The Libertarian Party of Washington State replaced their entire executive committee at their annual convention on May 31, 2014. The new officers are:
C. Michael Pickens, Chairman
Chris Strong, Vice-Chairman
Sean Treasure, Treasurer
Steven Nielson, Secretary
Michael Pickens wrote the following about the changes to his state:
Dramatic improvements based in organizational structure and leadership recently took place in the Libertarian Party of Washington. With the tremendous chance available for the Libertarian Party of Washington to become a major player in Washington State politics, we are doing much more to capitalize on the opportunity.
At-Large Representation to Regional Representation
The organizational structure was restructured from 5 At-Large Representatives to 7 Regional Representatives, giving Libertarians around the state a bigger voice within the state organization and more equal and fair representation. Each Regional Director is charged with establishing county organizations within their region. This helps to continue decentralizing control within the LPWA.
Two Year Terms to One Year Terms
One year is long enough for leadership to prove their worth. We believe one year terms provide leadership with a sense of urgency to get shit done! This also provides activists and members with a way to vote out ineffective leadership earlier. If an elected leader is not doing their job, they will be voted out. If an elected leader is doing a great job, they will be voted back in.
Fundraising Dollars to be Used on the Local Level
To prevent the State Executive Committee from becoming distracted by disputes about expenditures of fundraising, our funds will be distributed to the local regions so they can be used in the most efficient manner possible. Local activists will be able to test new strategies and innovate with donated funds. SEC meetings will necessarily focus on reports about where money was spent and what resulted.
Picture seven centers of creativity freed from centralized control and so able to test new strategies for growing our movement. Successful strategies can be duplicated in other regions and failed strategies avoided. Our goal is failure! Success only comes by learning what not to do, so let’s make lots of mistakes as fast as possible so we can learn from them and find the winning mix to propel our success.
In Jim Collins book,“From Good to Great” he talks about recruiting the right people to help take an organization to the next level: “Get the right people on the bus, get the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.” This is exactly what we did. We voted out the entire State Executive Committee and replaced them with highly motivated, action-oriented leaders.
Our new leadership can easily articulate the values we all share as Libertarians and are willing to promote and spread them. They understand their new position is not just a fancy title but a responsibility to achieve results and they have deep passion for achieving levels of success like no one has ever seen. Every new State Executive Committee Member elected has experience in the most basic functions of a political party, knocking on doors. We are not afraid of leading from the front, in the trenches, with our campaigns and candidates.
This understanding gives us direct insight and feedback from our campaign on how we can best serve them. It is not our job to tell our activists what to do, it is our job to support our activists and candidates to the best of our ability. We have essentially turned our state party into one big campaign support team. We are determined to elect Libertarians to office and we aren’t afraid of making mistakes.
The new State Executive Committee looks at failure or mistakes as stepping stones to success. Most people believe failure and success are opposites — we understand success is achieved by persevering through failure. Michael Jordan summed it up best when he said: “I have failed over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”
Our “Sentry” Libertarian Leadership Workshop covers the 5 Failure Levels outlined in the book, “Go For No!” The first level in the 5 Failure Levels is, “The Ability to Fail.” 100% of people have the ability to fail. Sadly, the Libertarian Party of Washington has been stuck here for years. Leadership has been too afraid to run candidates; paralyzed by the fear of rejection and the fear of failure. To win elections we must be willing to go out and give it our best shot. Falling short only means we gain experience necessary for future success.
The second level in the 5 Levels of Failure is the willingness to fail. People who develop the willingness to fail come to see failure as a natural byproduct of the process of seeking success. Yet they only tolerate failure enough to get what they think they need in life. No more. The former leadership were just fine with the party “existing” but were not motivated enough to stretch their comfort zones to make sure the party thrived.
The third level in the 5 Levels of Failure is, “The Wantingness to Fail.” Having the wantingness to fail goes beyond the mere tolerance or acceptance of failure as a part of life. Wantingness means developing the desire to fail with the inner faith that personal growth follows — not just tolerating rejection but actually seeking it and enjoying the experience.
The 4th level is called, “Failing Bigger and Failing Faster.” The people who ascend to level four are those who have come to the conclusion that if failing is good, then failing faster is better! Not just failing faster, but increasing our failure rate. Fail pursuing big goals worthy of the effort like running for office, running candidates around the state, and getting as many people on board as possible.
