Saturday, November 19, 2005

LNC Meeting Report, November 11-12, 2005, Linthicum MD

I always love traveling to Baltimore, one of my very favorite cities. This meeting was very well attended by party members from Maryland and beyond, to the point where several more chairs had be brought in to seat all the observers. Lorenzo and Susan Gaztenaga hosted a most excellent Maryland LP hospitality suite throughout the weekend, and it was wonderful to see them again as well as many old and new friends.

The news is all so dire as what is reported below. This report completely neglects three exciting new staff initiatives the Libertarian Leadership School, development of a voter identification database and a new website designed for candidate recruitment and support. These merit deeper treatment and more enthusiastic promotion than can be provided in this report. I hope to have a separate article covering these excellent developments in LFA next issue.

LNC Meeting Report - Budget and Finances

The rumors of dire financial straits at national were pretty much confirmed at this meeting, although staff and the newly created LNC Finance Committee have offered some hopeful signs for the future. On top of this, the LNC Executive Committee completely ignored its responsibility to have a 2006 budget prepared in advance of this meeting.

Treasurer Mark Nelson reported that he has not even seen September financial statements, and distributed what he had just received for October. That report shows we had about $14,000 in the bank available to pay bills as of 10/31/05, with over $90,000 in bills due. Chair Michael Dixon said that the stoppage of reports was due to staff turnover, and it took a great deal of effort to get the reporting system restarted.

Nelson ascribed some of the shortfall to our struggle to change operations in response to staff turnover and the LNC’s decision to set dues at zero. For example, there was some significant cost to replacing materials that bore the name of our recently departed Executive Director Joe Seehusen. One change Nelson is pushing for is to institute a purchase order system, which is still in negotiation with staff. Purchase orders would allow us to better know about obligations for which we have not yet been invoiced. Nelson reported that debts that have not shown up yet in the reports currently total at least another $10,000.

Another large potential cost on the horizon is potential fines by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) stemming from our many problems with filing accurate campaign finance reports over the last two years. We are currently engaged in the Alternative Dispute Resolution program of the FEC, which allows for negotiation and working out problems in a more informal setting instead of simply facing a quasi-judicial hearing resulting in penalties. Nelson estimated this may result in fines between $20,000-50,000, and that long term compliance issues are still ongoing. In his report, LNC Counsel Bill Hall suggested the likely amount could be as much as $28,000 yet held out some small hope that fines might be avoided.

Nelson renewed several concerns of his which have been constant throughout his tenure. For example, he cited how some revenue lines have always been improperly posted. Dixon explained that contributions which combined a membership with an extra donation are still not split properly to account for the cost of servicing the membership. Nelson cited further examples where both staff and the LNC have failed to follow our own policies and standards. The most famous of this is our historic inability to maintain reserves as demanded by our policy manual.

Region 2 Representative Aaron Starr (California) moved that no Unified Membership payments (UMP) be made while there exist undisputed accounts payable over 30 days past due. For example, apparently our printer has still not been paid for the annual report which went out at the beginning of the year. While little was said about it, I can tell you that the UMP check we were expecting in mid-October in North Carolina has yet to arrive and nothing has been said about when we should expect it.

Vice Chair Lee Wrights spoke against the motion, saying that our UMP obligations are equal to those made to our vendors. At Large Representative Bill Redpath offered that such a firm rule may not fit a fluid situation, although Starr countered that the effect of his motion would cease as soon as we had the money to get caught up on our current obligations. Region 2 Representative M Carling (California) said it may be illegal for us to pay the states before our vendors, but did not elaborate.

At Large Representative Michael Colley noted that one payday he was in the office two employees did not receive their paychecks, choosing to defer them until money was available. This he said was an untenable situation, adding that some states are moving on in the wake of zero dues and the abolition of UMP, and all states should do so. Region 6 Representative George Squyres (Arizona) added that our first financial obligation must be to our staff. Nelson reported that he instructed staff to hold vendor payments until we can cover UMP and payroll.

By a show of hands, Starr’s motion failed 7-7-2.

Acting LP Chief of Staff Shane Cory reported that we brought in over $124,000 in October, a sharp increase due to a number of factors. One major change is the segmenting of our fundraising letters. Instead of our former practice of sending all our fundraising letters to everybody on our list, we are finally taking advantage of our new database software to identify more likely donors to each appeal and send it only to them. This has greatly reduced the cost of each letter, allowing to send more frequent mailings which have a much lower threshold to reach profitability. He said the focus has shifted from chasing former donors to generating new ones, which yields superior results. We have also hired a new direct mail consultant, who has more experience and offers us a lower rate.

