From MIT Entrepreneur to Tea Party Leader: The Thomas Massie Story

5/17/12Follow @gthuang

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questioning electric bills, phone bills, contracts, and fees for things that don’t apply anymore. Like the county being charged rental fees for property that had long been sold, paying for phone lines that had been disconnected for years, or buying stuff from a magistrate’s store. He has upset a lot of entrenched powers, but has gained support from the masses for it. And he says that in his first nine months in office, he cut enough waste to pay his own salary for three years.

Interestingly, Massie also was inspired to run for office by something he heard during his MIT days. John Sununu, the former New Hampshire governor and White House Chief of Staff for George Bush, Sr., came to campus to speak (he’s an MIT alum). “He implored us as engineers to get involved in politics. Maybe that stuck in my brain for 20 years and popped out recently,” says Massie.

Massie recalls Sununu saying, “We need more engineers and fewer lawyers” in politics. As Massie explains, “Lawyers are taught to take a position, whether it’s right or wrong ideologically, and defend it—to go collect facts to support it. Whereas engineers are taught the inverse of that, they’re taught to collect facts and then come up with an answer based on the facts. He said, ‘That’s the kind of thought process we need more of in government.’ On the stump, that’s what I’m trying to convey, that we need more problem solvers in Washington, DC.”

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Tax Reform

At a Tea Party rally in Kentucky last year, Massie told the crowd, “Even a bad day on the farm is better than a good day in the rat race.” That was after an ice storm destroyed his five-mile cattle fence, and he had to chase cows all over the county (and then rebuild the fence). But now he’s in the biggest rat race of his life, fending off opponents who are “spewing venom and untruths” in their negative ad campaigns, he says. So why do it?

Massie says when he and his wife left New England, “we knew at some point we would get involved again. We thought we would re-engage in the private sector and start another company. But we decided, whatever we did, we were going to do for Kentucky,” Massie adds, “I really never dreamed of getting into politics. But, let’s just say, I’m ready for it. I’ve had a lot of time to think.”

As for his political platform, Massie calls himself a “Constitutional conservative,” and he identifies with the Tea Party—at least the members in his home state, whom he says “defy the stereotype in the media.” As he explains, “In northern Kentucky, Tea Parties focus on fiscal responsibility and constitutionally limited government. All of the other stuff around the edges—that maybe some Tea Party folks are for and some are against—don’t get rolled up into the agenda.”

His political views didn’t appear out of thin air either. Back at MIT, when Massie and his wife were running SensAble in its early days, … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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  • http://www.facebook.com/sdguero Ryan Bray

    I think I like this guy. :)

  • Sulfide Smolder

    can we drop romney for massie???? lets not waste the next four years

  • johnwerneken

    More power to him. Facts lend themselves to win-win solutions; ideology may be cheaper as a means of manipulating folks but the results are of a different quality. I’d rather be right than popular and I think such government as we need should be based on that principle.

  • Raymond Chuang

    I think Thomas Massie saw the following:

    1. Government has gotten TOO big with too much bureaucratic overlap, agency bloat and obsolete/unneeded regulations, all of which has resulted in record Federal deficit spending and regulations that are woefully anti-business for all the _wrong_ reasons.

    2. The American income tax system is a complicated, circa US$400 billion/year compliance cost mess that discourages savings and capital investment in the USA and is rife with corruption and serious issues with invasion of privacy (since IRS 1040 long form tax filings often require intimate details of your personal and business finances). Why do you think some economists estimate that over US$15 TRILLION in American-owned liquid assets are sitting in banks beyond US borders? (That explains why Apple has the majority of its circa US$100 billion in liquid assets sitting in foreign banks and the proliferation of “banks” in various Caribbean island nations.) Not to mention millions of jobs, thousands of factories and hundreds of corporate headquarters leaving the USA for tax avoidance reasons, too.

    This is the same problem that is plaguing most of the world’s national economies, especially Europe, where overly-generous government social services are on the verge of causing sovereign debt defaults in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy with dire consequences.

    The message of the Tea Party movement is totally correct: we need to “right size” government to be way more efficient so government budgets can be far smaller and massively overhaul the income tax system so it has way lower yearly compliance costs and encourages more savings and capital investment in the USA.

  • Bayesian Objectivity

    I’ve worked with his product.  I guarantee you 95% of his company’s revenue came from government spending.

  • alex

    He is an engineer who sees problems and fixes them–we need a LOT more engineers in Congress, because its clear politicians have had their chance and failed.

  • http://www.stumbleupon.com/stumbler/mhenriday/ M Henri Day

    The reigning model for engineers in government is the People’s Republic of China….

    Henri

    • Peakview28

      It would be Germany. Pretty well run for the most part, yes?

      • http://www.stumbleupon.com/stumbler/mhenriday/ M Henri Day

        Peakview28, you mean the place where government officials, up to and including the president, regularly have to resign when plagiarism in the PhD theses that others have written for them is uncovered ? But if you mean by «pretty well run» that Germany is better run than the United States, I quite agree – but please note that in Germany the percentage of union members in the labour market is about twice that of the United States, that regulations on the hiring and firing of workers there are far stricter, and government intervention in the economy far more frequent than in the US, while the amount of public moneys devoted to killing people abroad, aka «defense», much less, etc, etc. I believe this sort of thing is referred to as «socialism» in the United States. If, indeed, this is what Mr Massie has in mind, then by all means, the US Congress certainly needs more men and women like him, nicht wahr ?…

        Henri

  • anonymous coward

    I’m an engineer and I’m sorry to note that we’ve had 2 engineers as President.  Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter.

  • Albrecm

    He won!!

  • Suszlous

    this guy is overrated! he did not invent hapetic tech nor was he anywhere near genius! ky can keep him!

  • Suszlous

    the fact the company sold for a “FEW” accents on the word FEW million prove’s the point!

  • suzzs

    where’s me comment’s?

  • suzzy

    only from kentucky would you be considered a genius and god among politician’s just because your owned a small bit of a tech company that sold for only a FEW million !

  • suzzy

    kentucky set’s very low standard’s for it’s boy-wonder’s! haha the guy’s a fool ask any1 from mit that knew him