The final level is for people who understand that massive success requires multiplication of effort. Level five people enlist others to fail with them, knowing that if individual failure means individual success, then group failure equals group success! Level 5 is titled, “Failing Exponentially.” This is the premise guiding our actions to create regions, decentralize power, and encourage candidates and activists to get active, to learn new skills, to grow and become experts at running campaigns and recruiting new Libertarians. Remember, every expert was at first an amateur.
We are poised to achieve massive growth for the Libertarian Party of Washington. We have already started to prove it. It 2012 there were about 40 people in attendance at our state party convention, this past convention we had over 200. In 2012 there were no Libertarians on the ballot running for state office, this year we have 12 Libertarians on the ballot who have all committed to running for office a minimum of three times.
However, just because we made these changes to our bylaws and leadership doesn’t automatically mean that we will succeed. We understand this. It will take massive action and we have one year to accomplish as much as we possibly can. Something needs to be done to fix our government.
We’re here because we don’t trust our politicians. We are here because we want our liberties back. We’re going to win this war for our freedoms and we will win it now, but not just by telling everybody what’s wrong with our government, the laws forced upon us, or the regulations that stifle economic growth and human innovation.
We are winning by pointing out the positive alternatives to authoritarianism. By offering solutions to our most pressing issues.
People ask, “why is no one voting in elections anymore?” Well, it’s because millions of people know that it doesn’t make any difference.
When we only have a choice between authoritarian Republican or an authoritarian Democrat, our votes really didn’t matter. This is why it is so important for us as an organization to take elections seriously and to run solid campaigns. The whole point about Libertarians running for office is so that we make voting matter again. It matters who we send to represent us in our government.
The one way we can beat this corrupt political class is to make sure we give the people a choice, in every election, for every elected position, a real choice between tyranny or liberty. Between Authoritarians or Libertarians.
The philosophy of liberty is the most moral and ethical political philosophy in existence. We are on the right side of justice we are on the right side of history. top-down authoritarian control of the actions of peaceful people is the scourge of humanity.
And we will continue to challenge the political class, who thinks the same, who acts the same, who cares nothing for principal, who cares little for liberty, these people are in politics as a professional career. Their goal is self perpetuation it’s about getting reelected, about growing the size and scope of intrusive government control that’s who they are.
As you know it’s not who we are. What motivates us is the belief that we own ourselves. And we understand that liberty breeds prosperity, allows for greater human happiness, and provides a fertile ground for innovation and creativity.
We believe that “we the people” should be the masters of our own destiny. The captains of our own ship. We believe in our own resolve and the integrity of our Libertarian candidates. We believe in our ability to replace corrupt and tyrannical politicians with statesmen who are more concerned with the well being of future generations, not the well being of their future political careers.
Through good times and bad times my determination has never once faltered because I understand that the libertarian party may be the only chance we’ve got to save our liberties and regain ownership over our lives and that is why we must stand together and fight for it.
Please contribute and get active with the “NEW” Libertarian Party of Washington State today to help with our continued growth and advancement! Join us in helping our Libertarian candidates get elected to office. We are winning.
The changes to the State Executive Committee did not happen without some drama. Mr. Pickens was removed from his non-paid position of Executive Director earlier in the month by Larry Nicholas, the state party chairman at that time. When contacted, Mr. Nicholas sent IPR this link as an explanation:
Rating & Review of Executive Director C. Michael Pickens
(January 2013 to May 1, 2014)
NOTE: In the following report, the agreed job description of the Executive Director is presented in normal black type, while the Chairman’s comments are in blue italics and the Chairman’s grade given in red type. Executive Director was an unpaid position and the agreement was that with acceptance of a separate contract with Mr. Pickens Company, Libertarian Leadership Consulting (LLC), he would also act as Executive Director. Generally the agreement with LLC was that half of the donations exceeding the 2012 base year for that month, would go to LLC. Income from convention, special events or the sale of merchandise was not included.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR JOB DESCRIPTION
SCOPE AND RESPONSIBILITIES
The Executive Director, working with the State Chair and party officers, oversees all programmatic and fundraising activities of the state party. The Executive Director is responsible for winning elections for Libertarians in a complex, competitive political environment. He or she must be reliable, honest, loyal and discreet. The Executive Director reports to the State Chair.
