When I moved my family from Michigan to Nashville three years ago one of the decisions we had to make was where we were going to live. We could have chosen to live in the heart of the action and moved to a loft in down town Nashville. We chose to spend half as much and move to a neighborhood. Sure, when we go to see a ball game or attend a play we have to fight traffic and drive downtown. In the long run, by living away from downtown we free up thousands of dollars a year to spend on other things.
If you run a business or run a household you know that we make economic decisions daily. Often the issue is not how much you spend; it is how you are spending it. By spending money on one thing you now have less to spend on other things. This is a lesson Libertarians have been trying to teach government for years.
In order for the Libertarian Party to have moral authority to teach this lesson it is imperative that we make sure as a party we are wisely spending our own money. Federal Election Commission December report shows the LNC pay’s $10,928.89 a month for office space. To put this into some perspective, a sustaining member pays $25.00 annually for their membership; it takes over 437 sustaining members a month to pay the rent on our Washington, D.C office. If you are a sustaining member, it took you and 5,245 others to pay the rent on our national office in 2009.
Just like that loft in Nashville, the Watergate office puts us right in the heart of the action. But, could this money have been spent more wisely? If the Ron Paul campaign taught us anything, it has taught us that donors care more about your web address then they do your office address. The Milken Institute publishes a “cost of doing business” index every year. Recent findings by the institute showed the average cost of office rentals in all fifty states and ranked the state of Virginia in the exact middle. The average monthly office rent in the State of Virginia is $1.72 a square foot. The monthly cost of our Washington, D.C. office is $4.00 per square foot. If you were to move the D.C. office into Virginia (which is within driving distance to Washington D.C.) the party could conceivable free up close to $80,000 annually to spend on other things.
The FEC December report also shows the LNC spent a total of $0 on candidates in 2009. Several states grant automatic ballot access for the party if a candidate for a state wide office obtains a certain percentage of the vote. We can lose an election and win a campaign. When our state candidates gain a certain percentage, the national party is often rewarded with ballot access for our presidential candidate. What if the party spends less on an office and more on our candidates, on ballot access and outreach? It is within the realm of believability that by financially supporting state wide candidates we could end up spending less on ballot access in some states. By having to spending less on ballot access in some states we could spend more on candidate’s campaigns and ballot access in other states. You can imagine how this ripple effect could turn out.
I am not advocating moving the national office into Virginia. In the electronic age we live in, the national office could conceivable be located anywhere. South Dakota ranked the cheapest place to have an office at a monthly rate of $1.15 a square foot. I am advocating a serious look into the expensive cost of running an office out of Washington, D.C. I am advocating that we as a party look at how we spend our money. Most importantly I am advocating we spend more on the real work of a political party, outreach and campaigns, and less on having an office in Washington D.C.
Scott Williamson is currently the S.T.A.R Representative of Outright Libertarians USA, Chair of Outright Libertarians Nashville and the Secretary for the Libertarian Party of Nashville and Davidson County. He is often a guest on Queer Talk Radio and Out and About TV political round table where he promotes the libertarian philosophy to the GLBT community. Scoot is currently considering running for LNC Regional Representative. Scott holds a degree in Political Science and resides in Nashville, TN with his partner Brian Rhinehart. You can read more by Mr. Williamson at www.outrightnashville.com; and, you can contact Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org.