Saturday, August 27, 2005

LNC Meeting Report: Miscellaneous and closing

State Chair Manual: New distributed some copies of the first draft State Chair Manual. It is designed to welcome new state chairs and give them some tools they need. The manual so far includes a welcome letter, current versions of the national Bylaws and LNC Policy Manual, submission guidelines for material intended for LP News, and standard forms for items such as membership renewal. Several LNC members had suggestions for additional useful material. New also reported that the states’ new ability to update their own pages on the national website is working well.

New Vision brochure unavailable: Squyres expressed concern that the “New Vision for America” brochure is out of stock and that it would cost $12,000 we don’t have for a minimal reprint run. Cory said the original artwork for that brochure is lost and would need to be recreated, adding more to the cost. The price of the brochure may have to be increased to cover these costs whenever we can reprint them.

Bylaws Committee: With the promotion of alternate Fred Collins, there were no more alternates named to the Bylaws Committee. Lark suggested new alternates be ranked by their previous non-negative vote totals. Dixon pointed out here were several ties in the last vote, so it was determined that the LNC would have a written ballot with each member voting for one of the top four candidates remaining.

Christy Welty of Iowa emerged as the first alternate with four votes. The remaining three candidates tied at three votes each with one vote for NOTA. A random process was then employed to order the other three alternates. The result was Phil Schmidt of Oregon as second alternate, Donny Ferguson of Virginia third, and Tony Wall of Tennessee fourth.

Also during the meeting, a motion was made by Nelson to encourage the Bylaws Committee to develop a proposal to eliminate Article 6, calling for an LP Program, which passed by a voice vote.

Badnarik for Congress: Alan Hacker of California addressed the committee with his new title of Campaign Manager for Michael Badnarik for US Congress in 2006 in Texas’ 10th district. Hacker is moving to Austin for the campaign, an office has already been established, and money is already being donated via Badnarik’s website.

Dixon lauded this as a big step forward for the party, for one of our Congressional campaigns to hire a high profile campaign manager from out of state. It may indeed be unprecedented in the history of the party. Hacker struck me as definitely up to the task, and capable and dedicated servant of Liberty who will live up to Dixon’s lofty praise.

Platform: Squyres reported that the platform reformatting project continues on schedule in advance of the Portland convention. Shane Cory has established a message board where anyone can review and give feedback to the committee’s work on each plank. Squyres would like to see approval of most of the reformatted planks in one motion at the convention. Feedback from the membership is needed to determine which ones are uncontroversial enough to be included in such a motion. Squyres also expressed concern that the platform reform ideas of the Libertarian Reform Caucus, which seek to moderate our positions to only what can be accomplished in the next four year election cycle, may derail the reformatting project.

LNCC: Carling reported that the Libertarian National Congressional Committee (LNCC) has not yet filed its articles of incorporation because they were waiting for one last incorporator to sign them. It was revealed that this incorporator is Lark, who said he had requested changes which probably have been made, and anticipated he would be able to sign them very soon. Nelson made a motion to suspend the LNC’s endorsement of the LNCC, for fear of competition for limited fundraising, which died for lack of a second. I’d like to reiterate my opinion that the LNCC, if successful, represents another significant step in the growth of the party. It is another activity pursued by our competition which we have not engaged in to date, and will allow us to seek new national donors to directly support strong local campaigns.

Audit: Carling reported that no one had yet been hired for the 2004 independent audit. He claimed that they were still waiting for the final financial statements for last year. Nelson replied that these had been distributed at the LNC meeting in February, and agreed to resend them to Carling.

Convention: Dixon said he was in the process of hiring a professional event planner to manage the convention. Lark is working with the Oregon LP, and Nelson is gathering information from the most recent convention. The meeting planner Dixon is considering is based in Seattle and would handle processing registrations and payments, marketing and similar operations at a cost of $3000 a month. Nelson pointed out there is no budget line yet for the convention. Staff had been asked to bring one to this meeting, but with Seehusen’s resignation this was not completed. Dixon said he would take responsibility for preparing this for the next meeting.

SPT Review: There was no review of the Strategic Plan (SPT) as was suggested at the previous meeting. Even before the resignation of Seehusen and the vote to abolish dues, both of which contributing to a full two day agenda, this item pretty much died due to a lack of interest. It is doubtful the LNC will take up any SPT review during this term.

Future meetings: The next meeting of the LNC will be November 11-12, 2005, at the Embassy Suites in Baltimore, near BWI airport. The following meeting will be March 11-12, 2006, at a location in south Florida to be determined. The last LNC meeting of the term will take place in Portland immediately before the convention in late June. There is also scheduled a conference call of the Executive Committee for Wednesday, September 21st. Also of note, the annual State Chairs Conference is scheduled for Phoenix, January 28-29, 2006.


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. 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.

LNC Meeting Report: Finances and how we get them

Nelson reported that our finances are considerably improved since Seehusen took office two years ago. He questioned the approach of chasing membership and then pounding them with direct mail once we have them in the door. He proposed that instead we put more emphasis on generating income from monthly pledges.

Pledge revenue per member is down from about $1.50 to $1.00. Direct mail revenue per member is also trending downward, and membership is down slightly in the last month. Nelson suggested that too many fundraising letters may be driving down the donation per member numbers and may be causing donor fatigue.

Nelson said we should look for a better rate of return instead of simply chasing gross profit. He followed that our database is underused and that one of its best features is its ability to target and focus fundraising. For example, it allows us to better target our letters only to those with a history of donations in response to direct mail and new people, while omitting mailings to our members who don’t respond to fundraising letters. We also need to take care to not alienate our core membership while broadening our donor base.

Cory cited the industry standard for direct mail as 13-17 pieces a year, or one every 3-4 weeks. Dixon reported that there was little response from members to recent mailings calling for groundswell actions such as petitions to various government figures, such as the death tax initiative. Lark emphasized the need for member feedback to select and drive such issues. Dixon said that recent innovations on the website gives us far more direct feedback from the membership than direct mail. Colley suggested that we value the high level networking practiced by Seehusen over lobbying. New is continuing our program to have a presence at meetings and conferences of fellow traveler organizations. Cory added later that we can keep the high level donors to our lobbying and public policy campaigns if they see results from their donations.

