Steve G.

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

In Libertarian on June 3, 2008 at 9:29 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 three.  Part one is here. 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.

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The National Committee Chooses an Affiliated Arizona Party and Experiences the Consequences of Its Actions

At its August 1999 meeting the Libertarian National Committee entered the fray by invoking its own By-Laws, specifically

“ARTICLE 8: AFFILIATE PARTIES

6. The National Committee shall have the power to revoke the status of any affiliate party, for cause, by a vote of 3/4 of the entire National Committee. The affiliate party may challenge the revocation of its status by written appeal to the Judicial Committee within 30 days of receipt of notice of such revocation. Failure to appeal within 30 days shall confirm the revocation and bar any later challenge or appeal. The National Committee shall not revoke the status of any affiliate party within six months prior to a Regular Convention.”

After an extremely long meeting and a long series of motions that were defeated or ruled out of order by National Chair David Bergland, the National Committee passed a motion targeting its Arizona affiliate. According to the Minutes of that meeting, “The motion on disaffiliation passed with 14 affirmative votes: Bergland, Bisson, Butler, Dehn, Dixon, Franke, Fylstra, Givot, Hall, Lark, Neale, Ruwart, Schwarz, and Smith. Buttrick and Tuniewicz voted against the motion. Savyon abstained.”

Having discarded its historic state affiliate, the LNC then voted to poll its Arizona members to determine which state party group should be given affiliation. This innocent-sounding step led to considerable difficulties, because there were three groups involved, namely the Phoenix group, the Tucson group, and the National Party. Membership lists for these three groups were substantially non-overlapping. In particular, the rolls of the National Party included many dues-paying, oath-signing National Party members who were registered to vote as Democrats or Republicans, and who were thus from the point of view of the Phoenix group not Libertarians at all. Furthermore, there were 15,000 registered Libertarians in the state, all members of the Phoenix group, most of whom were not National Party members; these Libertarians were not polled. The National Party’s poll allegedly indicated a preference for the Tucson group, so the National Committee cited the poll as a justification when it made the Tucson group its state affiliate in Arizona.

Only gradually does the recognition appear to have percolated through the National Committee that the National Party’s actions had had no effect on the Arizona state government, which continued to recognize the Phoenix group as the lawful Libertarian State Party of Arizona.

Discrepancies between the National Committee’s actions and the requirements of the Party By-Laws are apparent. The Party By-Laws specify that disaffiliation must be “for cause”. “For cause” is a term of art with a very well understood meaning, namely that the party against which action is being taken must have done something wrong. Furthermore, that wrong has to be specified, so that the accused can have due process by offering a defense.

What wrong had the ALP committed? The assertion was made in some quarters that the cause was that the LNC could not tell which group was its affiliate. It is not clear how the inability of the LNC to understand what was happening in Arizona could constitute ’cause’ against the Phoenix group. Indeed, on the date of the disaffiliation there was ongoing litigation between the two groups as to which group was the real Libertarian Party in Arizona. The Phoenix group recommended that the National Party should postpone action until the judge ruled; their recommendation was not accepted by the National Committee.

It is extremely hard to avoid the conclusion that the LNC’s disaffiliation of the Phoenix group violated Party By-Laws, which require that the disaffiliation be ‘for cause’. No rational cause was specified in the motion, nor does such a cause appear to be noted in the LNC Minutes. As was shown at the start of the book when ‘support’ and ‘conflict of interest’ were discussed, the Libertarian National Committee does not appear to have been heavily attached to careful textual analysis of its own By-laws. It is therefore unsurprising that the National Committee’s interpretation of ‘for cause’ was situationally driven.

It is important to emphasize that the ‘for cause’ issue that was placed before the Libertarian National Committee, and the issues then being litigated in Arizona, are entirely separate. The Arizona State Courts eventually resolved the questions at hand on the basis of the State Party By-Laws and Roberts’ Rules of Order. The National Committee did not hear or review these arguments. To say ‘the National Party did not obey its own by-laws in the decision its made’ does not speak to the question of which group was the legitimate state party in Arizona.

A variety of other reasons for disaffiliating the Phoenix group have been suggested:

There is significant circumstantial evidence that some factions within the Libertarian National Committee were pursuing disaffiliation in order to secure a friendlier state party delegation at the next National Convention. In 1996, the Arizona Party delegation had been filled with supporters of Rick Tompkins, who was supported by the Phoenix group. There were sound reasons to believe that a delegation to the 2000 Convention from the Tucson group would be more supportive of the Browne faction, while a delegation from the Phoenix group would be more sympathetic to any of Browne’s opponents.

