Excerpt: Surely We Can Do Better?

George Phillies — author of a number of books on Libertarian Party topics, as well as a long-time party activist and past candidate for the presidency of the United States and the chairmanship of the Libertarian National Committee — recently published his latest work on Libertarian Party campaign finance, titled Surely We Can Do Better? The book is available in various dead tree and electronic formats via Amazon and Smashwords, starting at the eminently reasonable price of 99 cents.

As the title implies, this book examines the finances of two past Libertarian Party presidential campaigns and finds those campaigns lacking in various virtues and values. Surely We Can Do Better? is organized in a sort of “nested” manner, moving from simply phrased claims about the finances of the Barr 2008 and Johnson 2012 presidential campaigns to more detailed information and finally to excruciatingly detailed analysis of campaign finance disclosures. This excerpt is from the beginning of Chapter II and consists simply of the “bullet point” version of the book’s main claims:

  • Lack of Timely Disclosure: Our 2012 National Convention delegates were misled as to the state of Johnson 2012’s campaign finances.
  • Johnson’s Republican Campaign: Johnson’s 2011 campaign spent six dollars out of seven on staff and one dollar out of seven on outreach.
  • Presidential Matching Funds: Counting a debt to the U.S. Treasury, Johnson 2012 lost money by taking Federal matching funds.
  • Abandoning Its Debt: The Johnson 2012 campaign finished its run 1.5 million dollars in debt. It offered some creditors nothing, and other creditors an object that it admitted was worth much less than claimed.
  • A Historical Sequence: How the truth came out, a small bit at a time.
  • What Did We Get for Our Money? How were campaign donations spent?
  • Barr 2008: Barr 2008 gave us a campaign that spent even less money on outreach than Johnson 2012 did.

Dr. Phillies has graciously given me permission to excerpt as much of the book as I want to, up to and including just publishing the whole thing here. I prefer not to give away his store, especially when you can buy it for less than a buck. The content of further excerpts will be driven by comments on this excerpt — in other words, I’ll try to deliver material that covers what IPR’s readers find interesting and want more information about.

39 thoughts on “Excerpt: Surely We Can Do Better?

  1. Richard Winger

    I wish George Phillies would turn some of his considerable energy and skill into fighting the unjust election laws of Massachusetts. Libertarians are treated very badly in that state, and George is very energetic about fighting internal LP fights, but seems to have no interest in fighting the state government that makes our lives miserable. I am tempted to say “stockholm syndrome.”

  2. Thomas L. Knapp Post author

    Richard,

    I know that you have some kind of disagreement with George regarding what approach is best for ballot access in Massachusetts. I wouldn’t rate that disagreement as indicating any lack of activity on his part in his state.

    I also wouldn’t call analyzing the ways in which two Republican carpetbagger invaders defrauded and ripped off the LP an “internal fight.”

  3. Richard Winger

    George’s policy regarding election law injustice in Massachusetts is to do nothing. He says he and the state party aren’t interested. So now we are stuck with an expensive petition drive to get our presidential nominee on the ballot every 4 years, and stuck with not being listed as an option on the voter registration form. So while our registration nationally is climbing in virtually every state, it keeps sinking in Massachusetts.

  4. Richard Winger

    I heard the voice of someone who not listening. The topic is not WHAT to do about the injustice in Massachusetts. The topic is should ANYTHING be done?

  5. Thomas L. Knapp Post author

    Richard,

    George thinks that the approach he has taken to ballot access in Massachusetts is the correct one, the one that maximizes the ability of Massachusetts Libertarians to run candidates and get them on the ballot.

    You think that the approach George has taken to ballot access in Massachusetts is incorrect because it doesn’t make registering as a Libertarian easy and requires additional effort to put the presidential ticket on the ballot.

    It’s not that I’m not listening. It’s that I

    1) DON’T know which one of you, if either, is correct (if for no other reason than that when this subject comes up the two of you seem concerned about different things); and

    2) DO know that the years-long bullshit theatrics between you and George about ballot access in Massachusetts are not what this article or thread is about.

  6. Richard Winger

    Massachusetts is the only state in which the LP national treasury faces a big outlay to get our presidential nominee on the ballot, and in which we aren’t trying to improve things. The failure of the Massachusetts LP to try to change this situation is hurting not just the state LP, but the entire national party. We do have activism in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, DC, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Virginia to improve things.

  7. Thomas L. Knapp Post author

    At the risk of getting away from the fact that THIS IS NOT WHAT THIS POST IS ABOUT OR WHAT THIS THREAD IS ABOUT (hint, hint),

    Like I said, you two are talking past each other.

    George is concerned with the easiest way to run candidates in Massachusetts. You are concerned with the easiest way to run PRESIDENTIAL candidates in Massachusetts.

    You expect George to sacrifice ease of ballot access for local and state level candidates in favor of ease of ballot access for the presidential ticket. He declines.

