January 20, 1997
 Mike Nixson,  Libertarian Party of York County
 501 Oakwood Dr
 Dover, PA 17315

I would like to raise a number of issues about the current direction of the national party that I find quite disturbing. These issues fall into two categories. I have major differences with the strategic directions that the national office has pursued in the last few years particularly as they affect the future of our party and movement. These are issues about which we can honestly disagree. The second set of issues revolve around ethical matters that I believe raise serious issues about the character and judgement of those in positions of leadership at the national level. These issue are essentially unrelated but taken as a whole, I believe some of the ethical issues subtly drive some of the strategic directions and overall they are a serious impediment to our near term and long term success. I believe that these must be addressed between now and the next convention in 1998 or we will continue to see history repeat itself.

With respect to the recent Presidential campaign, I would like to make it clear that I supported Harry Browne for the nomination and worked hard to deliver as many votes for him and our ticket in York county and Pennsylvania. I was a substantial contributor to the campaign early on and our group in York raised over $7,000 to run Browne radio spots during October. I respect the things that Harry Browne has indicated he stands for and I believe that from a strictly marketing point of view, Harry was the very best we had to offer. I believe however that any of the other major contenders would have done a fine job and I would have been proud to vote for any of them.

I hope that my comments here won't be construed as overly partisan but inevitably when discussing the ethics of particular individuals, this will be an obvious conclusion. I would hope that all active libertarians would evaluate the information presented here objectively and would ask their own questions and do there own research. I would ask all libertarians to approach these issues with a high degree of skepticism and accept nothing on face value including what I say here. Investigate, question and reach your own conclusions but do not accept what a leadership that you may not know as gospel. It is not our way. (Question Authority?)

ISSUE 1 - HYPERBOLE AND EXCUSES VERSUS A REAL STRATEGY The first disturbing issue is the constant hyperbole and distortion of facts in communications coming out of the national office. The most recent example of this is a fund raising letter from Perry Willis I received in December. Hopefully you've seen it by now. I couldn't believe what I read, however . One excerpt read... "And he [Harry Brown] also repeated again and again and again that both things, the money and the debates were unlikely." This is an incredible sentence for two reasons. First, it is rewriting history. I read every 'On the Road' piece as well as all the press releases and neither of these things were said 'again and again and again' particularly with respect to the debates. Harry's emphasis with respect to the debates was to emphasis the things we could do to achieve this objective rarely if ever mentioning how unlikely it was to achieve. I think many of us have a realistic appreciation of how likely many things are or are not and the disclaimers aren't always necessary even if they would be refreshing. Unfortunately there are a lot of members and contributors who may not always apply the same skepticism to these fund raising letters. Please don't tell me there were disclaimers however when there weren't. If such statements were occasional and not part of a pattern, I suppose they might be excused for the occasional exaggeration that marketing sometimes entails but the pattern over time is unmistakable.

The second reason this is incredible is that the strategy of this campaign during the Spring and Summer up until the end of September was to get into the debates and now Perry Willis is telling us that achieving this objective was 'unlikely'. Do we always base our strategies on objectives we are unlikely to achieve? From the results of the past 25 years, I must reluctantly conclude that this is so. Perry goes on to point out that we increased our vote results by 62% over 1992. At the levels of vote totals we have been dealing with for the last two decades, any variation between 300,000 and 500,000 votes for President is statistically insignificant (the variation being .2% of the total votes cast). These kind of bogus comparisons are insulting to thinking people and is an example of statistical sophistry which is constantly in use in these letters. This represents trying to find anything good to say about results which are objectively appalling and disappointing to all but the most dedicated true believers.

As someone who invested large sums of time and money in the national and local parties, I have a major investment in our future. This fund raising letter is just the latest in a long line of hyped up marketing pieces that betray a lack of any coherent strategy. This is not some aberrant letter but don't take my word for it, hear the words of Don Ernsberger's resignation letter right after the November election:

The membership of the Libertarian Party continues to fool itself into the belief that the LP plays any role in the political process. Further that the only thing the LP does well is use hype to raise money from its members. Having made that decision [to quit the party], I was able to sit back and observe the Harry Browne Campaign from a very different perspective. What I saw with each new fund raising letter and each of the 3 way cable TV debates with Phillips and Hagelin was a frantic effort at wish fulfillment. The LP raises money so that it can afford to raise more money. Unfortunately the 1996 campaign was a repeat of all the other campaigns (80/84/88/92) The same 1/2% of voters who care about liberty. On election day I took out all the fund raising letters from the past two years and spread them across my work table....... a pathetic collection of hype.