On Sunday, Moulton presented a motion to limit the direct mail coming from national and requested a roll call vote. After some discussion which mostly expressed concern about the proposal, the motion failed 2-12-1, as follows:

YES on limiting direct mail: Hagan, Moulton.

NO: Breudigam, Carling, Colley, Hoch, McGinnis, Nelson, Redpath, B Ryan, T Ryan, Southerland, Starr, and Sullentrup.

Abstaining: Wrights. Not Voting: Dixon.

Nelson speculated that one bad letter or another minor catastrophe might be enough to push us over the edge into more dire financial circumstances. We need to increase our cash on hand to be greater than our accounts payable. As of July 31st our accounts payable stood at $125,695. While this is $10,000 more than the figure at the end of June, Nelson noted that this still represents an improvement as the percentage of accounts payable past 30 days due had decreased from 60% to 43%. He warned that the 2006 convention is a potential financial land mine, saying we have not yet even completely recovered from the effects of the losses on the 2002 convention. Keeping convention costs under control and its funds strictly segregated are essential to its success.

Colley asked about cancelled pledges and how to turn that around. He asked Cory if there were plans to follow up regarding recently cancelled or uncharged pledges. Cory responded that there was no current plan to do so but that it could be done. In reply to a question from McGinnis, he did say that follow up thank you calls were being made to new pledgers.

After the vote to abolish membership dues, the LNC scheduled 20 minutes on Sunday to discuss new revenue streams to replace this dues money. This turned out to be a distracted and frustrating enterprise with few bright spots. This twice resulted in a successful motion to extend the discussion for another 20 minutes until something could actually be accomplished.

Starr began the discussion with a motion calling for the immediate cessation of any solicitations for new or renewed memberships. He said it would be wrong of us to continue soliciting annual memberships when dues paying memberships will only be available for another four months. It was pointed out that a contribution of $25 or more would still result in an annual subscription to LP News and other benefits currently received by dues paying members.

The discussion sadly devolved into the worst parody of bureaucracy with suggestions of how to compose and print a letter, using money and staff time they do not have, explaining everything to the last detail in place of the usual membership letters. The only issue they failed to debate was what color paper these letters should be printed upon.

Rutherford expressed his frustration by pointing out the purpose of this session was to focus on the big issue of generating revenue. Starr became more impassioned as he made his case, clearly portraying this as a moral issue, to the point where he earned a rebuke from Dixon. Frankly, while Starr did go a little over the top, he was absolutely right in my view – in this context, it is simply immoral to continue to sell a product that you know you are discontinuing.

Starr’s motion failed 5-11. A roll call was requested, which went as follows:

YES on ceasing membership solicitations: Carling, McGinnis, Redpath, Southerland and Starr.

NO: Breudigam, Colley, Hoch, Lark, Nelson, Rutherford, B Ryan, T Ryan, Squyres, Sullentrup and Wrights.

Tony Ryan moved that the Chair include a cover letter with membership renewal solicitations explaining the benefits of renewing, including LP News and increased delegate allocation for one’s state party at the national convention, and that a similar explanation be published via LP News and the State Chairs’ email list. This passed 10-5 on a show of hands.

Lark suggested we return to the status quo of $25 dues and allow the convention make any changes. He predicted that the LNC may have cause to reconsider their decision to abolish dues.

Rutherford suggested the LNC become more of a fundraising board, and also to establish a Finance Committee. The idea that LNC members become active in fundraising had also been advanced by Starr earlier in the meeting. Starr moved to create a Finance Committee with Rutherford as Chair.

Dixon spoke during the debate of the LNC’s transition over the years from a strong staff with a weak board to the opposite, a process which brings with it greater responsibilities to each board member.

The motion passed 11-5 on a roll call vote:

YES on Finance Committee: Breudigam, Hoch, Lark, McGinnis, Redpath, Rutherford, Southerland, Squyres, Starr, Sullentrup and Wrights.

NO: Carling, Colley, Nelson, B Ryan and T Ryan.

Nelson reported that the abolition of dues would be by itself a net financial gain for the LNC. The lost revenue from memberships would be more than offset by the end of UMP payments to the states and membership solicitations and renewals.

A conference call for the State Chairs was scheduled to explain the changes, which has since occurred. About 8-12 people participated in the call, including myself. My notes on that call can be found on my blog, The NC Way.

One critical bit of information raised by George Phillies that was barely discussed during the burying of his Ballot Access audit commissioned by Dixon is the discovery that there is no paper trail recording each transaction. This is how is was possible for many checks to be written for ballot access expenses which cannot now be documented. Phillies suggested in his report that there should be a file for each and every transaction, even if it is simply a handwritten receipt noting the check number and purpose. Our current method leaves the states responsible for generating this documentation, which is a haphazard process when done at all.

LNC Meeting Report: Personnel matters

The dreaded showdown between staff and the LNC was pleasantly averted. The staff report submitted prior to the meeting (in place of the ED’s report) featured several sections by each director level employee entitled “Narrative on the Effects of the ‘Raiser’s Edge Resolution’” (with the notable exception of New). This refers to the resolution of the Executive Committee (EC) which directed staff to cease all outreach and similar operations until the new database was finally fixed according to certain specifications, as well as another resolution a month later which kept these prohibitions in place.

This report had initially been labeled confidential due to the direct employee-employer communication contained within it. A second edited version of this report was also produced for public view, but the first version was the one included in the LNC notebooks. Dixon ruled that the first version was not confidential, but still openly questioned the value of distributing that information beyond the committee.

Cory and New were present to represent staff and displayed great cooperation and diplomacy. The LNC in turn seemed to accept their written report as venting frustration and graciously responded to them in kind.