    So — easy peasy way to drum up some drama every time you don’t like something George is doing.

    But there’s a point at which it just starts making you look like an asshole. And this is that point.

  8. Richard Winger

    In November 2014, there were 9 US House races in Massachusetts. In six of those districts, the Democratic nominee was the only person on the ballot. If the status quo is so good for running for non-presidential Libertarians in Massachusetts, why were there zero Libertarians running for US House in 2014? As the only opponents of Democrats, we could have had some excellent congressional campaigns in Massachusetts. We probably would have had over 200,000 votes for US House if we had run in those 6 districts.

  9. wolfefan

    Hi RIchard – perhaps this would be a discussion best held on the open thread, or perhaps one of the editors thinks it deserves it’s own thread.

  10. Thomas L. Knapp Post author

    But that wouldn’t accomplish Richard’s purpose, wolfefan. He’s in the tank for Johnson and wants to distract from his candidate’s failings.

  11. George Phillies

    My sympathies to the good libertarians of California, who need to live with Richard Winger all the time. You are welcome to flee California to Massachusetts and our much lower top income tax bracket on earned income.

    Readers should recall that Winger is a Johnson partisan, who is visibly attempting to distract attention from the actual topic here. (Oh, by the way, more or less everyone who tried to run as a Libertarian in Massachusetts in 2014 got on the ballot.)

    Let’s get back on topic.

    Lack of Timely Disclosure: Our 2012 National Convention delegates were misled as to the state of Johnson 2012’s campaign finances.
    Johnson’s Republican Campaign: Johnson’s 2011 campaign spent six dollars out of seven on staff and one dollar out of seven on outreach.
    Presidential Matching Funds: Counting a debt to the U.S. Treasury, Johnson 2012 lost money by taking Federal matching funds.
    Abandoning Its Debt: The Johnson 2012 campaign finished its run 1.5 million dollars in debt. It offered some creditors nothing, and other creditors an object that it admitted was worth much less than claimed.
    A Historical Sequence: How the truth came out, a small bit at a time.
    What Did We Get for Our Money? How were campaign donations spent?
    Barr 2008: Barr 2008 gave us a campaign that spent even less money on outreach than Johnson 2012 did.

  12. Andy

    Richard, since you can’t get anywhere with George Phillies when it comes to this stuff, why don’t you try to recruit other people to engage in ballot access lobbying in Massachusetts?

  13. George Phillies

    On the topic of failings: Does anyone know why there are Johnson partisans wandering around who think that if our Presidential candidate gets 5% this Fall, we will have automatic 50-state ballot access?

  14. Jill Pyeatt

    We love Richard Winger here in California, and are proud to have him.

    Both Richard and George are passionate and have expertise in their specialized areas. To my knowledge, this is the only disagreement I’ve ever seen Richard have. It appears to me that they’re not likely to see eye-to-eye on this issue being discussed on this thread, so, enough, all right? We have a chairman to elect soon, as well as a presidential and vice-presidential candidate.

  15. Richard Winger

    I would love to work with anyone in Massachusetts. If only anyone would step forward, I certainly would not bother to criticize George on this ever again. But I get the impression that every other active Libertarian in Massachusetts is intimidated by him, and because he seems to be opposed to any election law activism, everyone else in the Mass LP seems to take their cues from him. I would love to be shown to be wrong.

    Massachusetts residents tend (I perceive) to think they are one of the superior states in the U.S., and it is certainly true that Massachusetts has a very honorable place in U.S. history. The U.S. war for independence was born in Massachusetts. But Massachusetts is the only state in 2014 and other recent elections when a majority of US House seats only had one candidate on the ballot. This is a disgrace, and the Mass. press will never discuss it. Someone needs to stand up and holler.

  16. George Whitfield

    I think Richard Winger has made some excellent points about the need for activism by Massachusetts Libertarians to gain ballot access there. And it is relevant to this article because the lack of it costs Libertarians everywhere money to get on the Presidential ballot every four years. Calling Richard names is inappropriate. There have been many articles on IPR where people discussed points tangential to the author’s goal. The terms that should be used for Richard are expert, dedicated and persistent.

  17. AMccarrick

    And another perfect example of why the LP is destined for an ultimate down fall… bullshit internal conflict like this. Glad I ended all financial support and left the party last month, and I am forming my own that has a sensible approach to gaining voters. Look out in NJ and VA for 2017. The LP’s are done there.

  18. Andy

    Richard, have you tried reaching out to people in other minor parties in Massachusetts, like Green Party, or others? Perhaps you could find people among their ranks who a receptive to your suggestions.

  19. George Phillies

    Winger continues his effort to throw up a smoke screen to cover for his Presidential candidate. It requires almost no effort to find names and contact information for other Massachusetts Libertarians, let alone members of our two small major parties. If Winger were interested in pursuing his hobby horse rather than his vendetta in my direction, he would follow Andy’s excellent suggestion.

