Sunday, June 26, 2005

LNC Executive Committee Conference Call 6/23/05

The Executive Committee of the Libertarian National Committee (LNC) met via conference call the evening of June 23rd. The main action item was a motion by Treasurer Mark Nelson to tell staff essentially to drop everything until they fix Raiser's Edge (RE), our new database program. Only three people voted for it, but it passed.

The motion reads as follows:

"Whereas, the LNC believes that Raiser's Edge database program has not been given enough attention by the national staff so that it is accurate, reliable, beneficial to the national program and beneficial to the state programs, and Whereas, the LNC appreciates its hardworking employees but believes their actions have not been focused on making the program work and in being responsive to the state affiliates and their needs;

"Whereas the LNC has tried to informally address these issues, without success;

"Resolved, the LNC orders the Executive Director to freeze all salaries and benefits unless otherwise required by contract or law;

"It is further Resolved that the budget shall be amended to withdraw all discretionary spending by the Executive Director and there shall be no expenditure in the following areas:

"Program line items, including all Outreach and Media Relations, with the exception of LP News and UMP; and

"All project line items, with the exception of retiring the Ballot Access debt.

"It is further Resolved that any direct or indirect violation of this motion by the Executive Director will be considered cause for termination of the Executive Director.

"It is further Resolved that these salary freezes and budget amendments shall be in effect until processes are in place and implemented that result in:

"The monthly data dumps to the states including two phone numbers, if available and two e-mail addresses, if available; and

"The monthly data dumps to the states including information the status of the most current address (labeled as the bad address field in the prior database); and

"The monthly data dumps to the states reconciling to the monthly state by state membership report."

Nelson explained the practical effects during the debate. He said it would put off possible raises or new benefits for some employees were due annual review soon, result in no quarterly bonus for Seehusen at the August LNC meeting, keep Sam New and other staff from attending outreach conferences, and stop membership acquisition mailings. At-large representative BetteRose Ryan suggested that this should take only two or three weeks.

Chair Michael Dixon noted, as he also had at the beginning of the meeting, that as part of the settlement with Blackbaud (who makes RE) they would be sending in some of their people to our office by month's end for training and data cleanup, and that they had agreed to clean up the list quarterly on an ongoing basis. Maryland ED Roy Meyers has carried forward the projects Chris Farris was working on when he resigned, apparently with some continuing assistance from Farris. Dixon also said that simply the news that the Executive Committee would consider such a motion had definitely gotten the attention of staff and spurred them to greater action.

Vice Chair Lee Wrights spoke against the motion, saying that we would be shutting down the entire office over one thing with which only two employees have direct involvement. He also accurately predicted the demoralizing effect it would have on staff.

At-large representative Michael Colley (not a member of the Executive Committee) asked that, as the new Chair of the Employment Policy and Compensation Committee, his committee should be allowed to do its work, and this motion would take away their latitude to complete their review. After the vote, Colley said the action made him very uncomfortable.

Due to the conference call format, all votes are by roll:

YES: Nelson, Ryan, and Regional Representative Aaron Starr.
NO: Wrights.
Abstain: At-large representative Bill Redpath, Secretary Bob Sullentrup.
Not Voting: Dixon
Not Present: At-large representative Mark Rutherford.

The motion carried 3-1-2.

My personal opinion is that this decision rivals the secret ballot to double dues as the dumbest move of the LNC so far this term, and it's a shame that only three people could do it. Certainly I have advocated strongly that these problems needed to be solved yesterday, and so can definitely understand the frustration of the LNC. They're tired of taking heat from the state parties and are feel the pressure to get this resolved.

But this is not the way to motivate one's staff. I can't see it as anything other than an insult, and that's apparently how it was taken. Several staff members walked out in protest on Friday afternoon when they received word of this motion. I fully expect them to be back at their desks on Monday morning.

