Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Chat Thursday with Mark Rutherford

From Shane Cory on the Mothership:

I hope you enjoyed the Christmas holiday and have great plans for your New Year's celebration. Despite the holiday week, LPHQ has been buzzing with activity.

Last week's chat with LNC Chair Michael Dixon was a success with more than 70 supporters logging in to pose questions. For a transcript of the chat, click here.

This week, we'll have LNC At-Large Representative Mark Rutherford as our guest. I've included the chat details and login procedures below.

Date: Thursday, December 29th
Time: 1:00 p.m. EST
Speaker: Mark Rutherford, LNC Representative and Chair of the Indiana LP

To login, simply access the url above and choose to either register a username or login as a guest.

To register (which will reserve your username for future chats), simply click on the "register" tab at the top of the page.

To login as a guest, click the "guest" box and add in your username (note that your username will only be reserved for that session).

Once you have logged in, click on the main chat room to enter.

The chat software requires a recent version of Macromedia Flash (click here to download) and Java must be enabled within your web client.

The chat room will be open to the first 100 visitors so be sure to enter the room a few minutes early to reserve your spot. If you miss the chat, don't worry, we plan to post a transcript shortly afterwards.

[back to Sean:] Tip of the hat to Tim West for that Mothership quip. And be sure to check out Mark's blog, which is one of a kind although I sure wish it wasn't.

Bylaws Proposal: Change delegate apportionment method to be same as Electoral College

Again, thanks to Dan Karlan:

This proposal would eliminate the 1000-delegate membership dependency and the 400-delegate Presidential vote dependency, and would instead defer to the decennial census for the allocation of delegate numbers to individual affiliates.

[back to Sean:] There are several alternatives to this proposal floating around the committee. I personally prefer setting this at 2x the electoral college, to allow for a maximum of 1070 delegates. It's clear that the current Bylaws which allow for 1400 delegates restricts our choice in convention sites - although the LNC did not let that slow them down when they chose Portland, which can accommodate at most 650 delegates. I'd like to strike a balance between managability and inclusiveness. Others like a smaller delegate pool so that the position will actually start to become competitive.

Let us know what you think here or at the Bylaws Discussion message board.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Bylaws Proposal: Require financials presented to Convention be independently audited

Again, thanks to Dan Karlan:

This proposal would mandate that the financial report presented to the Convention delegates would have been audited by an agency outside the LNC, perhaps a commercial accounting firm. The delegates would by this requirement have considerable confidence in the numbers so provided.

You can discuss this or any other of our ideas, or suggest your own, at the LP Bylaws Discussion Board.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Bylaws Proposal: Allow for alternate Presidential nominating method (two flavors)

This was written by Dan Karlan:

The Bylaws specify (Rule 9, paragraph 4) that any candidate for President and Vice-President who submits to the Secretary the signatures of 30 delegates is entitled to formal nomination time in front of the Convention. There is no specification for a form or procedure that must be followed to acquire those signatures or deliver them to the Secretary. At the most recent Nominating Convention, the Secretary received sheets of paper of varied form and content, on which the many signatures were so distributed that it was impossible for the Secretary to vouch for the validity and non-duplication of names. (Important disclaimer: nothing in the previous sentence should be construed as indicating the Secretary doubted the validity of the signatures.) Under prodding of the Secretary, several of us (including members of the Credentials Committee, who might have to implement at least part of one proposed mechanism) have come up with a process that will make the submission of the minimum 30 unique signatures much more susceptible to validation. However, we want to make sure that the mechanism that is adopted is permitted in the Bylaws, beyond challenge.

A variation of this proposal would add a ‘binding’ provision, in which the delegates who offer their signatures for this purpose would at the same time, and by this action, promise to vote for the candidate to whom they offer their signatures, on the first ballot.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Chat with Michael Dixon Thursday

From the Libertarian Party:

Dear Friends,

On Thursday we will be starting a series of online chats with members of the Libertarian National Committee.

Our first chat will be with LNC Chair Michael Dixon to discuss our plans for ‘06 and beyond. Below is detailed information which includes login procedures:

Date: Thursday, December 22nd
Time: 2:30 pm EST
Speaker: Michael Dixon, LNC Chair

To login, simply access the URL above and choose to either register a username or login as a guest.

To register (which will reserve your username for future chats), simply click on the “register” tab at the top of the page.

