Tom Tiffany, the Northwoods state senator running for the Republican nomination to replace Sean Duffy in the seventh congressional district, has a pretty straightforward message for voters: He is a proven conservative with deep roots in the district, and he will help President Trump take on Washington bureaucrats, just as he has fought for reform in the state Legislature.
About those deep roots: As his campaign website summarizes, Tiffany grew up on a dairy farm near Elmwood and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a degree in agricultural economics. For the last 30 years, he and his wife Chris have lived in the seventh congressional district, where they have raised three daughters.
During that time, Tiffany owned and operated Wilderness Cruises for 20 years. He has also worked as a dam tender for 25 years on the Willow Flowage, his website reports, and he is a former town supervisor in the town of Little Rice and served on the Oneida County Economic Development board of directors.
He also served one term in the state Assembly and is now in his second Senate term.
About those conservative credentials: Tiffany says he has time and again proved his bona fides, working with the Republican majority during the years of Gov. Scott Walker’s tenure to cut taxes in the state by more than $13 billion, as well as to defend the lives of the unborn and ensure that Second Amendment rights are protected.
Now, Tiffany says, he will put those conservative values to work in Washington, because he says he knows the people of northern and western Wisconsin — not Washington bureaucrats — should be trusted to make the best decisions for their lives.
“Restoring freedom is the best path to create a prosperous America,” Tiffany says.Role of federal government
In a recent interview at The Times
, Tiffany talked at length about the proper role of the federal government, which he describes as limited and defined.
“The Founders were very explicit in the constitution and the Federalist papers that the federal government’s role should be limited, and most decisions that affect people’s daily lives should be made by the states,” Tiffany said.
He also addressed a growing debate over the constitution’s general welfare clause. Liberals believe the clause enables Congress to act broadly on whatever it considers to be in the public interest, whether or not those actions are enumerated or apply to all people and places, while conservatives believe the cause restricts Congress from taking any action unless it both falls within its enumerated powers and provides for the general welfare of all people and all U.S. places, as opposed to certain groups and locations.
Tiffany took the latter view.
“I believe all of the articles in the constitution put limits on the federal government,” he said. “That’s how the Founders established our country. It was to put limits on the government. They saw the expansiveness in government.”
Along those lines, Tiffany believes the federal government’s role in economic development is likewise limited. As such, he says he would oppose a recent Brookings Institution proposal to direct targeted subsidies to cities like Madison — as much as $1 billion a year for 10 years — to create a new technology industrial cluster. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has lauded the proposal.
“I’ll vote against it because it’s picking winners and losers,” Tiffany said.
However, Tiffany supported a similar state investment of up to $3.6 billion in targeted subsidies to Foxconn in southern Wisconsin — an issue that has divided conservatives — but the senator says there are substantial differences between Foxconn and the Brookings proposal, chief among them being the Brookings proposal would be a federal initiative.
“First of all, there’s a difference in that this is a federal proposal which we just talked about — enumerating the powers of the federal government, and this should not fall within their bailiwick,” he said. “What states choose to do — they refer to them as the laboratories of the states — states should have the latitude to be able to do projects like that if they choose to. So if you see states like California and they are subsidizing wind, solar, and those types of things, that’s their choice and their citizens have made that choice within that state. So I think there is a fundamental difference between the federal and state proposals.”
Moreover, Tiffany said, there have been no subsidies paid to Foxconn because they have not met the requirements needed to trigger payments, including hitting job creation thresholds. Tiffany said Foxconn has invested about $100 million putting people to work, including in northern Wisconsin, but the state has yet to have to pay any subsidies.
Then, too, the only way Foxconn gets subsidies is to meet those job-creation and investment targets, Tiffany said. He also said part of the reason he voted for it was because it was bringing a new industry back to America that the nation had lost over the last few decades.
“President Trump supported the project,” he said. “He has been very clear, and I agree with him on this, that we are going to make things in America again. I don’t usually vote for proposals like this, but I think this project benefits Wisconsin overall, and that’s why I supported it.”Speaking of Trump
On the topic of the president, Tiffany made it clear he didn’t support the impeachment of the president.
“I believe the impeachment is illegitimate,” he said.
Tiffany also lauded the Trump administration’s record on the economy, as opposed to that of the Obama years, and he pointed to Trump’s campaign promise that Americans would start winning again.
“Let’s just take a look at the last week and you tell me if America is winning,” he said. “Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the mastermind of state-sponsored terrorism, is dead. That’s a victory not just for America but for the world. The China trade agreement looks like a victory for America. And the Senate just ratified the trade agreement that replaces NAFTA. That’s a fair trade deal that benefits America.”