The Advertising and Publications Review Committee (APRC) has been involved in review of fundraising letters although that technically falls outside their purview. Nelson, a member of the APRC, had raised concerns about what he termed several misstatements of fact in the zero dues letter, which he ascribed to a lack of institutional knowledge resulting from staff turnover. Nelson and Cory attempted to hold that letter after Nelson expressed his concerns, but it had already gone out. Wrights, Chair of the APRC, stressed that the only role of that committee is to ensure that our materials conform with our platform, and it is not to be seen as an editorial board. Region 5E Representative Jim Lark (Virginia), the third member of the APRC, drew out Cory’s response so the LNC would be fully informed of these issues.

Starr asked about the how the chain of command is currently maintained. Cory replied that he speaks to Nelson daily to clear expenses and keep him informed, while Dixon noted elsewhere that he speaks to staff at least once a week. Cory spoke of the need for the LNC to resolve remaining communication issues with the Treasurer, and said he was quite open to greater communication from individual LNC members.

Cory also spoke of discovering and correcting a new level of errors in the pledge program which has cut the credit card failure rate in half. Personally I am disturbed by the constant pattern of always uncovering major flaws in our operations whenever a director-level employee leaves, most recently our development coordinator Jessica Wilson. The fact that Wilson remains very highly regarded, and rightly so considering how she instituted many corrections and improvements to our procedures after previous employees departed, lends credence to the view that this pattern is due to far more to flaws in our systems more than in our personnel. One obvious factor is our habit of promoting or shifting employees into responsibilities for which they were not originally hired and have no prior experience. These folks may well be resourceful and eager to help, yet this practice forces them to develop solutions on the fly with limited or no training, as well as ensuring a loss of institutional knowledge when we experience staff turnover.

Dixon cited At Large Representative Mark Rutherford’s work with major donor development in his role as Chair of the new Finance Committee. Nelson cautioned not to get too excited about the increase in major donor revenue in October as it is not necessarily repeatable, citing that one of these donations (for $8,000) resulted from a check written a year ago that was found while cleaning out a desk drawer in the office. While major donor income, at least at our current level, will yield disparate results from month to month, I still find it a very hopeful sign that Rutherford, his committee and staff are laying the groundwork for soliciting large donations on an ongoing basis.

Nelson distributed a rough draft budget, which was based on adjustments he made to an initial document developed by staff. Our policies state that the Executive Committee (EC), composed of the four officers of the party and four other LNC members, is to develop and distribute the proposed budget well in advance of the November meeting so it may be amended and approved by the LNC. No reason was given for the EC’s failure to do this work.

The budget is still about $96,000 short of balancing, with projected revenues of $1,090,760 and expenses of $1,187,377 for the next calendar year. This is significantly below the expectations of running a $1.7 million enterprise as reflected in the two most recent budgets. Nelson said there was no consideration yet in the draft budget for the project line items such as the convention, ballot access, branding or training. (The budget separates activities between program items, which are paid from the general fund, and project items which are supposed to be segregated and self-funding.) He renewed his concerns over the difficulty of the convention breaking even, and how we are unprepared if it results in a serious shortfall. He also pointed out that outsourcing LP News would add more significant costs for which there is no room in the budget.

The discussion of the budget was reserved for the last major agenda item on Sunday. Some adjustments were suggested or approved at the table. Nelson said training was being moved from program to project status, since in theory it is supposed to be self-funding. Squyres asked for a separate program line item for affiliate support and development. This was agreed to, but no information was offered to determine how much to fund it. Starr suggested separating outreach between those activities designed to generate donors and those meant purely for marketing.

The budget now goes to EC to do the work they were supposed to complete before the end of October. Once they have refined the draft budget, it will be submitted to the LNC for a week of email debate and amendment and returned to the EC for approval, all to conclude before 12/31/05.

Wrights closed the meeting by saying how ridiculous it is to be voting to do what we should have already done. He noted that he has been sitting on the board for four years now and is still waiting for us to get the budget process done right.

LNC Meeting Report - Executive Director Search and Staffing Issues

Colley, as Chair of the Employment and Personnel Compensation Committee (EPCC), reported that eight applications have been received for the open position of Executive Director (ED). He said in them he has still not seen the right person for this job. He has ceased employing a professional search service because our current financial position makes it difficult to pay them, not to mention paying a new ED.

