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Massie, Owensby Comment on HBO's "The Swamp" Which Features the NKY Congressman

Northern Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie is featured in the new HBO documentary The Swamp, which tells a story of what is characterized as three renegade Republican members of the U.S. House.

Along with Massie, Matt Gaetz of Florida and Ken Buck of Colorado are profiled.

The film premiered last week.

Rep. Massie said that the film gave his colleagues and him a fair shake, despite being edited in Hollywood. 

"Of course you're always worried when you give someone that kind of access," Massie told RCN. "They had full access to our offices and staff - the crew even came to my house with me to see my farm."

One issue The Swamp draws attention to is the assignment of committee seats which is done based on fundraising merits within the party, the members claim, rather than expertise that a member could bring. In a trailer for the documentary, viewers can see Rep. Massie recall a time when a lobbyist offered to buy him a seat on the Ways and Means Committee. 

"People know that Washington is broken and money corrupts politics," Massie told RCN. "What people don't realize is that politicians are using money to buy more influence in D.C. which in turn gives lobbyists more influence. When you hear that a politician has made so much money in Washington - it's not like they are buying vacation homes with it."

At one point in the movie, Matt Gaetz showed a more collaborative side by appearing on screen with Democratic Representative Ro Khanna from California. The two talked about initiatives they both support to help "drain the swamp" that has taken over American Politics. 

The solutions outlined in the interview with Gaetz and Khanna include congressional term limits, a non-partisan redistricting commission, a lifetime ban on members of congress becoming lobbyists, and a ban on lobbyists giving money to members of congress. 

Massie told RCN that he would also support these changes - and added that some of the problems seen in D.C. could be remedied without legislation, but rather within the party rules decided at the beginning of the congressional sessions.  

Massie is up for re-election in November and faces Democratic nominee, Dr. Alexandra Owensby of Fort Thomas. She told RCN that she thinks the corruption is with the politicians, not the lobbyists like Massie suggests.

"The boys of The Swamp think it was a good portrayal of them," she said. "But it certainly was not."

Owensby said that politicians don't succumb to being a pawn to the whims of lobbyists, but rather succumb to wanting to be a power player.

Massie said that he addresses that sentiment by referring to the Congressional pin that he wears as "Precious", a reference to The Lord of the Rings. Massie tells HBO that he sees how the power of the office gets to some of his colleagues and expresses his conscious effort to remain a Hobbit and not become a Gollum. 

Owensby disagrees with the portrayal.

"One thing that we've seen over and over for Massie is that he does not do what is best for the district, but what's best for him," Dr. Owensby told RCN while referencing the PRIME act - a House bill, sponsored by Massie, that exempts some slaughtering of animals from federal inspection.

Owensby made the claim that this bill was self-serving because of Massie's farm, which was shown in the documentary, and the cattle that he raises there. 

Massie called Dr. Owensby's claim ludicrous saying that just because he looks like a constituent of the fourth district doesn't mean that he's self serving when he pushes legislation to help the fourth district. 

HBO's The Swamp can be streamed on the channel's online service: HBO Max.

Written by Connor Wall, associate editor