Steve G.

Dr. George Phillies: “Arizona, Land of the Two Libertarian Parties” Part One

In Libertarian on June 2, 2008 at 6:24 pm

I am honored to have been given permission by Dr. George Phillies to post a full chapter from his excellent book, “Funding Liberty” , right here on Last Free Voice. I will be posting Chapter 17, “Arizona, Land of the Two Libertarian Parties”, in multiple entries. This is part one.  Part Two is here.

Dr. Phillies has a doctorate in Physics from MIT, and is a Professor of Physics and Game Design at the prestigious Worcester Polytechnic University. A longtime Libertarian activist, Dr. Phillies is currently the Chairman of the Massachusetts Libertarian Party, and was a popular candidate for the Libertarian Presidential nomination for 2008 where his concession speech – pointing out that the enemy is outside the Libertarian Party – has been hailed as one of the greatest moments (and most inspiring speeches) of the 2008 Libertarian Convention.

A link to purchase this book, as well as to purchase other books by Dr. George Phillies, is at the bottom of this entry.

Funding Liberty!

by Dr. George Phillies

Chapter 17

Arizona, Land of the Two Libertarian Parties

We now take an aside from Presidential politics to visit scenic Arizona, land of the two Libertarian Parties. Or perhaps one Libertarian Party. The legal and political situation in Arizona has been, to put it mildly, complex. A full recounting of Arizona events might well consume a full book this size. I am not writing that book, so you shall see here a compressed description of events.

I begin with the cast of characters. For the past half-decade there have been two organized Libertarian groups in Arizona, one of which regularly sued the other to gain ownership of the Party. Each group has associated with it a series of different geographic and other names. In the Summer of 2000 names and acronyms included

Formal name

Arizona Libertarian

Party

Arizona Libertarian Party,

Incorporated

acronym

ALP

ALPI

noted city

Phoenix

Tucson

noted county

Maricopa

Pima

distinguished

member(s)

Ernie Hancock

Liz Andreasen

Mike Haggard

Peter Schmerl

John Zajac

My sources agree that both groups have supporters in both cities. The ALP and ALPI acronyms are very similar; I’ll refer to the two sides as the Phoenix group (ALP) and the Tucson group (ALPI). My friends who have moved to Arizona uniformly speak favorably of most of the people in both groups.

The Tucson group won the latest round of litigation and is currently recognized by the State as the legal Libertarian Party in Arizona. The Phoenix group has formally dissolved at the moment. The Phoenix group has never filed litigation against the Tucson group, and says it has no intent to litigate at present. It also appears to have little intent of cooperating with or supporting the Tucson group or its candidates. In the absence of third-party litigation that might affect the situation, relationships between the Tucson and Phoenix groups are unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

The two groups are split by many issues. Historically, each side has been willing to lay out its position openly, so I can say with reasonable accuracy what each side says it is fighting about. I have spoken to a reasonable number of Arizona Libertarians, members of the Phoenix and Tucson groups. I certainly have not spoken to all of them. These people didn’t all talk about all the same topics, but—in separate conversations—for the most part they agreed with each other. I should specifically thank Paul Schauble and Melinda Pillsbury-Foster, who assembled time-lines of past events. I should also thank Ernie Hancock, Paul Schauble, and Chris Tavares, who sent corrections to an earlier draft of this chapter.

For many questions there are subtexts and buried issues. The formal question dividing the two groups is ‘who is the legally-recognized Libertarian Party in Arizona?’ A rational subtext is ‘why does anyone care?’. What do you get out of having state recognition? In fact, there are concrete issues that appear to divide the two organizations.

A more Libertarian question might be ‘To what extent can the state regulate the organization of a political party?’ The Phoenix group had conducted its activities while not following a variety of State regulations, many of which could be argued to be inconsistent with Eu vs. California, simply by going about its business and ignoring the state. State officials did not attempt to enforce their own statutes. The ultimate litigation between the Phoenix and Tucson groups was filed by the Tucson group, not the state, and was settled not over the state election code but over the technicalities of Roberts’ Rules of Order as several of the most esoteric of those rules pertained to events at a state convention.

In a traditional detective novel, the hero often makes progress by asking ‘where is the money?’. There are good reasons to suppose that money was a major issue behind the conflict, both at the state level and at the national level.

Money? Arizona has a so-called ‘Clean Elections’ Law, under which public money goes to funding election campaigns, if the State legislature appropriates the money. A candidate has to raise a modest amount of money, and then receives a very large payment from the state to fund his campaign. The ratio of taxpayer money to money raised from private donors could be as large as ten to one. Possession and use of this money became a substantial political issue. Details of the Clean Election law and its municipal equivalents have been the subject of litigation, and have changed over the course of time.