Our current staff is smaller, but according to Dixon operating more efficiently. Cory is serving as Acting Chief of Staff until a new ED is named. Under our policies, technically Dixon is also serving as ED. Dixon said that we are being very well served by having Colley on site throughout most of the fall. Nelson said he has spent more time on office matters including some responsibilities which normally belong to the ED. Nelson strongly urged the committee to hire a new ED as soon as possible, claiming that the position more than pays for itself and provides essential leadership. Colley showed sympathy for Nelson’s view but said it is true only when we identify the right person for the job.

Colley offered a new quarterly ED bonus structure. He said that some metrics have changed, such as membership numbers, while others are hard to measure or difficult to attribute directly to staff activity, such as the number of election victories or amount of media coverage.

Colley suggested a new formula. The ED bonus would be a maximum of $6,000 per quarter, which would be two parts staff management (containing costs and turnover, response to tasks assigned by the LNC, reporting and conforming to the budget), two parts fundraising, one part representing the party in the DC area, and one part being a “team player” (support of the LNC and our affiliates, and partnership with the Chair).

No action was taken on this proposal. While the choice of metrics is more realistic, they still appear to contain many of the same subjective elements as the previous bonus structure.

Sam New has been shifted from Special Projects Coordinator to Director of Communications on an interim basis. Besides issuing press releases and fielding media inquiries, New has been active in cold calling media outlets to book interviews. Dixon said this resulted in him doing many more interviews than he had in any previous quarter. He related an amusing tale of an interview with the Washington Times, asking if support of gay marriage naturally led also to support of polygamy. Apparently the reporter had done extensive research into our position, including looking up the Arizona LP platform which directly addresses this issue.

Member Services Specialist Chris Thorman has been tasked with learning our database program and working with Robert Kraus to finish hammering out the bugs in it, which is meant to give him an opportunity to show if he can fulfill the duties of a renewed Development Director position. Kraus reported that negotiations with Blackbaud regarding servicing their database product continue apace, although more staff training will be needed to take advantage of some of the features still available to us.

Starr asked what the plan was for the next 90 days. Dixon replied the major tasks are implementation of affiliate and vendor agreements, finishing the transition to zero dues and convention planning.

Colley also reported on the move of the office upstairs to Suite 200 in the Watergate building, which has been stalled. Just before we were to complete the new lease agreement as reported last meeting, the building was sold to an owner who harbors the illusion that the Watergate is an A-list property. While is does have a delicious place in history and an excellent location, honestly it has never been a top quality structure in terms of maintenance and amenities. This has resulted in a reopening of our lease negotiations.

Meanwhile, we have determined that our space needs are a bit less than we had originally envisioned. Fortunately our prospective next door neighbor on the second floor wants to expand, which should result in a happy compromise. Our current lease ends on 12/31/05.

Colley was asked if there is a Plan B in case our negotiations with the new landlord fail. He replied that we are hoping to avoid moving away from the Watergate, especially considering the great value we receive from interns supplied by nearby George Washington University.

LNC Meeting Report - Outsourcing of LP News and Material Sales

The LNC heard four presentations from vendors bidding on LP News or our material sales. All four were very well thought out, high quality proposals.

The sole bidder on our material sales was Webb Garlinghouse and his company National Electronic Type of Topeka KS. Garlinghouse has already reserved the domain He is a longtime party member and raised his children well, being the father of headquarters intern Pere Garlinghouse.

Garlinghouse has already done business with us as the printer of the “New Vision for America” brochure, which has been widely hailed as our spiffiest publication to date. He sees a great opportunity to move a whole lot more product than we have before, branching out into hats, t-shirts, pins and so on. He is comfortable with LNC oversight to ensure he doesn’t develop any products we would deem inappropriate. As part of the deal, he would purchase our existing stocks of brochures and other materials at cost, and if he couldn’t sell them within a year he would return them to the party at the same cost. He said he wants a five year commitment from the LNC and expects to show a profit within two years.

Garlinghouse said he was willing to work with state and local parties, such as offering them bulk discounts. However he did not have ready answers when asked if there would be any copyright or competition issues if affiliates sold their own products. These questions were quickly deflected pending an opinion from counsel. Given his prior history with the party, it seems he would be open to being as accommodating as federal campaign finance law would allow.

Three proposals were submitted to take over LP News. All were very different from each other. I was impressed by each and do not see them as mutually exclusive. I would love to see all three publications happen and would hope the market could support them all.

The first presentation was from Brandon Millett of Kidron Publishing of Washington DC and Jerusalem, Israel. This one promised to keep LP News pretty much as it is now, including retaining Daniel Cloud as editor. Millett said he wanted to use LP News to initiate as well as report on success. He also spoke of an aspiring Libertarian authors program sponsored by his company.