March 1995:

"Our Plan to force Clinton to demand LP inclusion in the 1996 TV debates"

May 1995:

"Our plan to get 5% of the primary vote in New Hampshire. $270,000 in TV ads"

July 1995:

"Our plan to use the City Vote to achieve national publicity"

Sept 1995:

" Our plan to distribute 6 million flyers to City Vote voters"

October 1995:

"Our plan to get Harry Browne's book on the New York Times best seller list"

Feb 1996:

"Our plan to produce a professional and powerful National TV ad and recruit 100's of CEOs"

March 1996:

"Our plan to get into the 1996 TV debates" by convincing the Federal Debate Commission

June 1996:

"Our plan to get double digits in national election polls"

August 1996:

"Our new plan to get into the TV debates using talk show endorsements and radio ads"

October 1996:

"Our plan to "saturate" CNN with TV ads and to produce a professional 30 minute video for TV ad placement"


And now that the campaign has ended, a new fund raising letter to gather money to put post election ads on the radio....... let's see if the money raised ever goes toward this project. Good bye........ I have ended my Don Quixote days.

I was astounded when I first heard that Don had resigned. I didn't want to believe it. Don was a libertarian before there was a party so I consider his credentials second to none. But as I look around and sense some of the LP history around me, I find that Don is just the latest in a long line of activists who just had no more to give. I don't think it can be challenged that there are more retired and burned out LP activists than active ones by an order of four or five times. There is a reason for this -- in business when we have high turnover, we consider it a symptom of some underlying problem and then do something about it - or get fired. In business, unattended problems like this get you unionized or worse -- you get put out of business by your competitors. I would judge that this constant turnover of activists is probably the single most significant factor in keeping us marginalized. These are the people who make every aspect of what we do happen and we churn them over like so much cannon fodder. If you've been in the party for awhile, think of all the people who could be making a difference. Imagine if your activists were tripled or quadrupled, what effect would this have on our ability to accomplish our goals.

Like many people, I think the current leadership is confused over what it is trying to accomplish. Because electing a president is so out of reach, we don't have to set goals we can actually achieve -- what's the point! If we had to set measurable and definable goals that we could realistically meet, they wouldn't have anything to do with electing a president. They would certainly be of more limited focus and would be more local efforts -- things that are really achievable. The emphasis would be on actually building a nationwide organization -- not just signing up members. See, this is what the national office thinks that building an organization is all about -- recruiting new members. Frankly, I've been involved in numerous plant start-ups and hiring the bulk of your workforce is almost the last thing you do. You need managers, sales people and technical support (think activists!) along with the capital equipment needed to operate your business. When you know how you are going to employ all this capital and have a plan for selling the product, you hire the bulk of the workforce. If you don't have these things in place you have a lot of expensive resources standing around cursing you for a whole host of sins. I would propose that we set goals for our party that represent real achievements and that will more clearly focus the efforts of the national office. I would offer the following suggestions:

1. We should eliminate the concept of a national member. If you belong the Orange county LP then you belong the Libertarian Party -- period. If we want to use member ship as a measure of success, then this could be used as an indirect measure only in which we acknowledge national has no direct role.

2. The number of collective votes for LP candidates across the nation and in particular the number of office holders should be the primary measure of our success as a party. While the national office can be supportive in many ways, it can rarely take credit for a local electoral success unless there is some extraordinary effort involved. How supportive the national office is should be primarily the judgement of the county and state organizations.

3. The measurement of the success of the national office, the paid staff and the LNC, should be two fold. The first measure would be a simple report card that each county and state organization would be asked whether they thought the national organization on balance helped, didn't help or got in the way of local activities. I would not make it any more detailed or complicated than that. In most cases they could email their responses. Over time the collective judgement of the membership could be compared. The second measure should be the judgement of delegates that occurs at each convention. This occurs now to some extent and should be the primary way in which success or failure is acknowledged.

