Thursday, April 19, 2012

Are Rich Neocons Buying the Libertarian Party?

One of the Libertarian Party's many factional splits is that between its Povertarians (libertarians with little money) and wealthier members. Exacerbating matters is that these two groups tend to have different political priorities.

Povertarians are more likely to be Radicals, emphasizing peace and civil liberties. Rich Libs are more likely to be Reform types: pro-war, pro-Root, and more interested in economics. Thus, they are more likely to find common ground with Republicans, conservatives, and even Neocons.

I'm sure there are rich Radicals and poor Reformers. Ron Paul is no Povertarian, yet many (most?) Radicals love Paul.

But as a general rule, wealthier libertarians are less Radical. As radical activist Carol Moore once told me in an email, it does seem the pro-war libs have all the money.

For better or worse, money does help one excert influence beyond one's numbers in the LP.

Now, if you're crying "class warfare" or "Communist!", kindly stuff it. I know about true Communism firsthand. Trying to level the playing field, so that all libertarians have an equal voice in the LP irrespective of their wealth is not Communism. If you think it is, go back to searching for Obama under your bed.

How do wealthy libertarians buy excess influence within the LP? Here are some examples:

1. Joining more than one state LP.

Yup, I just learned that it's possible for someone to belong to more than one state LP.

At Independent Political Report, Marc Montoni writes at Comment 139:

"Carling is a member of several state parties, and in every one where he participates, it seems controversy follows.

"Not due to Carling, who showed up at our Virginia convention in 2003, but due to an attempt at sabotaging our presidential ballot-access in 2004 by a disgruntled former member, the Virginia LP eventually adopted a qualification for members that they must both reside in and be domiciled in Virginia. In other words, now, if someone moves out of state, the mere act of moving out of state is an ipso facto resignation of membership. Not being a member disqualifies one from holding LPVA office, also.

"In any case, I would advise all state LP’s to adopt requirements for members to be resident and domiciled; and probably registered to vote as well.

"Pick a state, and stay there!"

Montoni is referring to M Carling, an LP stalwart with many state and national titles under his belt, and (I believe) a Root supporter.

At the 2008 California LP convention, Wayne Allyn Root flew his entire family in from Nevada to get them credentialed as California LP delegates, including his then under-age daughter.

I second Montoni's suggestion and agree with the Virginia LP. You should be domiciled in the state whose party you wish to be a member of, and should only be a member of that state's party.

2. Expensive convention locals.

Perhaps the most infamous example of this is 2006's controversial California cruise convention.

Another example is the aborted 2010 Hawaii convention. Aaron Starr approvingly posted that his significant other was so thrilled that she did "cart wheels" upon learning the 2010 LP convention might be held in Hawaii. (Honolulu ranks as one of America's most expensive cities on many lists, and that's not including travel expenses to get there.)

Fortunately, more sober heads prevailed and the 2010 convention was held in St. Louis.

Then there's the 2012 Las Vegas convention, with is actually in a hotel outside of Vegas. Radicals have complained that cheaper cities, and even hotels within Vegas, were available, if one had tried to find them.

Instead, the LNC not only chose a venue that was more expensive than need be, but one that was most convenient for Root's supporters (Las Vegans who might drop into the convention and fill up empty delegate slots).

Expensive convention locales are a great way to price out Povertarians, who are more likely to be anti-Root Radicals.

3. Convention floor fees.

Some Povertarians say that it should be free for delegates to attend a convention. Delegates are already paying for their travel expenses and hotel room, and should not have to pay extra to do party business in the convention hall.

Others say that "There's not such thing as a free lunch." It's unlibertarian for wealthy libs to subsidize Povertarians' use of the convention hall.

That makes sense on the surface, but as one person (I think it was George Phillies) observed, the LNC's only task within the Bylaws is to run the national conventions. LNC membership fees should fund the convention. Only if there's any money left, should the LNC fund other stuff. Delegates are already "paying" by attending, and should not have to pay double for a convention hall that their LNC fees should already have covered.

Someone else (I think it was Thomas Knapp) wrote that by holding conventions at expensive venues, it's really the Povertarians who are forced to subsidize the hotel expenses of delegates who wish to vacation at pricey venues. (Because hotels offer discounts if you hold a convention there.)

Floor fees, like expensive convention venues, are another way to price out Povertarians. Some will come and subsidize the vacationers, but others can't afford it, and thus can't participate as equals in running the LP.

4. Bribery

I'm not talking about anything illegal or against the rules here. But sometimes, a wealthier lib will offer a large donation to the LP, provided that delegates vote his way. Aaron Starr did it at the 2007 California LP convention and 2010 national convention. I'm sure others have done likewise.

Povertarians, naturally, can't buy votes with cash. They can only hope to persuade with principles.

Perhaps some libertarians will see this post as class warfare or Communism. And I suppose that an argument can be made that "the market" should decide whether party rules that allow for the above behaviors should be permitted.

Fair enough. And to the LP's credit, Starr's offers were rebuffed.

But my commentary is part of the "marketplace of ideas." And I think the LP has a moral obligation to keep its expenses down, and its rules written, so that people of every economic background can equally participate in the LP.

Isn't that the best way to "grow the party" -- which most Reformers claim they want to do?

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