Primary responsibilities and duties include, but are not limited to:
• [C-] Directing fundraising efforts, developing a fundraising plan, and working with finance staff and fundraising committee to implement fundraising plan. [No plan ever presented to the SEC, Mr. Pickens would meet with various people/ contacts but we don’t have a list or how he developed it]
• [D-] Working with fundraising consultants and telemarketers to monitor and maximize fundraising efforts. [Started the 1st month with his own telemarketing crew, but never used again for efforts to boost our events or general membership drives etc.]
• [B] Establishing and maintaining relationships with large donors. [He has contacted a number of large donors and obtained various donations, but many seem to have been a one-time donation and didn’t continue or make the promised large contributions. Fundraising this Fiscal year (Aug 1) was only small fraction and I do not believe he earned any money to date on the fundraising contract. With current contributions, I believe we will still be substantially below last year]
Communications & Outreach [D-]
• [F] Working with Communications Director and Chair to issue press releases, speak out on important issues, respond to attacks, and present the Libertarian Party in a positive, professional light. [Early on I worked w/ Alec but that ended and Mr. Pickens did few if any that I recall and none that came from me. Has had public postings, disparaging in crude language, of a sitting Legislator. Posted on the Statechairs list comments disparaging of LNC members and statechairs such that I was required to apologize for him. ]
• [D] Overseeing programs such as voter registration and state and national party membership drives.
o [No voter registration, some state membership drives with limited success and dropped efforts of gaining national members and in fact started to publically try to convince people to not join national or give them any money]
• [D] Overseeing development and production of party-building and message delivery tools, including brochures, newsletters, fax briefings, and Web site.
o [Despite requesting me to change the newsletter editor and promises to work on it, he never followed through and resulted in only creating a rift in the SEC. In February made promises to layout the newsletter and either put it together in Spokane or help the crew to put it together in the Seattle Metro area. Created a Simjim, but only for the potential candidates to hand out. Has changed the website and design a couple times. Now on Nation Builder and initially had a lot of articles up, without sending to chair for prior review. Website seems to be a good quality and will need on-going maintenance of content]
• [F] Working with Political Director to develop and implement campaign plans to win elections at the local, legislative, congressional, and statewide levels. No Political Director, so default is the party chairman. Refused to work with the party chairman, would not listen in creating a strategy or in how candidates might be vetted. Stated reason for not communicating or cooperating with the chair was disagreement in a particular campaign even though the chair made numerous attempts to continue to work together despite our disagreements.
• [A] Overseeing the coordinated campaign efforts across the state. Did an excellent job of lining up candidates around the state. Exceeded authority in that he set up websites & email addresses connected to the party before they have been endorsed. Designed literature/ websites/ on-line layouts with official party logos before candidates were endorsed. There was no formal policy in place but the default position should have been to not allow such use of party resources without permission instead of allowing it.
• [A] Understanding grassroots organization. Very good at initial organization, but poor record (at this time) in continuing such organizations.
• [N/A] Demonstrate an understanding of the use of technology on winning elections. No rating at this time, no elections won at this time.
• [N/A] Demonstrating an understanding of all aspects of elections including state of the art campaign techniques, campaign planning, targeting, polling, election law, and get-out-the-vote programs. This is out of scope as the party does not actually run the candidates elections. No rating at this time
• [N/A] Coordination of consultants’ activities. No rating at this time, no consultants currently used by the party
• [D] Managing political relationships and acting as liaison with the staffs of groups such as:
o Libertarian National Committee (LNC) Stated would do a membership drive for national, however, ended up not doing so and in fact openly discouraging members from joining national.
o Libertarian National Campaign Committee (LNCC) N/A at this time
o Libertarian State Leadership Alliance (LSLA) Little interest in the LSLA and little participation in the process. Note, this should probably be for the chairman only and rating not affected by his actions here.
o LPWA County leaders Has initially been very good traveling and visiting in person and attending county meetings. However, has been to few for approx. 7 months (Aug –Feb). Actions of attending meetings in person are above and beyond what the scope should be since it requires long distances and possibly a few consecutive days of back & forth. This has increased rating otherwise.