To login as a guest, click the “guest” box and add in your username (note that your username will only be reserved for that session).

Once you have logged in, click on the main chat room to enter.

The chat software requires a recent version of Macromedia Flash (click here to download) and Java must be enabled within your web client.

The chat room will be open to the first 100 visitors so be sure to enter the room a few minutes early to reserve your spot. If you miss the chat, don’t worry, we plan to post a transcript shortly afterwards.

Next week, we plan to have LNC Secretary Bob Sullentrup followed by Regional Representatives Michael Gilson and Trevor Sutherland. A complete schedule will be posted later this week.

We look forward to hearing from you on Thursday. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at or by calling 1-800-Elect-Us.

Best Regards,
Shane Cory
Chief of Staff, Libertarian National Committee

Thursday, December 15, 2005

LP Bylaws Discussion Board Now Open

Hey, when it rains it pours. One more bit of news for today. The brand spanking new LP Bylaws Committee Disscussion Board is now open for business. Thanks to Shane Cory for setting it up and to Dan Karlan for posting about half of the active proposals up there already.

We need as much feedback from the membership as possible to make sure we bring our best material to Portland. We have a lot of ideas to change about how we conduct our own affairs, and I am quite fond of most of them. The LNC's vote to abolish dues also throws a big fat hot potato right into our laps. So if you are interested in how the Libertarian Party does business, please come check it out. Once you register, you can give us your ideas on our proposals and also suggest your own.

Another correction

LNC Counsel Bill Hall writes to say:

"To my knowledge, there are currently two formal proceedings in process before the LNC regarding claimed FEC reporting violations. One of them (concerning the late filing of an FEC report) I am handling. The FEC administrative officer reviewing the matter has suggested that the FEC levy a $2,800 fine (NOT $28,000) in that matter. We, of course, objected. This is the number I have been reporting for some time in my (non-privileged) reports to the LNC."

Sorry for the confusion. And by the way, aren't we lucky to have this guy as our lawyer? I have worked with Bill in a variety of capacities, from the legal stuff to the Bylaws Committee to just conversing with him at conventions. Beyond giving us a high quality product for a very generous price, he is happy to help the party any way he can, and is simply a warm, loving human being. Count me as a huge fan of Bill Hall, and extremely grateful that we have him on our side.

LP Chat

This is from LP Chief of Staff Shane Cory:

Wanna Chat?

We are testing our new chat center and want to invite a few of you into chat for the afternoon to try out the software.

Currently, we are planning to host a regular chat with LNC or staff members. Please click on the link below and enter the main chat room and let us know what you think.

Shane Cory

P.S. You'll need a current version of Flash.

[back to Sean:] You'll also need to register. Besides the general chat room, there's special ones for the LNC, staff, the state chairs, and our pledgers. If a schedule appears for the weekly chats with LNC members I'll post the notice. I'm glad to see us using whatever means available to open up communications with and among the membership.

New Links

Lots to catch up on today. Sorry to be so spotty in posting. Suing the state keeps one occupied.

I've updated the right hand column, removing some dead or moribund links and adding a few. My definition of "libertarian," at least when it comes to NC blogs, has become pretty darn loose. If you are from NC (past or present), willing to be seen in public with us and I think you are cool, I'll put your blog up there once I find it.

Pushing this envelope is Matt Hill, a UNC-Greensboro student who supported the Free Speech protest there last month. Matt's blog is almost entirely about gay issues. OK, so he's a liberal, but he likes us and I like him, so he's in.

Two more of our stalwarts have been blogging regularly now, Eric Smith and Phillip Rhodes. Actually I just found Phillip's blog when looking up the link on Allison Jaynes' for the Free Speech protest. Both are sterling gentlemen with whom I'd gladly share this foxhole. OK, so I don't want to be in a foxhole to begin with, but if I have to be here their company makes it all the more worthwhile.

Three heavy hitters of the Libertarian movement have blogs or something resembling them now. Harry Browne is publishing semi-regularly, but he is so cool that he could post once a quarter and I'll still check back every day hoping for something new. CATO Institute has started its own blog for the uberintellectual public policy set. And it's long past time I added a link to the Libertarian Party blog.

