Outside the public eye, Jason Osborne is helping lead GOP’s historic push at NH House
NH House Majority Leader Jason Osborne does not often enter the House. But when he does, he tends to emphasize a fundamental baseline: unity among his caucus members.
In his first year as Majority Leader, this unit helps 43-year-old Osborne achieve results.
From taxes to gun rights to school choice, religious freedom, abortion or the right to vote during this session, 2021 is expected to be a historic year for Conservative politics in New Hampshire. And Osborne helped steer that, with a slim majority leaving little room for error.
Former New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O’Brien, an archconservative, says Osborne’s efforts impressed him.
“I think Jason is very effective,” he says. “You have a strong caucus on the right to the Second Amendment or the right to life. So I think it all fits together.”
Osborne says he takes a consensus approach to senior Republicans.
“My way of leading isn’t telling people what to do, it’s more about figuring out what people want to do and then showing them how to get there,” he says.
Osborne has represented Auburn in the House of Representatives since 2015. He previously earned his PhD in economics before deciding to leave university in favor of business.
Osborne moved to the Granite State from Defiance, Ohio more than a decade ago, where his family founded the debt collection company Credit Adjustments, Inc., which he now runs. Osborne said the pandemic is posing challenges to his business as some debt collection processes have been on hold over the past year. He said he had to cut more than two-thirds of the jobs at his company. (His company also received a $4 million loan from the federal PPP program last April.)
But his involvement in New Hampshire politics dates back to the free state project, a movement aimed at recruiting 20,000 Libertarians to move to New Hampshire to expand liberty and downsize government.
If you browse YouTube, you’ll find many clips of footage of Osborne from before he entered the legislature Conversations with libertarian videographers Dave Ridley on why he provided free beers to attendees at Porcfest, the Free State Project’s annual summer camp since 2008, or as a recurring guest on an education-themed podcast called SchoolSucksProject.
He once posted a picture on Facebook of himself smiling mischievously in front of an exploding statehouse. It has since been taken down, and despite all this fanfare, Osborne appears to have attempted to maintain a lower media profile after entering elected politics. His Twitter account is private, an unusual move for an official. And according to his own statements, he mostly avoids dealing with reporters these days. When NHPR spoke to him for this profile, he made his own recording of the interview (something this reporter had never experienced in two decades of covering the New Hampshire House).
For observers trying to trace his political influence, this tendency to avoid media attention presents a challenge. Even some of his colleagues in the legislature have found it difficult to pinpoint exactly how he wields power.
It’s certainly easier to trace the money Osborne pumped into politics.
Last year, him gave $50,000 to Make Liberty Win, a PAC dedicated to national election of legislators with libertarian leanings. That’s a staggering number by New Hampshire House standards.
In New Hampshire alone, the group endorsed 76 candidates in state representative races. 53 of them are now part of the majority of Osborne leads. Greg Moore, who heads the state chapter of conservative group Americans For Prosperity, says these lawmakers are more ideological, have less experience in traditional public service, and are shifting the center of gravity of the state’s Republican Party.
“You’re going to find a lot fewer people who have been school board members or aldermen or city councillors, and a lot more people for whom this is their first foray into politics,” Moore says of the types of candidates who make Make Liberty Winbacks.
In addition, the legislation of the pandemic through Zoom has effectively ended most social mingling across party lines. Keeping these factors in mind makes it easier to understand how a narrow majority managed to push through so many conservative priorities.
Renny Cushing, the top Democrat in the House of Representatives, says he’s appalled by what Republicans are prioritizing. But he “will give them credit for having great party discipline,” says Cushing.
We may never know to what extent Jason Osborne’s leadership is a cause or a consequence of this discipline. But his ability to direct his caucus will soon be tested as House and Senate negotiators hammer out the final versions of several critical bills, including the state budget.
Back in 2019, while appearing on a pro-vaping podcast called Vaping and the Mic, Osborne noted that being indoors can be a lot of work.
“We get over a thousand bills a year coming through the legislature and we’re not paid to review them. So it’s difficult to sift through and identify those that need to be highlighted and those that don’t.”
It’s barely two years later, and Jason Osborne is doing exactly that job.