Besides publishing, Kidron also provides many campaign and public policy consulting services. Millett serves currently as the editor of The Verdict, the monthly house organ of Judicial Watch.

Millett’s financial analysis concluded that LP News costs $7.17 per annual subscription. This rate would be charged to LP new donors, with renewals to donors selling for $8.60. Non-donor subscriptions would be $18. To cover the cost of existing subscriptions, Millett quoted a price to the LP of about $67,000 and offered to spread that out over four payments.

Kevin Rollins of Woodbridge VA proposed a publication called “Libertarian Insider.” His vision is a libertarian trade journal targeted for “everyone who is involved in the production and marketing of liberty.” It would serve needs extending well beyond the party, covering both political and movement news, and providing ideological and practical support for activists.

Rollins is currently publisher of The Free Liberal, which does a great job of presenting left-libertarian and classical liberal perspectives. It appears that much of the staff of The Free Liberal would be available to help with this new project. The proposed format would be a 24 page tabloid with no color. He quoted a fee of $75,000 to transfer LP News operations to his group.

Todd McGreevey of Davenport IA proposed “Libertarian Life,” which would cover party news as well as cultural and social aspects of libertarianism. McGreevey’s current publication is River Cities Reader, the weekly entertainment tabloid in the Quad Cities area.

McGreevey said he’d like to see our publication become the “Utne Reader” of libertarianism. He brought some mock ups of full color pages, highlighting ballot access and a column on the “Barometer of Liberty.” He said he would be willing to offer state parties the chance of special inserts in the stitch and trim format. Although he wants the publication to help the party grow, for example by helping to recruit more qualified candidates, even more McGreevey showed interest in making our publication an outreach vehicle. McGreevey quoted a fee of $250,000 a year.

Shortly after the presentations, the LNC entered what must be their longest executive session ever, clocking in at over two and half hours and taking the whole rest of Saturday afternoon, to discuss the proposals in light of campaign finance law with Hall there to advise them and continue their ongoing discussion of how the heck we are going to straighten out our FEC reporting problems. The upside was it gave me the opportunity to hang out at the bar with Tim West of Liberty for Sale, whom I had been looking forward to meeting for some time.

Reconvening on Sunday, Squyres moved to outsource material sales to Garlinghouse, pending a contract reviewed and approved by Hall. Some concerns were raised in the debate. Starr wants us to avoid being locked into a long term agreement. Lark wants to ensure that we not restrict the ability of states to produce their own materials. Wrights wanted to see competitive bidding, saying we don’t know if we got a good price since we only saw one. The motion passed on a voice vote. Wrights abstained, while At Large Representative Rick McGinnis recused himself since he is in a similar business which has done business with the LP before.

Moving on to LP News, Redpath moved to keep LP News in house, but that was ruled out of order as you generally don’t make a motion to retain the status quo. Squyres then moved to outsource LP News to the Kidron group.

Redpath expressed his concern of losing ownership of LP News without a clearer financial picture. During the debate it became obvious that no one at the table expects LP News to turn a profit. Starr suggested we could well lose more money by outsourcing. Lark offered that another confounding factor is that we don’t appear to have a shared view of what our party’s publication is supposed to accomplish. Wrights said we are making a mistake by removing our revenue streams without replacing them, and we don’t have the money now to make this move.

Carling, who has become our resident expert on FEC regulations, said he sees only the most minuscule improvement in our position with the FEC by outsourcing, although it would make it possible again for our affiliates to purchase subscriptions in bulk or on behalf of members. Bear in mind that the entire motivation for outsourcing LP News is the prohibition on the party accepting corporate contributions, which severely restricts its ability to pursue advertising revenue. Carling said the advantages gained by outsourcing would not come close to justifying the $50,000-100,000 a year in additional losses.

The motion failed on a voice vote. Nelson then moved to replace LP News with a donor based in house publication. Starr objected to consideration of this motion, and that objection passed on a voice vote.

It is truly unfortunate that the LNC did not have the foresight to realize that without any money currently available for significant new obligations, it was premature at best to ask these bidders to take the time and expense of preparing their presentations. While LP News will continue, most likely in its current format with Cloud continuing as editor from his new home in South Carolina, I hope that the capital could be found to produce the publications envisioned by both Rollins and McGreevey.

LNC Meeting Report - Dues, no longer debated

There were two proposals to revisit the dues debate, both brought by regional representatives on behalf of members. Region 1E Representative Dan Karlan (New Jersey) offered a motion submitted by the Massachusetts LP to set dues at $30, while Region 4 Alternate Trevor Southerland (Tennessee) put forward the plan of Jack Tanner of Florida to set dues at $0.0001 (one mil) along with a pledge to donate $100 to cover the fees for the first million members.