Tiffany also said he supported Trump’s decision to kill the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal. Indeed, Tiffany said, the president has been negotiating trade deals that better benefit America, such as the NAFTA replacement (known as United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA), and the new China trade pact.
Because of Trump’s policies, Tiffany says, there’s a lot of optimism among the citizens he meets: “The biggest problem is finding people to do the work that’s out there, and that in itself is a success story.”
Tiffany said former Rep. Sean Duffy, who has endorsed Tiffany to replace him, did some noteworthy things while he was in office, and Tiffany said he would build on that record.
“(Sean Duffy) voted for the Trump tax cuts,” he said. “He was also on the financial services committee, and they were able to unwind some of the Dodd-Frank legislation, which really harmed community banks.”
Tiffany said he believes Dodd-Frank ranks with Obamacare as some of the most harmful laws put in place in the first two years of the Obama administration.
“Dodd-Frank has dried up credit for your Main Street businesses,” he said. “It cannot be emphasized enough how harmful that law has been to America and especially to small-town Main Street America.”
Tiffany said there has been virtually no new community banks started — maybe a handful, he said — since Dodd-Frank was enacted, and he said unwinding that legislation even more will be one of his priorities when elected.Health care
Besides that, Tiffany said health care would be a major priority of his. First and foremost, he said he is opposed to the Affordable Care Act.
“It was supposed to reduce the cost of health insurance,” he said. “It did not. It was supposed to provide better access, or at least maintain access, to your provider. That has not happened.”
Now, Tiffany said, the major Democratic presidential candidates are doubling down with Medicare for All.
“It’s clear with the estimates that have come out, it will break Medicare,” he said. “If I’m a senior citizen, I would be scared to death of the Medicare for All proposal because it would ruin Medicare. It could end Medicare for those people currently on it, or who may be on it soon.”
Medicare for All would become Medicare for None, Tiffany said.
A better approach, Tiffany said, is to return control to states and local communities, and to guarantee choice through association health plans, transparency of costs, and competition in the marketplace.
Tiffany would also like to foster an environment in which direct primary care can thrive. Direct primary care is a health delivery model where, generally, consumers pay physicians directly through periodic payments for specific primary care services.
“We should not always equate health care with health insurance because there are some people who prefer to get their health care directly,” he said. “It does not matter to them whether they are insured or not, they just want affordable health care.”
Health care needs are all individualized, Tiffany said.
“Yours are not the same as mine,” he said. “By using a cookie cutter approach at the federal level, we really tie people’s hands in getting the best health care possible for their individualized needs.”Getting things done
Given the limited scope of what the federal government should do, Tiffany was asked what can he get done for northern Wisconsin that will help to level the playing field for his congressional district.
Tiffany said he would do exactly what he did in the state Senate, among other things helping to fix a large $3.6 billion state budget deficit that had piled up by the end of the administration of former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle in 2010. By the end of fiscal year 2017, that budget deficit had dropped to $1.6 billion.
Tiffany said he had helped to right the fiscal ship in Wisconsin as a member of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, and he would do the same thing in Washington.
“There’s going to have to be some serious effort made to rein in our federal government spending,” he said. “We need to have reasonable regulations and a moderate tax structure.”
And while we need to make sure we are not taxing people at too high a level, Tiffany said, excessive regulations are another concern.
“Especially for us in the northern half of Wisconsin, the regulatory part is often what really hamstrings us and prevents economic development,” he said. “I have done a lot of work draining the swamp in Madison in terms of regulations, and I will do the same in Washington, D.C.”
Tiffany also said laws such as the Davis-Bacon Act, a federal prevailing wage, forces businesses to pay higher wages and thus incur higher costs when federal dollars are involved — ultimately raising taxes.
In late 2016, for example, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that repealing the federal prevailing wage could save taxpayers $13 billion in discretionary outlays on federal construction projects between 2018 and 2026. It would also result in reductions in mandatory spending of about half a billion dollars from 2018 to 2026.
Tiffany said one company in the seventh congressional district told him its broadband fiber installations were 15 to 20 percent higher in costs when federal money was involved.
“It’s stuff like that that we need to dig out root and branch to more effectively use taxpayer dollars,” he said.
Another way to cut spending, Tiffany said, would be to cut unneeded programs and services, and he said the country could do without a federal Department of Education.
“We have 50 states that have a Department of Education, and a Department of Education at the federal level is redundant,” he said.
While the education department is number one on his list to eliminate, Tiffany said some other agencies should at least be pared back. Tiffany also said it would help both accountability and efficiency to move some agency headquarters out of Washington.
