Thursday, April 30, 2009

Anatomy of a Coup

Most Libertarians who follow or take an interest in the goings on in the LP are aware of the current Lee Wrights situation. To summarize, Lee is on the LNC, and his dues lapsed, and rather than properly notify Lee of the problem, the Secretary decided to act unilaterally (and in violation of the Bylaws) and inform Lee that because his dues lapsed, he was removed from the LNC—never mind that such a decision mid-term lies with the LNC by voting him off, or with Lee himself, and neither occurred.

But I have news for you—Lee just happens to be a convenient pawn in a much larger game, and Lee’s outspokenness has been a thorn in the side of certain persons on the LNC who seem to be obsessed not with being the biggest fish in the LP pond, but with being the only fish.

Well, the picture has become much clearer now, and the attempts to accomplish that objective have been exposed, piece by piece, over the last couple of years. Here I detail what that plan is, and how it has been set about.

In simple terms, the plan has had several parts:
  1. Limit national membership to pay-to-play.
  2. Bamboozle, confuse, and confound the remaining members.
  3. Purge the dissenters by any loophole or means possible, valid or not, ethical or not.
  4. Stretch out the process so that members forget what happened.
Karl Rove would be impressed.

Let’s break this down.

1. Limit national membership to pay-to-play. It’s no secret that the national LP is losing money, and the Barr fiasco only seemed to amplify the problem. Almost half of the membership was completely alienated by that nomination in Denver, and that half were not only right to be upset, but they voted with their feet and wallets. Even Barr’s own running mate, Wayne Allen Root, threw Barr under the bus after the election. Root aside, the effect of the Barr nomination not only led to the eventual exodus of the LNC’s best fundraiser in Angela Keaton (the same weekend that Root threw Barr under the bus, BTW), but led to a slump in donations to the national LP that is still happening. The result is a staff lacking a competent Executive Director and doing the beck and call of the people running this plan.

Their answer has been to have the current LP Political Director put out grade-school-level fundraising pleas on the LP blog instead of doing it right by admitting that they screwed up and apologizing, and simply saying, “We’re asking for donations to be earmarked to do task X.”

Then there’s the California situation. This past weekend in Visalia (April 24-26) was the California state convention. On Friday (April 24) the Bylaws Committee had their annual meeting to complete any last-minute tweaks to the Bylaws Report, which was heard by the delegates the next day. I was there, and a proposal was dropped from the Report, submitted by the LP parliamentarian, and a former California Bylaws Committee member (when I was Chair of the committee) and Chair and national Bylaws Committee regular—a person who should know better. The short form is that the proposal would have added language to the California Bylaws that would have required California’s delegates to the national convention by both national sustaining members and state central committee members. The only problem is that such a “both” requirement comes into direct conflict with the “either-or” requirement of the national Bylaws on the same subject. The only reason that makes any sense is to limit California’s representation at the national convention, with the alternative being that the national party would milk an extra $25 per delegate out of the membership of the largest state affiliate—pay-to-play. (You can read the proposal here, page 3)

Fortunately, the proposal was unanimously dropped when the committee dropped its support and I pointed out the Bylaws violation. More on this later.

That’s good because there is a proposal in the national Bylaws report to readjust the delegate totals downward, under the guise of cutting convention room costs, which is just hogwash. Any good caterer knows they will take the expected turnout for an event and add 20% and they’ll usually get it right. If the convention is planned incorrectly—which can happen unless BetteRose Ryan is running it brilliantly as she always does—then the room is too large, but a planning error like that does not justify reducing delegate counts. Cutting down the votes to the selected few, OTOH, does fit this plan. Drop the number of delegates, make them sustaining national members only, all through Bylaws changes…and you’re on your way to elitism and Party destruction.

The Bylaws are the keys to the kingdom in the LP, folks. I cannot emphasize that enough! If one can control the Bylaws and engineer changes to suit their own agenda, they can take over the Party. The superficial justifications to members that don’t follow the situation closely are a mere tool to bamboozle the members and hide the real agenda.