Squyres objected to consideration of both proposals, which very swiftly passed by a show of hands, 10-5 (two thirds required). Thus the LNC affirmed its will to have zero dues starting January 1, 2006.

At the beginning of the meeting, Dixon cited California and Indiana as positive examples of forward thinking in their response to zero dues, and asked both those state chairs to tell the committee their stories.

Starr explained that California had implemented pretty much what he had proposed to the LNC at the beginning of the year, $25 for a new state membership and $50 to renew. He said it is important to recognize that the transfer of our members’ relationships from national to state is not automatic, so attention to building new relationships is required to generate dues. Their goals are to convert 50% of national members to state membership and develop their own membership database program.

Rutherford spoke for Indiana. They are going the opposite direction, choosing not to charge dues in favor of other fundraising. They have contracted with a development specialist for their fundraising program. This change will require revisions of their bylaws. Rutherford cited one great advantage, relieving their county affiliates from the task of member recruitment.

Nelson pointed out at the end of the meeting that the Policy Manual obligated the LNC to provide membership cards to new members. With zero dues set to take place, this obligation would continue with no means of funding. Karlan moved to delete that section of the Policy Manual, which passed on a voice vote.

LNC Meeting Report - Convention

The LNC received a presentation from Terry Quick, our convention consultant hired by Dixon. He has over 20 years experience running conventions of all sizes all over the world. Quick has already completed a site inspection, a working budget, a marketing analysis, draft vendor agreements and the business meeting arrangements. Our cost for Quick’s services will total $36,000 plus any expenses or outside labor. His office location in Seattle allows him easy access to the Portland convention site, helping to keep his expenses low.

Quick reported the work still left to be done includes the convention website, mailing and marketing, and setting prices. He says we need to have the pricing completed as soon as possible and get the convention mailing out in December or January.

Dixon distributed initial convention budget projections. The working agenda has committee meetings scheduled for Wednesday through Friday, June 28-30, with time for various constituent or community caucuses on Friday. The business meeting would be on Saturday and Sunday, July 1-2. The Torch Club event is tentatively scheduled for Monday breakfast, July 3, followed by the first meeting of the new LNC, with a goal to complete all business by noon.

Dixon also distributed a sheet of revenue projections. While these figures are not yet confirmed, this document projected the charge for a Gold package of $300 for early registration and $340 after the early bird deadline. Silver packages would sell for $250 or $285, and the cost for Bronze packages are estimated currently at $230 and $260.

They have also retained the Basic Delegate package instituted at the last convention at rates of $45 or $55. There would be a Speakers Only package of $115 or $135. A la carte tickets include a projected $175 price for the banquet, $60 for the opening reception and $45 for a breakfast event.

The package price projections are designed to allow us to break even on the convention. The document estimates total revenue from registrations at $117,790, based on 514 total packages sold.

The Convention Committee for some time has been Dixon and Lark. Chris Farris was also on this committee, his seat remaining vacant since his resignation from the party. Region 2 Alternate Richard Burke (Oregon) was selected to replace Farris. Burke had noted the difficulty of communicating with the convention organizers regarding the extensive volunteer help being organized by the local party, so his appointment should go very far in solving that problem.

Lark said he hopes to have a greater emphasis on training and workshops for activists, and far less emphasis on speakers. Burke reported that the Oregon LP was already planning their own track of breakout sessions. Dixon said currently they are planning on only two speaker slots, both to hold down costs and allow more time for business. Nelson pointed out in that case there may not be any financial sense to offer a speakers only convention package.

Convention expenses are currently being paid out of general funds, since nothing was budgeted for the convention in 2005. Originally the revenue was supposed to go into a separate bank account, and the general fund would be repaid once money started coming in. However at the meeting it was revealed that the cost for setting up this separate account was estimated to be $1,200, which was deemed too high an administrative expense.

Carling moved an authorization of $15,000 in convention expenses for 2005, which passed by a voice vote. Dixon promised to send the LNC a monthly report on convention finances.

Secretary Bob Sullentrup submitted extensive documentation of several delegate and affiliate convention resources. These include a Delegation Chair’s Manual, a Convention FAQ for delegates, and development of various software to assist the Credentials Committee, the amendment process and vote tabulation. The documents are meticulous in detail while being very clearly organized. They will be extremely useful in educating our delegates and managing the floor process, helping to create a more productive convention experience for all, especially Sullentrup. Dixon said he is extremely grateful knowing that our Secretary is on the case and that his extensive convention responsibilities will be discharged properly.

