You will recall that I reported a potential ethics problem for Thomas Massie regarding the absence of his personal financial disclosure form at the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. Well, it seems he did file one in Washington DC last spring which simply never made it to Kentucky. But now we have it.
Why is this important? Well, unlike the narrative created about a candidate as he is marketed during a campaign, this is an official document filed with the United States government. One is a sales pitch, the other closer to the truth.
During the campaign of Thomas Massie what did you learn about him? What was the image that he and his campaign created?
He was a bright man who attended MIT, who obtained a number of patents, was a successful businessman, made a fortune off of his patents, retired to his in-laws farm in Lewis County and who only left private life for public service when he saw the need for fiscal restraint in his own community. That then translated into the narrative that Thomas Massie was a guy motivated by principles, not politics and certainly not money, even publicly rejecting his Congressional pension because he didn't need it.
Is that about accurate? Well here is what we learn now from his personal financial disclosure statement.
Massie was far from wealthy. In fact in the year before he ran for Congress his only salary was $68,000 from the Judge-Executives job. And based upon his report, his only other sources of income, which probably existed before he started receiving the J-E salary was perhaps as little as $30,000 per year and certainly not more than $100,000 per year from his farm and a small royalty on a patent that has no value and is owned by MIT.
Massie has no savings, no investments, no IRA, no stocks, no cash, no patents of any value nothing other than his farm. And though he lists his farm as having a value of between 1 and 5 million dollars, the PVA in Lewis county has it listed as having a far smaller fair market value.
What clearly appears from this report is that the narrative created about Massie being a wealthy and successful businessman is just not true. In fact, before he was elected Judge-Executive he had been out of work for nearly 10 years.
So what really motivated him to run for office? He says it was about principles, not politics. In now appears that it was neither principles, nor politics but rather a paycheck. He needed the income.
Let me be clear. I know a lot of people who need an income and would relish getting $176,000 per year plus expenses. And I do not begrudge Congressmen, Senators or government employees getting paid well for the work they do. The work needs to be done and people need to be paid to do it.
Nor do I oppose a pension plan for government workers who devote their lives to their jobs. Why should they spend their entire work life in government service and not get benefits similar to private industry? These are jobs and we need to pay to have them done.
And I am not critical of Thomas Massie nor do I wish to draw any criticism toward him if his personal finances were such that he needed work. That day might come for any of us.
Where I do have a problem though is with the way in which he was sold on the voters.
In the last 33 years I’ve seen enough witnesses fudge the truth that I have developed a certain instinct for truth telling, bluster, embellishment and outright lying. It’s not a perfect instinct, but it is pretty reliable.
Back in the early part of 2012 when a number of people were considering a run for Congress to replace Geoff Davis in Kentucky’s fourth Congressional District I was approached by several people interested in the seat who were considering a run for office.
Some of the ones who ran, and several more who didn’t, gave me the chance to meet them, to discuss what the demands of the office were and what it would take to be a contender in what was shaping up to be a crowded field. Some who ran I knew well, others were unknown to me.
Among the unknowns was Thomas Massie. My first contact with him was a phone call. We planned to meet but those plans changed and so we met by phone a couple more times before I had the chance to meet him in person.
He seemed personable enough. He had a big smile and a sort of innocence about him. But as I studied his demeanor I started to get an eerie feeling that there was something more to the story than what was being told.
He was introduced then, as he was many times during the campaign, as an inventor who had founded a successful technology company. As the narrative developed he was the owner of 22 patents who lived on a farm in Lewis County where his interest in improving government efficiency eventually took him out of his life on the farm and made him a highly popular judge executive.
It was very clearly stated at the first meeting and in many introductions over the next 11 months, that Massie was a successful businessman and certainly the impression which was created was that he was a wealthy one too.
My instincts however led me to think otherwise. I was highly skeptical of the narrative that he was a wealthy guy running for office for purely principled reasons. I suspected that there was something else at work.
So was the story about Massie being a wealthy, successful businessman true? According to his financial statement it would appear that the answer to that question is “no”. In fact, what appears to be closer to the truth is that Massie needed a job when he ran for Judge Executive and for Congress.
I cannot say with certainty that I ever heard Massie claim to be a wealthy guy who made a fortune as a successful businessman. What I can say though is that this narrative of him was pretty widely spread by those around him and I can find no evidence that he corrected the record. Remaining silent as others introduce you as someone you are not makes you complicit and just as guilty as if you spoke the words yourself.
I think Thomas would have been very happy for people to believe that he entered the race for Congress motivated by a higher calling.
But that does not now appear to have been the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Maybe some have become so cynical that they accept without concern that politicians don't always tell the truth. That is sad. That is the reason why we never seem to make any progress.
Glenn Beck says he is looking for the next George Washington to come along to lead us. I think I know what he means. He, like I do, believes that we must expect more of our leaders, more selflessness, more humility, more of a servant's heart and more honesty.
And we must demand more of ourselves. We must not accept that we can do no better than to fall for slick commercials, sales gimmicks, fake rallies, big smiles, slapped backs, gripped hands or to fall for grandiose embellishments, dishonesty or promises that will never be kept.
Does any of this mean that Thomas Massie cannot do the job he was elected to do? No. Does it mean that he should not be in office or paid while he is? No.
What it means is that the public was sold an image that wasn't true, and he stood by and let that happen.
My father once told me that if a man ever lies to you, never trust anything he says again, because once you discover that he is capable of lying, you will never know if anything else he tells you is the truth or not. Good advice, even today.
**UPDATE**: The above form filed by Thomas Massie lists farm on Montgomery Road as being worth between $1 million and $5 million dollars. As the form requires, this does not include the value of his personal residence.
According to the PVA in Lewis County, every taxable thing with Thomas Massie's name attached, including property owned by Howard-Massie LLC, his personal residence, a mobile home and other "tangible" taxed items all totaled only come up to $612,178. And, according to the photograph of his home posted on the PVA website, as of last spring it was clearly not completed, though it had been under construction for over 10 years.
Did he exaggerate the value of his farm on the financial disclosure statement? Has he been getting by with an undervalued assessment for taxes in Lewis County? Is there an audit of the Lewis County PVA needed? Why did it take over 10 years to end up with an uncompleted home if he had plenty of money as the narrative around him developed?
Are you starting to get the picture folks?