Locally, due to car trouble and some really nasty weather up in the mountains, I hate that I am missing today's rally at a Democratic Party fundraiser in Asheville demanding the resignation of NC House Speaker Jim Black. Black is the kind of guy that almost never does anything directly but gets others to do his dirty work for him while leaving his name out of it. Several of his henchmen are now in hot water, taking away his human shields and plausible deniability. Several websites have popped up calling for his resignation. The first and still the best is Jim Black Must Go. Plenty of good detail there if you are looking for a reason to fire the guy.

Monday, December 05, 2005

2006 Convention Heads Up

It's not too early to start planning for Portland. This is a message from LNC Secretary Bob Sullentrup to the State Chairs' list:

The 2006 Convention is more than a half year away, but the July 1-2 Convention in Portland, OR will be upon us soon. This is a quick note to remind state chairs what lies ahead.

Deadlines for State Chairs include:

February 28 (large states name Credentials and Platform Committee members)
June 1 (your delegation named and submitted to HQ, first pass), and
July 2 (LNC region formation)

1. Delegation Chair’s Manual and Your Delegation’s Size

For a complete account of what lies ahead, go to and have a look at the Delegation Chair’s Manual and the Convention FAQ. These are documents first produced in 2004, and are now updated for 2006.

Since your state’s delegate allocation depends in part on membership numbers as of December 31, 2005, I will provide an update to the Delegation Chair’s Manual in January to reflect the final membership numbers an resulting delegate allocations.

The component of your delegation’s size that depends upon the 2004 Badnarik vote is already in place. It turns out certain states lost a total of 69 delegates relative to the 2000 Browne vote while others gained a total of 71 delegates.

2. Credentials Committee

In Baltimore at the November 12-13 LNC meeting, the following five individuals were named to the Credentials Committee:

Emily Salvette (MI)
Dena Bruedigam (OH)
Gary Johnson (TX)
Jack Tanner (FL)
Michael Houze (IN)

Alternate: Ronda Birr

The five states with the largest memberships on December 31, 2005 get to appoint another five members. As of October 31, 2005, those five largest states were: California (2737), Texas (1065), Florida (960), Georgia (698) and Pennsylvania (672). Michigan was in sixth place with 641.

California has named Kevin Takenaga to the Credentials Committee and Florida has named Vicki Kirkland. Both appointments are subject to their states’ membership totals remaining in the top five on 12-31.

Meanwhile, Texas, Georgia and Pennsylvania should be lining up prospective nominees to the Credentials Committee, as should Michigan or any other state that thinks it can overtake Pennsylvania by the end of this month. The deadline for the top five states to name their Credentials Committee appointments is February 28.

Please notify interim chair Emily Salvette,, and me of your nominations.

3. Platform Committee

In Baltimore at the November 12-13 LNC meeting, the following 10 individuals were named to the Platform Committee:

Lorenzo Gaztanaga (MD)
George Squyres (AZ)
David Aitken (CO)
Robert Murphy (OK)
Trevor Southerland (GA)
David Owens (PA)
Adam Mayer (OR)
Tim West (WV)
Donny Ferguson (VA)
Lee Wrights (NC)

Alternates Include:
1st Alternate: Chuck Williams
2nd Alternate: Jim Duensing
3rd Alternate: Greg Clark
4th Alternate: Beatrice Jones
5th Alternate: Bill Van Allen, Jr.

The 10 states with the largest memberships on December 31, 2005 get to appoint another 10 members. As of October 31, 2005, those ten largest states were: California (2737), Texas (1065), Florida (960), Georgia (698), Pennsylvania (672), Michigan (641), Ohio (617), Virginia (596), New York (581), and Illinois (558). Washington was in 11th place with 533.

California has named Brian Holtz to the Platform Committee and Florida has named Bill Van Allen. Both appointments are subject to their states’ membership totals remaining in the top 10 on 12-31.

Meanwhile, the other states named above should be lining up prospective nominees to the Platform Committee, as should Washington or any other state that thinks it can overtake Illinois by the end of this month. The deadline for the top 10 states to name their Platform Committee appointments is February 28.

Please notify interim chair George Squyres,, and me with your nominations.

4. LNC Region Formation

The state (and affiliate – we have not forgotten you, D.C.) membership totals are also needed to form LNC regions for 2006-2008. Any group of states whose combined membership accounts for 10% or more of the total is entitled to one LNC rep for each 10% they encompass.

The region formation period extends from April 2 through July 2. Notify me of regions that are formed. Please use the form provided in the Delegation Chair’s manual.

