Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Libertarian State Leadership Alliance (State Chairs) meeting, Phoenix AZ January 28-29 2006

From Special Correspondant George Phillies

Pat Dixon opened the meeting by thanking everyone who was working for the LSLA. George Squyres organized the event. Gerhard Langguth made the web pages. Jeremy Keil handled the finances. Many others helped in a positive way.

Dixon Spoke of his experiences on the Lago Vista town council. The town council was presented with a resolution saying that 'in light of the Kelo decision, city councils should look hard at their charter languages'. The Texas Municipal League, an association of town councils, opposed the resolution because in Dixon's words 'we (the League) want to increase the power of government'. We need a Libertarian Municipal League. Dixon proposed, so that when you are elected to city council you have people you can asked for help.

Judge John Buttrick emphasized that he was not endorsing any candidate or political party. He asked 'do you want to serve?' Run for posts you would like if you win, so if you do win you will enhance the good name of the party. Are you legally qualified to run, with respect to age, residency, etc. He noted the case of an LP who encountered a candidate for attorney general who, for starters, did not live in the state. Do you have the time and money to serve? Can you advance to cause of liberty in a meaningful way if elected? Is this a job anyone should do?

After election, you have to do the job. People voted you dog catcher to catch dogs, unless you ran on the plank 'free the dogs'. Be ready to be handcuffed e.g. by the Constitution, town charter, etc. Be prepared to lose on issues. Signature issues: you may win on a few issues and not others. Identify yourself with a few of them.

Scott Stuart was first elected in 1998 to the Pima County Community College Board of Trustees. He opined that Community Colleges are the best run most popular institutions in government. He was able to do things to spur competition and ensure access for home schoolers. He said that if you get a good CEO the job is better. He noted that he has voted for modest tax increases.

David Owens is a town supervisor for Landenberg PA (Town of London-Britton). He discussed making deals, e.g., voting to buy a new pickup truck in exchange for allowing the use of private building inspectors. The town had a land trust that could spend $345000 a year to buy open space. He took the land trust money and focused on improving the land it had already bought so that it would build and maintain parks. This removed the teeth from the land trust. He noted that the town had been presented by Federal bureaucrats with a septic tank law, with threats that the town would be fined if it did not pass it. He rewrote the law, taking out the Federal enforcement language.

Concern was expressed that successful elections were a Republican plot to destroy our party. Electing activists can cut the heart out of a local group. They have no time to do activism. Dixon said that his election had been a real boost to the Texas LP. He noted that in the last Presidential election his precinct had the highest fraction of Libertarian votes. Given the choice, it is good to elect people.

The general recommendation for people elected to boards: Read Minutes. Read Agenda. Take matters seriously. Have replacement ready for your activism post.

Steve Gordon presented his new campaign school. His important theme was that most aspects of campaigning do not care which political party you support. These are the aspects of campaigning that most Libertarian campaigns ignore, e.g. get out the vote. The course will have reading from standard texts, and guests, e.g., Joe Trippi, who ran the Dean campaign web site. The assignments will ramp up over the length of the course.

This will be an online course. The core of online is that there is no time at which everyone has to be there. We focus on running Presidential campaigns because the data is there on how things work in practice. The lessons are the same well down the chain. We will have feedback on the course and will do better next time. Classes will start 1/31, run by people who have run campaigns. The online course will resemble real college classes with real quizzes to drive involvement. Your time commitment will run 4-14 hours per week. A $50 per course rate was noted.

I attended the "State Executive Director" meeting. Wes Benedict described coming on board and trying to contact the 70 county chairs. He failed. Many of the email addresses were dead. Many of the phone numbers were so dead they no longer had 'this number has been changed'. The State had an 800 number. It had not been checked in two years. Only the last six months of messages were saved. Many were reporters trying to get information, so the messages were time sensitive and had expired. The state set a candidate recruitment goal. For lack of anything else to do, they went with the "Success 99" recruitment plan. They recruited 200 candidates to run for office.

Brad Klopfenstein(Indiana) noted that UMP is going away. The Indiana solution was a monthly pledge program. Asking for a monthly check fails. Monthly card charges work. Indiana has 151 supporters giving an average of $50 a month. These programs are imperfect and need a year to start. Other state efforts include a media data base, and a contact list. He went to the state house and worked the press corps. Lesson: it is useful to have someone active in the state capitol. If you only have three candidates, people do not know that you exist. We ran 170 candidates, almost all in partisan races. People noticed. He also made a transition to a new Executive Director, which worked very well. Transition time is essential.

Burke (Oregon) proposed that if you delegate details to staff you eliminate turf battles. He spoke up for the Carver model of board governance. Under this plan, the Board cannot tell people what to do. The Executive Director is party leader, and does what the board votes.

