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

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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 »

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Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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