By changing its affiliate, the National Committee derived a direct financial benefit. The Phoenix group wanted to keep state and national party memberships separate. The Tucson group joined the Unified Membership Plan. Under the Unified Membership Plan, the National Party collected all membership dues for state and national groups. What did the LNC do with the money it raised? Under UMP state membership dues are doled out to the state party at the rate of one dollar per month. If you joined your state party in January, part of your state membership dues would not reach your state party until the following New Year. For current members, this delay was cancelled by startup payments, but if party membership grew new member dues reached the state organization well after members actually joined.  In Summer 1999, the LNC planned that through Project Archimedes it would experience enormous membership growth.

The National Party also used the membership renewal letters to ask for additional contributions. State Parties received a very modest part of those contributions, as an increase in the $1 per month they were paid for each member, namely

Members or contributors who have contributed $100 or more to the national party in the last 12 months, $2/month; $250 or more, $3/month; $500 or more, $4/month; $1000 or more, $5/month.

Many members make their one extra donation for the year at the same time that they renew their memberships. Under UMP, state contribution fundraising at the time of membership renewals was transferred en bloc to the National Party. Under UMP, the National Party kept all but a pittance of those extra contributions. Thus, by joining UMP a state was likely to transfer its donors in large part to the National Party.

Finally, the National Party received a financial benefit because it did not maintain an escrow account for state dues owed under the UMP program. Dues were instead spent more or less when received by the National Party. For new members, UMP states were effectively giving the National Party an interest-free loan averaging half of the year’s state dues. The National Party piously hoped that future income would permit it to make UMP payments to state parties in a timely way, much the way the Federal government piously hopes that future Social Security taxes will allow the Federal government to pay Social Security benefits in a timely way when their recipients expect them. In late 2001, the pious hope came extremely close to expiring. The National Office made an emergency electronic appeal for donations to allow it to cover UMP payments, and then claimed that the appeal permitted the payments to be made. It now appears that the National Office’s initial representation of its financial situation had been disingenuous, and that it would in any event have been able to cover its obligations to the states. The piety of the hope had still been exposed to the membership.

The Phoenix group did not avail itself of its opportunity under the By-Laws to appeal the disaffiliation decision to the Party Judicial Committee, so after the statutory 30 days the disaffiliation became final. It appears that the bulk of the National Committee misunderstood the implications of these events. The National Committee appears to have believed that the Phoenix group had accepted the validity of the disaffiliation decision and had therefore agreed that the Tucson group was now the state party that the Phoenix group should support. The Phoenix group had in fact concluded that Libertarian National Committee, Inc., had the privilege of choosing its own affiliates, had willingly and voluntarily chosen the Tucson group as its affiliate, and that the Phoenix group was no longer responsible for the actions of LNC, Inc. or the Tucson group. In particular, Libertarian National Committee, Inc. and its chosen affiliate now had the privilege of getting their Presidential candidate on the Arizona ballot.

The National Committee also appears to have assumed that the State Party was legally required to run the Presidential candidate chosen at the National Committee’s national convention. Apparently a telephone call was made to an official in the Arizona State government, asking whether such an obligation existed. The answer was in the affirmative. It was clearly not recognized that this is a highly esoteric legal question, referring to an issue that may well not have arisen before in the history of Arizona, and that a credible answer required a written inquiry and extensive research by the Arizona state government. The minor detail that, while the Tucson group was willing to put Browne on the ballot, it did not have ballot access, was ignored. Also, once the Phoenix Group had been disaffiliated, it is not clear why it was being assumed by the National Committee that the Phoenix group would honor the nominating convention of the Libertarian Party of the United States and not, say, the Revolutionary Socialist Party, since the Phoenix group, by the choice of the LNC, had no further affiliation with Libertarian National Committee, Inc.

Based on my conversations with its members, the Phoenix group did not view itself as being bound by decisions of political parties with which it was not affiliated, including the Revolutionary Socialists, the Democrats,…or the Libertarian Party of the United States. They emphasized to me that the LNC disaffiliated them, not the other way around, so National Party members had no legitimate complaint when the Phoenix Group accepted the validity of the National Committee’s action. The National Committee had the idea that it could simply send the Phoenix group on its way, and had done so. Seemingly, the National Committee had assumed that without National Party affiliation the Phoenix group would roll over and die. This assumption proved to be invalid.

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

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

  1. Nice, slanted article. I expect better from LFV than to re-post these screeds.

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