Several EDs discussed salary models. One has a $900 base, and gets 30% of everything raised over $2500. Another received $20,000 and 20% of everything raised after that. If there is not enough money, the ED is not paid. A problem is that the State Board then abandons all responsibility. Staff can usefully handle data base, fundraising, and book keeping. You can start with a part time ED until you have more money.

The notion of having a contractor who would service several states who cannot afford an ED was noted. Doug Klippel remarked that Florida had had an ED, and matters had been unsatisfactory. A difficulty was the lack of goals.

It was proposed that under the Carver model the ED could solve many problems by providing the Board with a list of goals to adopt. An alternative would be a best practices committee for EDs.

It was suggested that the point of an ED had to be a force multiplier, not someone whose purpose it was to perpetuate himself. EDs and buildings can consume an organization's resources so that the organization does little other than to pay for having an ED and building.

Another advantage of the ED is that people hate confrontation. Pay enhances accountability. I suggested that a number of issues arose because there was no Inspector General, no Nagging Uncle whose task it was to determine if matters that you thought were happening were actually happening.

There was an extended presentation on charitable fundraising. It was a slide presentation; I expect that the slides will soon be available. A few lessons:

Things to do: Acknowledge gifts. Recognize donors. Honor intent of donors. Invest prudently. Show that your spending was efficient and effective.

Reasonable costs run 10-25% of funds raised. Direct mail acquisition may run 15%. The exception is the special event, which is extremely inefficient, and in which costs may be 50-65%.

A good fundraising letter is three pages or less, with 1 page 'where we were 20 years ago', another 'where we are today', and a third 'where we want to go'. The best source for new gifts is old givers. You should go out and speak to your donors, and learn why they give.

Myths to avoid: We can't afford fundraising. We can't get big gifts. We do not have the experience or the staff. We communicate our needs through our publications. We need a staff attorney. Special events are a good way to raise money. People who would give do not need to be asked.

Most donors start small. When you lose a donor, you are losing a friend of the organization. Go out and ask for money. You may get yes, no, or maybe. Say THANK YOU! with a phone call or written note. Learn interpersonal skills. The Dale Carnegie book is actually a good start.

A group of Libertarians has assembled a real celebrity endorsement from Penn Jillette, a noted stage magician. The endorsement has been filed and needs editing. It will have 30 and 60 second segments suitable for candidates to use as outtakes. $5000 is needed for editing the film, which has already been recorded. Money sent the National party to pay for this, the check marked "Penn and Teller", will be completely segregated from other accounts and spent on this project.

Darla Maloney has a project related to the Kelo decision. She is looking for soil samples from the 50 states. About a half cup, enough to fill a sandwich bag, would be good. These can be sent to Darla Maloney, 190 Pinedale Drive, St. Charles Missouri 63301.

Four persons have announced their intent to run for National Chair, namely Bill Redpath, Ernie Hancock, Mike Dixon, and George Phillies.

Redpath had a trifold at the event.

Phillies had a 1-page flier, noting that over 2005 membership fell from 22000 to 15500, a 30% drop, while income raised has fallen from nearly 3 million in 1999 and the better part of 2 million in 1993 to one and a quarter million or so in the current year. He asked if perhaps we should try change.

The Draft Ruwart "Run, Mary, Run" group had a flier urging people to ask Mary Ruwart to run for our 2008 Presidential nomination.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Bylaws Proposal: Allow LNC removal of Regional Representative to LNC

Again thanks to Dan Karlan:

Bowing to current legal niceties, the LNC recently adopted a policy on sexual harassment and other objectionable behavior by LNC members towards other LNC members and towards staff. Enforcement of that policy, to protect the LP from potentially catastrophic lawsuits, requires that the LNC be capable of applying the ultimate penalty – removal from the LNC of the offending member. But the Bylaws protect Regional Representatives – fully half the LNC – and declare that they can only be removed by action of the corresponding affiliates. This proposal would confer on the LNC the ability to apply the penalty of removal to all LNC members, including Regional Representatives.

Note well: the proposal would still allow the corresponding affiliates to remove their Regional Representative, as now (Article 10, paragraph 7).

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Standards of Party Governance

(This will be my next article for Liberty for All.)

We hold government to very high standards when it comes to openness and transparency, and rightly so. We have open meetings laws, sunshine laws, freedom of information laws, ethics laws and many other provisions demanding public disclosure of government documents and actions. Long have we known that transparency is the first step to prevent government from sliding into tyranny.

We must hold ourselves to at least those standards in governing our own party affairs.

Some counter that since a party is a private organization, we are not bound by these standards. After all, the reason why we must keep all these extra checks on government is because it is involuntary. Since you can’t choose not to be a part of it, people need these extra protections. But a party is a voluntary organization. People can come and go as they please and choose their own level of participation. No one can be forced by the decision of a private organization, so the theory goes, thus we can allow ourselves much greater latitude in how we manage our own affairs.