The time in the meeting for staff reports became an extended question and answer session about the status of many projects and operations, often returning to the basic questions about the staff-board relationship. Starr asked Cory directly what his biggest challenges were and how the LNC could best help with them. Cory replied that we need “heroes of the party” we can present to the public. He also said there needs to be better communication with the state parties, and that better conduits of communication need to be created both with the state chairs and the membership as a whole. Staff member Chris Thorman had been assigned before the meeting to call all the state chairs or EDs to establish some more direct communication, using the task of confirming the states’ information on the website. Contacting the states in this way proved more challenging than expected according to Cory.

Tony Ryan asked how they can get past any conflict and move forward. Cory replied that this was already happening. Staff felt it was necessary to be heard, but that was accomplished so staff has already moved on and gotten back to work. Ryan later expressed his concern that these reports from staff could be damaging now that they are public knowledge. Dixon said that he and Colley would be following up with staff about this in the coming days.

Starr explained that his vote in favor of the resolutions was simply based on performance and wished it had not been taken as a political message. He expressed the opinion that the resolution had been filtered in its transmission to staff to give the false impression that it was politically motivated. Cory confirmed Starr’s impression, but refused to answer any follow up questions about who it was that gave them this impression beyond the fact that it was a member of the LNC. In reply to a follow up question posed later by Lark, Cory reiterated that in their view this has been resolved, saying Dixon had explained things to staff sufficiently in the conference call with them the day after Seehusen’s resignation.

Cory reported that the database work demanded by the EC resolution was two thirds complete, with the last part, the final merging of phone and email fields, due to be finished by September 1st at the latest. Robert Kraus is the person to contact for questions or to report any further problems regarding the database.

BetteRose Ryan said that the resolutions are now moot considering that they were directed to an ED who is no longer employed with us. Colley said now is a good time to rest the clock and rescind the resolution.

A motion to rescind the EC’s resolution passed by a unanimous voice vote.

The move of the office to Suite 200 in the Watergate building is being held up due to a dispute with the landlord. The last major issue remaining is upgrading a wall in the call center to improve the wiring and bring it up to the electrical and fire code standards. The wall and the wiring within it had been put there by the previous tenant. The landlord had maintained it was our responsibility to do this work, but we are begging to differ. Colley reported we are receiving excellent legal help pro bono from an attorney experienced in these matters. Also still needed are some minor renovations for security, ventilation and doors for the offices. The move will happen when all these things are resolved. The new lease is for six years.

Since the meeting, Jessica Wilson has given her notice. She will be accepting a new job in South Carolina and will stay on for a few extra weeks while we are looking for her replacement. Cory reported during the meeting that we are also hiring more people to staff the call center.

LNC Meeting Report: Executive Directors Past and Future

Dixon said to begin his report that Joe Seehusen would be remembered for how he turned around our finances, restructured the type and style our employment at HQ, and changed our contracting procedures to substantially cut costs. Friday August 5th was Seehusen’s last day, with Cory filling in as interim chief of staff until a new Executive Director (ED) is hired.

Dixon spoke to the staff the day after Seehusen’s resignation. He retains the authority of the position now and relies upon Cory to execute his directives. He added that Cory was hired in part for his leadership skills, and cited the recent progress on fixing our database as an example.

The Employment Policy and Compensation Committee (EPCC) headed by Colley will conduct the search for a new ED. Colley will be spending time in the office in the fall to assist the transition. On Sunday, Nelson made a motion to transfer $65,000 in the budget from salary to professional services, both to reflect how our money is actually being spent and to fund the executive search. This passed by a voice vote.

Later in the meeting, Colley said he wants input from the LNC on the bonus structure for the ED position as well as on the position itself. He is consulting with professional search people for help, although internal candidates for the position are also encouraged to apply. Send your resumes and letters of interest to Sam New at HQ.

BetteRose Ryan continues as a member of the EPCC, and McGinnis was named later in the meeting to the committee. They will also have a role in gathering and shaping the information about defining the mission and goals of the position.

After the meeting adjourned, most LNC members stayed for a roundtable discussion led by Colley to find out what they are looking for in a new ED. The discussion was very positive and wide ranging with no particular sentiments coming to the fore. The general sense of the committee seems to be in favor of someone who will carry on Seehusen’s outreach programs while also being strong in fundraising and administration. They also seemed to understand that they as a board need to do a better job of defining and clarifying their expectations, with Starr being the most forceful advocate of this view.

At the close of the meeting, a resolution thanking Seehusen for his service passed by a unanimous voice vote.

While this has never risen above the rumor stage, the only tangible reason I have heard about the timing of Seehusen’s resignation is that it was in response to the infamous Raiser’s Edge resolutions of the Executive Committee between this and the previous meeting. Colley was the only one to publicly acknowledge that Seehusen mentioned this as a factor in his decision.

LNC Meeting Report: more on the Iraq Exit Strategy

I received a one week reprieve for my deadline, and in that week all hell broke loose with NC ballot access, which still dominates my time. But my report is now complete and waiting in Lee's inbox, so I can post the remaining sections.

First, a couple paragraphs I added to a previous report about the Iraq Exit Strategy:

Dixon spoke of his appearance on the Alan Colmes nationally syndicated radio show talking about the IES. He expressed some dismay that the first call, from Terry Parker, took a fratricidal tone, with Parker asserting that as a founding member he was far more qualified to speak for the party than the Chair we elected in convention. Fortunately the rest of the callers were more supportive. Dixon said that the IES gives us a great opportunity to talk to America about things no one else is saying, and that current events prove the prescience of the IES.

During his report, Cory noted that the Lew Rockwell article critical of the IES brought in at least 1800 extra hits to our website and that many of those people signed on to the IES.

Friday, August 19, 2005

NC Ballot Access News

We interrupt our coverage for this important commercial announcement. Here is a message I sent to our LPNC membership earlier this evening. (I don't care what the time stamp says, it's still Thursday until I go to bed.) Even if you do not live in NC, there's a way you can help at the end of this message.