Substantial Issues Dividing the Arizona Factions

What were the two Arizona groups arguing about? Why did they care which of them was the state-recognized Libertarian Party? The substantial benefits of state recognition were rather limited. The largest single benefit is that state parties are entitled to copies of the voter rolls. These rolls reveal Party affiliations of registered voters. Because the Phoenix group viewed their members to be the registered Libertarian voters, this list was their one reliable way of finding their own members.

In Arizona, state recognition gives a state party very little power. Below the Presidential level, the State Party does not control who gets on the ballot as a Libertarian. In Arizona candidates get on the primary election ballot by collecting signatures, and advance from the primary election to the general election by winning their primary. A State Party organization can refuse to endorse or support candidates who do not support all of its positions, but access to the primary and general election ballots is controlled by the voters, not by the state committee. In Arizona, primaries are open. Independent voters can vote in the Libertarian Party primary election. There is no guarantee that the winner of a Libertarian primary has any support from the state’s 18,000 Libertarians rather than the state’s 350,000 independents. Indeed, in an earlier election cycle the Phoenix group was the legal State Party. It had put forth Tom Rawls as its candidate for governor. An anonymous last moment mailing, accusing Rawls of financial irregularities, led to his defeat in the primary by a candidate supported by the Tucson group.

The two groups also had different strategies. Interviews with Tucson supporters clarified the Tucson group’s underlying strategy. Their plan was to run paper candidates who would do minimal campaigning for municipal office, raise money to qualify the candidates for Clean Elections money, and accept the Clean Elections money. Clean Elections money would then primarily be used to strengthen the state party by registering additional members of the state party. The difficulty with this approach, which was recognized by the Tucson group, is that a Libertarian registrant who has had no other contact with the party is unlikely to be activated, and will likely just sit there as campaigns swirl around him.

To overcome this difficulty, the Tucson group put forth a sound strategy emphasizing local organization, based on electing people as Precinct Committeemen. Each committeeman and committeewoman was to do organizing work in his or her own ward and precinct to convert previously-registered voters into reliable activists. The committeeperson approach had the significant challenge that state committeepeople were elected on a rigid timeline fixed by the State of Arizona. Volunteers could only be elected on the state’s schedule. Readers will recognize obvious work-arounds to the State Election code.

The Phoenix group had not been especially interested in Party registration drives, such as the one launched by the National Committee. In the early 1990s, registration growth was tracking the growth in party activities, and was in fact growing year after year. It was reasonably expected that by 2004 or so the Party would have attained permanent major party status by virtue of having enough registered voters. Some activists, noting the success of the 1994 Buttrick Campaign at bringing in new Libertarians, felt that major party status might be achieved sooner, perhaps by 1998. With enough money, an adequate count of registered voters could be attained earlier than 2004. However, the count of registered voters by itself bought the State Party few particular benefits. The Phoenix group believed that the money spent registering additional Libertarian Party members would better have been spent strengthening the State Party by running better elections and referenda.

The Phoenix group was as interested in the Clean Elections Act money as the Tucson group, but for an entirely different reason. The Phoenix group viewed acceptance of Clean Elections Act money as a violation of the Party’s principles and By-Laws. They vehemently disapproved of the Tucson group’s decision to accept State Clean Elections Act money, and refused to support any Libertarian party candidate who chose to accept that money. Part of this dispute apparently went away with changes in the state election law. For candidates for statewide office the dispute remains active.

_________________________________________

Click here to buy “Funding Liberty” by Dr. George Phillies.

Click here to browse other titles by Dr. George Phillies.

  1. The Daily Liberty http://www.thedailyliberty.com is serializing the book.

    The core topic is *transparency*.

  2. Thanks, Dr. P – I’ve added The Daily Liberty to our blogroll. 🙂

  3. […] Dr. George Phillies: “Arizona, Land of the Two Libertarian Parties”, Part Two I am honored to have been given permission by Dr. George Phillies to post a full chapter from his excellent book, “Funding Liberty” , right here on Last Free Voice. I will be posting Chapter 17, “Arizona, Land of the Two Libertarian Parties”, in multiple entries. This is part two.  Part one is here. […]

  4. Sounds like the Wii episode of South Park. Just rename the Pheonix faction the Allied Atheist Alliance and the Tucson faction the United Athiest League.

  5. […] This is the fifth and final installment, which contains the appendix to this chapter. Part one is here. Part two is here. Part three is here. Part four is […]

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