This approach shows that this LNC does not have much ability to manage people. They apparently ignored, or just didn't hear, that outside consultants are tasked with solving these very issues at no extra cost to us starting this week. Having worked at many jobs from entry level in a large corporation to managing departments of several dozen people, I know this kind of ultimatum only breeds hostility and resentment. It sends an unwelcome mixed message about their confidence in Seehusen, who they just lauded and awarded a new contract last month. Finally, it is astounding that the LNC would want a political party to stop doing politics for any reason for any amount of time.

My prediction is that our staff will take the high road and win the political battle with high performance. I do think the people who really needed to snap to attention to make up for their lack of customer service, Blackbaud, have done so precisely because of our staff's diligence (particularly Robert Kraus, as noted in my last meeting report), and this attempt to fix the database will show results. And the full LNC will revisit and overturn this decision at their August meeting if not before.

Other agenda items:

Dixon reported that the policy for renting out our mailing and email lists has been revisited in light of the complaint by Steve Kubby, who was denied use of it. He said these lists would generally be made available to Libertarian candidates but not to anyone else except in extraordinary circumstances. The only list exchange we have participated in within the last year was with the Advocates for Self-Government, and that was motivated in part to help them recoup investment in a letter they had already printed. Dixon stated he was open to negotiating with Kubby if the LNC wanted him to. Starr informed the committee that the California LP had engaged in similar negotiations with Kubby before and decided not to rent him their list because Kubby would not assure them that the money he raised from this appeal would be not be spent on personal expenses. No action was taken on this item.

Nelson reported that they had received a letter from the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) in late May asking us to enter into an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) regarding our February 2003 report which was last amended in August 2004. ADR is FEC-speak for just sitting down and informally working things out, rather than an MUR (Matter Under Review), which is generally far less convivial. Nelson has followed through on our FEC consultant's suggestion to hire special counsel based in DC who specializes in FEC matters. The consultant has finished their analysis of our recent FEC reports with recommendations, and we will be working with that firm on any amendments and corrections. The discrepancies uncovered in their reconciliation amount to less than $2500 total, which apparently is not bad for clients in similar situations.

Nelson reported that revenues are below projections now that the final results of the Annual Report are in. He offered two motions for reports which both passed 5-0. One report is to give a detailed summary of all products and services where the account payable (AP) is past due as of June 30th, and to reduce past due AP items from its current level of about 70% of AP down to 10%. (It was noted that the Blackbaud settlement alone, once completed, will reduce AP by 20%.) The other motion asks for a similar report on receivables past due, including details of any collection activities.

With the promotion of Fred Collins to the Bylaws Committee, that committee no longer has alternates. Dixon suggested that he LNC chose a list of ranked alternates from those who had already applied for the committee previously at the August meeting.

Dixon feels that the LP New Jersey matter is resolved, and plans to attend their big social event on July 9th.

28 Comments:

Anonymous George Phillies said...

In addition to other problems, the latest RE output file appeared at the MA membership secretary witha new data column.

In the middle.

Those of you who understand orthodox imports are already tearing out your hair. For the rest of you, the effect is that all higher-index column data enters in the wrong column. Fortunately, our excllenet membership secretary became slightly suspicious when he discovered that our LPMA membership fell 92% last month.

The suggestion that outreach should be cut is somewhat meaningless. Income in early months of the year was rather to astonishingly below expectation, and the cuts were all in the outreach area, which almost stopped.

Meanwhile, we have a reform coalition that proposes doubling the size of the National Staff.

11:26 PM  
Anonymous Stephen Gordon said...

Sean - Congratulations on your new blog. I'll place it on my daily reading list.

The decision was silly, IMO, as the Blackbaud folks are due in the office this week (if my sources are correct) anyway.

It clearly demoralized the troops - and halted work on several important political agenda.

My understanding is that the staff could not even take advantage of opportunities which presented themselves because of the SCOTUS Kelo decision. When Libertarians cannot be at the forefront of the eminent domain battle because of an administrative problem, our priorities are misplaced.

Thankfully, Lee cast a reasonable vote.

2:34 AM  
Anonymous phillies said...

The staff was working on a late June program to increase membership by 5000 by the start of July.