Dear Friends in Liberty, there’s a lot of ballot access news to report to you, some good, some maybe not so good, and some downright defiant news.

The dicey news is that the State Board of Elections has scheduled a conference call meeting for Monday at 4.30pm and we’re on the agenda. Under North Carolina statutes, they could vote to decertify us at that time. We have provided them with plenty of sound arguments why they should not kick us off the ballot. LPNC’s Chair Thomas Hill and Executive Director Sean Haugh (that’s me) will be in attendance to make our case. We are hopeful of a positive outcome, especially in light of the timing of the good news.

The good news is that NC House Bill 88, the Electoral Fairness Act, is being heard on Tuesday morning in the House Finance Committee meeting at 8.30am in room 544 of the Legislative Office Building. That’s the one behind the main General Assembly building on Jones St. in Raleigh.

If passed, H88 would reduce the number of signatures needed to keep our place on the NC ballot to 25% of what it is now, and reduce our vote total requirement to stay on the ballot from 10% or Governor or President to 2% in those races.

If passed, we *already* have enough signatures to be done with our current ballot drive. If it doesn’t pass then we will have to collect an estimated 75,000 more signatures, at a cost approaching $100,000. Obviously we have great incentive for this bill to become law now!

We need people at the Finance Committee meeting! Please call Sean Haugh at 919-286-0152 or write to him at if you can attend or if you have any questions about this committee hearing.

We also need you to call or write the Representatives on the Finance Committee and tell them to vote FOR H88! Even if you have written already, send another email. If you have called already, call again. There are some talking points for your message later in this email.

When Thomas and I went to lobby these people for our bill a couple weeks ago, many of the Representatives we saw mentioned they had received your messages. That’s how it works folks, they have so much to consider that you need to push your concerns to the front of their minds. You have done this! Thank you! Now we need you to do it again.

Here is the list of House Finance Committee members who *especially* need to hear from you:

Chairman, Rep. Pryor Gibson (Union), 419A LOB, 919-715-3007,
Chairman, Rep. Julia Howard (Davie), 1106, 919-733-5904,
Chairman, Rep. Danny McComas (New Hanover), 506 LOB, 919-733-5786,
Chairman, Rep. William Wainwright (Craven), 532 LOB, 919-733-5995,
Vice Chairman, Rep. Bill Daughtridge (Nash), 304B LOB, 919-733-5802,
Vice Chairman, Rep. Larry Womble (Forsyth), 534 LOB 919-733-5777,
Rep. Bernard Allen (Wake), 1325, 919-733-5772,
Rep. Curtis Blackwood (Union), 1317, 919-733-2406,
Rep. Alice Bordsen (Alamance), 530 LOB, 919-733-5820,
Rep. Russell Capps (Wake), 501 LOB, 919-733-5903,
Rep. Becky Carney (Mecklenburg), 1221, 919-733-5827,
Rep. Bobby England (Rutherford), 2219, 919-733-5749,
Rep. Bill Faison (Orange), 537 LOB, 919-715-3019,
Rep. Susan Fisher (Buncombe), 420 LOB, 919-715-2013,
Rep. Dale Folwell (Forsyth), 508 LOB, 919-733-5787,
Rep. Rick Glazier (Cumberland), 2215, 919-733-5601,
Rep. Bruce Goforth (Buncombe), 1220, 919-733-5746,
Rep. Joe Hackney (Orange), 2207, 919-733-5752,
Rep. Jim Harrell (Surry), 403 LOB, 919-715-1883,
Rep. Verla Insko (Orange), 2121, 919-733-7208,
Rep. Earl Jones (Guilford), 536 LOB, 919-733-5825,
Rep. Marvin Lucas (Cumberland), 1323, 919-733-5775,
Rep. Alice Underhill (Craven), 1206, 919-733-5853,
Rep. Doug Vinson (Mecklenburg), 1010, 919-733-5886,

Please also take the time to THANK those Finance Committee members who have voiced support for the Electoral Fairness Act. Some of these folks are on the fence, some are strong supporters, but all have said they are inclined to vote for our bill. Of particular note, Reps. Luebke, Rayfield and Weiss (along with non-committee members Paul Miller and Paul Stam) are sponsors of our bill and Reps. Alexander, Lewis and Ross have worked hard to move it along. Now is the time to thank them and tell them to stay strong:

Chairman, Rep. Martha Alexander (Mecklenburg), 2208, 919-733-5807,
Chairman, Rep. Paul Luebke (Durham), 529 LOB, 919-733-7663,
Vice Chairman, Rep. Dewey Hill (Columbus), 1309, 919-733-5830,
Vice Chairman, Rep. Deborah Ross (Wake), 2203, 919-733-5773,
Vice Chairman, Rep. Jennifer Weiss (Wake), 2221, 919-733-5781,
Rep. John Blust (Guilford), 1420, 919-733-5806, (yes)
Rep. Jerry Dockham (Davidson), 1424, 919-715-2526,
Rep. Hugh Holliman (Davidson), 1213, 919-715-0873,
Rep. David Lewis (Harnett), 509 LOB 919-715-3015,
Rep. Bill McGee (Forsyth), 531 LOB, 919-733-5747,
Rep. John Rayfield (Gaston), 510 LOB, 919-733-5868,
Rep. Trudi Walend (Transylvania), 1015, 919-715-4466,
Rep. Laura Wiley (Guilford), 513 LOB, 919-733-5877,

Here is a sample letter to help you compose your personal message to your Representatives. It is better if you write in your own words, and best of all if you live in the district of the legislator you are writing. But the important thing is that you write! They won’t know how to vote unless you tell them how.

“Dear Rep. [name],

“I hope that this message reaches you in good spirits.

“H88, the Electoral Fairness Act, would encourage North Carolinians to vote by giving them more choices at the ballot box.