A few points need to be made about the Presidential campaign. Harry Browne answered a number of questions on LPUS and probably other forums regarding certain tactical decisions regarding the conduct of the campaign. He was asked why he didn't promote local candidates when he did radio shows and other events in a particular locality. His response was that the campaign did not have enough time, money or staff to prepare this. Since most of this data was on the web site, I'm not sure that would have taken someone very long to prepare a notebook that would have been convenient for Harry to refer to. If the national staff didn't have the time, I'm sure someone out here if asked could have volunteered to compile it. Finally, the September and October issues of the LP News contained a listing of numerous candidates around the country so this information was clearly available. One would think that Harry or his aide could have been provided with at least the copy of the LP News. These are just a few of the alternatives that don't necessarily involve that campaign staff or great amounts of money to properly prepare our Presidential candidate in this regard. Frankly, I see the hand of the national office saying If it isn't national in scope and impact don't bother. Another question arose about doing more professional TV spots. Again the answer was that we didn't have enough money. I strongly disagree. We have quotes for half day shots in an appropriate inside location with all the bells and whistles and it is difficult to spend much more than $3,000. Even with the most elaborate, multi-camera full day set up on film, we don't go beyond $10,000. I have used a professional video company to create training videos with live actors, music -- the works and a 20 minute heavily edited product ran about $10,000. I'm not sure how much was too much but clearly, reasonable TV spots would not seem to be beyond our means to produce. Ill make the next presidential nominee an offer. We will negotiate the price beforehand and get scripts in advance. When the candidate comes through Pennsylvania, we will take a day to shoot as many commercials as you want. If we go over budget, we will kick in the difference. How's that for an offer you cant refuse!


The second major issue revolves around a number of ethical issues. Stretching the truth beyond recognition is bad enough but certain actions have been taken that calls into account the ethical character of the leadership of the national office. Item 1: Paid staff from national headquarters (Willis and Winter) signed on early to do work for the Browne campaign. This was a clear conflict of interest that should not have been tolerated. I am more than a little disappointed that Harry Browne has seemed to minimize this support saying that the only role for Perry Willis was to "write two fund raising letters" [from an LPUS post in late December]. Perhaps he is not fully aware of the policies prohibiting such activity. In fact Perry was intimately involved in the Browne campaign's fund raising strategy and took several opportunities to arrange trips to California and Atlanta for other purposes while working on Browne campaign activities. Perry's involvement with a fund raiser in December 1994 was coordinated with an LNC meeting. I am advised that Perry's ongoing participation is well documented in LNC minutes and he has not denied a significant involvement in the campaign prior to July 1996. The relevant policy within the LNC policy manual is Section 2. Conflict of Interest. It says:

"D. Neither the National Director nor any other employee of the Party shall: 1. Endorse, support, contribute any money, or use his or her title or position to aid any candidate in any Party primary, or in any campaign for office, or nomination, within the Party or any State Party. 2. Serve as a delegate to any National or State party convention. 3. Permit LPHQ to be used by anyone at any time to aid any candidate in any Party primary, or in any campaign for office, or nomination, with the Party or any State Party." For the record the next subsection states:

E. PROVIDED, HOWEVER, that nothing in this section shall prevent the National Director or any employee or the Party from providing the same information and services that would be provided to any other member of the Party to any such candidate.

Clearly Perry Willis and Bill Winter's involvement in the Browne campaign prior to July was in direct violation of this policy. It has been offered in defense that many of the services provided to the Browne campaign were covered under item E above. The clear purpose of this provision was to allow the national staff to provide services to candidates comparable to the services national provides to you or me or any other member. These people provided both paid and unpaid support to the Browne campaign all during the period leading up to the convention. This brings up other conflict of interest issues that the LNC did not specifically waive in any way. What is worse, the LNC was clearly aware of all of these matters and only action taken was to look the other way and rationalize away the violations.

Item 2: During the contest for National Chair in July, Perry Willis made it clear to many individuals that he would resign if Gene Cisewski defeated Steve Dasbach. This was way out of line not only by violating the above referenced policy but by constituting virtual extortion. It would be an understatement to say that vacating this key position going into a major election campaign would have not have been helpful to the prosecution of the campaign.