There appears to be a lack of understanding on the part of the LNC that it takes longer than five weeks, depending on timing, just to reach members and ask them for help.

Note also that the proposal requires that membership recruitment be more successful than under the plans for Project Archimedes.

Note also that the National Party CEO hid from his own decision by not voting. Some CEOs feel some moral responsibility to protect their staff, or to reprove them for errors, but not ours.

6:57 AM  
Anonymous Chris Farris said...

My personal opinion is that this decision rivals the secret ballot to double dues as the dumbest move of the LNC so far this term

We can certianlly agree on that. The LNC has some dedicated people working for it - its absoutely insane they should do this to them.

8:15 AM  
Anonymous nameless said...

congratulations on the new blog.. looks good.

I believe there is a lot of political wheat to be sewn with the recent SCOTUS decisions and to have any downtime whatsoever is a bad idea.

we MUST use this opportunity to build alliances and membership! anything less is a waste of membership dues at the very time we're trying to build membership.

9:49 PM  
Anonymous George Phillies said...

From Nelson's report, 70% of past dues are due for more than 30 days, meaning that the LNC is once again falling behind on raising money, but is continuing to spend. It could be proposed that the financials are potentially less favorable than they were in 2001.

9:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>> The decision was silly,

Key word:

>> IMO,

Maybe if a certain very well-paid individual at HQ hadn't spent the last ten months blaming problems at HQ on volunteers at the state level, and instead sought their advice and assistance, this motion would never have come up.

You make your own bed, and then -- surprise -- you get to lie in it.

>> as the Blackbaud folks are
>> due in the office this week
>> (if my sources are correct)
>> anyway.

Big deal. If Blackbauders are going to "fix" anything, they have to first know why it's wrong and how it must be fixed.

They have to be given correct answers to detailed questions. Unfortunately, pride prevents the staffers who will supply those answers from consulting with anyone who isn't in their inner circle.

>> It clearly demoralized the
>> troops - and halted work
>> on several important political
>> agenda.

Want some cheese with that whine?

Staffer statements & insults in front of the LNC have demoralized people who don't get paid, and those folks have yet to hear any apology whatsoever.

If you piss into a fan, you're going to get sprayed.

Set the tone early -- be inclusive, seek advice and consent, involve those who know the business better than you instead of shutting them out and ridiculing them, and the atmosphere changes to a much more convivial one.

>> My understanding is that
>> the staff could not even
>> take advantage of
>> opportunities which
>> presented themselves because
>> of the SCOTUS Kelo decision.

Yeah, kinda like how tax cuts result in starving babies in Appalachia.

What's the source for your "understanding"? What evidence does your source have for such a claim?

Some real-world backstabber of the Republican Party said:

>> We can certianlly agree on
>> that. The LNC has some
>> dedicated people working
>> for it - its absoutely
>> insane they should do this
>> to them

So are the well-paid staffers with whom the above Republican is in love Libertarians -- or not?

Because said Republican calls all Libertarians these things and more:

"the goobers in the LP"
"The general membership
of the party is
repugnant."
"rabid nutcases ..."
"wingnuttery"

Of course, he said later he "didn't really" mean to say those things; but then in the same post mentioned "The ... disgusting membership [of the LP]... "

Have a nice day.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Sean Haugh said...

I do intend for the comments to be an open forum, but I would appreciate it if people would identify themselves. Other than this, I don't intend to respond to, or take terribly seriously, anonymous or nameless comments.

I would like this opportunity to offer more than the implicit apology in my report to Chris. Elsewhere I had accused him of destroying his current work product on RE when he resigned from the party, and dared him to prove me wrong. He has done so, and I do appreciate it. His current actions show he has more honor than I gave him credit for.

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Stephen Gordon said...

Anonomous has me pretty confused...

4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I frankly could care less how anyone feels about anonymous comments. The option was offered. If you don't want them, then turn off that option.

Farris had access to the entire LP national mailing list, and then allegedly quit and switched to the Republican Party. He is now establishing an RLC caucus in Gwinnett County, Georgia.

