The LPF Is In Desperate Need of Reform

(originally sent to all Libertarian County Chairs with email addresses 30 Jan 2011)

Dear Fellow Libertarian County Chair,

My name is Pete Blome, and I Chair the Libertarian Party of Okaloosa County. I became a County Chair because I believe in Libertarian principles, and I think if more of our leaders applied them that our lives would be better and the troubles of our nation fewer.

We libertarians are part of the political process in America. We are trying to use our leadership and our vision to elect libertarian representatives to government. We are trying to put people and money together to gain libertarian influence in our communities.

I would like to ask you to join in the task of reforming the Libertarian Party in our state.

There are many factors that go into a political movement, and among them are personal leadership, effective administration, a professional and serious approach to duties, the ability to address relevant issues, make political alliances with sympathetic groups, gain influence outside the governmental structure, raise funding, and attract new members. All of these matters are issues of concern with the current LPF.

On the 27th of January of this year, Vicki Kirkland and Char-Lez Braden honored us by making the long and tiring drive from Orlando to Okaloosa County. They spoke to a gathering of Libertarians from the Panhandle (Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton and Escambia Counties). Their intent was to make the case for their reelection at the Palm Beach Convention to happen in late April. But after answering questions from the audience, they left the people in the room uniformly questioning their ability to take on the tasks that any state party must accomplish.

They are the leaders of our party, but…

– they made no opening statements nor presented any issues, principles, or strategies that they want to use to gather public support.

– they admitted they do not have an active fundraising program, but routinely lamented the limitations they have due to a lack of funding.

– they admitted that they do not have any significant media contacts (network news, major newspapers), nor have been pursuing them, thus limiting the ability to get the libertarian message out to the public.

– they admitted that they have not published any articles in support of the libertarian cause in outside media, nor made any other public appearances to do so.

– they were notified by me in advance that a newspaper representative of Freedom Newspapers (Northwest Florida Daily News, Crestview Bulletin, Destin Log, and Walton Sun) would be in attendance at the meeting and that they should have a prepared statement, but they never produced one. This newspaper rep left the meeting without an LPF message, other than what he saw in the meeting.

– they admitted communication with the affiliates has been poor and that it will be corrected, but this is an old story that has gone on for at least two years. I personally asked, again well in advance, that this 27 Jan meeting to be advertised on the Florida LP website, but Char-Lez admitted he forgot to do it..

– they admitted they had no contacts for potential state level candidates, nor had any ideas on how to attract them

– they said they were advocates of the “full slate” approach to the 2012 elections, but had not done any groundwork to get this accomplished.

– they admitted to suppressing dissenting views by such people as Tom Rhodes by preventing his access to the state website. I personally found this troubling because, in my opinion, it is better to error on the side of too much talk than too little. I also did not like the fact libertarians hear nothing from the LPF in terms of constructive debate about our problems, and yet a county vice chair’s words, no matter how brusque they may have been, were supressed.

– and lastly, they said it is up to candidates to present solutions to the many problems that face us in Florida. This is undoubtably something candidates must do, but it is also a major function of party leadership. You cannot lead unless you have someplace to go.

One of the people in the audience was Karl Denninger, and he wrote the following on his website about the meeting: (seen by up to 300,000 people daily, and he is a repeated guest on major media). It is well worth reading by libertarians, including the comments.

This review is harsh, but it is telling it like it is. For all our sake, the Libertarian Party of Florida leadership must have the character to not take such criticism personally, and then fix the valid problems that were spelled out.

There are many dedicated libertarians who think these problems are impossible to fix, but that is not so. Some also think that what happens at the state level is of no matter, but no county can grow to its full potential if the state party is weak.

A few changes rigorously applied can bring a world of difference, even as soon as the convention. Spread this message. Send messages to Vicki, Char-Lez and the EC that they should:

– Start a fundraising campaign. Ask for as little as a dollar a month, or even per year, from members. If there are 19,000 libertarians in the state such a simple request could net a significant amount of money that just is not coming in right now…

– Compile an email mass mailing list of libertarians and regularly tell us what is going in the LPF. I read, see, and hear extremely little news from the LPF. The EC meetings appear to have no published minutes. The average Floridian hears nothing from the LPF. This is suicide for a political party.

– Publish the constitution, bylaws and standing rules of the LPF on the website so everyone can be informed of the rules and process of the party. As it is now, this information is the province of a few high party officials at the exclusion of all others. It is impossible to be an equal participant in the state party when this information is not available.

– Every action by the LPF and the members of the Executive committee, should be advertised. All public appearances by party leadership should be on the party website. The items they write about should be published. Interviews with news services should be on the web.

– Professionalize the party administrative functions and the website. Send notice of required paperwork to affiliates in a timely fashion. Have a means to quickly access people and information. Provide better photographs of the Executive Committee and publish biographies of the members.

– Put in the time and effort to pursue support from libertarian business persons, celebrities, and organizations from across the state. Do it in person and persistently. Do this with an eye towards a lasting relationship (20 years plus). Tell people the truth about what you are about, and they will follow.

– Defend the party. Char-Lez and Vicki said the campaign of JW Smith was kept off the ballot by official Dem Rep trickery, but could not explain how. If this is so, it is the duty of the state party to fight it like hell. If it isn’t so, tell us the facts.

– Pick a few (perhaps 6) state wide issues that have libertarian support, and then actively write about them, appear before the news about them, and speak at meetings about them. The paper attached above, which outlines suggestions for a statewide economic policy (which I think should be a first priority), was given to Vicki and Char-Lez before they arrived in Okaloosa, and attempts to do this this very thing. The FLP must be continuously in the public eye. If the current leadership cannot bring themselves to do this, they need to find a spokesperson who can.

– Invite, inform and involve the mass of libertarians out there who are tired of a reclusive, ineffective and largely silent Libertarian Party of Florida. These people are our future.

– And lastly, as a county chair, I ask you to attend the convention with as many delegates as you can, but do not vote for or support a candidate for state chair until these issues are addressed, and adressed with a concrete plan, not with mere aspirations.

I spoke with Vicki and Char-Lez about these matters in person and by email, so none of what I am saying should come as a surprise. In an email message I wrote to them .. “You, as the Party leadership, and nobody else, have to take our Party to the next level. It may be a bitter pill, but the general impression of your visit left us uncertain whether you appreciate what is at stake. You are not doing what is necessary for a state level party to be successful, and that must be turned around. We really wish you the best of luck. You have taken on a big task, which means tens of thousands of people depend upon your judgement and actions, making the cost of failure that much more dear. You can be sure Okaloosa will be doing its best to make a strong FLP and LPOC. I sincerely offer my personal assistance on any FLP matter in the panhandle.”

I stand by that. I hope you stand with the ideas presented here.

The Libertarian Party should truly be a “Big tent Party” where open discussion of ideas is welcome. If you have a stronger plan to present to the LPF, let’s have a productive discussion and settle on a course of action by the end of February. If you can support the ideas above, let the libertarians in your county know, and any county chairs not accessible by email. Vicki and Char-Lez need to know what we will support.

Libertarians state wide deserve a professionally run, basically capable state party.

And there is not that much time before the April convention.

Pete Blome
Chair, LPOC