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The Quiet Staffer Who Went Nuclear on the GOP The Quiet Staffer Who Went Nuclear on the GOP

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The Quiet Staffer Who Went Nuclear on the GOP

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Provocateur: Lofgren at his Alexandria, Va., home.(Richard A. Bloom)

Mike Lofgren, longtime Republican congressional staffer and budget analyst, has published an essay accusing the Republican Party of bigotry, fanaticism, and political terrorism—and of driving him into retirement.

In a Sept. 7 article written for Truthout.com, a nonprofit organization that publishes news stories and commentary, Lofgren aired his grievances about the federal government in general and the Republican Party in particular. He charged that both political parties are “rotten ... captives to corporate loot,” but that while Democrats are merely weak and out of touch, the GOP is “becoming more like an apocalyptic cult.”

 

Lofgren’s assessment has drawn attention from publications such as The Atlantic—National Journal Daily’s sister publication—and The Washington Monthly, because he isn’t just a crazy, tea party-hating leftist. A self-described “historian by nature,” Lofgren spent 28 years as an aide on Capitol Hill, mainly on budget issues, for Republican legislators. He particularly focused on military and foreign affairs.

The 58-year-old worked on the House Budget Committee from 1995 to 2005; from 2005 until his retirement this May, he was the chief analyst for military spending on the Senate Budget Committee. Lofgren began his career in 1983 on the staff of Rep. John Kasich, R-Ohio, who later became chairman of the House Budget Committee and is now governor of Ohio. He also worked under former Rep. Jim Nussle, once chairman of the House Budget Committee, and former Sen. Judd Gregg, once chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.

Lofgren wrote that he left his post at the Senate Budget Committee because he “was appalled at the headlong rush of Republicans ... to embrace policies that are deeply damaging to this country’s future; and contemptuous of the feckless, craven incompetence of Democrats in their half-hearted attempts to stop them.”

 

In an interview with National Journal, he added that his essay, which ended up on Truthout.com because an acquaintance suggested the website, is “no kiss-and-tell.” He didn’t write to settle a grudge or a personal score, he said, adding that he had “a good career” and no personal problems on the Hill.

Lofgren also emphasized that although he is only now going public with his accusations, he never withheld his opinion when he was on staff. He told NJ that he has never been very political and that he considered himself “professional staff.”

Now, however, he said, the time has come to tell the truth, and he believes that, after so many years as a Republican Party staffer, he is in a unique position to do so. “I think our politics are going in a direction that I think the public should know about, and I had a sort of uniquely privileged view of the machinery of at least one branch of the government.”

In his essay, Lofgren wrote that the tea party is “filled with lunatics,” and that lawmakers used the “routine” vote to raise the debt limit—which Congress has done 87 times since the end of World War II—to create “an entirely artificial fiscal crisis.”

 

Lofgren attacked the Republican Party specifically on tax policy, and suggested that members mislead the average citizen to further their own agendas. In the interview, he said that even though the country has “30 years of empirical evidence to show that [tax cuts] don’t work,” every 2012 GOP presidential candidate has come up with a tax policy that would reduce revenue.

“Most people don’t have any clue about the state of the federal budget,” he said. “Politicians aren’t in any hurry to disabuse them of their illusions, particularly on tax policy.”

The reaction to his essay has been “bewildering,” Lofgren said. Although he is retired and has minimal contact information on the Web, he has received many phone calls and e-mails about the piece.

“Much of this seemed like this big exposé,” he said, “but I did it for reasons that have nothing to do with getting attention.”

He particularly called out the press for its reaction:  “The media love a classic man-bites-dog story.”

This article appears in the September 12, 2011 edition of NJ Daily.

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