Just take a second look at the current national Bylaws report. You’ll see a proposal to limit Bylaws votes and Presidential and Vice-Presidential votes to certain delegates (but not Platform, Officer elections, or resolutions?) under the excuse of a potential outside takeover based on a 5% vote that just is not on the radar screen. The takeover is internal, no 5% needed, and the ones doing the caterwauling about an external takeover are the ones doing the internal takeover under its cover! What this really does is create one set of delegates for Bylaws and national office nominations, and another for the perpetual Platform bickering and the national officer elections. Why? Because the LNC selects all of the Bylaws Committee, and only part of the Platform committee. The membership selects the rest of the Platform Committee as we all know, plus the LNC members and officers. One would think that would be enough of a check to stop this lunacy, right? Think again! The way around that one is a coordinated effort to…

2. Bamboozle, confuse, and confound the remaining members. The fastest way to do that is to take simple things and make them complicated. Here again, we see the national Bylaws Report come into play, in this case multiple times:
  1. A proposal to change the Party officer elections from the current round-elimination system to an inverse IRV system, which most Party members just don’t understand. The current system is easily understood: for a round of voting, if a candidate gets 50% +1 votes, they win, and a vote producing no majority eliminates the lowest non-NOTA vote-getter, then lather, rinse, and repeat. It isn’t broke, and delegates understand it, so why change it? To confuse the issue to their advantage, of course, and to get their own specific people into these positions (and dictate how meetings and operations are done as well!)
  2. A proposal to change the LNC At-Large elections from the current vote-for-up-to-X candidates to a confusing and needless “single-transferrable voting” process which relies on a mathematical formula that doesn’t even make any sense! What better way to stack the deck than to claim voting “reform” and create a method that the average delegate won’t understand?
  3. A proposal to allow an electronic voting system to replace state-by-state voting tabulations. They claim it’s because of time consumption and prone to error, implicitly calling the larger states incompetent to do their own tabulation. As a witness to California’s tabulation process in Denver, I can emphatically state that such a claim is not only unfounded, but decisively false. As Diebold has shown, electronic tabulation does not produce better results. See also every libertarian’s favorite Stalin quote about who counts the votes. Again, the idea is to confuse the members, and in this case use an electronic means to cover it up.
  4. A proposal to do mail ballots on Bylaws proposals prior to the convention. The excuse is that a lot time is spent by delegates considering Bylaws proposals at the convention and this would speed it up. But hidden in there is a requirement that the only eligible mail voters are national sustaining members. Remember pay-to-play? Here it is again. Proposals can be submitted to national sustaining members by mail or to regular delegates at the convention, but not both. They get their own pay-to-players in place, and guess where the proposals are going? Go directly to mail, do not pass the convention floor, do not collect proper votes. This is also where the failure of the California proposal above comes into play—if this idea passes, Bylaws changes bypasses the largest voting bloc in favor of their own people. (It would be ludicrously egotistical of me to claim that this proposal was made to short-circuit my own influence on Bylaws within the California LP, and while I understand them better than most, and I am most definitely a thorn in the side of the conspirators, this would be a piss-poor means to do that, so I tend to discount the idea on it surface.) Plus there is always the “lost in the mail” factor. Lee Wrights’ dues renewal notices got lost in the mail, too, (assuming they were ever sent, but his ex-wife says they weren’t in his mail) and they used that to claim he was no longer a member. There is no reason that mail ballots to undesirable national sustaining members could get lost in a similar fashion—or claimed they were sent when they really weren’t. Instead of the Bylaws being put out for full delegate consumption as they are now, they become limited to a select group, with that group conveniently being their own pay-to-play crowd.
  5. A proposal to strike the Credentials Reporting Requirement and the clear language of each delegate being eligible to vote, in favor of relying on Robert’s Rules. There is no faster way to confuse members than by delving into the arcane, inane, and intricate details of the procedural mess known as Robert’s Rules. Well, guess what, this one would do exactly that, forcing a reliance on the Parliamentarian to decide things for the members instead of the clear language of the Bylaws. With that in mind, the loopholes are opened considerably to not only deny members their votes, but also to purge them and to dictate who can vote and who can’t, to a preordained result.
  6. A proposal to require NOTA to get tokened up (in contrast to toked up, which is a different thing!) like the people candidates, when the convention body already nominates NOTA by default anyway. The net result of this is to draw tokens away from candidates that might be seen as disagreeable, diluting the process. Delegates will be confused that their tokens can go to a non-person automatic candidate instead of a person candidate that needs the tokens to qualify for nomination.
  7. A proposal to require up to 20 secondings of a motion from the floor, which would include seating delegates. A motion could die from a lack of a second when in fact there was one, which further confuses (and eventually alienates) delegates—assuming they can get seated in the first place.
Makes sense, doesn’t it? Confuse the heck out of the delegates so they have no idea what or who they are voting on or have voted on, while stacking the deck against the membership. And those like me that expose the situation get subjected to the purge.

3. Purge the dissenters by any means possible. You’ve seen one method, which is to confuse and frustrate them so they leave. You’ve seen some attempts to winnow down who has a say in national Party affairs to a select few.