“Our President George Bush, when asked about the recent election in Iran, denounced them saying, ‘it was designed to maintain power in the hands of an unelected few who denied ballot access to more than 1,000 people who wanted to run.’ He is right to stand up for ballot access around the world. Will you join our President and stand up for ballot access in North Carolina?

“In the recent Supreme Court decision in Clingman v. Beaver, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, joined by Justice Stephen Breyer, wrote that if all of Oklahoma ballot access law were properly brought before them, ‘the Court would want to examine the cumulative burdens imposed by the overall scheme of electoral regulations upon the rights of voters and parties to associate through primary elections. A panoply of regulations, each apparently defensible when considered alone, may nevertheless have the combined effect of severely restricting participation and competition. Even if each part of a regulatory regime might be upheld if challenged separately, one or another of these parts might have to fall if the overall scheme unreasonably curtails associational freedoms.’ Note that Oklahoma ballot access law is extremely similar to North Carolina’s. If you won’t lower the unconstitutional restrictions on free association through ballot access, we will have no choice but to seek redress in court. If O’Connor and Breyer’s concurrence in Clingman is to be believed, it’s a case that you can’t win.

“According to Ballot Access News, North Carolina currently is ranked 47th in the country for ballot access fairness. If passed, H88 would bring North Carolina to the median among all states in this critical aspect of free and fair elections.

“For example, NC was one of only three states in the country where votes for presidential candidate Ralph Nader in 2000 were not counted. The Libertarian Party had to spend $100,000 on a nine month petition drive just to maintain their ballot access.

“Clearly, our current laws are too restrictive to parties with significant grassroots support in NC. They are not in line with ballot access requirements in neighboring states. Worse still, they are unfair to the voters, who are stay away from the voting booths in part because they don’t have enough choices to satisfy them.

“I ask for your support of the Electoral Fairness Act to make our political system in North Carolina fair and competitive. I believe, as I am sure you do, that the people of our great state deserve a choice at the ballot box.

“Thank you for your time and for your potential support on this very important issue.

“Best wishes,
“[your name and contact info]”

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about the defiant news. It is time we take the fight to court!

The last time I wrote to you about ballot access, I told you we were beginning to look into legal action against ballot access law. There has been significant progress on this front. We have begun negotiations with an attorney to take our case and are preparing to file in state court.

We feel we have a very strong case. Very similar cases have been won since 1982 in Alaska, Maryland and Michigan, and one is being fought in Oklahoma right now. We are collecting our evidence and honing our arguments with a goal to be ready to file by the end of next week if we have to.

If the State Board of Elections votes to decertify us, we will have to file immediately so we can protect our strong candidates in Charlotte and Winston-Salem, where city council elections are partisan. If the General Assembly adjourns for the year without passing the Electoral Fairness Act, we can’t wait another year. Our resolve is firm.

The ONLY thing that will prevent us from suing the state now over ballot access is if the General Assembly passes our bill before they get out of town in the next week or so. That’s why we need you to write these Representatives now!

Meanwhile, we have to keep collecting signatures and raising money. As hard as we are fighting, we still cannot count upon any relief from either the legislature or the courts. We can’t afford sit back and wait.

Please visit our ballot access page. Download the petition and pass it around. Give money if you can so we can hire a great lawyer and productive professional petitioners.

Any way and every way you can help is appreciated! It takes a lot of work to create a political party, but that’s exactly what you are doing here in North Carolina. Every bit of progress we make happens because you sent in a $100 donation, or made a $25 monthly pledge, or sent an email to your Representative, or wrote a letter to the editor, or showed up at your city council meeting, or registered to vote Libertarian, or even just mailed in your own signature on our petition.

Take your contribution and add it to those from thousands of Libertarians all across North Carolina, and what you get is a strong voice for Liberty that elects Libertarians to office and changes public policy for the better. What you get for your contribution is more freedom.

Thank you!

yours in liberty –
Sean Haugh
Executive Director, Libertarian Party of NC

To subscribe or unsubscribe to LPNC Announcements, please reply to this message or send email to

LNC Meeting Report: APRC reinstated and Exit Strategy response

Dixon reported that he knew of the topic of the white paper for the Iraq Exit Strategy (IES) in advance but had not reviewed the text prior to publication. As part of his Treasurer’s report, Nelson said there was a short burst in memberships and donations from the website immediately after the release of the IES.

In response to a question from Region 2 Alternate Emily Salvette (Michigan), Cory said that proper timing is the key to any process for reviewing future white papers. The IES was dropped the day after President Bush gave a speech changing his Iraq policy. The next white paper, a solution to the so-called war on terror, will need to drop soon to be timely. Cory said a new Advertising and Publications Review Committee (APRC) could work quite well if staff could establish a close working relationship with them.

Lark brought forward a proposal to reconstitute the APRC. This committee is charged with reviewing all party materials for conformance with the party platform and statement of principles. Speaking for his motion, he stated that while he had strong concerns about how this would affect the timeliness of white papers and other media communications from our staff, he felt this was the best available solution to strike a balance between staff flexibility and ideological correctness, and invited the board to amend his proposal as they saw fit.

The structure of the committee would be very much the same as it had been when the LNC abolished it at their August 2004 meeting. The one main difference is that the APRC would only be comprised of LNC members. While I am personally proud of my work on that committee and would enjoy serving on it again, this in my view is a significant improvement. By doing this the LNC fully accepts its responsibility as ideological as well as administrative caretakers of the party and delegates the work in an appropriate fashion.

Starr moved to change the seven day turnaround time for white papers and similarly timely material to one day. After discussion, he altered the amendment to three days to review the original document and one day for any necessary follow up responses. This passed by voice vote.

Nelson made an amendment to remove the reporting requirement to staff, so the APRC would report only to the Chair. This passed on division 8-7.

A roll call was requested for the amended motion to restore the APRC, which passed 11-5:

Yes: Colley, Hoch, Lark, McGinnis, Redpath, B Ryan, T Ryan, Southerland, Squyres, Starr and Wrights.