Item 3: Prior to the convention there was an attempt by Willis and Dasbach to represent contributors to the Browne campaign who had previously discontinued their LP membership as reactivating this membership since there was a pledge form on file. John Famularo, Secretary at that time, refused to do this as these people had not expressed any interest at all in joining the party, they simply wanted to contribute to Harry's campaign. Since John decided not to run again for this position for many of the reasons I am iterating here, this has been reversed. Now we find that membership has shot up. What a surprise! Since there has been so much emphasis on membership growth by Willis and Dasbach, is it surprising that enrolling non-members has "enhanced" growth. How many of these people are likely to renew in 1997 and how ethical is it to sign people up for membership when this wasn't their intent.

Item 4: There has been some discussion about the expenditure of moneys during the campaign. The Browne campaign issued a preliminary report detailing expenditures at the November LNC meeting which our representative has yet to receive. Has your rep received this? Harry Browne has promised a final 600 page report by mid January and I've been told now that it may be delayed until February. I am reluctant to pre-judge on the basis of something I haven't seen but I ask you to consider this from existing FEC reporting (available to all of us now). Of the Browne campaign expenditures of approximately $1.5 million as of November, FEC reports showed under the category of "consulting" a total of $614,385. Specific individuals breakdown as follows (amounts over $10,000 only):

Sharon Ayres             $127,722

Michael Emerling Cloud   $ 85,943

Stuart Reges             $ 60,334

Terry Bronson            $ 57,666

Jack Dean                $ 53,251

Robert Martin            $ 42,527

Lisa Paley               $ 38,664

Jack Williams            $ 29,948

Kiana Delmare            $ 25,239

Autumn Wilson            $ 19,940

Travel, fund raising and operations overhead expenses are specifically excluded from the above numbers according the coding of the FEC reports by the campaign and are accounted for separately. It is my understanding that some part of this consulting are reimbursements for expenses but these expenses are not otherwise accounted for. If this is the case, this may be an extreme example of poor record keeping. For the record, the FEC has issued several letters indicating that these amounts should be broken out separately and as of this writing we (the LP and/or the Browne campaign) have not responded. The FEC has threatened legal action if we don't comply. Now I'm no defender of the FEC and this might be the only time I will ever be inclined to agree with them but I thought that in principal we don't have any problem with full disclosure. I am looking forward to a more elaborate and precise accounting of where money was spent. For now we can only see what has been made public and draw our own conclusions. It remains to be seen whether we incur fines and penalties as a result of sloppy or intentionally inaccurate bookkeeping for which the membership will be asked to pay. It was a few short years ago that we paid fines for seemingly less significant violations. If we ever get to see this 600 page report, possibly this will clear all these questions up. This is a report that everyone should thoroughly examine. [For the record the national LP spent about 1.5 million in addition to amounts raised and spent directly by the Browne campaign.]

Item 4: At July's convention there was some controversy over the fact that a detailed and specific financial statement was not forthcoming. During the afternoon session on Thursday, Scott Grainger from the Arizona delegation raised numerous questions about how much money we had and whether we were in debt. Hugh Butler, the treasurer, made a number of vague and general statements. He indicated that we had extended our debt obligations to vendors beyond the customary 30 period but assured us that this was not a problem and that this had been approved by the executive committee. Article 12, item 5 states The Party shall not borrow in excess of $2,000 total without prior approval by 2/3 vote of the National Committee. This shall not include current operating debt for trade payables. The reference to trade payables was intended to mean that incurred debt should be paid within the 30 day period customary to normal business operations. In reviewing the videotape of this session, it is clear the Mr Butlers intent was not to convey our precise financial situation to the assembled delegates and raises the question of what Mr Butler was trying to hide. The unblemished facts are now available. FEC reports for the first five months of 1995 show the following for the National LP (all data is as of the end of the month):

            Disbursements Receipts   On-Hand     Debt
January 95     14,950     95,384     101,838     0
February 95    18,283    126,501     129,834     108,355
March 95       41,917    114,891     138,525     139,264
April 95       19,504    137,484     115,071     149,464
May 95          1,469    149,380     131,346     200,009

