Justin Amash Headlines Karaoke Fundraiser for Thomas Massie

The House conservatives bring a fundraiser to libertarians’ regular Tuesday-night haunt, and raise $9K for a man unlikely to face much competition.

Justin Amash, Matt Hurtt, and Thomas Massie at a libertarians' Karaoke bar in Arlington.
National Journal
Tim Alberta
March 12, 2014, 5:40 p.m.

(NOTE FROM THE ED­IT­ORS: In the print ver­sion of this story, the head­line and pho­to­graph left the im­pres­sion with some read­ers that Rep. Justin Amash was drink­ing al­co­hol at a fun­draiser. As the story noted, the con­gress­man was drink­ing only wa­ter and did not par­ti­cip­ate in the karaoke event. We apo­lo­gize for the con­fu­sion.)

Just minutes after he strokes a $100 check to the cam­paign of Rep. Thomas Massie, a husky, bald­ing, middle-aged man named Norm Singleton is on stage shriek­ing the lyr­ics to Em­inem.

I’ve cre­ated a mon­ster, ‘cause nobody wants to see Mar­shall no more they want Shady I’m chopped liv­er, well if you want Shady this is what I’ll give ya, a little bit of weed mixed with some hard li­quor “¦

Singleton isn’t much of a sing­er (or rap­per). In fact, his shrill voice is down­right dis­turb­ing. But nobody minds. There’s only one re­quire­ment for at­tend­ing the weekly Liberty Karaoke event at O’Sul­li­van’s Ir­ish Pub in Ar­ling­ton: You must be a “de­fend­er of liberty.” And Singleton, who worked for 15 years for then-Rep. Ron Paul, qual­i­fies.

“We love Norm,” says Matt Hurtt, the 26-year-old liber­tari­an act­iv­ist who or­gan­izes Liberty Karaoke, after Singleton drops off the check.

Hurtt ex­plains that a group of loc­al liber­tari­ans, most of them in their 20s or 30s, at­tend this every-Tues­day event that was or­gan­ized sev­er­al years ago. Nor­mally, he says, between 20 and 60 people show up. To­night there are more than 100, but it’s not your typ­ic­al Liberty Karaoke event. In­stead, Hurtt has teamed with the Tea Party Ex­press to trans­form this af­fair in­to a fun­draiser for Massie, the fresh­man law­maker from Ken­tucky who ran for Con­gress as a Ron Paul aco­lyte.

It’s ob­vi­ous, however, that not every­one is here to see Massie. Plenty of at­tendees came to hear from (and snap selfies with) Rep. Justin Amash, who earns a thun­der­ing ova­tion when he takes the stage to in­tro­duce Massie, a mem­ber of his by-in­vit­a­tion-only con­ser­vat­ives group known as the House Liberty Caucus.

“Thomas Massie has been a real god­send to me,” Amash says, not­ing how he was “lonely” dur­ing the last Con­gress be­cause Paul spent much of his time on the pres­id­en­tial cam­paign trail. The Michig­ander said he felt like the lone liber­tari­an voice in the House. And then, last Janu­ary, Massie ar­rived.

“He’s prin­cipled, he’s hon­est, he be­lieves in liberty, and he’s as smart as they come,” Amash says of Massie. “We need more people who can carry the torch of liberty.”

Massie runs with that mes­sage, al­beit less art­fully, after bound­ing onto the stage and ac­cept­ing a $2,500 check from the Tea Party Ex­press. He tells the crowd that with sev­er­al dozen House mem­bers leav­ing Con­gress this year, it’s up to these grass­roots act­iv­ists — and out­side groups like the Tea Party Ex­press — to bring more liber­tari­an-minded law­makers to Wash­ing­ton.

“There are 36 con­gress­men that are re­tir­ing, resign­ing, or run­ning for Sen­ate — or got caught buy­ing co­caine,” Massie says, eli­cit­ing nervous laughter from the crowd for his ref­er­ence to Trey Radel.

“It’s really im­port­ant to get people here who have a spine,” Massie tells the crowd. “This is the thing that sur­prised me about con­gress­men: They will lie to you. They will get squishy — we call it ‘jelly legs’ — and tell you they’re go­ing to vote one way, and they get in there and vote dif­fer­ently.”

The Ken­tucky fresh­man prom­ises he’s not “squishy.” In fact, he tells the crowd, his vot­ing re­cord promp­ted a high-pro­file mem­ber of the busi­ness com­munity sev­er­al months ago to ex­plore a primary cam­paign against him. But after a “money­bomb” was or­gan­ized on Massie’s be­half, and donated to by the likes of Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, the pro­spect­ive chal­lenger was “scared out of the race.”