This is how the RLC usually establishes itself anywhere -- an LP leader -- usually one who manages to get into a top spot with access to the LP mailing list -- quits the LP and then starts up an RLC chapter. Often the people who are called to the first (and often, subsequent) meeting of the RLC chapter are LP members, former members, and prospects. I still have a mailing I was sent many years ago by the local RLC chair, inviting me to the formation meeting of the local RLC chapter. The RLC mailing had the same misspelling that my LP record had.

Make up your own mind.

What list do they use?

I am sure it's not an explicit policy of the national RLC to steal the LP mailing list. But it doesn't need to be an explicit policy for it to happen. Ask *your* local RLC rep where he got his contact list.

Frankly, Button Gwinnett deserves a fitter character than Farris to rekindle the flames of liberty in the county that bears his name.

Why Farris, who has long moments of petulant, temper-tantrum prone childishness, was given access to the entire LP membership database without anything resembling a confidentiality contract is a serious question.

It might be nice if the LNC and staff members who allowed such a serious security and confidentiality breach to occur would do the responsible thing and resign. Entire departments of companies and other nonprofits get axed for this kind of negligent handling of customer data.

Oh, and one more thing -- Farris is still there, despite his "resignation". He has stated that he is still working on the database issues at LPHQ. We are now in the interesting position of having a ** known ** Republican Party operative working on database issues at LPHQ.

Call all of the LNC members, and ask them: In Farris' current, continuing activities at LPHQ, does he or does he not have access to the national database, as he did before? Is there a contract covering the relationship?

Their contact info is at:

http://www.lp.org/organization/lncdirectory2.shtml

Is any of this slanderous?

Nope -- most of the above information came from Farris himself.

Have a wonderful day.

9:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always get amused when I see people get upset about the RLC. The RLC would like to make it seem like it's a real political organization, but the truth paints a much different picture.

With 600 members after 14 years of existence, it certainly doesn't have enough voters behind it to make politicians care.

And in the 2003-2004 election cycle, the RLC's PAC raised $4140. Here's the link:

http://herndon1.sdrdc.com/cgi-bin/cancomsrs/?_04+C00269241

The money came from just three donors.

Why waste time with the RLC?

12:41 PM  
Anonymous truthster said...

Why doesn't the LP stop quibbling over database issues and focus on the fact that even though the LNC tried to directly sabotage the outreach and membership efforts of LPHQ staff (merely to please the perpetually ungrateful state affiliates), they had a BIG win today with the Iraq War Exit Strategy? You can see it at www.lp.org/plan. It's only been up for a few hours and has had an enormous response. But, if you would rather continue in the grand LP tradition of keeping your head stuck up your a** -- anonymous, please feel free to continue. Engage in the real world of politics and the fight for liberty and stop with conspiracy theories, slander, and bitterness!

6:29 PM  
Anonymous George Phillies said...

The RLC leader in Massachusetts is the husband of a former LP Congressional candidate who was treated rather badly by the LPMA. There is absolutely no sign that they use their list access, whatever it was, for RLC recruiting.

8:05 PM  
Anonymous nameless said...

I use the handle "nameless" consistently on many LP blogs. I am not completely anonymous. However, I am limited in my political activism by my work and therefore would like to keep my professional name from general use. I see no difference in using the "nameless" moniker than something such as Libertarian TV (no offense meant LTV)

besides, nameless was the character played by Jet Li in the movie Hero, and a legendary Chinese patriot.

I mean no offense and hope that my input is constructive in the dialog of the presented topics. Notice that I almost alway use the term "we" when talking LP politics. I am not here to disrupt, I'm here to build. And I am an active financial doner to the LP and contributed extensively to the Badnarik campaign. However, this is your blog, and if my input is not welcome or will be wholly ignored due to the name I use, I will simply no longer visit the site.

11:04 PM  
Anonymous nameless said...

BTW, they can't have the entire staff working this issue, they did manage to put out a VERY GOOD exit strategy for Iraq. A very timely and appropriate proposal that surprised a lot of people.