Now if we were talking about, say, a bridge club, I might agree with this. It’s not much effort to join or start up a new bridge club if you don’t like how yours is run, and bridge clubs rarely if ever try to influence public policy.

But a party is not just a social club. By its very nature a political party possesses both public and private characteristics.

The whole reason why we have a political party is to elect people to public office, people who must be held to the highest standards of ethics. So it behooves us to uphold these ethics in all of our affairs. Not only is it good practice, we need to show voters that we can be trusted. If we have failed to uphold these standards while conducting our own business, people have no reason to believe that we will suddenly start to behave properly when conducting theirs.

Let’s say for example that a Libertarian who serves on a state executive committee is also running for his local city council. On the party committee, that person has no problem making smoky back room deals or meeting privately with a majority of his committee to determine how to vote on official business. Now, if this happened while that fellow served on a city council, he would either scream bloody murder if he was not part of the smoky back room, or be removed from office and maybe even go to jail if he was. But since he engaged in this behavior while serving on the board of a private organization, we have every reason to believe that he would act this way if he won his election.

It is pure hypocrisy to hold yourself to lower standards when asking the people to give you higher responsibility. In order to show the people you are worthy of their trust, you have to have a history of upholding that trust in your daily life. The only way you can do that is to point to your record in the conduct of your private business.

This is doubly true for a third party. We have an extra burden to show the voters that we are different from the Democrats and Republicans. We have learned that simply having superior ideas alone doesn’t inspire voters to break habit and try something new. We also have to prove to them that we will govern differently, that we will restore honesty and ethics to politics.

That’s what voters are really looking for. They are sick of the corruption of Democrats and Republicans far more than they are tired of those parties’ policies. They don’t want politics as usual. When a candidate can show evidence of their own integrity, that person has an edge at the polls. If all we can say is that we are a different flavor of the same old politics, we have forfeited any possible competitive edge we might have over our opponents.

Lower standards of openness and ethics in our party business are an open invitation to duplicity and corruption. Indeed, the argument that a party as a private organization is not beholden to the high standards of public bodies is almost always advanced by people who are trying to justify their own unethical behavior as party officials. To claim that lower standards are acceptable is to allow us to behave just like the Democrats and Republicans.

Citing the voluntary nature of private organizations as a defense for lower standards is an incredible insult to the party membership. It’s basically the “love it or leave it” argument. That is, if you don’t like how I am running your party, you can just go screw.

The Libertarian Party in particular is a grassroots organization. It is owned not by a board of directors but by the membership. Even when it is not seeking access to government power, any grassroots organization must be totally open and transparent in its governance to maintain member ownership.

An elected position in the Libertarian Party is just as much a position of trust as one in government. If we can’t be trusted to uphold the highest standards of openness and transparency in running our own party, we certainly cannot claim we are able to do so when asking the voters to let us run their government.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Working Together

(The slightly cryptic nature of these entries is because they are posts from the LPNC discussion list. For some editorial reason that I don't fully understand myself, I choose to reprint them as is. If you want background, ask questions in the comments or check out the list archive. And remember, this is my home so any comments just to tell me what flavor of jerk I am will be deleted.)

Elise keeping coming back to an excellent point, which is that we should all be able to work together regardless of anything else that is going on. Thanks to the professionalism and good will of all involved, this is happening.

For a few examples, I'm working to make the transition of my duties and LPNC property in my possession as smooth and complete as possible. I see no reason to add any extra difficulty to the process, and Phil has brought the same attitude to this task. Phil has asked me to stay on with the lawsuit for LPNC, which I will gladly do, with the attitude that all of us named plaintiffs are all in this together and so will show each other nothing but full cooperation. And Lee has already reported similarly about his working relationship with Phil.

To his credit, Phil has done an excellent job of keeping communications open and forthright since he became Chair. I've known Phil for 10 years now and love him a lot on a personal level. One of the nice things about dealing with him is that I can say exactly what I think without too much emotional drama attached.

Yes I have a lot to say about the current state of the party and strongly dissent from its current direction. I feel a compelling duty to the party that does not let me keep silent about it. One of the main reasons why I took so long to join the current debate is to get a more objective grip on my perceptions. (I'm a big fan of sleeping on things, as many nights as necessary.) This helps me state my view in as positive and constructive way as possible. Yes, I am angry, disappointed, hurt. So I won't be perfect here, but I'm trying and very much appreciate that effort when displayed by others.

It is possible to love someone and still think they are doing wrong, even to the point of being angry with them. In my circle of close friends, people who are afraid to tell me when they think I am in the wrong don't last too long. It's because they really do love me and they know that doing right is what's best for me. Following the golden rule, this is how I treat others.

It is possible to acknowledge the good that people do while still addressing the negatives. Everyone involved here has done a lot for the party and obviously honestly believes that whatever they are doing is best for it. I hope that understanding is never lost by any of us.

