As the apparent public revolt against establishment elites continues to gain momentum, Wisconsin businessman Paul Nehlen is aiming to bring down the establishment's main man in Congress: House Speaker Paul Ryan. Running on a pro-Constitution, pro-jobs platform, the outsider candidate is closing in on Ryan, according to polls. With the tide increasingly turning against politicians viewed as part of the establishment — often ridiculed as “Rino” for being a “Republican In Name Only,” Ryan is the epitome of an establishment politician — media reports suggest the embattled Speaker of the House is getting nervous. Some polls even show Nehlen in the lead as the August 9 primary approaches.
Nehlen has made headlines across America with his nontraditional campaign. In his “Truth Resurrection” campaign video released in May, for example, the tattooed businessman can be seen riding a Wisconsin-made Harley-Davidson while calling out his opponent for helping destroy manufacturing jobs in the state. In the next scene, wearing business attire and standing in a factory, he challenges Ryan to debate him “man to man, face to face.” If Ryan refuses a debate, Nehlen proposes an arm-wrestling match instead. The video garnered attention for Nehlen's campaign all across America. Now, Nehlen's even got a giant dump truck promoting the website “DumpPaulRyan.com.”
Most recently, Nehlen held a press conference in front of Ryan's personal wall and gate surrounding his luxurious Wisconsin mansion. “God picked an imperfect man to challenge Speaker Ryan,” Nehlen said, calling Ryan the “most open borders, pro-Wall Street, anti-worker” member of Congress in either party. “I'm here to take back this district from global special interests.” The rhetorical beating is fierce as Nehlen lambastes Ryan as a liar, a deceiver, a stooge for special interests, and the corrupt embodiment of everything Americans “despise” about their government. “I'm running against the entire system of corporate control of our government,” Nehlen declares.
In a wide-ranging interview with The New American this week, Nehlen said there was “one singular item” that motivated him to step outside his successful business career and challenge Representative Ryan in the GOP primary. “His mercenary championing of the destructive, job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is really what got me involved,” says Nehlen, adding that he has “never run for anything” in his life. “It's anything but a free trade deal. It is crony corruption. Paul Ryan and his campaign are being funded by those who would win, against all the rest of us who would lose. I thought somebody else should run.” Ryan and Obama have both been ardent supporters of TPP.
TPP and “Free Trade”
Nehlen said that he first realized how disastrous the then-secret TPP would be when Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) started putting out information about it. “I actually had to go to other governments' websites to verify information on this,” Nehlen fumed. “That, in and of itself, is absolutely unacceptable.” Aside from the extreme secrecy to conceal the pact from the public, it's a terrible deal that will harm Americans, he said. “Paul Ryan is selling this as free trade, but he and others in Washington have disconnected words from their meaning,” Nehlen explained.
Among other major concerns, the businessman cited the attack on sovereignty and national independence. He noted that international tribunals under such “free trade” schemes, some of which give foreign firms the power to sue Americans over alleged future lost profits, were a major threat to America's ability to govern itself. Under NAFTA, that threat has already started manifesting itself. “And the TPP Ryan supports is basically NAFTA on steroids,” Nehlen said.
Other international tribunals have ruled against laws passed by Congress, such as the Country of Origin Labeling requirements, depriving Americans of the right to govern themselves and to know where their food comes from. That means low-quality, oftentimes dangerous foreign food products can undermine American producers and consumers, and there is nothing Americans can do about it. In China, for example, producers of aquaculture have been caught using pig manure as feed. Under the rulings by international “tribunals,” though, Americans cannot even know that their meat and other products are coming from China instead of the United States.
In Nehlen's view, that is unacceptable. “Americans wouldn't tolerate this. But under these deals, we are not allowed to protect ourselves from this sort of stuff,” he said. “TPP allows foreign corporations to sue Americans states for the loss of expected revenue from state and federal efforts to protect themselves and their profits. This will directly impact Wisconsin farmers. Our states cannot protect themselves from these threats without risking lawsuits, it's crazy.”