o Leaders in other state parties Initially, created relationship and strategy with the RLC Republican Liberty Caucus). Presented strategy to Chair, but in the current year, has scrapped that relationship and broken promises implied or made to RLC. At best RLC could have been strong strategic partner, but now, at worst, would be strong political enemy. Has disparaged the Chairman’s relationships with other party leaders.
o leaders in presidential campaigns N/A
• [C] Overseeing and maintaining relationships with elected official and key constituencies both in Washington and nationally. After first appointed, he spent days in Olympia meeting with Legislators and staff, creating good relationships. Few if any national relationships and didn’t follow through w/ contact for Rep Larson –no affect on rating. For the 2014 session, the only time I recall he spent in Olympia was during Day At The Capitol event and did not meet with anyone then, and no reports of activity this year. From what I recall, he spent very little or no time after June of 2013 in Olympia or working to build on those relationships started and in fact stated he has given up on trying to work with legislators and changing focus to elect Libertarians to office.
• [D] Hiring the Communication Director, Political Director, and other staff. Other than staff, these directors should be out of scope. Initially had staff of 1 that was let go sometime in August. Claimed to have staff in Sacramento working on LPWA projects, but that claim has been denied. There were a few interns & misc volunteers helping with writing, logos, layouts etc. Without a regular report of staff, this is hard to rate. However, the effect was that there was no staff to directly assist the chair or officers in their duties.
• [F] Performing reviews and encouraging staff development. Without regular reports of what staff and who, this is hard to rate, but the lack of staff assisting the chair or officers was below expectations. With no current visible staff, overall job performance is suffering.
• [F] Reviewing staff functions and restructuring job responsibilities as needed. Never submitted proposed staff design or functions.
• [C] Serving as the chief strategic and tactical executive of the Washington State Libertarian Party (LPWA). Initially designed a strategy of working with the RLC on elections and helped with the tactics that resulted in the change to the bylaws that allowed the party to endorse Liberty candidates of other parties. However, changed strategy of working with the RLC this year without consultation with the SEC or the chairman. Scope should be reduced to be clear that the Chairman or the SEC set strategy and tactics.
• [F] Working with the Chair, Treasurer and Staff to develop and adhere to an operating budget. Initially working with Treasurer on budget items, but no further effort beyond July of ’13. Chair developed a 3 year budget proposal in March this year, but he only sent me one email on it stating we should increase the assumed income from contributions. This project really needed the Exe Dir involved. Stated that he expected to more than double the 2013 contributions for this year. As of this time, we are about 50% of last year at best.
• [B] Working with Chair, Washington State Libertarian Party and Staff to determine goals and priorities and monitor progress. Attended and participated in the strategic planning session held in November of ’13.
• [F] Developing training programs for the state party, including precinct committee and candidate training sessions. In May of ’13 informed the chair that as a part of the conditions for a donation of $120,000 from a Business Owner in California, he had to put together 4 training videos for activists etc. and they would be available on-line. However, they were never presented to the party and when asked recently he seemed to not even know what I was talking about. Numerous other times talked about on-line training, but none have been presented to the party for our use.
• [F] Coordinate with Party Secretary in preparing written reports for all meetings of the State committee, Executive committee and Executive Board. To my knowledge, never followed through with working with the Secretary.
• [A] Attending LPWA Executive Committee meetings, LNC meetings, and County Party meetings. He did attend nearly all the SEC meetings as I recall, one LNC meeting I believe and a number of county party meetings. I believe that the LNC meetings are out of scope and more than should be asked as they require long distance flights around the country quarterly. County party meetings Should not be required to make them all considering distance/ timing.
• [N/A] Making sure all campaign finance reports, tax returns, and other required reports are accurately and timely filed by Finance Director and Staff. No Finance Director or staff, these are dealt with by the Secretary, Treasurer or Chairman is needed.
• [N/A] Organizing all meetings of the State committee and Executive committee as required by state party bylaws and state statute. This is out of scope, though arranging location, scheduling and posting notices would be nice. He did arrange location and post notices for some of the meetings.
