Saturday, November 19, 2005

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 lpstuff.com. 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.

2 Comments:

Anonymous George Phillies said...

Given that Nelson's motion was defeated, to whom does the LNC plan to send the February or so LP News? There are no dues to pay for sending issues to members whose dues are current, no basis for choosing which people should be sent issues, and no money to send the issues.

6:23 PM  
Blogger Sean Haugh said...

Status quo. It will be produced and paid for in house, with Daniel Cloud now editing remotely from his new home in South Carolina. We'll see if somehow they have the money for that.

1:22 AM  

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