But wait, there’s more!

They want to have delegates give them direct power to disaffiliate states and expel members:
  1. A proposal to disaffiliate states who nominate Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates other than the convention nominees (the “Phillies Rule One”). This was brought about because New Hampshire nominated George Phillies in advance of the 20098 national convention to satisfy ballot requirements, and then could not replace him with Barr per state law, which resulted in the ongoing lawsuit that LPNH wanted no part of.
Right now, states can be disaffiliated if they violate the national Bylaws and the LNC votes ¾ to do so. Remember the LP California Bylaws proposal I mentioned above? That would have been a violation, and you can bet a push for disaffiliation would have followed. Had that failed, the delegates would have been limited as explained above. Purging the largest state affiliate from the ranks would have only solidified their power play immensely, especially since there is little love lost between the two.

The table was set for this one in 2008 under the guise of the Bylaws proposal to cover an alleged loophole in licensing state affiliates. At that time they made a planned mistake to ask for the moon in wanting control over local affiliates (below state level), as a calculated move to get what they really wanted, which was the language change for state affiliates. Had they gotten both, it would have been mere gravy. Delegates then didn’t see the real story for the cover story, including me, and it was passed after the language referring to local affiliates was stricken, as planned.
  1. A proposal to expel members that circulate ballot petitions for Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates other than the convention nominees (the “Phillies Rule Two”). They don’t want members putting anyone on the ballot other than their people. Never mind the obvious workaround that non-member petition circulators are not covered.
  2. A proposal to expel Party officers or state party officers who sign any papers supporting Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates other than the convention nominees (the “Phillies Rule Three”). Ironically enough, this rule would have caused the LNC to be expelled over offering Dr. Paul the LP nomination had it been in effect when that happened.
  3. A proposal to block out members of or people who support other parties (the “Barr/Keaton Rule”, named because Barr gave money to GOP candidates running against LP candidates while in the LP, and because Keaton was photographed modeling a Boston Tea Party tank top, even though she’s not in the BTP as of this writing). The proposal is written so that such a person may not be a “committee member” in a broad sense. That can easily be interpreted as including a state central committee member of ANY state. Purge of the Ron Paul R3VOLution, anyone?
The moment they try to interfere directly in the affairs of the state Parties by dictating to them on membership is the moment they have shown their hand and are royally screwed, because the states won’t stand for it.

But that’s not enough either. They also want to…

5. Stretch out the process so that members forget what happened. They’re relying on the idea that in today’s Short Attention Span Theater, people easily forget what happened in the past. Unfortunately, that’s a generally true observation. But they seek to foster that to their advantage by a Bylaws proposal to stretch out the time between conventions from every two years to every four years, allegedly to save on costs, but really to create more time to enact their plans and get members to forget about it and keeping them in power.

That’s their plan: limit, confuse, purge, and forget.

So what can be done about it?

There are three things to do:
  1. Throw the bums out! By that I mean Redpath, Starr, Sullentrup, Karlan, Flood, and Mattson. Replace them with better leadership that is more concerned with Party growth and not concerned with internal power plays and attempts to establish fiefdoms. That also means firing M Carling, and Robert Kraus.
  2. Get involved. The world truly is run by those that show up. The opponents of the LP are well-organized and have a plan, even if their execution is clumsy. But even clumsy, they’ll get away with it if they are allowed to. There’s plenty of talent and people but not the involvement, and that involvement is what is needed.
  3. Call them out on their shenanigans! The Lee Wrights affair is unraveling on them as this is written, thanks to the activity of dedicated and PISSED-OFF members who have stepped up for our friend and representative. But that will not stop them from their plans unless we continue to expose them.
So the Coup is planned, and some people will claim this is nothing more than conspiracy theory and connecting disjointed dots. To them I simply ask then, if I’m wrong, and this all a bunch of coincidences, then why do those things exist in the first place?


George Phillies said...

You nailed it squarely, Mike. Well said.

Mary-Anne said...

Excellent analysis. Well said.

I notice that you did not include WAR Root in those you wish to throw out. Was this on purpose?

Now if we could just find some person or persons whose leadership the PISSED-OFF could enthusiastically support.


The Mudslinger said...

I didn't include Root on there because I tend to see him as an over-enthusiastic hyper student who is learning but has a long way to go. I think in this game he is being played like a puppet on a string and he isn't even aware of it. He has said he wants to run for LNC Chair in 2010 but only if Redpath doesn't. I don't think he's ready or experienced enough for the spot.

As for the leadership, some names are being bandied about, but I don't know if those persons want it known yet.