July thru September Mr. Pickens spent most of his time in Sacramento and offered little support. He spent time on going back and forth in deciding which Customer Contact software / program the party should use. Made contacts with possible candidates. Did come to Spokane for the mini-convention that I’ve been wanting to have since becoming chairman. In November he came to the Strategy Retreat facilitated by Ed Barton, for the SEC and other actives. Not much activity over the winter in events, but put the Liberty Lion medal deal together with the NW Territorial Mint, worked with various candidate potentials and much work in implementing Nation Builder as the new Website and Customer Contact system. In December I started to put pressure on him about the Day at the Capitol and he reserved a room for the event. However, through January he did very little to support that event and even told me he could not make it. I pushed DAC off a month and completed putting together the event with only promotion from Mr. Pickens the last 2 weeks before the event. Since then he has been traveling the state and working for campaigns –not just meeting with candidates and lining them up for endorsement. I was unable to get him to work with me on the convention and our contact was very limited throughout April and not taking my calls (5 unanswered and 3 Voice Mails unanswered) the week of April 21.
April 17th Mr. Pickens told me that he had the Robert Dome Reception covered and when pressed he told me that April 21/ 22 he would meet personally w/ the hotel to negotiate for the room. Then later told me that he had it for $800. I have since found out that it wasn’t until May 2 that he talked with the hotel (not met?) and actually the contract is for $1,050 + Service fee + Tax = $1,482.22. He did state that they would set up a cash bar and the hotel was assuming sales. If $250 of sales occurs, then the cost would be $800 ++ = $1,053.12.
May 6th, I discovered that he signed the Our America Initiative Speaker agreement for Johnson/Gray, as Executive Director for the party and obligating the party before the SEC approved it. The speaker’s fees, airfares and hotel rooms/ meals are about $3,700. In any case he had no authority to sign contracts obligating party funds. He stated at the SEC meeting March 8th, that he was personally responsible for the contract even though he had just signed it in the party’s name and as ED. Another instance of obligating party funds include an order of lapel pins made in November without approval of the SEC or the Chairman, $650. These items alone are enough reason to have fired him.
In the job description, Mr. Pickens states that Loyalty and Discretion is important. His loyalty to the chair was completely gone about 6 weeks before firing him. He would not listen to my side of the story or put aside his views to continue to work with me. Frequently would act and then ask permission if questioned on actions. After firing him, he used information given in discretion to others in order to change the issue from his firing to the private actions of the chairman.
Reporting to the chair, I used to get very regular calls and updates. Different times, such as November to January, I would have periods of little contact.
The firing of Mr. Pickens became the only apparent course of action over the last 3 weeks of April. With no or little communication, unwillingness to work with the chair or even discuss issues, not responding to inquiries about the status of the upcoming state convention, I just didn’t feel I had a choice. However, I tried to give him another chance, so I sent an email that said:
We need to clear out whatever problems there are between us and open communication again. I’ve tried to do that. I want to make it quite clear to you that this is imperative to the good of the party that we do this.
His response: “No”
It was at this point that I knew I had no choice but to fire him. When we talked on May 1st, I offered him the choice to resign or be fired, he choose resignation and I would keep him on as Convention Chairman. As convention chairman, he has not been fully cooperative in working with me.
May 8, 2014
A convention attendee and prior SEC member, Fritz Sands, posted this report on Facebook:
My take on the LPWA changes and the 2014 LPWA Convention
June 3, 2014 at 11:22pm
This note is very hard to write. I was in the middle of the whole mess before the convention. I know most of the people involved and like a significant number of them. And, yeah, all of them are my family. I got that concept from R. Lee Wrights – and he is correct. Even when some libertarians REALLY piss me off, they are family. I have been to Republican caucuses – they are NOT family. I have been to Democratic meetings – they are NOT family. Libertarians are family, even when relations with some of them are strained.
I will endeavor to keep personalities out of my analysis as much as possible. This will not be fully possible, of course, because there is a seriously outsized personality in the middle. I will strive to not have this be a litany of “Mike Pickens did this, Larry did that” but there will be a couple of parts that discuss personalities, because there has to be.