    To bring us back on topic:

    Johnson’s Republican Campaign: In 2011, Johnson ran for the Republican Presidential nomination. His financial management was hidden until 2013. Our 2012 convention delegates had no way to know how he had actually spent his money. In 2011, Johnson raised $578,124. He spent $560,000 of that, leaving $18,012 in cash. On 12/31/11 he also had $858,458 in debts. Where did the $1.4 million go? Staff salaries? Nearly $800,000. Fundraisers? Almost $230,000, an effective 35% commission. Add back office, bank charges and more? Grand total: more than 1.2 million dollars. What about reaching the public? Candidate travel, mailing, shipping, web ads, web pages, etc. were the other $200,000. One dollar in seven went for direct campaigning.

  20. Richard Winger

    Thank you for that idea, George. But since you know the Massachusetts LP activists much, much better than I do, could you suggest someone I could contact? Thank you.

  21. Steven Wilson

    As I have written several times before on several other articles about Gary Johnson: nobody seems to care about his financial problems with the FEC. He continues to poll well at state conventions and I believe Ed Clark even endorsed him (not sure if endorsements work with libertarians as they don’t with me).

    George has done a great job of documenting the campaigns, but George and everyone else is failing to comprehend their customer base.

    THE MAJORITY OF LIBERTARIANS DON’T CARE!!

    If/When George or someone else can get convention goers to show serious amounts of concern about Gary Johnson and his finances, then and only then will this documentation carry any merit or value.

    1. Make convention goers care.
    2. Make a correlation between handling campaign finances and handling a country.
    3. Convention goers pick someone else.

    There, wasn’t that easy.

  22. Andy

    Good ad from the Johnson campaign, but it does not erase the financial problems with the campaign mentioned above.

  23. Michael H. Wilson

    This title “Excerpt: Surely We Can Do Better” should be used to encourage a discussion about the LP from top to bottom and how we do what we do.

  24. George Phillies

    Richard. You keep claiming that you need a small major party in Massachusetts. Massachusetts currently has two of them, Green-Rainbow and United Independent. The LNC has a ballot access committee. Allegedly they are already in touch with the LAMA State Committee volunteers who are doing ballot access. Contact addresses for the LPMass state committee are at LPMass.org. At a guess, you will do better with the Green-Rainbow folks, since they keep doing Presidential ballot access the hard way.

    And coming back on topic:

    “Presidential Matching Funds: Johnson 2012 tried to cover campaign debt with Presidential campaign matching funds. The campaign raised $632,017 of these. The FEC finally ruled that $333,441 had been spent improperly and was required to be returned to the treasury. To keep the corresponding $298,576 in matching funds, Johnson 2012 spent $308,921 in administrative and legal costs. If Johnson 2012 had refunded the $333,441, it would have lost money by taking the matching funds. “

  25. Thomas L. Knapp Post author

    Even if Johnson manages to limp to the LP’s nomination this time, his ability to play fast and loose with campaign finance is probably coming to an end.

    At no point in the 2012 election cycle did Jill Stein pull in more money than Gary Johnson.

    In this cycle, she’s already $80k up on him and if I was a betting man I’d bet she’ll increase that lead substantially over the next 30-60 days.

    Johnson clearly still has some national convention delegates fooled — maybe even a plurality or majority. Donors, not nearly as much so.

  26. Andy

    If Jill Stein ends up beating whoever the LP candidate ends up being, Libertarians should hang their heads in shame.

  27. Cal

    “At no point in the 2012 election cycle did Jill Stein pull in more money than Gary Johnson. In this cycle, she’s already $80k up on him and if I was a betting man I’d bet she’ll increase that lead substantially over the next 30-60 days.”

    Jill will be receiving two checks from the US Treasuring for federal matching funds, one for $100,000 and the second for $130,000, within the next month or so. She also started an effective moneybomb this week that has resulted in hundreds of small donations. She’s smoking Johnson this round, in funds and media exposure.

  28. Cal

    She also seems to surround herself with more cautious and knowledgeable staffers as she received federal matching funds in 2012 and never ran into any of the debt or legal problems with the FEC that Johnson did

  29. Darcy G Richardson

    Cal is right. Jill Stein has been receiving some decent mainstream media coverage this time around.

    She’s also on track to raise substantially more than the $1,263,540 she raised in 2012, a figure that included $372,130 in federal matching funds.

    While it’s impossible to say at this stage in the campaign whether she will approach the $8.4 million raised by Ralph Nader, the Green Party’s nominee sixteen years ago, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility, particularly if she’s able to tap into Bernie’s massive base of support — a constituency tailor-made for a tried and true progressive candidate like Jill. There are already some signs that it’s happening.

    This could be a very exciting year for the Green Party.

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