Profiling Thomas Massie and Kerry Bentivolio, a Couple of Potential "Next Ron Paul"s in Congress


As the libertarian Republican Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) leaves Congress, his fans and supporters are looking for hope that his spirit will live on in the House. Three incoming freshmen received a rare Ron Paul endorsement. As I learned from interviewing them for a feature that will be appearing in the forthcoming March issue of Reason, they don't particularly want to wear the mantle of perceived "next Ron Paul" either.

Two of them have been profiled this week in other media. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, already in Congress because his predecessor quit early, has his background as judge executive in his home state examined by Roll Call, which framed him as a "Tea Party" guy. They tell a story of him finding a half-price water heater on Ebay with free shipping when the county jail needed a replacement, and leading the installation himself, and his childhood desire to build a robot out of the junk in his room–to help him clean up the junk in his room. He was actually taught econ by Paul Krugman himself at MIT, though he rejects his old professor's conclusions on political economy.

Massie and his wife launched their own company after meeting at MIT:

SensAble Devices, which created products that allowed users — designers, engineers, whoever — to feel digital objects physically. A toy engineer could put his hands in the device and get the tactile sensation of an object that had been created only on the computer.

The very positive profile concludes with:

The red hue of his district means Massie is safe from a Democratic challenger. And given his deep grass-roots support, Massie is likely to have significant leeway on how he votes without risking a primary challenge.

Effectively the first tea party member of the 113th Congress — and the only one with a vote on the fiscal cliff — Massie is uniquely positioned to help write the next chapter of the tea party's role in Congress.

See Mike Riggs' Reason profile of Massie from back in March.

Kerry Benvolio, incoming to Congress from Michigan's 11th district, slightly more notorious for earning public attacks on his sanity from his own brother, gets National Review attention this Christmas week–appropriate since Bentivolio raises reindeer and plays Santa at times.

The story provides a Bentivolio origin story:

Bentivolio, who served in Vietnam and during Operation Desert Storm, spent a year in Iraq as a platoon sergeant during the current conflict there. He was medivaced out after sustaining a neck injury in 2008 and ended up at the Fort Knox military hospital in Kentucky to recuperate. One weekend, as he drove around in a rented car, he noticed a group of what appeared to be Revolutionary War reenactors. Intrigued, he pulled over.

"People told me they were the Tea Party, and I said, 'You're supposed to be in Boston!'" he says with a laugh. "And I said, 'Well, what do you mean by that?' 'It stands for Taxed Enough Already.' I said, 'Well that's a good idea!'" Rand Paul was speaking at the rally.

"They woke me up to what's happening," he says. And they inspired him to run for office….

Bentivolio ended up the only Republican on the primary ballot when incumbent, and presidential aspirant, Thaddeus McCotter actually failed to submit enough signatures to get on the ballot:

One early morning a few days after the McCotter debacle really took off, a TV crew showed up on his porch.

"How's it feel to be the only one on the ballot, Mr. Bentivolio?" asked the reporter.

"You folks need to get off my property!" he retorted, still bathrobe-clad. "I don't do interviews at 7:30 in the morning!"

The rest of the story has more details on Bentivolio's career as a Santa impersonater and his controversial role in a friend's amateur movie that dabbles in 9/11 conspiracy theories, and drips with ambiguous feelings about whether his small-government beliefs should outweigh his personal eccentricities in judging his value as a congressman. His political instincts, from our conversation that will be appearing in the March Reason, seem worth giving a chance.