The Purpose of the Party Officers and the SEC
Honestly, I had not really thought about this as a major issue. But clearly it was. One view of the role of the officers and SEC (and, yeah, not surprisingly this is rather my view) is that the SEC keeps the place running and sets policy. Figures out how much money is available and sets a budget. Tris to keep things legal. Takes notes and preserve history. And then volunteers, candidates, campaign managers, event planners, signature gatherers, legislation analysts etc., go run their own areas of interest and expertise and report back. Basically I see the SEC keeping the organization well-grounded so that people have a framework they can call on to get resources to do great things. In fact, I have anticipated that the SEC, and the state party in general, would become less important, not more important, in libertarian activism as local libertarian organizations take off. But then I am a decentralist at heart.
The new leadership who won elections at the convention have a much more active view of the role of the SEC. They believe that the members of the SEC should be highly motivational.
Also, and of some interest, there definitely seems to be a strong top-down view of organization going on here. Which will be very interesting to watch in an organization full of libertarians. It is quite possible that I have misconstrued the intent, and that the regions will have a great deal of autonomy from the state structure, but I will have to see that in action to believe it.
Perhaps this can be viewed as “SEC as caretakers” vs “SEC as leaders”. The events at the convention strongly demonstrate that a large number of libertarians desperately crave strong leadership. Yeah, OK, my head just exploded. But it is clearly true. It mystifies me, but it is clearly true.
I can’t provide that kind of leadership – it is utterly alien to my nature. The former officers of the party certainly could not provide that. The former officers were the ones who showed up – year after year. The party needed newsletters folded? – they/we showed up. The party needed people to stand all day at Hempfest or Gay Pride? – they/we showed up. The party needed stuff hauled? Yeah, you get the idea. Not hugely inspirational folk – but we showed up.
One interesting thought has occurred to me — the fact that many libertarians clearly crave leadership and personal inspiration shows that perhaps libertarians are not all fundamentally outliers in human personality. This can be considered a very good thing. It shows that perhaps Libertarians can move to a position of winning political contests. Of course it also means that Libertarians may well morph in the process into looking a hell of a lot like Republicans and Democrats.
In all seriousness, this might be the best fundamental reason for the manipulated and abrupt change – that Libertarians in WA state want and should get strong leadership, and the old officers and SEC members were not providing that and could not provide that.
I get it now and I certainly didn’t before. It still confuses me, but then people confuse me.
Regions vs At-Large
I don’t know of anyone who has a great deal of heartburn over the concept of regional representatives to the SEC instead of at-large members of the SEC. Although the reps coming from some of the areas in the east part of thestate are going to burn some money on travel (which is one reason why, in a time of lessened interest in the LP, the party abandoned the concept), it is not an unreasonable idea. Some of the regions seem sort of randomly drawn (Why is Snohomish in its own region while King (with much more population) is in a region with Kitsap?)
But, honestly, that is just quibbling. Regional representation may well work. My personal hope was that, instead, we would encourage local parties to form and take over most activism. In my view the state party should be not all that relevant – most political events, activities, and races are local.
I think the terms are too short for really measuring success, but it is probably unlikely that there will be a complete changeover all that often. I think two year terms was a more reasonable idea. But again, not a real piece of drama. I assume that the change was put in primarily to force an immediate election of officers at the convention. In short, a tactic.
The Mike and Larry Show and the History of the Last Two Years
Oh Gods, this is the part I am not sure how to write. Larry was not the most effective chair in the world – fine. And damn he could not control a meeting. But it is really unfair to characterize him as some sort of King Log suppressing activity in the state party. Larry kept things together and put together some great events on a shoestring. Larry could screw things up and not get back with information on time – but he worked with people in a spirit of openness and equality.
OK – now to the challenging part. Mike Pickens. Definitely one of the more large-scale personalities I have dealt with in my life.
I think one of the real problems with Mike Pickens as Executive Director was that he reported to someone. Mike is clearly much happier (and likely much more effective and I am sure much easier to get along with) when he is in charge of both priorities and policy. As Executive Director, Mike decided to set policy by himself (for example, his decision that Libertarian candidates would not accept money for corporations or unions – a policy not founded in LP documents nor in any policy set by the SEC – and the SEC was never actually informed of this policy decision made by Mike). In pursuing this policy, Mike drove at least one candidate away from running as a Libertarian. So basically, in a job where policy and priorities were to be set by others, Mike set them himself.
Don’t get me wrong – Mike was not necessarily incorrect in his policy decisions. A unified stance of not taking campaign contributions for corporations or unions has some political attractiveness and might get us some positive PR to counterbalance the, well, lack of those contributions.