LNC Meeting Report - Platform and Credentials Committees

The LNC appointed members of the Platform and Credentials Committees at this meeting. The Platform Committee has 20 members, one each from the top ten states in membership, and ten appointed by the LNC, including no less than five members from states other than the ten having the most members. The Credentials Committee is made up of five members chosen by the LNC and one each from the top five states in membership.

Each LNC member had ten votes each which they could use positively or negatively. The first round of Platform voting determined the first nine members with a four way tie for the tenth spot.

Lorenzo Gaztenaga (MD) 13 13-0
David Aiken (CO) 12 12-0
George Squyres (AZ) 12 14-2
Adam Mayer (OR) 11 11-0
Robert Murphy (OK) 11 11-0
Trevor Southerland (TN) 11 11-0
David Owens (PA) 11 13-2
Tim West (WV) 9 10-1
Donny Ferguson (VA) 8 8-0

Lee Wrights (NC) 7 7-0
Chuck Williams (SC) 7 7-0
Jim Duensing (NV) 7 7-0
Greg Clark (WA) 7 7-0

Bea Jones (SC) 3 7-4
Bill van Allen (FL) 1 1-0
Michael Gilson De Lemos (FL) -8 0-8

The runoff was won by Wrights. Wrights received 12 votes, to three for Williams, one for Duensing and none for Clark. The other three with seven votes were ranked as alternates based on the runoff results in the order above. Having received positive votes, Jones and van Allen were named at 4th and 5th alternates.

One positive result is the election of Tim West. Along with David Aiken, that means the Reform Caucus will be well represented. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, it’s always better for a significant viewpoint within the party to have a voice at the table. While all of the folks who were elected will serve well I’m sure, it was sad to see committee veteran Greg Clark not make the first cut. Let’s hope Washington can get its numbers up so he can get one of the state based appointments and continue his distinguished service on this committee.

The Credentials vote was much more straightforward, yielding this result:

Emily Salvette (MI) 16
Dena Breudigam (OH) 15
Greg Johnson (TX) 14
Jack Tanner (FL) 13
Michael Houze (IN) 8
Ronda Birr (OH) 7

The top four vote getters are all long time committee veterans. Birr is Breudigam’s sister and was very helpful at the Atlanta convention. She was named as an alternate.

The LNC chooses interim Chairs for these committees. By tradition they grant that position to the highest vote getters, with the understanding that the committees will select their own Chairs once they start work. Both Gaztenaga and Salvette were present and deferred to Squyres and Johnson respectively, in recognition of their past leadership of these committees.

LNC Meeting Report - Program Committee

Starr moved to remove all members of the Program Committee due to a lack of work product.

According to the Bylaws, the Program is to be comprised of a maximum of 10 issues which are currently receiving widespread national public attention, are readily identifiable by most individuals as matters which affect them personally and directly, and which are clearly identified as interim or transitional proposals which move us toward a libertarian society.

Region 4 Representative Michael Gilson De Lemos has been working on a Program for quite some time, which can be found here. While the work there is extensive, it concentrates on providing a toolkit for party growth and in no way resembles the Program as described above.

Starr’s motion passed by voice vote. Squyres nominated Sean Haugh (NC) to serve on the committee, Carling nominated Bruce Dovner (CA), and Region 3 Representative Dena Breudigam (Ohio) volunteered herself. These nominations were approved.

This will be an interesting challenge for me, as I am one of the people on the Bylaws Committee who suggests we abolish the Program entirely. (For the rationale behind this proposal you can find Geoff Neale’s view on my blog and my own in my article Why have rules if we don’t follow them?) However I was persuaded by a point made in the debate that we should at least give the convention delegates an opportunity to see what a Program can do so they can make a more informed decision about whether it’s worth keeping.

Dovner has faithfully submitted a Program for the California LP for several years. The current version can be found here. I am quite familiar with his work, which in my view is most excellent. With his presence on the committee I am sure we can deliver a high quality product to the LNC for approval prior to the convention.

LNC Meeting Report - Ballot Access

Redpath reported that the latest fundraising letter is devoted to ballot access, with returns still coming in. This has reduced the ballot access fund balance to about negative $14,000, and he was hopeful that continuing response to the letter would bring the fund to a positive balance by the end of November.

Redpath gave thumbnail sketches of the status for several states for ballot access in 2006:

Arkansas: we currently have about 1000 signatures towards a goal of 10,000 to run a candidate for Governor. If that candidate receives 3% of the vote, we’ll have full ballot status there in 2008.