It is possible to acknowledge that all of us are good at some things and not others. Particularly, being a good member of a board of directors requires quite a number of refined skills. There's no shame in this, but generally everyone is happier, especially yourself, when you stick with your strengths and let others handle the rest.

I'm not looking to drive anyone away. I'm trying to let go of the desire to throw stones at anyone or avenge past offenses, as difficult as that is. To me this is simply about doing what is right. It's about maintaining our honor as we get deeper into the dirty business of politics. I believe it is possible for us to resolve our differences with the result of a more positive working relationship for all.

I remain dedicated to the cause of Liberty and to the Libertarian Party as a vehicle to help get us there. I'm not too worried about no longer being Executive Director of the LPNC. There's still plenty of productive party work to keep me busy and loving it.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Power and Titles

Almost two weeks ago I asked our Executive Committee to recommit itself to ballot access as our overwhelming priority. A few members of the committee replied immediately that no, I am the burning issue that the party must face today. I've been waiting for the noise to die down so I can offer a few observations without getting drowned out. While I have a lot to say in response, the intervening time has given me some perspective which I hope will be more positive than the current infighting.

One area of contention is the use of titles within LPNC. The execomm passed a motion:

"The use of any title by LPNC members, where this title is intended to represent a position or job within the organization at the state level, is disapproved unless the name, powers and duties of the title are specifically authorized by the Bylaws, by a State Convention, or by the Executive Committee."

Let me dispel immediately the notion that this motion had anything to do with me. Yes, as some have noticed, I was obviously the target of this motion. Yet it does not affect me in the slightest for two reasons. One is that the execomm passed exactly such a motion in April 2000, creating and defining the title of "Executive Director" and granting it to me. The other is that since I am quitting the job I no longer have any need to defend the title.

So the question of what this means to Sean Haugh is completely moot. But what it means to the membership is very much a live issue. This motion is a reversal of our longstanding policy on this issue.

Back in 2003 I wrote an article for LFA, The Power of the Title. That describes the opposite approach, one which helped make LPNC strong:

"I encourage you to create titles for yourselves. And if you don't have one handy, let me know and I'll give you one. A title is like a magic wand that somehow makes you special in the eyes of others. The more impressive the title, the more you are accepted without question. This egalitarian fool thinks it's silly, but hey, it works."

But I also included a caution:

"Your authority does not come from the words or letters you can put after your name. It comes from other people recognizing what you have done. Real leadership is something you earn, not something granted to you in a title."

Unfortunately most people are still seduced by the false authority of titles. Including our current execomm.

Libertarianism isn't just a set of positions on the issues. It is a whole different way of doing politics. Our way shows respect for the individual, and builds power and authority bottom up, rooted in individual action. The way of authority dismisses respect for the individual. As expressed in this motion, our execomm has said they own a monopoly on authority and power within the LPNC. Nothing you do means anything unless it has prior approval by the execomm.

This motion expresses the exact opposite of Libertarian leadership. True Libertarian leadership recognizes individual accomplishment and the real authority that comes as a result. We have organized specifically to oppose the current conception of leadership, that someone can hold authority over you simply because they possess a title, because we know this concept is at the root of totalitarianism. We're smart enough to realize that if we simply replace the names holding false authority over us with Libertarian names, we have done nothing to truly change politics. We not only have to gain influence over the issues, we must gain influence over how politics is conducted to produce any real change.

Our executive committee, by passing this motion, has sided with the totalitarian ethic we have sworn to destroy. They believe that your activism must be directed from the top, by them. By passing this motion, they have turned their backs on you, the activists that have made this party what it is today.

So, please, continue with your work and if you need a title to help it along, make one up. You don't need an execomm to express your own Libertarian authority and autonomy, nor can any motion by the execomm eliminate your true authority. If they squawk about it, ignore them. And show up at the state convention in May to replace this execomm with one that understands that Libertarianism is something more than simply a different flavor of totalitarian top-down politics.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

New FEC Regulations Tighten Restrictions on State and Local Parties

New FEC Regulations Tighten Restrictions on State and Local Parties
By Bill Hall
Warner Norcross & Judd LLP
January 2006

In enacting regulations implementing the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act ("BCRA"), the Federal Election Commission ("FEC") carved out a number of de minimus exemptions from the requirements of BCRA to make it easier for political party committees that engage in very little activity in connection with federal elections to comply with BCRA. In the past, this benefited many state, district and local Libertarian Party® political organizations. However, in Shays v. FEC, Congressman Christopher Shays and others successfully challenged the validity of many of these regulations in court. The FEC is now in the process of enacting new regulations repealing these exemptions, as required by the court. Within the past couple of months, the FEC has enacted two new repealing regulations that directly impact the operations of state, district and local political party organizations, including your organization.

To understand these recent changes in this very complex area of the law, you must first understand some of the terminology used in these new regulations - the concepts of "Federal Election Activity," "Federal-Related Activity," "Federal Funds," "Levin Funds" and "Nonfederal Funds." I urge you to skip to the end of this bulletin and review the short definitions for these terms before you read the rest of this bulletin, if you are not already comfortable you understand these terms.