No: Breudigam, Carling, Nelson, Rutherford and Sullentrup.

BetteRose Ryan moved to appoint Lark, Nelson and Wrights to the APRC, with Wrights as Chair. The appointments passed by a voice vote.

A draft of the next white paper was distributed. While I have been asked not to reveal details of the paper before publication, I did read it and am extremely pleased. It makes a strong and very practical case for the Libertarian policy of nonintervention in foreign affairs as the key to solving international tensions and protecting our country and its citizens.

LNC Meeting Report: FEC Compliance

Sorry for the delay in posting more meeting report. Since my return all aspects of the LPNC ballot drive have come to a head at once. More on this later. Most of my writing these days has to be directed to the State Board of Elections and various other lawyers, legislators and bureaucrats, not to mention our members and supporters here in North Carolina. But this writer finds nothing more inspirational than a deadline, and mine for Liberty For All is tomorrow night, so it's time to move this along.

It finally became clear why the LNC has been meeting in so many executive sessions over FEC compliance during the last few meetings. Not only are they discussing any legal response to our past filing errors, they have been spending a lot of time imagineering how to restructure party operations in order to fully comply with FEC regulations.

There were two motions which finally resulted from these discussions. It may be possible that the LNC feels they have more work to do to achieve full compliance with federal campaign finance law that seems to become more restrictive every month.

Rutherford moved to direct staff to not accept money from state parties that are not FEC filing committees. This passed by voice vote. Carling pointed out that there is a distinction between state party federal committees which actually file reports and those which are in compliance with the law although they do not have to file. However this did not cause anyone to attempt to amend the motion.

According to the FEC website, currently only 13 state parties and one county party have federal committees. They are: Alaska, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and York County PA. Some of these committees are probably dormant. I’m sure there are other states, such as North Carolina, which have established federal committees but have avoided going over the thresholds which require them to file reports.

Rutherford also moved to direct staff to investigate how we can outsource our material sales and LP News and report back by September 19th. This also passed by a voice vote, with Wrights as the lone dissenter.

The rationale for this is that a political party cannot accept corporate donations, not even for ad or product sales, but a separate organization that is still controlled by the LNC could. LP News editor Daniel Cloud will most likely be responsible for this transition. It appears to be assumed that Cloud will remain LP News editor no matter what form the entity may take.

While Wrights continues to advocate that the LNC consider fighting federal regulations instead of kowtowing to them (aka “screw BCRA”), the board as a whole seems to regard full compliance as part of their fiduciary responsibility. My personal opinion is somewhere in between, that the cost of compliance is acceptable when it results in operational changes which have a neutral to positive effect on the party, but that we should stand and fight when the government tries to regulate our desired activities out of existence. Despite my own moderation, I cannot help but to fully share my friend’s burning resentment that we are letting the federal government tell us how to run our party.

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.

LNC Meeting Report pt 1: Zero Dues debate and votes

I will be serializing the August LNC Meeting Report in pieces over the next few days. The full version will appear in Liberty For All next weekend.

Part 1: Zero Dues debate and votes

BetteRose Ryan submitted a four part proposal to amend the policy manual to establish the zero dues proposal advanced by George Squyres. A summary of the four parts:

1) to set membership dues at zero effective 1/1/06;

2) to end the Unified Membership Program (UMP) effective 9/30/05 and offer UMP states a choice of either 6 months of full payments or 12 months decreasing by 1/12th each month beginning 10/1/05;

3) to develop programs and budget lines for training programs for state level activists, covering at minimum the following areas: ballot access, FEC compliance, fundraising, database usage, member recruitment, and candidate recruitment and training; and,

4) to develop a formal national-state affiliate agreement to be approved at the November meeting, which shall cover at least the following areas: ballot access, database sharing, LP News and material sales, an integrity clause, FEC compliance and adherence to common purpose.

Aaron Starr asked who would receive LP News and where that is covered in the policy manual. Ryan replied that this is not addressed in the policy manual and that LP News would be sold by subscription in a somewhat similar fashion to current practices, although much of this would be up to the LP News editor.

Jim Lark asked if everyone who signed the pledge would be considered current members, and how do we plan to count people with old contact information. Communications Director and acting Chief of Staff Shane Cory referred to the current process of correcting all the addresses in our database. However under this proposal there is no requirement to supply us with current contact information for membership.

Bill Redpath asked Cory how much lead time staff would need to implement such a major change. Cory replied it would require a minimum of one month.

Squyres stated that this proposal is culturally far reaching, not only setting the dues amount of zero but also completely rewriting the national-state party relationship.

Lee Wrights said that zero is not an amount of dues which would be compliant with the Bylaws. This comment inspired a round of applause from the California delegation.

M Carling moved to postpone indefinitely with Wrights seconding. This failed on a voice vote.

Starr argued that under Roberts’ Rules this was a motion to amend a previous action and thus required two thirds approval. Dixon ruled against Starr and Starr’s motion to appeal the ruling of the Chair was defeated.

Starr moved to divide the question into seven parts. After some debate, Chair Michael Dixon ruled the division should be in four parts according to the structure of the motion. Starr suggested the order of the vote should be in this order: abolishing UMP, setting zero dues, establishing training programs and instituting an affiliate agreement. The vote for division failed. Starr then cited a provision of Roberts’ Rules which states that a single member can require division, and Dixon agreed. A roll call was requested for each part, which went as follows:

Vote 1: eliminate UMP, passed 10-5

Yes: Treasurer Mark Nelson, Secretary Bob Sullentrup, At large Representatives Michael Colley, Rick McGinnis, Mark Rutherford and BetteRose Ryan, and Regional Representatives Dena Breudigam (Region 2 - Ohio), Ed Hoch (Region 1W - Alaska), Tony Ryan (Region 5W - South Dakota) and George Squyres (Region 6 - Arizona).