Illinois: we need 25,000 signatures there but the prospects for meeting this goal are bleak. A result of 5% in a statewide race would get us full ballot status in 2008. There is no report on whether any signatures have been collected yet in Illinois.

Maine: we need 4,000 signatures, but the state party there feels they have no ability to complete this themselves, and no candidate to run even if they did.

Massachusetts: Redpath is playing phone tag with that state party, but doubts the ability of running a statewide slate there.

Nebraska: we can run a full slate with 4,735 signatures.

New Hampshire: we need 3,000 signatures to run a candidate for Governor in 2006. Redpath is playing phone tag with them as well, but considers them to be on their own to accomplish this.

New York: we need 15,000 signatures to run a candidate for Governor. If we get 50,000 votes in that race we’ll have full ballot access there through 2010. Considering we have never reached this vote total in that race, the outlook for New York is not terribly positive.

North Carolina: we have collected about a third of the 69,734 signatures needed for full party access through 2008. Redpath considers this too daunting to tackle now.

North Dakota: we need 7,000 signatures, and 5% in any statewide office wins ballot access for 2008.

Redpath listed Arkansas, Massachusetts, Nebraska and North Dakota as the states from this list where he felt we could make the difference with some funding and support from the LNC. He is still gathering information to develop a clearer picture of how and where to proceed. He asked for approval for him to disburse funds for petitioning in 2006 if there are positive funds in the ballot access fund and with the approval of the Chair. Starr so moved, and it passed by a voice vote with Squyres as the only dissent. Squyres pointed out that this was exactly the attitude with which we entered the ballot access situation in 2004, which resulted in overspending the fund by more than $30,000 and much controversy.

LNC Meeting Report - Miscellaneous

* Dixon was asked about the sensitivity training for the LNC mandated by the new policy against sexual harassment. He said he was striving to make this happen at the March 2006 meeting, and has identified a trainer.

* Region 5E Alternate Chuck Moulton (Pennsylvania) asked whether we would have a review of the Strategic Plan this term. Dixon responded that there was no motivation to do so until the LNC is more or less of the same view regarding the Plan.

* Region 5W Representative Jeremy Kiel (Wisconsin) reported on the status of the Branding project. They are undertaking what I believe is the project’s fourth marketing survey to help determine how we should begin. This one is an online survey of 1,000 voters to discover which of our messages reach the general public and how they resonate with them. Kiel is working with Mick McWilliams, who has extensive professional experience in market research. Being a party member, McWilliams is donating his time developing the survey and analyzing the results. His company still will be paid for the work of conducting the survey itself, at a cost of $16,000. This can be covered by money already raised for this project. Starr suggested that the survey identify not only popular issues, but also issues which will generate donations. A motion to approve the survey expenditure passed by voice vote.

* Carling resigned as the Chair of the Audit Committee, claiming that never received full financial statements from 2004, although Nelson has claimed that these were transmitted to the LNC in February. The LNC named Redpath to replace Carling on the committee.

* Carling reported that the groundwork establishing the Libertarian National Congressional Committee (LNCC) is very close to completion. Dixon and all the incorporators have signed off on the articles of incorporation. Seven of the eight incorporators have approved the LNCC bylaws. Moulton is setting up a website.

* Karlan reported that the minutes from the 2002 convention have finally been reconstructed, and in them he discovered a change in the Bylaws, which has been submitted to Sullentrup. He also identified a change in the Policy Manual from that time, amending the provision about how special agreements with any state party should be made available to all affiliates and require LNC approval. Starr pointed out that this would have been contained in a section which was repealed in its entirety by the zero dues resolution. Karlan replied that if this is the case, in his opinion this was in error. Carling asked Karlan to report at the next meeting where this policy change might go in the manual.

* Karlan reported on behalf of the Bylaws Committee. Geoff Neale has resigned as committee Chair in protest of the approval of zero dues by the LNC, which he feels is clearly in violation of our current Bylaws. Neale retains his seat on the committee. Karlan said he can provide leadership in his role as committee Secretary but we will need to select a new Chair when we convene in person in advance of the convention. Karlan, Cory and Haugh are working on setting up a dedicated message board for member education and input into the various Bylaws proposals. This should be up and running by the end of November. I am also serializing the various Bylaws proposals on my blog.