Once again, I will NOT include members registered with Canadian, Puerto Rican, military or other addresses that are not assigned to any affiliate in the membership total. The Bylaws award one LNC rep for each 10% or more of total membership, allowing at least for the possibility of a 10-member region encompassing all affiliates. That would not be possible if the total membership denominator for this calculation included foreign addresses, since that would leave the region’s membership percentage at around 99.7% rather than 100%.

In 2004 and well after the convention and region formation deadline, an anonymous ‘’ saw fit to challenge the denominator of the calculation with the apparent purpose of removing an LNC rep. Region 1’s total had barely surpassed 20%. Changing the denominator would have made the region’s total fail to reach 20%.

At its August 2004 meeting in Cleveland, the LNC deferred the matter to the Bylaws Committee for its deliberation and recommendation. Meanwhile, the LNC endorsed the Convention’s action to seat two representatives from Region 1 as final and unchangeable and without regard to its correctness.

Thanks for your attention, and I’m looking forward to seeing all of my friends again in Portland. I’m no longer MO chair, so I won’t be seeing you in Phoenix at the end of January. If someone sees fit to produce a conference write-up, please forward it to me and I’ll include it in the 2006 Convention CD.

[back to Sean:] Ain't Sully the most diligent Secretary we have ever had? I think so.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Bylaws Proposal - Provide alternate pathways to appealing to the Judicial Committee

Again by our faithful Committee Secretary Dan Karlan:

The requirement that 5% of the membership must agree to bring a matter before the Judicial Committee has all but guaranteed that the Judicial Committee has never been called into action. In recognition of that apparent irrelevance, we first considered a proposal to eliminate the Judicial Committee. That proposal simply didn’t fly, but the notion of making it easier to bring a matter before the Judicial Committee had clear, immediate, and substantial support. We are considering providing three alternate routes to bringing a matter before the Judicial Committee:

1. 5% of the delegates to the most recent Convention.
2. 10% of the State Chairs
3. 20% of the current LNC

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Corrections, Clarifications and Confidentiality

So many people followed up on my last LNC Meeting Report that there’s enough material for a whole ‘nother article.

First, a correction. I reported that North Carolina had not yet received its Unified Membership payment (UMP) in October. That was incorrect. I checked and we had actually received it before I wrote that article. I humbly apologize, especially to headquarters staff, for the error. They have enough troubles these days without false reports of not meeting obligations.

It turns out some other items of fact are also in question. For a few examples, I reported last time that according to Treasurer Mark Nelson a forgotten check for $8,000 was discovered in a desk drawer of a former employee. I’ve since heard the check was in the amount of $4,925. Nelson also had reported that a significant number of materials had to be trashed because they bore our former Executive Director Joe Seehusen’s signature, and since then I’ve been told they were made outdated by the abolition of membership dues.

The LNC almost passed a motion (it failed 7-7-2) by Region 2 Representative Aaron Starr (California) that we pay undisputed past due accounts payable before paying UMP, citing that our printer has still not been paid for the annual report from the beginning of 2005. However I have since been told that this invoice was indeed in dispute. I have not been told why the LNC was apparently unaware of this fact.

There are other examples of variations between different sets of factual reports, even more picayune than the first two I cited. On the surface it may not seem a big deal whether a check is reported to be for one amount or another. But the inability for everyone to agree on the most insignificant facts leads to a very significant problem. The LNC cannot make sound decisions if they don’t have accurate information.

I am not blaming or accusing anyone. Indeed, there is no evidence whatsoever of anyone involved trying to falsify anything, and ample evidence that they are all decent people just trying to do right. This dynamic has been going on for years, long predating all current personnel. Before Nelson, former Treasurers Mark Tuniewicz and Deryl Martin complained of their inability to receive all the information they needed from staff. We’ve been through two Executive Directors and a full turnover of headquarters staff, and yet staff still complains of the LNC’s troubles in requesting what information they need.

That the problems stay constant while the people involved keep changing indicates this is a systems problem, not a personnel problem. I remain somewhat mystified as to why this continues. While serving on the LNC last term, we paid a lot of attention to streamlining the reporting we wanted from staff and took great pains to keep these reports as simple and germane as possible. It just doesn’t seem like it would have to be so difficult.

The theme continues with some clarity on the improvements in running monthly pledge credit cards. It turns out there was a user error with test batches. If a card number was in an existing test batch, it wouldn’t be included in the real batch. This was going on for months and was uncovered while training new people to run these batches. The test batches were deleted, and presto! Another dramatic improvement in this system.