Repeal of Exemption for Employees Who Spend 25% or Less of Their Time on Federal-Related Activity

BCRA required that the compensation of committee employees spending more than 25% of their time on Federal-Related Activity be paid entirely from Federal Funds. When the FEC enacted a regulation implementing this law, it addressed committee employees spending 25% or less of their compensated time on Federal-Related Activity, by expressly providing that their compensation could be paid entirely from Nonfederal Funds. The Shays Court invalidated this exemption.

The FEC has now enacted a new regulation, effective January 19, 2006, which requires that the compensation of committee employees spending 25% or less of their compensated time on Federal-Related Activity be paid from a mixture of Federal Funds and Nonfederal Funds. If the employee spends no compensated time on Federal-Related Activities, then you may pay all the employee's compensation with Nonfederal Funds. Otherwise, you must pay that employee's compensation from the same ratio of Federal Funds and Nonfederal Funds as you are required to pay your organization's other administrative costs, i.e., on the "Fixed Percentage Allocation Method" (see chart below).

Presidential /Senate Candidates on Ballot in your State Federal Funds Share
Year in which President but no Senate on ballot, or previous year 28% federal
Year in which both President and Senate on ballot, or previous year 36% federal
Year in which Senate but no President on ballot, or previous year 21% federal
Year in which neither President nor Senate on ballot, or previous year 15% federal

Repeal of $5,000 Exemption for Disbursement of Levin Funds

While BCRA required that some Federal Election Activity be funded entirely from Federal Funds, it permitted other Federal Election Activity to be funded from a mixture of Federal Funds and Levin Funds, as described below in "Some Important Definitions." The allocation ratio is the same ratio as for other committee administrative costs, as set forth in the accompanying chart. When the FEC enacted a regulation implementing this law, it included a de minimus exemption to this rule, permitting the first $5,000 of Federal Election Activity to be paid entirely from Nonfederal Funds. The Shays Court invalidated this exemption.

The FEC has now enacted a new regulation, which took effect December 19, 2005, and requires that your political organization fund all Federal Election Activity from a mixture of Federal Funds and Levin Funds, using the same allocation ratio.

What This Means for You

What does this means for your political party organization's operations?

First, it means you must take care to fund more of your operations only with Federal Funds. Whether or not your political party organization has met the thresholds requiring it to file with and regularly report to the FEC as a political committee, you are legally required to ensure that it only uses Federal Funds to pay the costs of Federal-Related Activity required to be paid with Federal Funds. You are required to keep records demonstrating that you have complied with the requirements of federal campaign finance law in raising those funds. Theoretically, the FEC may ask to review your records and fine or imprison you if you have not complied with the law. Effectively, this means that you must upgrade the scope of your record-keeping, so you can demonstrate you used Federal Funds when required to do so.

Second, you must invest more time and energy raising Federal Funds, to meet your increased requirements for Federal Funds. Generally speaking, the contribution limits, reporting requirements (if your committee files reports with the FEC) and prohibitions against accepting certain contributions (e.g., corporate contributions) are much stricter for Federal Funds than for Levin Funds and/or Nonfederal Funds. Now, even more than in the past, you must wrestle with those requirements.

Some Important Definitions

"Federal Election Activity" means certain activities, other than direct contributions to a candidate for federal office, in connection with a federal election or for the purpose of influencing any election for federal office. Federal Election Activity includes activities such as voter registration within 120 days prior to a federal election, and voter identification activity, generic (e.g., "Vote Libertarian") campaign activity, and get-out-the-vote activity in connection with a federal election, the cost of which must be paid entirely in Federal Funds, or allocated between Federal Funds and Levin Funds. For example, contacting voters and asking them to vote or placing generic "Vote Libertarian" yard signs in an election that has both federal and state candidates on the ballot is Federal Election Activity, even though your purpose in doing so is to boost the vote totals of your state and local candidates. Federal Election Activity also includes activities such as many communications supporting or opposing federal candidates, and the services of committee employees spending more than 25% of their compensated time in connection with Federal-Related Activity, the cost of which must be paid entirely from Federal Funds.

"Federal-Related Activity" includes both Federal Election Activity, and more traditional activities intended to influence a federal election, such as contributions to federal candidates or expenditures supporting or opposing federal candidates.

"Federal Funds," sometimes called "Hard Money," means funds raised and spent in accordance with the contribution limits and prohibitions and solicitation requirements of federal campaign finance laws.

"Levin Funds" are a hybrid type of funds that are raised in accordance with state campaign finance laws, but may be used in lieu of Federal Funds for the funding of certain Federal Election Activity, as noted above. They are neither Nonfederal Funds nor Federal Funds. Different contribution limits apply to them than those that would otherwise apply under state law.

