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reason: Any one particular thing set you off?
Bentivolio: The one thing doesn’t have to be a big thing. It could be that one straw that breaks the camel’s back. I’m a rancher, and the state came out and said I have got to do a fence inspection once a month and turn in reports to them once a year. Now why would the governor of the state of Michigan think I’d allow $35,000 worth of animals to roam free in the neighborhood? Another personal issue that worked me up was requiring me to have a license for animals on my property for 15 years. Why are they doing this? Did I do something wrong?
[On a national level], the NDAA Section 1021, that’s a real travesty. I’m a veteran of three wars, and I saw some things I didn’t agree with, but something is really wrong here.
reason: What formed your beliefs about politics?
Bentivolio: I was a teacher, taught American literature. I knew about the radical writers of the late 18th century—Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, Ben Franklin. I taught social studies and taught about three branches of government that were supposed to be checking and balancing [each other]. Now the government’s just writing the checks and we are getting the balance.
reason: What committee assignments did you get?
Bentivolio: Small Business, which will help our district quite a bit, and Oversight and Government Reform. I was very interested in Armed Services [but] we don’t have a military installation in the district so that was a shot in the dark.
reason: How do you see being on Small Business as helping your district?
Bentivolio: People might expect their congressmen to have all the answers but to be quite frank I don’t have all the answers. We’ve got two ears and one mouth so we can listen more than we talk. I’d like to have a roundtable, a council of businessmen from my district come and meet and instead of the congressman telling them, let them tell the congressman what their concerns are. I work for them—why should I be the person with all the answers?
reason: When thinking about what your constituents might want from you, will you be mindful of constitutional limits on government power?
Bentivolio: Absolutely, you have to think about not what laws you can pass but what you can repeal. I will spend lots of time looking for what you can repeal.
My job is to protect rights, not take them away, and if [any law is] violating a right in the Constitution I can’t vote for it. But I have to be very diplomatic. I have to be a bridge between conservative constitution-minded Republicans and some of the middle-of-the-road [people].
I’d like to be that middleman, a Ronald Reagan type. I worked for Reagan in ’80 at the convention here in Detroit. One reason I think I won this election was I could bridge the gap with common issues that Tea Party folk and liberty folk in the district had in common; every [Michigan] Tea Party group supported me. Liberty folk came out in droves, worked hard door-to-door. The Republican Liberty Caucus group—I firmly subscribe to what [they stand for]. Not going to create departments, going to eliminate them; not going to raise taxes, but do everything in my power to eliminate them; not violate people’s rights, but protect them.
reason: Do you see a role for yourself as a national liberty movement leader, not just a representative for your district?
Bentivolio: It is not a goal to be a national leader. I greatly admire Ron Paul, he’s a legend, but asking me to fill his role.…
[In the election someone] called me “Ron Paul on steroids.” I am not Ron Paul on steroids. Those are big shoes to fill, and there’s no way.…He’s an inspiration and someone I greatly respect.
I’m a regular guy who managed to get elected. You can say it was because McCotter mismanaged things, but I think it was divine providence. But I’m just going to Congress to do my job. I don’t want to be president or speaker of the House. I don’t even care to be chair of a committee. I really don’t want to be a national spokesman. I just want to represent the people of the 11th district the best way I can. I’d like to be a citizen-legislator, do my job and then go home, but I’m not going to [term limit myself] with a hard deadline. If the citizens of the district think I’m doing a good job and want me to stay, that’s entirely up to them. I’m 61, and when the time comes I will groom someone to take my place. I’m going to raise the bar on constituent services. I’ll know I’ve done a good job when other congressmen tell freshmen, “If you want to know what to do with constituent services, see Bentivolio—he’s got it down to a science.”