Sunday, August 14, 2005

LNC Meeting Report: Zero dues analysis

I personally am a strong supporter of the zero dues model. Mark Nelson was the person who sold me on the idea when I served on the LNC last term. George Squyres has worked hard to craft a very positive plan which I believe will help us become a much more viable political party.

But it really doesn’t matter how sweet this salve may be. Zero dues could be the best thing since ice water, but this plan is still in violation of the Bylaws. Wrights was correct that zero is not an amount envisioned by those who wrote Article 7 of our Bylaws, which reads:

Members of the Party shall be those persons who have certified in writing that they oppose the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals.

Dues for membership in the Party shall be set by the National Committee.

Only members whose national dues are current shall be counted for delegate apportionment, and National Committee representation. Only members whose national dues are current shall be eligible to hold National Party offices or be a candidate for President or Vice President.


Many who voted for zero dues subscribe to a logic that since zero is a number, and the range of numbers the LNC may use to set dues is not specified, then the LNC does indeed have the authority to set that number at zero. I respect the fact that they believe they are not violating the Bylaws with this action and so would not accuse them of deliberately flaunting them. Unfortunately they are incorrect.

If this theory were correct, then the basis for calculating delegate apportionment for our convention would not have to change from dues paying members to those who have signed the pledge. Clearly the convention delegates which voted for these provisions saw a distinction between dues-paying and pledge-signing members by assigning greater privileges to the former. That distinction can only be established if dues are set at a positive number.

If I still sat on the LNC, it would have been with a heavy heart but I would have felt compelled to vote no. At least three of the seven who did clearly stated their sole reason for opposition was that the LNC does not have the authority to do this. This dilemma could have be solved simply by making the act contingent upon changes in the Bylaws at the convention with an effective date of 7/4/06.

There may be a movement to appeal this decision to the Judicial Committee. This would require support of 5% of the membership. Since the Judicial Committee has not met in several years, it is unclear if they have any appellate procedures established beyond what is said in the Bylaws.

It is unfortunate that this plan was passed in a way that creates an unnecessary roadblock for its acceptance within the party.

13 Comments:

Anonymous Timothy West said...

If it works the way I think it will work, it will not only be accepted in convention, but Squyres will get the Libertarian Legion of Merit medal. :D

10:32 PM  
Blogger Seth said...

I disagree with the analysis that zero dues violates the bylaws. Every analysis I've seen that argues such attempts to base their argument on "intent" in some fashion, rather than the actual text of the bylaws.

The reason bylaws are written down in a static text format is so that we won't have to quibble about intent. And there's nothing in the text of the bylaws that says that dues have to be non-zero.

There's a simple solution to this, though. If dues must be positive, set dues at $0.01, and I'll give $250.00 to the party for the purpose of covering everyone's dues.

10:44 PM  
Blogger Sean Haugh said...

Seth, I encourage you to give that $250 anyway. :-)

I absolutely agree that the text is the key, which is why I quoted it. It proves the distinction between dues-paying and pledge-signing members which leads to the logical conclusion that dues cannot be zero. They can be a limit approaching zero, but can never reach it.

Tim, I agree that the convention will probably approve -- I certainly will lobby hard that they do -- and in the end everything will be hunky dory. But I am a stickler for the rules for a reason. If we want anarchy within the LP, that's fine by me, but let's call it what it is then and repeal all our rules. (OK, so I'm being a little sarcastic.) The anarchy of having meaningless rules which we can violate at will, especially for such a great plan, is not the good kind of anarchy. Kinda like how America is run today.

11:15 PM  
Anonymous Chuck Moulton said...

I completely agree with you.

In addition, I believe the LNC has a big problem implementing transitions. The transition to RE was very bungled (even though the product itself may turn out to be very good once the transition is complete) and I believe the zero dues transition may be analagous.

The zero dues idea is good, but it should have been decided by the convention delegates, had an implementation date farther in the future, and had a good transition plan.

12:13 AM  
Blogger Seth said...

Ah, but the text doesn't make a distinction between "dues-paying members" and "pledge signing members." It defines "members" as those who have signed the pledge, and then refers to a sub-class of members, "members whose dues are current." With zero dues, that sub-class is the same as the larger class of members.

I agree that that would make a mess for delegate apportionment, but, well, the delegates who voted in the bylaws probably weren't considering that when they voted it in, and if they *meant* zero dues was disallowed, they should have said zero dues was disallowed. As it is, we now merely have a interesting redundancy in the bylaws.

But I intend to be at the 2006 Portland convention, and should a resonable motion be presented to clarify what some people regard as an ambiguity, then I'll support it.

