Steve G.

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

In Libertarian on June 4, 2008 at 1:00 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 five.  Part one is here. Part two is here.  Part three is here.  Part four 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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Listening to Arizona

I called people in the Phoenix group. They’re the ones with ballot access. I am reporting what is perceived and stated, as I understood it from members of the Phoenix group. Remember “X is not true” is independent of “group A believes that X is not true”.

1) Does the ALP want its affiliation back? So far as I can tell, many of them aren’t very interested. They are planning on recruiting, running candidates, supporting or opposing referenda,…not on arguing with LNC. Their position, so far as I can tell, is ‘the LNC chose its affiliate. The LNC gets to live with its decision.’

2) Did the ALP ask the LNC to decide which group was the real Libertarian party in Arizona? The position I was given was that ALP members urged the LNC to make no decision until the judge made his decision. The LNC, says the ALP, didn’t wait. LPUS affiliated one group; the judge gave state recognition to the other group.

3) What about the disaffiliation process? ALP members note that the LPUS Bylaws provide that affiliation can only be removed “for cause”. “for cause” is not an idle phrase; it means that the group being disaffiliated must have done something wrong, and must be given reasonable due process to defend themselves against accusations. The ALP group denies that a “cause” was ever specified to them. They were therefore unable to defend themselves against implicit accusations that they had created a cause.

4) Why was there a Casa Grande mediation? [This was representatives of the two groups meeting with an LNC representative, at a point midway between Phoenix and Tucson.] The position I am given from the ALP side is that the ALP was asked to indicate people who would be unacceptable as mediators, and was then informed that mediation was occurring. The ALP—say most ALP activists—did not ask the LNC for mediation. They were, however, prepared to be civil to people visiting the state. So far as I can determine, there is a substantial ALP group saying that it should not pursue affiliation ever again, and another group willing to try to repair relations between the ALP and the LNC.

5) What happened at Casa Grande? While some ALP members say they were sworn to secrecy, others say that the mediator—our National Chair—only wanted to discuss ballot access for the Presidential candidate, and did not appear to be interested in the other issues separating the two groups. I am repeatedly told that at this meeting both sides repeated their public positions without significant variation. So far as I can determine, the perception from the meeting is that each group wanted the other to dissolve and assume a completely subservient position in the other.

6) What are the underlying fundamental issues? To my ear, the disagreements I heard from the Arizona people go back to our Party Platform. To what extent can a State regulate the structure of a political party? To what extent should Libertarian candidates for office accept matching funds or other taxpayer subsidies of their campaigns? These are substantial issues. The ALP maintains that political parties are basically private groups, and condemns accepting money from the government for political purposes.

7) What is the contest about? Could the two groups live and let live? There are issues that are difficult, and issues that are impossible. Impossible to compromise: Only one group can control appointment of Presidential electors and the name on the ballot. Only one group can receive the lists of registered voters from the state.

Below the Presidential level, candidates are determined by primary, based on petitioning for ballot access. Thus, both groups could run candidates in the Libertarian primary by petitioning. They did it in 1998. Candidates either do or do not take matching funds. That’s an individual decision, candidate by candidate, not a Party decision. So far as I can determine, nothing in State Law precludes a situation in which some candidates accept matching funds, while other candidates reject them. Some people in Arizona will not like this situation, and will not endorse candidates if they take matching funds, but non-endorsement is not an insuperable obstacle. On the other hand, Arizona has an active referendum system. The groups differ on several issues, so if both groups were active the party would not speak with one voice.

8) Is there energy wasted in lawsuits? The ALP members flatly maintain they have never sued the ALPI. They claim that they have been sued by the ALPI, and have always won. The ALP or its members have, however, sued the state of Arizona with some frequency about state ballot laws.

Having said this, various ALP members noted two complications that might lead people to think they had sued the other group: [If you don’t like legal fine print, skip ahead]

(a) A suit against the state by the ALP had a significant effect on the other group and one of our Presidential candidates. An Arizona legal process then gave the other group and the candidate entrance into the suit, because the topics being adjudicated could affect the other group and the candidate substantially.

(b) A county official, to perform her legal duties, needed a legal ruling as to which group was the Libertarian Party recognized by Arizona. The official sued, so the courts would tell her what to do. Meanwhile, the ALP with the support of the Democratic and Republican parties was suing the state, over issues that affected every political party in the state. The judicial system merged the two cases, leaving opponents of the law on one side, and supporters on the other. The two Arizona groups were now in the same suit on opposite sides, but that was the judge carrying out Arizona legal procedure. The contest was over the constitutionality of a state law; the two groups were not suing each other. The two state government groups involved then bowed out, leaving our two Arizona groups as active litigators. By standard legal policy, the side opposing the law was termed the “plaintiff”, that being the ALP, the other side being the “defendant”, that being the Tucson group, but the suit was over the law not against the other side.

9) What does the ALP want at this point? The message I think they heard is that they want to be left alone to do activism. They view their methods as being more guerrilla or theatrical than the methods used by other parties. For example, on one occasion they raffled off an AK47 as the fundraiser. However, the ALP has accepted the LNC’s decision that they are cast out from the Libertarian Party. They will therefore run the Presidential candidate that they like and can support, and expect our affiliate to do the same.

From the people I have listened to, accusations against the ALP of vindictiveness or spite do not sound to be generally correct. The ALP people view ‘You get to live with your decisions’ as being fundamental to a working Libertarian society. People who complain about the consequence of their decision, namely that it is somehow the fault of the Phoenix group that the LNC has the wrong affiliate, after they urged the LNC not to strip their ballot status, are viewed as showing their lack of belief in Libertarian Principles. The ALP is very strong on our being the Party of Principle.”

That’s what I learned at the time, in Summer 2000.

In 2000, the Phoenix group did vote that if the LNC restored its affiliation that their governing body was required to put the National Party’s Presidential candidate on the Arizona ballot. At the 2000 National Convention, the National Committee proposed an agreement between the two Arizona groups and National. The Phoenix group asked for an explanation of certain language, or so I was told, and then signed the original form of the document. The Tucson group declined to sign the unamended document, and instead signed a document that they had amended.

The Phoenix group then invited Harry Browne to come to Arizona and explain why he should be the Arizona LP’s candidate, even though the Phoenix group was no longer part of the Party that had nominated Browne. Browne did not accept the invitation. With Browne absent, the Phoenix group as the legally- recognized Arizona Libertarian Party would put the best available Libertarian candidate on the ballot. In the end, the Arizona State Party chose to run L. Neil Smith as their 2000 candidate for President.

The National Party petitioned to put Harry Browne on the state ballot as an independent. The 2000 report of the LPUS Political Director describes these efforts to petition for Harry Browne in Arizona after the National Convention. The National Party eventually spent more than $63,000 on petitioning and legal efforts. The petitioning, done after the legal deadline, collected enough signatures and led to a lawsuit which at latest report is still being litigated.

Writing of support from the Tucson group, the LPUS Political Director said in his annual report “The onsite management from Peter Schmerl and Alexis Thompson did not materialize. Schmerl took almost two weeks to come up with the slate of independent electors and to draft the petition….When I arrived we had less than 3,000 signatures…I managed to organize the collection of some 19,000 signatures in 8 days.”

At the time of this writing, in late 2001, the Tucson group is running a State Party, and the Phoenix group is working on alternatives, notably local elections and guerrilla theater leafletting attacking the Homeland Security Office, with leaflets being distributed in airports.

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