* Moulton raised questions about the confidentiality of reports. He cited how Nelson’s Treasurer’s Report almost immediately made its way onto various Libertarian blogs and expressed a concern that LNC members may be inhibited from full disclosure due to this phenomenon. Lark and Rutherford both added that they would like to see more attribution of sources and more complete reporting by these bloggers. Dixon replied that unless explicitly labeled confidential, all reports are public information and that we simply should accept that our many of our members not only are interested in this information but have every right to it. He did however express the desire that bloggers and reporters show some sensitivity to allowing the LNC the time and space to digest and consider the raw information contained in these reports. No action was taken.

* The next LNC meeting, scheduled for March 11-12, 2006, was originally planned for south Florida. Dixon reported that we are having trouble finding a hotel in that location at a reasonable price. He said that the second choice would be New Orleans, possibly giving us a media opportunity to show how we are supporting the rebuilding of that city. The third option would be Tucson. My money is on this last option, but maybe that is wishful thinking on my part since my family lives there and I always love an opportunity to visit them.


This report is funded by your generous donations. I can only continue to provide them if you contribute. All donors to my meeting report fund receive my LNC reports and articles as they are submitted for publication. (You may also read these reports and more LNC news on my blog, The NC Way.) Please contact me at or 919-286-0152 to find out how you can help. Also feel free to call or write if you have any follow up questions on this report.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Bylaws Proposal - Eliminate the LP Program

The following was also written by Geoff Neale:

The Program is a document that the Bylaws requires be written by the LNC. This document shall be: "a maximum of 10 issues; which are currently receiving widespread, national public attention; are readily identifiable by most individuals as matters which affect them personally and directly; and offer interim or transitional proposals which move toward a libertarian society, which are clearly identified as interim or transitional proposals."

This sounds like a great idea. The problem is that the LNC has given little or no attention to this document in recent memory, because the purpose of the LNC is NOT to be a document creation committee, but to be the board of directors of the Libertarian Party.

Eliminating this Bylaw does not mean we cannot have such a document. It just means that we are not mandating the document in our Bylaws.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Bylaws Proposal - Eliminate Platform Retention Voting

I'll be posting my LNC Meeting Report here over the next couple days, since I have to finish it by my Friday deadline for LFA. But now that I have your attention, I also want to start serializing the various proposals of the Bylaws Committee to get that discussion going. We welcome any feedback or suggestions for improvement, either in the comments or by private email to There's also a link to the right for the Bylaws Committee message archive where you can see all the deliberations. Within the next week or so we should also have a dedicated message board in place where party members can engage in conversation about our proposals or even suggest your own.

The rest of this post was written by Geoff Neale and appeared in the August LP News:

Proposal 1: Eliminate the Platform Retention Voting.

Check out our current Bylaws, and you will see that there is a very complicated process mandated for the review of every plank in our Platform. It is called the Platform Retention Vote. The intention of this process was to provide a simple mechanism for our members to vote up or down on every plank in the Platform. In principle, this sounds fine, but the mechanics are difficult. The Bylaws require electronic tabulation, a three hour voting window, and a secondary review of any planks to be deleted based upon this vote. The number of votes cast in each convention is a small portion of the total delegates, and the process is expensive because of the requirement to rent tabulation equipment and have machine readable forms printed. To this date, not one plank has been deleted through this process.

Additionally, the Bylaws still provide for the deletion of any plank on a simple majority vote.

In short, we feel that removing this procedure simplifies the Convention, reduces costs, and removes no powers from the delegates.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

LPUS listserve revived

This was received recently from George Phillies:

For many years, libertarians across America were faithfully served by email lists operated by Joe Dehn at They were places were all libertarians could discuss issues of interest to the national party and the national libertarian political movement. Joe has gained other interests; those groups have become inactive.

To revive this vital discussion on what our party should be doing, I am relaunching the group lpusmisc at yahoogroups dot com.

The group purpose is:

"LPUSMISC is a group for the discussion of the Libertarian Party and Libertarian Political activities. The focus is on putting Libertarian ideas into effect via successful, lawful political action: campaigns, referenda, litigation, petition, and similar means. Discussion of abortion, voting methods, and other disputatious topics that do not advance Libertarian political success is disallowed."

The group settings are:

* Membership requires approval
* Messages do not require approval
* All members can post messages
* Email attachments are permitted
* Members cannot hide email address
* Listed in directory

"Membership requires approval" is 'thank you, but we are not interested in your robots posting your sale of widgits in which we are likely not to be interested.'

To ask to join, go to yahoogroups and search for lpusmisc.

Remmeber, you can always set a yahoogroup mail setting to web only, meaning you will almost never get a mailing from the group, and will need to come to yahoogroups to read messages.