Such a proposal would be very simple:
- Article 7, Section 1 could then read: "Members of the Party shall be those persons who have certified in writing within the past 365 days that they oppose the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals."
- Strike Article 7, Section 2
- Strike Article 7, Section 3 (those conditions are already covered in articles 10, 13, and 14)
- Strike "whose dues are current" from Article 10, Section 11

I want zero dues to succeed. I think it's a bold, brave, and admirable move. Delegates from less organized states who will struggle at the elimination of UMP, though, will be harder to convince. That's why it's vital that states share their expertise between each other; party-building action should be happening laterally, as well as coming from the top down.

And, yes, Sean, a check is on the way to national as soon as my nice stipend money comes in next month. (Yay scholarships!)

12:23 AM  
Blogger Cicero said...

Sean,

If you are wondering about what procedures may be in place for the national Judicial committee, let me note that, when I was serving on the LPNC judicial committee, we put in place our own rules, which I copied almost verbatim from the national version. I think the only thing I changed was the number of members required to conduct business, and added in language concerning use of email.

You can find the state rules here:

http://www.lpnc.org/organization/judiccom/appellate.html

Later,

9:49 AM  
Blogger Cicero said...

Well, it cut off the last bit. That .h should be .html. Sorry.

Later,

9:50 AM  
Anonymous GregD said...

I have to agree with you, Sean. It is important that we adhere to our rules.

My biggest complaint about the LP over the last few years has been their blatant violation of our rules -- AND our platform. IES clearly contradicted our platform and even our publicly stated positions on foreign aid.

If zero dues is really a good idea, it can wait the six months from January 2006 to July 2006 and be resolved in convention. After all, it's already waited 34 years.

But I am actually glad that it passed now. I actually believe that zero dues could work, but I seriously doubt that it could work with the staff that we currently have. So, I expect that after 6 months of "zero-dues" the results will be obvious and the convention delegates will take matters into their own hands. I believe the delegates are going to fire the chair, the LNC, and replace them with somebody who will fire the staff.

4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greg said;
"I expect that after 6 months of "zero-dues" the results will be obvious and the convention delegates will take matters into their own hands."

I think that the FEC situation wtll come to a head long before the next convention. I also don't know how long Shane Cory can continue as an employee and a contractor and a policy maker.

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Sean!

Thought you people would like this since " Madame Justice" started supporting Cindy about 10 weeks ago on her site... http://www.rachelforjustice.com The site was hack over the weekend by the neo-cons and will be up tommorrow with this alert going out to be in O Reilly face and the neo-cons. Rachel will in Cary tommorrow for the candlelight service for Cindy and headed for Texas. Rachel's wimp husband...Connie Mack Jr.

Dear Friends & Voters:

I have been occupied with matters that required my attention at work and, after working all day, there was little time or energy to write. Much has been happening since I last wrote.

But I have been paying attention to events. I don't like what has been happening, especially to Cindy Sheehan. For those of you who don't know, she is the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq. She also has begun to turn her grief to anger, so that other mothers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives and friends will not have to lose their loved ones or have their family members maimed in this nonsensical war.

We are told that it is for a "noble cause." What "noble cause" is that? To kill innocent Iraqis? We are told its for our "freedom." That's nice that we are SO concerned about freedom in Iraq when our own freedoms at home are daily being eroded. We have a Supreme Court that does not respect the ownership of private property. And we do not have a government that any longer respects our rights to liberty. There are cameras everywhere. The government already has systems to read your email. And thanks to the misnamed Patriot Act, they can visit your library or home and search your belongings without a warrant. The government can accuse you of being a "person of interest," destroy your life or lock you up and hold you indefinitely without access to counsel. Life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness are all in jeopardy. We are on the slippery slope to fascism or worse.

But back to Ms. Sheehan. There has been a growing effort by the neo-cons in Washington to silence her. They are doing to her what the state neo-cons did to me on a local level. They have called out their usual attack dogs and willing accomplices in the media. They have attempted to portray her as part of the lunatic fringe, as some dupe controlled by these groups. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Before this controversy started, I had written to Ms. Sheehan to voice my support. I also put her and her group, Gold Star Families for Peace, up on my website. If she has not been removed and, if my health permits me to travel such a distance, I will visit her in Texas. But anyone who knows her knows that she is not a tool.

There is an old saying that politics often makes strange bedfellows. I was a loyal Republican for many years. I am not a communist or socialist. I do not agree with Michael Moore on many things. But I think the war is wrong. So does he. Does that mean I am linked with him? Or with Code Pink?

No, it does not. It just means that we can agree on this one issue. It makes sense for these groups to combine their efforts and resources on the anti-war issue. So it does not surprise me that such groups are supporting Ms. Sheehan's effort to oppose this war. And Fox News, Bill O'Reilly (who sexually harassed his own co-workers) or any other talk show host can attempt to smear me, as they do Ms. Sheehan, as being part of these groups. But is not of true of me. And it is not true of her either.