This draws a rous­ing ova­tion from the act­iv­ists, some of whom may be second-guess­ing their dona­tions to Massie after real­iz­ing he won’t face a primary op­pon­ent or ser­i­ous gen­er­al-elec­tion com­pet­i­tion this year in his ruby-red dis­trict.

The crowd grows rest­less as Massie’s homily drags on. They are happy to hear from him, but more ex­cited about what comes next. When the law­maker fi­nally fin­ishes, the liberty-lov­ers roar in ap­prov­al — and then race to sub­mit their karaoke songs to the queue.

The fest­iv­it­ies kick off with the sounds of Sam Marsh, the enorm­ous, bearded DJ of Liberty Karaoke. (Marsh boasts of be­ing an ori­gin­al mem­ber of the Ron Paul Re­volu­tion, vot­ing for his liber­tari­an line in the 1988 pres­id­en­tial elec­tion.) Be­fore long, the bar is boom­ing with everything from Glor­ia Gaynor’s “I Will Sur­vive” to Bon­nie Raitt’s “Something to Talk About.” Young liber­tari­ans crush double shots of clear li­quor be­fore tak­ing the stage for awk­ward duets, shout­ing-out the House mem­bers, who pre­tend not to hear.

To the chag­rin of at­tendees, two of the only people who de­cline to par­ti­cip­ate in the mu­sic­al rev­elry were Amash and Massie. They have dif­fer­ent ex­cuses. Amash says his mu­sic­al tal­ents are lim­ited, and seems con­tent to watch oth­er people em­bar­rass them­selves. (Plus, he is drink­ing wa­ter, and ap­pears to lack the li­quid cour­age of­ten re­quired to per­form in such a ven­ue.)

Massie, on the oth­er hand, is en­joy­ing an IPA and seems eager to sing. But something is hold­ing him back. He talks about want­ing to bust out his banjo (he’s been play­ing for years) and even shares his go-to karaoke tune (“Coun­try Boy Can Sur­vive”). Ul­ti­mately, Massie ac­know­ledges, his wife ad­vised him against singing.

The crowd is dis­ap­poin­ted, but it hardly mat­ters. When the dust settles, Massie has raised nearly $4,000 from 80 in­di­vidu­al donors. That, com­bined with the $2,500 con­tri­bu­tion from the Tea Party Ex­press and a sur­prise $2,600 com­mit­ment from Amash’s PAC, puts Massie’s take at about $9,000.

Not bad for a night of drunk­en karaoke.

What We're Following See More »
AT LEAST NOT YET
Paul Ryan Can’t Get Behind Trump
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

Paul Ryan told CNN today he's "not ready" to back Donald Trump at this time. "I'm not there right now," he said. Ryan said Trump needs to unify "all wings of the Republican Party and the conservative movement" and then run a campaign that will allow Americans to "have something that they're proud to support and proud to be a part of. And we've got a ways to go from here to there."

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Preet Bharara Learned at the Foot of Chuck Schumer
3 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

In The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin gives Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the longread treatment. The scourge of corrupt New York pols, bad actors on Wall Street, and New York gang members, Bharara learned at the foot of Chuck Schumer, the famously limelight-hogging senator whom he served as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee staff. No surprise then, that after President Obama appointed him, Bharara "brought a media-friendly approach to what has historically been a closed and guarded institution. In professional background, Bharara resembles his predecessors; in style, he’s very different. His personality reflects his dual life in New York’s political and legal firmament. A longtime prosecutor, he sometimes acts like a budding pol; his rhetoric leans more toward the wisecrack than toward the jeremiad. He expresses himself in the orderly paragraphs of a former high-school debater, but with deft comic timing and a gift for shtick."

Source:
DRUG OFFENDERS
Obama Commutes the Sentences of 58 Prisoners
4 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama has announced another round of commutations of prison sentences. Most of the 58 individuals named are incarcerated for possessions with intent to distribute controlled substances. The prisoners will be released between later this year and 2018.

STAFF PICKS
Trump Roadmapped His Candidacy in 2000
5 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

The Daily Beast has unearthed a piece that Donald Trump wrote for Gear magazine in 2000, which anticipates his 2016 sales pitch quite well. "Perhaps it's time for a dealmaker who can get the leaders of Congress to the table, forge consensus, and strike compromise," he writes. Oddly, he opens by defending his reputation as a womanizer: "The hypocrites argue that a man who loves and appreciates beautiful women (and does so legally and openly) shouldn't become a national leader? Is there something wrong with appreciating beautiful women? Don't we want people in public office who show signs of life?"

Source:
‘NO MORAL OR ETHICAL GROUNDING’
Sen. Murphy: Trump Shouldn’t Get Classified Briefigs
5 hours ago
THE LATEST
×