In the TPP, the threat is enormous. Nehlen pointed to Article 27 of the agreement, which sets up an unelected governing body known as the “TPP Commission.” Senator Sessions was so alarmed by the scheme he said the controversial agreement would ensnare America in what he termed a “Pacific Union” along the lines of the continental regime ruling Europe today. Nehlen, too, expressed serious concerns. “Every country gets one vote,” he said. “How do you lead with one vote? You don't. Each government will have one vote.”
While China is not directly a partner in the TPP, Nehlen pointed out that “this is written as a living document, and China can be brought in at any time.” And it could be even worse than that. “If this were to pass, they could even try to nix the provision for us to get out, and this is a treaty,” he said. “Then they vote in China. And you see how this is so insidious. We should only, only, ever negotiate bilateral trade agreements. As soon as you have more than two countries, it becomes a catastrophe. We should also implement a balanced trade approach.”
The economic effects of the pseudo-“free trade” regimes have also been disastrous, Nehlen said. “In Wisconsin, since we elected Ryan, we've lost 20 percent of our manufacturing jobs, we've had wage stagnation, we've had so many businesses shuttered,” he said, citing various sources with the data to back it up. And if TPP gets approved, which Ryan, Obama, and other establishment politicians are working toward right now, the economic disaster already afflicting America will only get worse.
Nehlen was clear that he does support trade. “I'm a big fan of trading with other countries. I've done it my whole career,” he said. “I've closed Mexican factories and brought them back to the United States, I've moved 15 product lines from Mexico to Georgia, I've moved product lines from China to Florida, from China to Indiana, and made the companies more profitable. I sell filters to Chinese businessmen. I buy and sell stuff all over the globe, because I'm a business guy — I know how to do business.”
However, there has to be a more sensible approach to trade, he said, calling for protecting industries that are crucial for national defense and fighting back against Beijing's exchange rate manipulations, for example, with scaled tariffs. “I've run Fortune 500 companies all over the globe, I've had over 10,000 employees in my life time,” he said. “I'll be damned if I'm going to see Paul Ryan burn it all down. Paul Ryan drove the Wiener Mobile, then went to Congress.”
Beyond Trade: Open Borders, Tenth Amendment
While the TPP and Ryan's “trade” agenda was Nehlen's impetus for getting involved in politics, it was hardly the only source of frustration with the Speaker. Among other key concerns he mentioned were Ryan's support for open borders, his disrespect of the Constitution, his failure to check the out-of-control growth of the regulatory state, full-blown backing for crony capitalism and bailouts for special interests, his failure to exercise Congress' authority on war or the power of the purse to restrain Obama, and much more. “Paul Ryan is unfit for the job,” Nehlen said. “He's unfit to represent this district. He's voting on behalf of his special-interest D.C. cronies.”
Among the many “outrages” cited by Nehlen was Ryan's support for the “Every Student Succeeds Act,” or ESSA, an extreme Obama-backed education bill that cemented Common Core into place and granted vast powers to the U.S. Department of Education. “This is a continuation of the No Child Left Behind Act,” he explained. “The roots of this are now joining up with the roots of ObamaCare. Paul Ryan is the chief architect of this.” Indeed, the federal government should not even be involved in education, as it is not a power delegated in the Constitution.
Ryan has also “funded every dangerous immigration policy that Obama and his merry band of trouble makers have cooked up,” Nehlen continued. Instead, Ryan should have been using Congress' constitutional power of the purse to rein in the administration. “Ryan bills himself as small-government guy, but he has been a leading enabler of this,” Nehlen added. “He could have de-funded Planned Parenthood, he could have stopped any number of these things.”
Despite earlier complaining about it, Ryan also ensured that the crony-capitalist “Export-Import Bank” would be re-authorized. “In all my business around the world, I've never utilized the Ex-Im Bank,” Nehlen said. “There are insurance companies, private companies, that can insure these deals, and finance these deals. The U.S. government should not be using tax money for this kind of cronyism.” He also cited Ryan's support for the bailout of Puerto Rico bondholders as an example of the Speaker's crony ways. “U.S. taxpayers will end up paying those bondholders,” he said.