But it seems to me that some debate in the SEC was called for before setting such as policy. Hell – notice would have been nice.
In terms of “Mike does not handle well reporting to others”, when he and Larry came to loggerheads, Mike decided to stop responding to Larry, who was the person who had unilaterally named him ED. I understand that this has been framed as “principles over party”, and that is sort of expected (Libertarians are famous for citing principles as reasons for action and opinions), but I would think resigning because of principles was a cleaner choice than not returning phone calls and emails because of principles.
Again, Larry was NOT necessarily right in trying to discourage Nick’s candidacy up in Whatcom County. And, damn, the bad feelings from that attempt certainly had repercussions.
The dénouement at the May SEC meeting was as ugly as could be expected — maybe uglier. Larry dealt with it as a businessman (because, well, Larry is a businessman) — give the guy a chance to resign from the position he is being fired from “in order to focus on other work” and everyone goes their own way. Mike dealt with it as an activist and an organizer – use the opportunity to mobilize outrage and move to the next stage of the conflict. At that point, of course, the organization was well past the point of there being any good way out. If Larry had understood this was a political and not a personnel event, then I assume he would have laid his case for firing Mike out for all to see. I don’t know if the situation would have gone down any better in the long run (OK, screw that, it is obvious that the situation would have ended up with very little difference in outcome), but perhaps the outrage of others would have been less. Likely not even that, though.
The Whole “Let the Convention Endorse Candidates Who Prefer Another Party” Idea
I authored it (with help from Mike Pickens and Larry). I regret that. I am sorry. Very, very sorry. Especially since it played some part in the drama we have gone through. Honestly, Libertarians are simply not Machiavellian enough (with some exceptions) to pull this off – we aren’t the leadership of the NRA, after all. And, on the whole, I am probably glad we aren’t that Machiavellian. I talked with Robin Koerner about this after the convention – he was shocked at my change of heart because he thought the original idea was brilliant. But really it is only brilliant in theory, not in practice. Most Libertarians simply do not play that kind of game adroitly.
As an example – are Libertarians willing to make any political sacrifice (like of a Libertarian candidate) to help an RLC candidate in exchange for benefits somewhere else? Almost certainly not.
The Process of the Change
This is the part the angers me intensely. I am not particularly angered by what was changed (and I am CERTAINLY not angry about not being a member of the SEC any more), but I am REALLY angry with how the changes were written and passed. Just to let everyone know that this is where my blood pressure rises.
When the group of candidates and activists who wrote the changes got together to do so, they knew damn well that the party had a standing Constitution and Bylaws Committee, chaired by Michael Donahue. They knew there was a public Google group for it that anyone could join and use to suggest and debate changes. They knew that we had worked on changes the previous year (Mike Pickens was an integral part of shaping those changes). They knew that they could and should work in public on changes to the Constitution and Bylaws and ask others for contributions and thoughts and suggestions.
Instead the decision was consciously made to work in secret and drop the major changes on the SEC at the last minute. There has been a mantra both before and after the convention that this was “done according to the rules”. It was not done in accordance with the process that had been set up and working. Also, the parliamentarian who was hired for the convention ruled that it was not done in accordance with the rules (but the group that did it had a 2/3 vote at the convention, so the rules didn’t matter).
Basically secrecy was used as a military tactic. The LPWA was considered a battlefield, and the old SEC was considered the enemy to be utmaneuvered and surprised. There are consequences to playing the game like that. Trust is an easily-damaged commodity and events after the convention have demonstrated that openness and transparency are not exactly second nature to the new leadership.
In addition to using secrecy as a weapon, the people who put through the changes gagged the convention. That is a blunt word, but the only word to use. I have NEVER in my life of attending meetings and conventions seen a question called with not one sentence of debate allowed. And this was not just any change, it was an expulsion of officers halfway through their term and a complete rewriting of the rules of the organization. All rammed through by a secret group that allowed not one comment at the convention. That is grotesque behavior for a group of libertarians — you know, believers in individuals. It was truly obscene. I believe I am making my opinion clear.