Fortunately, the neo-cons' plan is unraveling. Support for Ms. Sheehan is growing. And there is overwhelming support among the people that this war was based on untruths and that it is time to end it. The war is going so badly for the neo-cons that they may not do well in the elections next year. If there is any proof of this, one can see it in a recent election in a Republican stronghold in Ohio. Yes, the incumbent may have won, but the race between her and her Democratic opponent, who was himself in Iraq as a soldier and campaigned against the war, was a lot closer than anyone thought it would be.

To counter this anti-war feeling, the neo-cons have announced that there might be a reduction in troops. While a reduction would be welcome, I don't see how they can possibly train enough Iraqi troops to seal the border. There was never a terrorist in Iraq before this war started. Now, not only are they pouring in over the border, but many of them have been newly created. The war has caused those who wouldn't have been terrorists, to be such. And if we leave, civil war may break out among the various factions. At the same time, there is talk of bombing Iran. Why? Simply because we can.

We were told that the war would provide oil. And yet gas prices are on the rise. I have not been to the gas station today, but the price is already over $2.15 per gallon here and over $3.00 per gallon in California. We are told that it is because of the refineries and hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. Huh? Like we never had hurricanes before? Meanwhile, the oil companies are reporting record profits.

And there were millions that have gone unaccounted for in Iraq. The word is actually embezzled. Someone took the money. And you and I, the American taxpayer, will be left with paying the bills.

Just like we are supposed to pay the legal fees for the alleged re-districting case. It seems incongruous for the state party GOP chairman, Ferrell Blount, to argue that these fees should be paid by the taxpayer while he rails at other taxes on cigarettes and slush funds. If you are against these things and are a true Republican, you would not be for having the taxpayer pay your legal tab, Mr. Blount. The legal fees should be paid by the party that hired them. Like it or not, its the American system.

Appeals judge Barbara Jackson and NC Right-to-Life recently sued the state over judicial financing. They have it right that its a bad thing, but for the wrong reasons. What is wrong is that it takes taxpayer dollars and uses it to benefit a few select individuals. Individuals must raise sufficient funds to get the money, making sure that the little people who cannot do so are kept out. In other words, only the "right" people will end up getting a handout from the taxpayers. The lucky few who get the money will spend it in all the wrong places, as they did in the last election. And all to save individuals from the odious task of raising money. The whole system should be scrapped, not because it has a chilling right on speech, but because it is flawed.

The Republican party used to stand for smaller taxes, more individual responsibility and less government. What it has become is the party of the neo-cons. They are all set to use government for their own ends. And the faction now in control are absolutely ruthless. They have taken to heart Goebbels' philosophy of repeating a lie often enough and it will become the truth, whether the lie is about Cindy Sheehan, oil or anything else. That is why I left this party. Or I should say, the party left me. I do not recognize this crowd any more. They have given up true Jeffersonian Democratic-Republican ideals and replaced it with an agenda of nationalism and big government. They are using the power of the state to force their view of religion and their version of how the world ought to be down our throats.

Are we going to just lie back and take it? Or will we wake up and do something about it? I am running to do something about it.

Rachel Lea Hunter

11:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I also don't know how long Shane Cory can continue as an employee and a contractor and a policy maker."

You obviously don't know Shane Cory. Don't underestimate him, he is the consumate professional and is not easily taken down.

10:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't you do better than something sophomoric like that, Shane?

7:18 PM  
Anonymous phillies said...

Did the opponents raise this as a point of order? Did the Chair rule against them? Did they appeal the decision of the chair?

If not, never mind.

Mind you, I do not believe that this issue was considered by the authors of the document, in which case the absence of a specific ban tends to indicate that a requirement that dues be positive rather than, say, negative, was not intended.

Also, there is a clear precedent here, on the books for almost ten years, and the absence of systematic protext show that this question was settled in 1996 or so. In particular, because the persons who voted against the motion because they believe the bylaws forbid a dues level of zero did not raise this in a timely way when they came onto the committee seem to have accepted the precedent.

I am referring, of course, to the P Treansaction as discussed in my book Funding Liberty. Under the P transaction, the LNC voted that donors to the Browne campaign were also members of LPUS, even though these people never paid a penny to the LNC. Some of these people got not only years of membership but also free life memberships, a donation in kind to the Browne campaign that based on LNC minutes was never properly disclosed by the LNC to the FEC.

The lack of protest to the P Transaction -- a gift of membership with dues that are current -- establishes that this gift was valid, and it has now been validly repeated.

Mind you, I think that Zero Dues is a distinction without a difference, so far, and fails to make a significant change in the core paradigm under which the LNC operates.

9:33 PM  

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