No: Vice Chair Lee Wrights, At large Representative Bill Redpath, and Regional Representatives Jim Lark (Region 5E - Virginia), Trevor Southerland (Region 4 - Tennessee) and Aaron Starr (Region 2 - California).

Not Voting: Chair Michael Dixon, Regional Representative M Carling (Region 2 - California).

Not Present: Regional Representative Dan Karlan (Region 1E - New Jersey).

Vote 2: zero dues, passed 8-7-1

Yes: Breudigam, Colley, Hoch, Nelson, B Ryan, T Ryan, Squyres and Sullentrup.

No: Carling, Lark, McGinnis, Redpath, Southerland, Starr and Wrights.

Abstaining: Rutherford. Not Voting: Dixon.

Vote 3: training programs, passed 14-0-2

Yes: Breudigam, Colley, Hoch, Lark, McGinnis, Nelson, Redpath, Rutherford, B Ryan, T Ryan, Southerland, Squyres, Sullentrup and Wrights.

No: None.

Abstaining: Carling, Starr. Not Voting: Dixon.

Vote 4: affiliate agreement, passes 11-4

Yes: Breudigam, Colley, Hoch, McGinnis, Nelson, Redpath, Rutherford, B Ryan, T Ryan, Squyres and Sullentrup.

No: Carling, Southerland, Starr and Wrights.

Not Voting: Dixon.

State Chairs Conference Call 8/13/05

I represented NC in the national LP conference call yesterday regarding dues changes. Here are my notes to my state executive committee:

UMP will be phased out beginning 10/1/05. We will be offered our choice of 6 months continuing full payments or 12 months of payments reduced by 1/12th each month. The latter should be slightly more money, but I haven't done the math. Notify Robert Kraus at HQ with our choice.

Zero dues becomes effective 1/1/06. The deadline for determining our convention allocation is still undetermined, until the precise dates for the agenda are established. Under our bylaws, this date would be one month earlier if the gavel falls on June 30 instead of July 1 (either 12/31/05 or 1/31/06). My reading of the bylaws indicates that we would use dues-paying members under the current system with the earlier deadline and simply all who have ever signed the pledge with the later deadline to calculate state delegate allocations.

Training programs that are part of the zero dues model are in development, covering fundraising, FEC compliance, ballot access, database, member recruitment and candidate recruitment and training. HQ is negotiating with an online university to develop a Libertarian Leadership College, with actual courses good enough for college credit. An FEC seminar is scheduled for Baltimore on 11/11, contact Mark Nelson if you are interested in attending. More RSVPs are needed to make this event viable.

There was a question about the pledge process. A follow up phone call from HQ is required to complete the online process. The credit card number only goes to the authorization center, so we have to call to get it and set up the recurring charge. They are getting a demo version of RE:Net Solutions as an add-on to our current database system. If that doesn't fix this problem, we will develop our own software solution. National can assist states in setting up pledge programs, but cannot accept any of the money themselves. Shane Cory recommends as an easy and cost effective option for states.

One advantage of outsourcing LP News and material sales is allowing states to send money for subscriptions without having to go through the national party or establishing a federal committee for this purpose. Staff is supposed to develop a plan for this outsourcing for the November LNC meeting.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Zero Dues passes

Just a quick headline from today's meeting while sitting at a hotel computer for $3.95 for 15 minutes. Hope to have time for more soon.

A version of Zero Dues passed at today's LNC meeting. The vote was divided into four parts, but all parts passed. The main part passed 8-7-1. Dues end 1/1/06, UMP begins phase out 9/30/05. This from memory, I'll have more to say when I'm reunited with my notes.

Also, the Executive Committee resolution to suspend work until the database was fixed was rescinded by a unanimous voice vote. This came after Shane Cory reported that all but one part of the LNC demands were met, and the rest would be complete by month's end.

Staff and LNC made nice, both looking for ways to communicate and move forward together. Much time spent in Executive Session on FEC compliance issues, which apparently are still unresolved.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Issues for Kansas City

This will probably be my last post here until I return from Kansas City. There are two major issues that will come to a head at this next meeting of the Libertarian National Committee (LNC). I am praying they handle them both wisely.

There is growing tension between staff and the LNC which has to be resolved. The Executive Committee’s (EC) vote to stop spending money on most operations until the database is fixed, still in effect, is definitely the flashpoint.

This has already been picked to death in the LP blogosphere. The EC vote can certainly be understood as an act of desperate folks at the end of their rope. Many LNC members fully agree with various state chairs and database volunteers that not having this database working a year after installation is unconscionable, and they don’t know what else to do. When you look at it that way, one can develop some sympathy for their position. They aren’t the only ones who feel like banging their head against the wall whenever they hear the phrase “Raiser’s Edge.”

Still, I said at the time that it was the most boneheaded thing I have ever seen the LNC do this term, and now the results are coming in. Like any sane self-respecting employee, many of the staff took it as an insult. I imagine it’s hard to keep your morale up when you think your board of directors has gone insane and is taking it out on you.

Staff has to be very careful in their response to keep this from escalating into an all out battle to which, as my sweetie likes to intone, sadly there can be but one outcome. If they turn this into a fight, they’ll just get themselves fired.

And for good reason. You can’t have a staff that thinks they are the ones running the party. There’s a chain of command that starts with the membership electing a national committee. Staff is at the bottom of this chain of command.

There’s a fine line between frank communication and dictating terms. The LNC definitely needs honest feedback about the consequences of their decisions, no doubt. Unfortunately, although they may be the most affected, staff are the very last people in the party who have the ability to tell the LNC how to run their business.

Our current staff is so new that they have no reason to recall the last time we let staff get away with thinking they were the bosses. That bit of institutional memory however is still a very sore spot with the LNC. Staff feedback must be frank, yet words must be carefully chosen to avoid raising this specter in the minds of the board members.

Both sides must use this meeting as an opportunity to seek understanding, request and grant forgiveness, and heal tensions. If either side instead chooses the path of escalating conflict, we’ll probably be looking for a whole new staff next Monday, and then where will we be?