The May FEC report was filed on June 18, 1995, a few short weeks before the convention and represented precisely what the delegates wanted to know. These reports show that during the first half of 1995, we had been steadily increasing our payables debt. Additionally, private agreements had been made with some vendors to delay billing to the LP so that the actual debt was even higher. There was no executive committee meeting to approve this as Butler indicated at the convention so this was an outright fabrication. In any event as the bylaws provision quoted above stated the LNC must approve such action by a 2/3 vote. If Perry Willis made these disbursements without LNC authorization, this would exceed his authority and would constitute a serious violation of our bylaws. I believe that he did not inform the treasurer, the chairman, the executive committee or the LNC in advance of the effect of these disbursements (to increase our debt) and that Hugh Butler probably found out at mid June when the last FEC report was filed. Butler actions at the convention were to try and put as good face on things so as not to make the National Chair and National Director look bad. After all Butler and Dasbach were running for reelection. Clearly, it was intentional that the assembled delegates were not provided specific and detailed information and clearly Scott Grainger from the Arizona delegation who repeatedly asked these questions thought so too. This is a serious violation of our own rules and actions were taken here that should have serious ramifications. Among other things, we need to require that the national office account and report financial activity on a much clearer basis. For one, I'd like to see a simple balance sheet statement in each month's LP news backed up by detail accessible through the LP web site. Second we do not currently have independent, external audits conducted and we should. Third, the 600 page report contemplated by the Browne people is an excellent idea and should be done after every national election consistent with good accounting practices. The current FEC reports are simply inadequate for this purpose. All of this should be accessible at the web site. STRATEGY Ill let you mull over the ethical issues for a while. For a moment, let's put aside the obfuscation, hyperbole and unethical conduct. Let's examine the basis for the current strategy and some alternatives. Ever since the 1980 campaign, the emphasis has been on trying to achieve political recognition and overall success by pouring the bulk of the party's effort and money into activities supporting the Presidential campaign. This includes national level emphasis on ballot access and building a national office capable of generating marketing plans at a national level. It was thought that by achieving some kind of electoral or public relations success, this would lead the way for the broader libertarian movement. The difficulty with this strategy is that by putting so much of our energy and money into this effort we haven't developed the broader libertarian movement that could exploit such a success were it to occur. Further, in order to compete with Democrats and Republicans, the current philosophy is to substantially increase membership and fund raising to the point where we can be competitive about getting our message out. The fundamental assumption in this is that if we can just get through the obscuring vale of media and past the domination of the major two parties for even a brief moment, our message will be attractive to tens of millions of receptive voters. Frankly, while I sometimes engage in wishful thinking too, there is no evidence to support this premise. We just ended a campaign with two of the best candidates I can think of to communicate our message and there is virtually no statistical difference from prior campaigns. This is a treadmill that we must get off. Only Washington politicians keep repeating the mantra that if only we had more money we could get better results. Since some of our leaders are part of the government's education system, you would think they would be resistant to this thinking process -- certainly Don Ernsberger as an educator is. It is an approach that few businesses succeed with and it will not work for us in the future any more than it did this year. The consequence is that we have a national office that now spends about $2 million a year beyond the expense of a Presidential campaign. This is top down thinking that is all too prevalent in government at all levels and it is philosophically opposite to my understanding of a libertarian political ethic -- that is that authority, responsibility and control should be pushed to the lowest possible levels among people. If you want to build membership, then empower state and county organizations and form a real partnership and those organizations should do most of the necessary work and yes even the fund raising. You will leverage your resources many times over in the long run and will build an organization that can deliver votes to our presidential candidates. The Christian Coalition is a great example of this. Their emphasis has been to get significant numbers of local officials elected where they have meaningful political power at the local level. This translates to votes and political influence. This is what a real organization is -- not just a mailing list from whom you can raise money anytime you want.

