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