Yes, this is another level of detail that hardly amounts to a hill of beans in the grand scheme of the Liberty movement. But again, it is a sign of a deeper issue with how we run this party. Every time a high level employee leaves, we discover problems like this.

The reasons for this are becoming a little clearer. We are always going into a crisis mode whenever a director level employee leaves. Instead of simply filling the position again, we distribute the duties to other staff who were not hired to do them and may or may not have any qualifications or experience with them. These are good resourceful people for the most part, eager to help any way they can and excited about learning while doing. But expecting them to keep operating in this crisis mode doesn’t work for anybody.

Not only does it lead to these basic errors that are always in need of fixing, it’s grossly unfair to our staff. Being in constant crisis leads to lack of morale. Being pulled apart in several competing directions generally contributes to job dissatisfaction. Being criticized for trying your best at some job you never asked for is never any fun.

We could solve a lot of these endemic annoyances if we hire qualified people for well defined positions and then just let them concentrate on doing their jobs. That way we can keep good people longer, instead of always replacing people whose dedication has finally been overwhelmed by their frustration.

On the confidentiality issue, I heard from Region 5E Alternate Chuck Moulton (Pennsylvania) who wanted to make sure his concerns about the confidentiality of reports raised at the last meeting were clear. He has always been an advocate of openness and wasn’t arguing in favor of excessive confidentiality, and I trust that was clear in my report.

The problem is that without constant reminder of the very narrow grounds of what should be confidential, it seems to be human nature to blur the lines and want to keep information closer than is often necessary or required. The poorly defined desire to keep information close leads to sloppiness in both directions. Moulton cited a database report he passed along, just meaning to keep his constituency informed, that he later was told was confidential even though it wasn’t marked as such. At the same time, the LNC seems quite freaked out over the speed at which the Treasurer’s Report, a completely nonconfidential document, made it into the blogosphere.

Being directly involved in the process, I won’t pretend to be objective here. My gut reaction is that folks should just get used to living in this glorious Internet Age when all information is immediately available. That Treasurer’s Report was sent by several LNC members to several different people, including myself, and I in turn forwarded it to others. That anyone finds anything wrong with this is rather strange to me.

But in thinking about it, I can understand why the members of the LNC might place some value on wanting to have the time to digest complicated financial information before having to answer questions or make decisions based on it. Some members also expressed concern that the process becomes a game of telephone where important pieces of information become lost or garbled with each transmission.

One of the main reasons why I took this job is to make sure accurate information is available to people who want it. Our members deserve to know everything they want to know about how their party is being run, but that’s not the only benefit. Placing the facts are on record also puts an end to speculation. It used to be that people could offer conjecture as fact and it would take a life of its own without the truth to counter it. I’d like to think that my LNC Meeting Reports have gone a long way to make sure that everybody knows what they are talking about.

After two years of this gig, this problem is starting to crop up again. It’s hard to report the facts when different authoritative sources disagree on them. And now some LNC members say they feel inhibited from committing anything to print because of how quickly and chaotically that information might get out.

Some people think blogging has changed the nature of reporting. The truth is the opposite. Blogging has returned journalism to its roots, before misplaced notions of objectivity were foisted upon it. Good reporters always have an interest in their subjects and make their biases a part of the story. Yes, sometimes it is messy, but overall more facts and more perspectives on them help people acquire the true picture.

Free flowing correct information is what makes this process work. When the flow of correct information is restricted in any way, we quickly return to the environment where speculation is just as powerful as truth, where unjust criticisms cannot be easily dispelled. But with all of the facts easily available to anyone, we can replace mistrust with confidence in any organization.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Bylaws Proposal - Make the Treasurer job description conform to reality

This was written by Dan Karlan:

The definition of Treasurer currently in the Bylaws does not take into account that a paid staff might be employed to do much of the routine accounting functions. We propose something along the following lines:

"The Treasurer is responsible for oversight of all financial functions, including, but not limited to receipts, disbursements, internal and external reporting. The Treasurer shall report to the LNC and the Convention regarding the financial situation of the Party."

[Sean adds:]

The current language reads:

"The Treasurer shall receive, expend and account for the funds of the Party under the supervision and direction of the Chair and the National Committee. The Treasurer shall make an annual financial report to the National Committee and shall perform all duties required of the office by applicable federal and state law."