The other bullet to be dodged is the financial condition of the party. We are basically out of money. It’s not dire yet, but it can be soon if we don’t get off this path. Expenses and income are both significantly under budget for the first half of 2005. The bottom line is that we’re behind about $56,000 so far this year, with few resources left to cover any future losses.

I have yet to develop a real theory of why this is happening, since only anecdotal feedback is available. Still, the LNC needs to consider the possibility that one reason fundraising is down and membership renewals are struggling is because the membership is losing confidence in the LNC itself. Here in NC I find I frequently have to coax members into renewing over their objections to the LNC’s secret ballot to raise dues and washing their hands of ideological oversight.

The current website-driven membership drive and other recruitment activities are direct casualties of the EC’s vote to suspend operations until the database is up to snuff. If you don’t allow any money to be spent on outreach, you certainly can’t blame anyone else for declining membership numbers. If you make fundraising and accounting personnel concentrate on some other project, well the money is not going to just come rolling in on its own.

I suspect that if we just let our staff do the jobs they were hired to do, instead of making them always cover completely different responsibilities in a state of constant crisis as is our habit, that itself might help correct our financial problems.

To stop this slide into insolvency, the first thing the LNC has to do is look in the mirror and take responsibility for the things they themselves have done. They need to resolve the dues debate in an open and sincere manner. They need to accept their responsibility for managing the political and ideological aspects of the party as well as the administrative ones. They need to be clear, consistent and above all respectful in their treatment of our staff, and have appropriate expectations of them. They need to adopt a management philosophy that empowers, not instructs, staff to perform. Most of all, they need to remember that this party is the group that goes to their city council meetings and the candidates for County Commissioner and the good people who send us $25 because they like what we do, and not just the 17 people sitting at a conference table.

Yup, it should be an interesting meeting.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Don Meinshausen update

Don was able to call me yesterday from his new home in federal pen. He sounds well and is hungry for news and reading material. No internet or news in prison. He also sent a letter with an article for a future Liberty for All. Takes me right back to the days of amateur press associations (APAs) when we did this with mimeos and copiers and made 40 copies or so for distribution. I transcribed a lot of letters from prison back in the day. Never thought that skill would be called upon again.

But enough about me. Christa Landon of the Pagan Institute has put up a great webpage with Don's collected works.

Don asked people to send any kind of magazines to him at:

Don Meinshausen
Inmate number 08496-050
PO Box 7000
Ft Dix NJ 08640

In his letter he mentioned that there is a lot of material from Families Against Mandatory Minimums available, so any libertarian or other pro-freedom material will get distributed in the prison library and read by at least a dozen people. Beats tossing out those old issues of Reason.

What's So Funny about Peace, Love and Understanding?

I’d like to start out this post by apologizing to Chris Farris for the quite livid remarks I directed his way in the wake of his resignation. He’s proven two of my statements wrong, showing more honor and civility than I gave him credit.

It’s not like he asked for an apology, nor am I saying this because I’m concerned about any harm I may have caused him. I’m concerned about the harm I have caused to myself.

There is way too much criticizing and backbiting among Libertarians these days. Way too much. Libertarians attacking each other is one of those things that really sets me off, and I often react in an all too human way by, well, attacking other Libertarians for it. Especially if it’s me you are attacking, I’m usually far too weak to resist that temptation, all too willing to take the bait.

Once people getting rolling with criticism, then every little thing becomes a target. When we’re in a critical frame of mind, we make a big deal out of small stuff that we would blithely let slide if we were happy.

Lately, as you can see from my articles on LFA I have been trying the more generalized positive approach. But sometimes you still need to address these problems head on.

My two activist axioms have always been that anybody who wants more Liberty on any issue is my friend and ally, and anybody who wants more Liberty rather than less belongs in the Libertarian Party. We would all be better served if we acted like these things were true.

Based on these principles, I have always maintained that most all of the internal disputes over tactics or philosophy within the party are completely unnecessary. There is no inherent conflict between moderate and hardcore, between purist and pragmatist, or even minarchist and anarchist. We all want more Liberty, less government and political success. What’s not to like about each other?

The success of the Libertarian Party does not depend upon any resolution between these poles of thought. Instead, we need to create an atmosphere where everybody who wants more Liberty is comfortable working for any and all Libertarian solutions. People need to be made to feel welcome, and that their efforts are meaningful. We need to keep things fun and achieve results if we are going to attract and keep new people.

We can start by changing our default reaction. Whenever anybody does anything for the party, it’s because they are trying to help. It would be good if our first thought is to honor that person for trying, be thankful that somebody is Doing Something. If we start there, our criticisms can be couched in the language of love, not the language of conflict. We can say the same thing by starting, “Yes, and...” instead of “No, but...”.

Getting back to Mr. Farris, his resignation message basically said that he felt like the LP was a hostile work environment. My reaction was to place all the responsibility for that on his own personality. Now that I’ve had a chance to calm down, well, maybe some of it is still on him, but some of this also has to be on us. The simple fact is that he did not feel welcome in the LP. He was not having fun. And he is not alone in that reaction.

Folks, the only way we are going to gain even the slightest increment of freedom is if we work together. When you meet somebody who has even the most moderate inclination towards Liberty, be joyful!

We need to build a party where everybody who wants more Liberty can join. It needs to be equally inviting to the most hardcore student of Rothbard or Rand as well as the person who wants lower taxes or no more war or even just some particular regulation off their back.

We need to establish a path towards Liberty, and make it easy for people to join us as far along the way as they want to go. Some will get off our Freedom Train at an earlier stop than my own preferred destination, but wherever they want to disembark, we all need their fellowship on that ride to even get as far as they want to go.

We need a party where “real world libertarians” work side by side with self-proclaimed anarcho-capitalists and everybody in between and the voter who just saw something about us in the newspaper, all with joy in their hearts. The struggle for Liberty can be a beautiful and noble pursuit, if you let it be one.

Lord, please help me follow my own advice!