Another example we can learn from is the rebuilding the Republican party did in the 1980's. The Republicans perennially had a weak bench from which to draw Congressional candidates and this factored into their inability to be competitive in the House of Representatives. The Republicans made a concerted effort to develop and groom lower level candidates so that by 1994 when the opportunity arose, they could grasp the prize (or at least lunge at it). You can say what you want about Republicans but they were able to identify their organizational weaknesses and do something about it. Our challenge is to build our party at a much lower and fundamental level. We don't start with the infrastructure that the Republicans did so we must build it literally from a much lower, fundamental level. There is no other substitute for the hard work necessary to do this and creating grand illusions that a largely centralized, national effort can bring this into existence is foolish and wasteful of our limited resources. Lastly, the presidential effort for the foreseeable future should be used as an opportunity to spotlight high profile state and local candidates. In Pennsylvania where our state level candidates did well, Harry and Jo significantly improved their numbers relative to their national average. I suspect that this held true across the country. It makes sense therefore to use these synergies to enhance our local effort and the result will be improved national numbers as well. It is often true that the indirect route to a goal is the more effective in the long run. I believe that this is such a case.


All of these issues laid out above are symptoms of a larger problem. THEY HAVEN'T GOT A CLUE HOW TO MOVE DOWN THE PATH TO TAKE OVER THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT THROUGH A LEGAL ELECTION. A large part of this problem is that like most people the current national leadership makes judgements and decisions within the context of their experience. Someone once told me that to a hammer everything looks like a nail. This is a common problem among scientists and medical specialists who are trained in such a way as to look for problems that fit into the framework of their training. Often the solution lies in thinking outside of the box of their thinking processes and this is admittedly difficult to do for many of us. Perry Willis is a fund raiser -- this is what he knows so this is what he does. We need people at the national level capable of helping to build a national but decentralized organization, admittedly a very difficult and demanding task. This is a long term building process, one that involves building an organization in every community in America. In the end, it won't be a national office that accomplishes this but we libertarians in every county and precinct. A national office can be of great assistance in providing specialized help that might not be as cost effective for some state organizations to provide. It won't be accomplished in a few short years however and translating organization into political gain will take a certain amount of luck.. I define luck as happening when preparation meets opportunity. Sooner or later there will be opportunities -- there have already been some -- but if we do not have a broad and deep political movement, we will not be in a position to take advantage -- to govern when the time comes. The current reality is however, instead of the difficult but necessary business of party building, we get on this treadmill every four years, make ourself feel good that we did our best by getting .5% and the statists go on about their business. And, we keep rasing money to keep the game going. I didn't join this party to engage in an exercise designed to accomplish nothing. I joined up because I want to turn my fellow citizens into libertarians. I don't care if they are Democrat libertarians or Republican libertarians or Libertarian libertarians. I just want to convince enough of my neighbors that there is a better way for all of us to live so we'll all have the blessing of liberty. You change people by doing things that change people. Most of the time it means you have to get off your butt and go out and talk to people and take advantage of as many opportunities that present themselves to present our way and yes it means running for office because this is a good way to reach people. More than anything else it means building an organization of committed and concerned people -- from the bottom up. There is no other way that will work for us. We have to get out of our ivory tower thinking that we can reach people by starting at the top. If we don't change the people first, no politician can govern for long against their wishes. I think we have a better chance starting at the bottom and working our way up. It certainly has the benefit of never having been tried by the LP. The national office is on a glide path to nowhere. We will not win the Presidency in the foreseeable future and there is no reason to believe that the basic strategy of the last 10 to 15 years will change that result. We have not substantially changed our vote totals over the history of the party and without a completely different approach we never will. We had better soon start dealing with the reality that we currently have very little impact anywhere on anything. If we are to change this, it won't be with a slick marketing campaign or a killer candidate, it will be with a lot of hard work in every neighborhood and precinct. Until we get serious about building a real political party having first rate candidates like Harry Browne will have no real impact. One last thought to relate the ethical and strategic issues discussed above. I'm told that the attitude of the national office is to be careful about the kind of information that is shared with us common folk. We cant always handle the truth it seems, particularly if it is not good news. After all, we might not work as hard or send in as much money. This is elitist thinking and it is not in my opinion the libertarian way. I believe this attitude does influence the nature of the strategic process in our organization by emphasizing a centrally, nationally oriented policy as described above. So in the end both of these issues, the policies of the party and the ethical character of its leaders are connected. I welcome any feedback you might have. I was warned that I'll probably get a lot.