OK, enough rage…
The Purpose of a Political Party
If Mike Pickens were older, balder, heavier, and much, much richer, I suppose he could go around yelling “Candidates! Candidates! Candidates!”. The statement was repeated often that running candidates is the primary mission of a political party. I question that assertion.
To me it all depends on resources. In times of low resources, running candidates may be less effective than supplying volunteers for initiative efforts or sending people to testify on legislation. I find it interesting that there definitely is a focus this year on state assembly level races. I hope the candidates run in much more local races next – races that might well be winnable. Traditionally, people interested in office run in local (usually non-partisan) races first, after all.
Being more conservative in my concepts of available resources, instead this year I would have gone for a very active effort to work with allies on I-591 and a lot of effort to try to get unified “legalize homegrow” marijuana legislation or an initiative and not worried about elections for state representative. Of all the groups in the state, we might be in the best position to get the various marijuana activist factions to start playing nice with each other. And we are one of the few pro-gun-owner groups who can send people to talk to a lot of groups in Seattle – groups who don’t like a lot of stereotypical NRA types but also do not trust the government to know where all the guns are. In short, to me that might have been a more productive use of very limited resources.
I would like to make myself clear – I would not have stopped anyone from running for office this year. But I would not have focused on that.
Yeah, I know — I am boring.
However, we now have a strong state leadership that is entirely candidate-focused. Time will tell how that works. The assumption of the new leadership clearly is that running candidates brings in many more resources and that the party will not be resource constrained.
Dealing With The New Chair
Another difficult section to write. Again, I am not going to do “Let’s bash Pickens”. I hope much of what I say here Mike would agree with. And, who knows, maybe he will appreciate some of the things he does not agree with.
Mike Pickens is intensely charismatic. He can charge up a room and inspire people to put in a LOT of effort. I am honestly deeply impressed at his accomplishment in getting a dozen people to go through the major effort to run for state-level public office. He is extremely energetic and is always in motion.
As I wrote above, Mike Pickens is difficult if he is not setting priorities and policy. Of course, now he is setting those things.
Mike tends to take on every job thrown in the area. Some of those jobs get done quite well; some of them get done sort of OK; and some of them get discarded. This happened repeatedly when Mike was Executive Director. Unfortunately, since Mike takes on all of those jobs, the tasks discarded will likely not be picked up by anyone else. I deeply regret that the LPWA (OK, Larry, but the rest of us were there and could have made a fuss) took Mike on as Executive Director, because the presence of an ED with time and resources made it way too damn easy for the rest of us with high-load jobs or businesses or health issues or families to just ask Mike to take on more things and if they didn’t get done then they didn’t get done but we could figure that they had been assigned. Yeah, that was lazy on our parts. Mea culpa.
Libertarians as a whole have a penchant for turning disagreements into fighting matters of principle. Really notorious. Really, really notorious. Anyone for a hefty dose of “It’s your life, Ayn Rand!”? And compromise is very difficult when the argument is framed as a fight over principles. In fact, compromise will then be framed as immoral. I have seen Mike Pickens turn arguments of tactics, of process, of priorities into matters of principle. He has a strong streak of “My way or the highway”. Things will be difficult if he cannot learn to suppress that tendency. I hope he does.
My Thoughts on the Next Year
I hope there is a huge amount of activity for the endorsed candidates between now and November. I really hope for some great numbers to celebrate on November 4th.
However, then there is November 5th. I think a key test for the new leadership will be how well the party can handle the post-election slump in interest. (And, yeah, I do not think any of our candidates will win in the November election. If I am wrong, I will be celebrating big time, of course.) From what I have read, the new leadership does not think there will be a slump of interest, and seem to be heavily counting on there not being a slump of interest. That is a highly interesting assumption. I hope it turns out to be true, of course. But (as is pretty obvious) I think that assumption is likely to be not well founded. Yeah, I know, boring again.
If I would have the party leadership focus on one thing over the next year, it would be finances. Both in terms of making sure the party has resources to fund the activities that get promised, and in making sure that the PDC-mandated reporting and separation of funds is adhered to with utter precision. If we start posing an actual threat to the elites, that is where they are likely to come at us. I deeply hope the new treasureris an absolute hard case who will not allow any corner-cutting.
Anyways, I wish the best of success to the leadership (including Mike Pickens) and all of the candidates. I will remain an active member and will see people at events, etc.