They did well on this strategy and should be applauded. And they earned a few more dinero from nameless...

11:15 PM  
Blogger Sean Haugh said...

Thanks nameless, that makes a lot of sense now that you put it that way. Part of it is I have a problem with all handles. I really like to know with whom I am talking. Another part of it is your comments showed up the same time as the truly anonymous ones, although I do have half a notion who that is. But you're cool. And now that you mention it, yes I see your words are kind and helpful. Thanks.

You speak to my first reaction when I heard them debating this. For the first time probably ever we are seriously engaged in the DC public policy debate, and starting to work with people outside the party who need our support and can certainly help us attain relevance in return. I just can't believe that there are people on the LNC who don't accept or understand the importance of this. This is what we were born to do!

It is definitely true that Joe needs serious help with the administrative end of things, and he's the first to admit it. It is even more certainly true that staff and the LNC together have totally screwed the pooch on Raiser's Edge. But dear God, we're finally Doing Politics and they want it to stop?? For any reason or any length of time??? That's why I think this is the dumbest thing I have witnessed in my time following the LNC. The fact that only three votes made it happen, and that among them are some of the brightest and most dedicated people on the board, makes it even harder to take.

1:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Truthster" sez:

>> Why doesn't the LP stop
>> quibbling over database
>> issues and focus on the
>> fact that even though the
>> LNC tried to directly
>> sabotage the outreach and
>> membership efforts of
>> LPHQ staff

This sounds like it was written by an LPHQ staff member.

It's also wishful thinking. The staff sabotages its own outreach and membership efforts.

Perfect example of how the current staff blames everyone but themselves for problems of their own creation.

>> (merely to please the
>> perpetually ungrateful
>> state affiliates), they
>> had a BIG win today with
>> the Iraq War Exit Strategy?

Big win, yeah. I'm sure Bush is ready to adopt it. Congratulations.

>> You can see it at
>> www.lp.org/plan. It's only
>> been up for a few hours and
>> has had an enormous response.
>> But, if you would rather
>> continue in the grand LP
>> tradition of keeping your
>> head stuck up your a** --
>> anonymous,

Ah, potty-mouth talk. That always raises the level of discourse and convinces others of the righteousness of your opinions.

>> please feel free to continue.
>> Engage in the real world of
>> politics and the fight for
>> liberty and stop with
>> conspiracy theories, slander,
>> and bitterness!

First, it is worth assuming you are probably not one who will ever come close to my record of engaging in real-world politics.

Second, I harbor no conspiracy theories. Conspiracy implies some intelligence behind a screwup.

Third, there was no slander in anything I said. Slander is when someone says you did something you didn't do. I call into question only that which has indeed been done.

Fourth, I have no bitterness. Bitterness is the emotional reaction of worried people who know what they are doing is simply insuffficient, and who know others are seeing through their smokescreen. The describes perfectly various individuals.

Instead of whining when the fan sprays your own back at you, maybe what I suggested before should be kept in mind: Set the tone early -- be inclusive, seek advice and consent, involve those who know the business better than you instead of shutting them out and ridiculing them, and the atmosphere changes to a much more convivial one.

Continuing to blame others, like "perpetually ungrateful state affiliates", for problems they had nothing to with creating will result only in more criticism.

Choose.

Have a wonderful day.

6:28 AM  
Anonymous Phillies said...

Observe that the LNC told the National Staff not to do politics until they fixed the RE situation, and staff de facto told the LNC to relocate their motion to someplace unfortunate by ignoring the LNC and doing politics anyhow. When the staff ignores governing board motions we are back where we were in 1995-2001, and this is not a good place to be.

You may have agreed with staff this time, but there is also a next time.

5:00 PM  
Blogger Sean Haugh said...

Good point George, but we do not know that this is the case here. Mark Nelson did say that the work of Shane Cory was not covered by the resolution, and this is Shane's department.

5:58 PM  
Anonymous nameless said...

thanks for the support, Sean.

this blog has potential to be very influential and I would hate to have my voice silenced completely.

keep up the good work, and I look forward to the next update.

