Thomas Massie’s campaign to be the Republican nominee in the Fourth District Congressional race is an interesting one. He’s billed as an inventor and jobs creator. Those around him have touted him as progressive and modern. His narrative is one that reads as an American success story.
We would have been content with never considering his background. Never digging into anything. But his folks harped non-stop on a few points and his campaign has mentioned them dozens of times. So we figured it was time to poke around a bit.
Especially after his latest campaign mail piece:
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Within the letter, there’s this passage:
That’s what really prompted the research.
The letter goes on to reiterate:
- While at MIT, Massie invented a touch-based computer technology
- He and his wife started their own company
- He raised $32 million in venture capital
- He created 70 jobs
- He obtained 24 patents
- He is a successful businessman
While he’s seen success as a businessman and deserves credit, some of those claims are a bit of a stretch.
In a masters thesis at MIT titled When Machines Touch Back: Simulating–and stimulating–the most intimate of senses – filed June 1, 2005 – you can learn quite a bit. The author, Kevin Bullis, revealed:
- While in college, he became a lab assistant to a professor who’d spent years working in robotics. Massie’s ideas as a college student were incorporated into that professor’s work. Because the idea was developed in the lab at MIT, the school holds the patent.
- Massie is listed as the “co-inventor” of the first device. His professor is the other. He’s the “co-inventor” with as many as six people on other devices.
- Massie holds no patents in his own name.
- Massie and his wife started a business which only generated $220,000. He then sought out people with business experience. They invested in and took over the company. Massie was designated “Chief Technology Officer”, not president or CEO.
- Massie traveled to China to find an off-shore manufacturer for his device. (Sending jobs overseas?)
- When Massie’s business ideas were rejected by management, a huge cat fight broke out. He sold all of his stock and owned none of the business after 2002.
It would seem that he didn’t raise all of that $32 million. He didn’t solely create 70 jobs. He doesn’t hold 24 patents and was merely one part of many involved in obtaining them.
While he’s no career politician, he certainly reminds us of a guy named Greg Fischer. Particularly on the patent and business front. Because none of those specifics from the thesis – which was defended and researched – are ever part of Massie’s campaign rhetoric.
Greg Fischer-Light? New inventor of the ice machine fairy tale? Or standard political operating procedure? The story is really nice until you examine the specifics. And then you’re left with that weird Fischer taste in your mouth.