On war powers, Ryan has also been a dismal failure. “The Framers never intended for the president to be able to wage war on his own,” Nehlen said. “The Founders specifically discussed this, and decided that the president should not have power to wage war. Yet Paul Ryan has been asked four times to check Obama's powers on the authorization to use military force, and yet he refuses to fulfill his duty. He has failed to do that.”
Indeed, Ryan's tenure in Congress has been marked by flagrant defiance of his oath to the Constitution, Nehlen explained. “There's a litany of things Paul Ryan has done that are against the Constitution, against his oath of office, against the people who gave him their trust with their vote,” he continued. “I would handle things much differently.” The New American's Freedom Index, which ranks lawmakers according to the constitutionality of their voting records, has Ryan at a terrible 58 percent.
To start with, he said every federal department and agency should “go against a Tenth Amendment litmus test.” “I'm a firm believer in the Tenth Amendment,” he explained. “Let's work backwards. I'm a Wisconsin taxpayer, but I pay federal taxes for the federal government to money-launder it and send 70 cents on the dollar back to Wisconsin. Why shouldn't I just send my 70 cents to Wisconsin, and keep my 30 cents, and not have these hooks in my state from the Department of Education and these other agencies? I could go on and on.”
The responsibilities of numerous unconstitutional federal agencies would be much better handled at the state level anyway, he said. “I would argue, and I think I would convince a lot of people, that states should keep most of their money — keep it at the state level and choke off the federal Leviathan,” he said. “Residents of states will hold their state officials accountable much better than they will be able to at the federal level, that's my belief.”
Indeed, at the federal level, things are out of control. “Congress has outsourced governing to regulatory agencies,” he said, pointing to the almost unfathomable growth of the regulatory regime. “They are taking away our liberty by writing all these rules that are choking us. That money shouldn't go to D.C. and be laundered and then returned to us. Government should not work this way.” Even in Congress, things are out of control. “We haven't had a budget since 2007,” Nehlen said, blaming Ryan, who served on the Ways and Means Committee, and others. “We've had omnibus spending since Obama took office. Obama will be the first president to leave and never have a budget.”
The Supreme Court has also overstepped its bounds repeatedly, he said, adding that Congress has a role to play. “Congress should rein in the Supreme Court,” he said. “Legislators are able to rein in the Supreme Court, and they need to. The Supreme Court was never meant to be strongest branch of government, overruling the others without regard to the Constitution. They were at best set up to be equal. Actually, we could discuss this further, but they were actually set up to be less powerful than the legislative branch — we call [the House of Representatives] the People's House for a reason. I think there's an opportunity to take back some of the power for states from the federal bench, and I think that's the right thing to do.”
Despite his stated support for the Constitution and natural rights, Nehlen, who is totally new to politics, is not a perfect constitutionalist — at least not yet. In his speech outside Ryan's wall, for example, he cited the recent murders of five Dallas police officers and called for the Speaker to introduce legislation making attempted murder of police officers a “federal hate crime” punishable by death. While no constitutionalist wants to see brave police officers murdered by thugs and terrorists, the Constitution does not appear to delegate power over murder or “hate” to the federal government. Thus, such laws, as well as law enforcement generally, are a state responsibility primarily.
Still, with Americans increasingly outraged with their out-of-control government — as represented by Obama, Ryan, and other establishment figures — Big Government neocon Republicans are in trouble. That was illustrated most recently with the triumph of Donald Trump, who portrayed himself as an outsider ready to take on the corrupt establishment, stop “globalism,” and promote “Americanism.” Before that, high-ranking establishment Republican Eric Cantor, who was House Majority Leader at the time, was unseated in the 2014 primary, shocking the establishment. Since then, the mood has become increasingly anti-establishment, with forces on the left and right uniting to depose longtime establishment hacks in Washington. Other establishment lawmakers have already gone down in flames over TPP.
While victory for a total outsider against an entrenched incumbent will not come easy, Speaker Ryan is probably right to be worried.
Photo of Paul Nehlen
(The New American never endorses candidates. Our purpose is to inform the electorate and enable them to draw their own conclusions.)