"Nonfederal Funds," sometimes called "Soft Money," means funds raised and spent in accordance with the contribution limits and prohibitions and solicitation requirements of state, and not federal, campaign finance laws. For example, this would include funds raised, spent and reported under state campaign finance laws for the purpose of influencing any election for state office or a state ballot initiative. It would also include funds raised and spent for indirect political purposes that are not required to be reported under state campaign finance laws. The hallmark of Nonfederal Funds is that they are not raised and spent for the purpose of influencing any election for federal office.


For more information on your political party organization's obligation to use Federal Funds for its Federal-Related Activities, see Bill Hall's article in the April 2005 Libertarian Party® News "Complying With BCRA and FEC Regulations on Federal Fundraising." For some thoughts on limiting the liability of your political organization's leaders, see Bill Hall's article in the December 2004 Libertarian Party® News "Incorporating Your State Political Committee."

This message is provided to advise you of recent federal campaign finance law developments. Because each situation is different, this information is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice on any specific facts and circumstances.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Official Notice of Termination

January 14, 2006

From: Sean Haugh
To: Libertarian Party of NC
Re: Notice of Termination

Under the terms of the contract between myself and the Libertarian Party of NC (LPNC), this letter serves as 30 days notice of my intent to terminate the agreement. Under its terms, this notice is deemed official three days after it is sent via US mail. Therefore the date of termination shall be February 16, 2006. I shall continue to perform the services detailed in that agreement up until that date.

Between now and February 16, 2006, I will gather together a comprehensive list of all LPNC property in my possession and transfer such property to Executive Committee members designated by the committee. I will also be happy to train anyone designated by the committee in the administrative services I perform, and otherwise assist in a smooth transition of all such duties.

I do intend to continue whatever services I provide as a volunteer (not covered by the contract) beyond the termination date, and otherwise intend to remain an active member of the LPNC. It has been a great honor to serve the party in this capacity, and I continue to wish the party every success.

yours in liberty –
Sean Haugh

Sunday, January 08, 2006

An Open Letter to the LPNC Executive Committee

Here I speak as a member of the party, not with any other title:

Folks, I have been keeping up with everything on this execomm list, and it has gotten to be beyond ridiculous. We are so engaged in hairsplitting and backbiting that we have completely forgotten the whole reason why we are here.

The members of this party in our last convention knew the ballot access challenges that were facing us and elected you to help us meet them. What have you done to meet the responsibility they entrusted to you? In the last three months, we have seen close to zero activity or interest in doing what it takes to get back on the ballot. We have received maybe 10 signatures since October.

And yet our agenda for our next meeting is clogged with motions to define terms or further the divisions plaguing this committee. None of them are healing, none of them advance the mission of the Libertarian Party, and none of them have anything to do with regaining ballot access. It's all just rearranging deck chairs on a rapidly sinking Titanic.

The mission of the Libertarian Party is to change public policy in a libertarian direction by electing Libertarians to public office. If you disagree with that statement, then maybe your efforts are better used elsewhere. That's not a criticism, just a plain fact. There's no shame in working for Liberty the best way you know how. But there is great shame in this committee's deliberately ignoring the mission of this party.

At our next meeting, you a very simple and very stark choice. You can continue on this unproductive path, or you can focus the committee on meeting our ballot access challenges. You can choose either bloodbath or progress. There is no more in between or shades of meaning. Either you are committed to the mission of the party or you aren't. Which will you choose?

If you disagree with the notion that our *only* goal right now is ballot access, then you need to explain to the membership why you think something else is more important.

I strongly urge this committee to reject consideration of ALL motions presented so far, even those I helped put on the table. I ask everyone who has offered a motion that is not directly germane to our mission to please withdraw them. I would make an exception for the budget or any other work that was explicitly charged to a subcommittee before our last meeting, simply out of fairness to those who were charged with these tasks.

I challenge you to change your current unproductive and divisive course of action and recommit this committee to the real work of the Libertarian Party of NC. Here I am not taking any one individual to task, because the entire committee has utterly failed in this regard so far. But I will offer an individual challenge.

We have a week before our next meeting. What can you do in the next week to tangibly further our mission? Not plans, not ideas, not redefinitions, but tangible help delivered right now. Will you be able to report at that meeting anything that you have done to actually help us get back on the ballot?

Don't tell me about other things you have done for Liberty. I know what you've done and it's wonderful. You will get nothing but gratitude from me for that. That's not the point.

Don't tell me that you are one of the few people left here who actually performs the task you were elected to do. Again, I know what you've done and you will get nothing but thanks from me for it. That's not the point either.

