine had a secret life that even his own wife didn't know about, and when she learned of it, she left him.
"I knew nothing about his criminal activity. There was never anything in the news media, any hint of any wrongdoing, by the federal authorities, by the newspapers, nobody," he said.
Ryan is not accused of any wrongdoing, and he said his friendship with Levine shouldn't raise doubts about his judgment and he would not return political money Levine raised for him in the past.
"That's guilt by association. You mean because somebody I knew committed crimes that I didn't know about, and contributed money to my campaigns, who was a guy that I thought was a friend, I'm responsible for that? I mean, that's nonsense," he said.