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.

Building Local Name ID 101

My latest article at Liberty For All:

Building Local Name ID 101

In my last article, I advanced the notion that, "The key to winning elections is simply working harder. Get out and meet your neighbors, develop a record of community activism, and learn how to deflect any attack and stay on message."

Whether you are running for President or Dogcatcher or anything in between, you are really running for Next Door Neighbor. The key to winning then is to be known as a good neighbor.

Your chances of winning office are vastly increased if people know who you are before you even file. So what can you do to make that happen? ....

read the rest

Saturday, June 25, 2005

What is The NC Way?

Howdy! This blog is an extension of my column at The NC Way. Here I will cover the news that happens in between our biweekly publishing schedule or that doesn't fit into the article format in use there.

This blog is separate from my personal one Genus Haha. I value a separation between my work and the rest of my life and just couldn't bring myself to start posting general Libertarian news and opinion there. By keeping them separate I hope to have decreased the possibility of boring all my various readers. If you've found me through this blog, you may find the personal one interesting as I talk a lot about local and state politics from a Libertarian perspective there.

What is The NC Way? I am extremely proud of the Libertarian Party of NC and literally thank God just about every single day that I live in North Carolina. We are growing in size, support and public policy influence precisely because of the culture most all our activists share. NC Libertarians are committed to Liberty first and foremost. NC Libertarians place ultimate value on what is actually right and true without fear or favor, rather than allowing our views to be dictated by our personal likes and dislikes. NC Libertarians argue with each other just like everybody else, but afterwards we still remember whose side we're all on and go out together for a beer. NC Libertarians understand that talking is fun, but action is our true purpose. Most of all, NC Libertarians are proud to be Libertarians and are always looking for the best ways to tell all the people who we are and what we believe and make the party inviting to anyone who simply wants more Liberty.

Since my time on the Libertarian National Committee (LNC), I have developed the role of reporter on the inner workings of the national Libertarian Party, applying the NC Way sensibility to my coverage. There is a strong demand by party members for this information, and thus a strong interest in making sure the news is timely and accurate. One of the nicest consequences of my work is that if you want to criticize the LP now you can't just make up speculation in the absence of fact and run with it. The facts are now available to all. This blog intends to speed up that process.

Unlike a lot of critics of the LNC, I have a great love for them and their work. I want to see them succeed. When they do right, I want to tell the world, helping the process of translating board room decisions into real political action. But when they do wrong, I have an obligation to tell our members about this too so it can be corrected. By providing this connection between the party structure and the membership, I hope to empower our members to take and keep control of their party.

Another good source for news and discussion of the events discussed here is the LFA Message Board. There you can engage in more of a dialogue about these issues and anything else related to Liberty and the libertarian movement.

This project costs a fair chunk of change, mostly the expenses of traveling to the quarterly LNC meetings across the country. It is a private venture funded by your generous donations. To continue providing this service, I need your help. If you want to donate, or have any other questions or concerns about the LNC Meeting Report project, my mailing address is:

Sean Haugh
1821 Hillandale Rd #1B-332
Durham NC 27705