You were elected to get this party back on the ballot. Will you choose to acknowledge that responsibility? The membership deserves to know your answer.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Bylaws Proposal: Drop weakest finisher after every ballot

Still serializing the work of Dan Karlan:

The Bylaws specify (Rule 9, paragraph 2) that if there is no winner after the first ballot in the polling for the Presidential and Vice-Presidential contest, the vote is repeated; it is only after the second ballot that the weakest finisher is dropped. However, at nearly every Nominating Convention at which there has not been a winner on the first ballot, a motion to suspend the rules – to allow dropping of the last-place finisher immediately, rather than delaying that until after the second ballot – has been entertained and adopted. This proposal would formally remove that delay, and bow to the consistent suspension of the Rules.

Libertarian Integrity for Sale, Cheap!

This article is going into this weekend's edition of Liberty For All:

My friends, we have arrived. Libertarians are so much a part of the political mainstream that we can be vital partners in even the most mundane political scandals. The fall of respected Libertarian thinkers Doug Bandow and Peter Ferrera in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal offers some important lessons for all of us.

Business Week started the ball rolling in mid-December by reporting that Bandow had been fired by CATO Institute, where he was a senior fellow, and the Copley News Service who syndicated his columns in hundreds of newspapers. In the wake of this news, the Future of Freedom Foundation also decided to server its ties with Bandow.

Bandow and Ferrera admitted to taking up to $2,000 a piece from Abramoff over 12 years to write columns favoring the business interests of Abramoff and his clients on various Indian reservations and in the North Marianas Islands. This is all coming out now that Abramoff is on trial for fraud.

The sin is not that Bandow and Ferrera wrote these columns. They didn’t have to lie in their coverage of these issues or say anything they did not actually believe to write them. The only mistake they made is that they did not disclose the payments in exchange for the articles.

Such disclosure could have been easily made. One simple sentence per article would have made all the difference between continuing as influential and respected intellectuals or seeing their distinguished reputations suddenly extinguished.

Ferrera for his part didn’t see the problem. “I do that all the time,” said Ferrera. “I’ve done it in the past and I’ll do it in the future.” His boss at the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI), Tom Giovanetti, tended to agree. Taking the “everybody’s doing it” defense, he first said that critics of this policy are applying “a naive purity standard” to the op-ed business.

Since the Business Week article, IPI has issued a flurry of press releases trying to prove that they get it. It’s a highly amusing dance, considering that at the same time they are also facing hard questions about another op-ed payola scandal involving columns by their new analysts Susan Finston and Merrill Matthews supporting increased patent protections for the drug companies that employed them as lobbyists weeks earlier.

It’s a slippery slope, one I personally live on. I write articles in this space covering the Libertarian Party and its national committee (LNC), and I receive financial support from many people, including members of the LNC, so I can travel to their meetings and other events. There is a very thin yet very bright fine line between right and wrong here. I have announced from the beginning and made no secret of my support. By these rules of ethics, I’m barely on the right side of the line but enough to be considered perfectly ethical. Ferrera and Bandow kept their support secret, which puts them just barely on the wrong side of this line, and has given everyone cause to distrust them completely.

Ferrera explains, “It’s a matter of general support. These are my views, and if you want to support them that’s good.” That’s exactly how I feel too.

And as free market advocates, isn’t it all right and good that we sell our skills if we find willing buyers? It’s not a problem, in and of itself, when Finston and Matthews publish the same articles one day wearing a lobbyist label and the next as policy analysts. After all, their families have to eat and for all we know maybe they sincerely felt they could do more to honestly influence public policy in their new positions.

Yet there are limits to the free market, there are certain things that cannot be sold and retain their value. If writers show themselves to be without integrity, then their wordsmithing skills have no more meaning. If public policy institutes simply become a convenient way for lobbyists to give their views an aura of journalistic integrity, then all of their work becomes suspect.

Bandow admits his views changed once he was no longer influenced by Abramoff’s payola. Lately he has come to a more natural Libertarian perspective, that the Indian tribes he once promoted are really just another “well-funded special interest seeking political favors.” So while he was claiming to represent the Libertarian ideals of Cato when he wrote those articles, he was really representing the lobbying arm of Big Government.

Franklin Foer, writing for the New Republic all the way back on May 9, 2005, puts it very well. “There is, indeed,” Foer wrote, “a libertarian case to be made for the (North Marianas Islands’) exemption from federal regulation, although it’s hard to imagine such a case attracting so many fervent believers.” Foer points out the one-sided dishonesty of opinion that is purchased under the table. None of these Libertarian authors ever bothered to mention that exemption from federal regulation for the North Marianas includes the freedom of Chinese companies to import what amounts to slave labor to US territory, nor how keeping government off the backs of the Choctaws protects their insanely socialist government that keeps their leaders rich and their people poor.

An essential aspect of the free press is that it be independent. I’ve written extensively before that this independence should not be confused with objectivity. We can’t reasonably expect any writer or journalist to be completely without bias. But we can reasonably expect that every writer is speaking honestly. We choose to trust various pundits and organizations because we find their views consonant with our own. But if we later find that their views are controlled by the government or those seeking its favors, how can we trust anything they say again, whether we agree with it or not?