10:10 PM  
Anonymous Chris Farris said...

Wow - I have a secret admirer.

Sean - apology accepted. Although I'm a bit confused as to why it was needed.

As for using the DB lists - I have no intention of doing so.

Reading this thread has certianly reminded me why I left.

1:44 AM  
Anonymous Dr. Gonzo said...

anonymous sounds like he's has an ax to grind against LP headquarter's staff.

The staffers do a great job with the resources they have. They had to fix a lot of problems that were left over from people that left. A lot of institutional knowledge left with them.

There is a problem of some people in the LP who drive good people away. People bust their ass and get no thanks for it. Who wants to work in that environment. Or have people constantly bitch and complain. There is a reason why turnover is high. The LP can't exactly pay the highest, so it should be grateful if a very qualified person comes to work for them. But no, they will eventually drive them off like they did so many times before.

Oh and anyonmous what real world politics have you engaged in? I assume for a Libertarian that means you handed out some World's Smallest Political Quizs at a county fair and ran a paper campaign for state rep. Give me a break.

7:11 AM  
Blogger Sean Haugh said...

Dr. Gonzo (I thought you were dead!), it is a mistake to underestimate the rage of many state party chairs and database volunteers over the mess we've been having to deal with over the last year. If "anonymous" is who I think he is, he certainly does have more real political experience than most in this party. Unfortunately, he and a few others have given in so much to their rage that they have lost credibility with those in a position to implement real solutions. Which is a crying shame, as these same people are the most experienced and qualified among us to offer intelligent and detailed solutions. It doesn't matter how good or right you are, no one wants to work with a rage-filled pain in the neck.

While it is true that dealing with this stuff is unpleasant at best, in politics you must develop a thick skin and frankly I have little sympathy for people who walk off the job while complaining about this. Heck, people are going to give you grief for saying or doing anything political, especially those closest to you. That's just human nature. Complain about it all you want, and generally you'd be right, but at a certain point I'd say if you can't take the heat you should never have been in the kitchen in the first place.

8:17 AM  
Anonymous truthster said...

Sean:

Don't you find it interesting that you have several very interesting articles and the only one garnering any dialog is the one about internal squabbles and database issues? Why is the LP obsessed with being small and ineffectual? Lots of big little fishies in a small pond right now. What happens if we become a real political party with real people and real money behind it? Will the rage of anonymous be an issue? Will anyone listen? The navel gazing crowd in the LP seem to know they will lose their coveted status if the LP becomes real.

8:53 PM  
Blogger Sean Haugh said...

Haha Truthster, you almost read my mind. ;-) Thanks for the kind words about my articles. In all fairness though, I get feedback from email and conversation too, so I know my other stuff is being read. I also think since this is a relatively new blog I haven't gotten much broad based market awareness yet. There are a whole lot of Libertarians out in their communities doing real political work that don't interact much with the blogosphere, so thinking what happens online is the whole movement would present a skewed view.

2:13 AM  
Anonymous phillies said...

LNC doing outreach? When fundraising imploded early this year--see the month by month financials--the cuts were in the outreach efforts.

I confess RE approaches being an unimportant issue in Massachusetts, because our state committee refuses to share the names on the list with activists who might do outreach.

Our outputs since last October or so were until last month totally unreadable, but this really had no effect other than people not getting their issues of the state newsletter for a while.

5:59 PM  
Blogger Sean Haugh said...

Yet strangely enough, I just got my LPMA newsletter last week.

7:11 PM  
Anonymous phillies said...

People not getting their newsletter...

We still had the old dumps, and if you were a member or subscriber beforehand, the issues kept going. But if you joined after October, LPMA just figured out who you were.

However, it now turns out that RE is totally broken as a reliable communicator with states in that it cannot export CSV (comma separated quote enclosed variable) output reliably, or so it was announced to the state chairs. Hance, future dumps for the near future will be in EXCEL format, which is not readily read or translated by the people here who need to read and translate it.

6:58 PM  

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