“We did that here in Wisconsin with the division of forestry,” he said. “From what I understand, that’s the first time that’s been done in Wisconsin, to move a division out of Madison, and it was the right thing to do because there are a lot of good people in forestry that might consider working for the division of forestry who had no interest in living in Madison.”Weapons, wolves, and weather
Tiffany, who has been endorsed in this election by the NRA with an A+ rating, is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment.
“When I put my hand on the Bible, I swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the state of Wisconsin,” he said. “The Second Amendment is very clear. You have the right to keep and bear arms, and I will always defend that right.”
Tiffany said mass shootings are indeed a pox on America, but, he said, when you look at the details of many of the shootings, confiscation of guns would not have prevented them from happening.
The Parkland shooter should have been put away before the shooting under existing laws, Tiffany said.
“Law enforcement around the country has laws on the books in which, in almost all instances, can stop these shootings,” he said. “Rather than creating new laws, enforce the laws that are currently on the books.”
Tiffany also said he opposed so-called red flag laws.
“All the red-flag laws that I’ve seen written, they view people as guilty until they prove themselves innocent,” he said. “It turns our jurisprudence on its head. That cannot stand. We are innocent until we are proven guilty.”
Tiffany said one of the first bills he will introduce is a bill delisting the wolf and returning wolf management to the states — a task Duffy tried to do but failed.
“It will be a top priority of mine,” he said. “I understand personally how much harm that has done, not just to northern Wisconsin but to a significant part of all Wisconsin.”
What’s more, Tiffany said, the science is on the side of delisting.
“And you endanger the Endangered Species Act by not allowing delisting when a species has recovered,” he said. “Ultimately, people will say, ‘What is the purpose of the Act if you are not going to delist also when a species has recovered?’”
On energy and climate change, Tiffany said he supported President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accords climate change treaty. He also said he did not have a problem with removing or reducing subsidies to fossil fuel companies, so long as that industry was not the only one targeted.
“It should be done with all sources of energy,” he said. “That includes ratepayers subsidizing these things, whatever the source of energy is. They should all be able to stand in the marketplace.”
Tiffany said he is a supporter of nuclear energy and of rolling back outdated regulations to make that industry more competitive.
“Anyone who says they want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, anyone who believes climate change is real, should support nuclear energy because it is one of the few sources of energy that does not give off CO2,” he said.
Tiffany says he hears two different perspectives when he talks with constituents about climate change.
“One is the notion that we should reduce our energy consumption,” he said. “I think that’s a really good goal, and in fact, since the early 90s, in America, we have reduced the amount of CO2 that we are emitting into the environment. We are one of the few countries in the world to do that.”
But, he said, when people tell Americans they have to radically change their lifestyles, Tiffany said he does not hear favor among the constituents he talks with.
“When you tell people they have to go back to an early 1900s lifestyle, that’s just ridiculous,” he said. “There’s been proposals to eliminate wood burners. That is simply ridiculous.”
But the biggest thing, Tiffany said, is that environmentalists never include China and India in their proposals to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
“You cannot reduce the carbon footprint of humans across the world without China and India being included,” he said.
Finally, Tiffany said, one his most important causes will be to protect the constitution from the assaults it is under.
“We need to defend the Second Amendment, but we also need to defend the First Amendment to the constitution, with what we see happening in denying people’s ability to participate in politics,” he said. “It’s fundamental.”
Tiffany said the Wisconsin recalls were very similar to impeachment — using extraordinary means to overturn an election rather than waiting for the next election — and in the aftermath of the unsuccessful Wisconsin recalls came the John Doe investigations, which he said amounted to spying on people and invading their rights and their homes for political purposes.
When all that was exposed, Tiffany said he successfully authored reforms of the John Doe laws to ensure that would never happen to citizens again, and he said that same effort needs to happen on the federal level.
“We need to do the same with the FISA courts,” he said. “We are seeing very clearly now as this is exposed that the FISA courts were used illegitimately. They went after Carter Page just because he was supporting President Trump. They were spying. It was no different from the John Doe. They were spying on them for political purposes. The FISA courts either need radical reform or they need to be eliminated.”
At the end of the day, Tiffany says he’s the best choice in the race because he is a proven conservative and a proven reformer.
“I went to Madison to change how it operated, especially in relation to the people of northern Wisconsin, and I have had success,” he said. “It didn’t change me. Washington D.C. will not either.”Richard Moore is the author of the forthcoming “Storyfinding: From the Journey to the Story” and can be reached at richardmoorebooks.com.