By creating false news stories and manufacturing false opinion, the government and those who wish to control it subvert the role the media is supposed to play in safeguarding our freedom. The most vital check we have against totalitarianism is an informed populace. Bandow and Ferrera have played a small yet significant role in selling out the people to government control.

This scandal runs much deeper than just a few articles or some special favors for a particular special interest. Abramoff has promised to tell all as part of his plea bargain, which has the President and dozens members of Congress scrambling to rid themselves of any donations that may be linked to him and his front groups. This comes on the heels of similar revelations of payola deals between our government and the Iraqi press to plant pro-US stories there.

This may be a coincidence, but I was curious to find the last article Bandow had published while he still retained his good name. It appeared in the Japan Times on December 15th, the day before the Business Week story. The article, “Iraq has been and will be a U.S. problem,” states the plain yet little mentioned fact that the other nations of the world have little interest in helping us clean up the mess in Iraq that we made all on our own and despite their warnings against our actions at the time.

Bandow takes a rather wistful approach to the subject. He says, “No nation is lurking around the corner to bail out the U.S. as the U.S. has so often bailed out other nations.” By making his point he means to divert our attention from the growing pressure on President Bush to articulate an exit strategy. “There are many reasons to favor an expeditious U.S. withdrawal from Iraq,” Bandow writes, “ but set aside that debate.”

It’s hard to understand this view from any Libertarian perspective. But it will all make sense if it turns out this article was connected to our government’s efforts to plant favorable stories about the war at home and abroad.

Foer’s article indicates that there are still more shoes to drop in this affair. He also names highly respected Libertarian author Clint Bolick as a recipient of Abramoff’s largesse, and traces most of this activity back to Abramoff’s relationship with anti-tax crusader Grover Nordquist and his Americans for Tax Reform. It is curious that this story sat for six months in the New Republic before producing consequences. It’s only a matter of time before the mainstream media picks up on the rest of Foer’s revelations.

We knew this would happen. Indeed, in a sense we hoped it would. We are big enough now to be bought off, to be offered the temptations of corruption.

This is the point where we have to ask ourselves, what are we doing here? Is it enough that our opinions now matter to the establishment? That we can play a role in changing little bits of public policy here and there for the better?

Or do we still believe that government itself must fundamentally change to restore Liberty to the people?

For myself, it is not enough to convince government to have the right policies controlling gambling or pharmaceuticals. We need to take that power away from government entirely. If we let them keep control of every aspect of commerce, the right policy is but a short lived phenomenon. If control of commerce is returned to the people, we can all enjoy the blessings of liberty for generations.

It is true that if the Libertarian Party is to become truly competitive, we would do well to examine the examples of the Democrats and Republicans and take from them the tactics that have made them so successful. However we have trouble sometimes determining which of their methods truly further our goals.

The test can be found in the simple rules of honor. We can and should raise a lot of money and employ many standard electioneering tactics to create a loud public policy voice and make Libertarian candidates competitive. All these things can be done without having to lie, cheat or steal. But if we stoop to the deception and corruption of our opponents, we quickly become no better than they are even if we still profess Libertarian beliefs.

One of the few selling points we have as Libertarians is our integrity. We are the lone voice of reason and common sense in a world of deception. As the liberals like to say, we are the only ones left with the guts to speak truth to power. People like that about us. Why else would people come over to our side when we not only don’t have the power to grant government favors, we expressly want to dismantle the entire system of special interest politics. We don’t offer temptation, only freedom.

Or at least that’s what we would like to think. If we suffer through enough examples such as Bandow’s, then we will lose our claim to this integrity. People will come to see Libertarianism as just another corrupt special interest group jockeying for a place at the government trough.

And if more of us choose temptation as Bandow did, would people be wrong in believing this? Foer says it all too well, “Abramoff has... exposed the corruptibility of true believers.”

As of this writing, Ferrera remains gainfully employed by ISI, and Bandow has been recently hired by Citizen Outreach run by Chuck Muth. They may still be able to get paid well for publishing their opinions, but for myself, I will never be able to take those opinions too seriously again. The fact that at least two, and maybe more, people who have done so much to promote Liberty have been ruined over giving in to just a few thousand dollars worth of temptation fills my heart with great sadness and leaves me with a deep concern for the future of our movement.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

This week's LP Chat: Branding with Jeremy Keil

From the Mothership:

This Thursday, we'll have LNC Representative Jeremy Keil as a guest speaker for our online chat. The topic will be LP Branding Strategy which Mr. Keil has been spearheading. I've included the chat details and login procedures below.

Additionally, if you missed last week's chat with LNC Rep. Mark Rutherford, a transcript is available by clicking here.

Chat Details:
Date: Thursday, January 5th
Time: 3:00 p.m. EST
Location: www.lp.org/chat
Speaker: Jeremy Keil, LNC Region 5 Representative