DATELINE: SALEM OREGON – In a Press Release distributed earlier today, headlined “Oregon Secretary of State reaffirms existing Libertarian Party of Oregon leadership,” newly elected Oregon Secretary of State, Dennis Michael Richardson, announced he had “reaffirmed that control of the Libertarian Party of Oregon (LPO) is to remain in the hands of its current leadership.” His full statement can be found HERE.
Rumors and concerns had been flying over the past 24 hours after leadership of each group received the following email from Steve Elzinga, the Governmental & Legal Affairs Director of the Oregon Secretary State’s office:
“Secretary Richardson is planning to distribute a decision memo regarding LPO leadership Friday around 3pm in a short press release. We would like to give you and your clients an embargoed copy of the decision memo explaining the reasons for the decision tomorrow morning if you will agree not to publically discuss it until the press release goes out tomorrow afternoon. Please let me know if that is something you would like to do.”
With the assumption that the Secretary of State’s office would be unlikely to issue a Press Release reaffirming an existing policy, many who read the statement above assumed a decision to transfer leadership of the Libertarian Party of Oregon was imminent.
Earlier Secretary of State Richardson had met with Richard Burke and others from PAC 16869. This meeting also included three Republican state legislators. Subsequently the Secretary met with representatives of the Libertarian Party of Oregon (Wagner faction) for about 30 minutes. No Republican legislators were present at that meeting.
Prior to today’s public announcement, IPR was informed that the Wagner faction, anticipating a decision detrimental to the Libertarian Party of Oregon, was “preparing a legal response” and had immediately contacted the Governor with a request to “make an inquiry with haste to potentially prevent harm.”
Richard Burke, who had worked on Richardson’s campaign (and who had endorsed Donald Trump for the Republican Primary (as covered by IPR HERE)) is the current secretary and former chair of PAC 16869, which has been operating with the name, Libertarian Party of Oregon. Recently Burke was appointed by the Oregon State Senate Republican minority to serve as one of nine members of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission through the year 2020.
When contacted by IPR early today he replied:
“I have no idea what the Sec. of States (sic) release concerning the LPO will say. Both sides will be given copies of the release in advance but have pledged not to go public with it until the Sec. of State’s office does. After that time, if you wish, I can offer comment as the Chair is out of state and the vice-chair will be at work. Thank you.”
“There are some errors in the document released by the Sec. of State upon which their current decision was made. We will continue to work with the Sec. of State’s office with respect to these issues and look forward to the decision coming down from our court of appeals case.”
Lars Hedbor, Chair of the recently-reaffirmed Libertarian Party of Oregon replied:
“Oregon’s Secretary of State Richardson today upheld the rule of law, and rejected a cynical attempt by a GOP-associated group to use his office to achieve a hostile takeover of the Libertarian Party of Oregon. Having failed in the courts, and ignoring the will of the Libertarian voters of Oregon, this group has continued to fraudulently collect funds in our name, and has several times submitted false candidate nominations to the elections division.
“Secretary Richardson correctly deferred to the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment in declining to insert the State of Oregon into an internal dispute within a political party, as well as respecting the judgement in the case brought in the Clackamas County Circuit Court. More importantly, his decision acknowledges the provisions in Oregon law that the real owners of the Libertarian Party of Oregon – the 19,000 registered Libertarian voters in the state – should decide on their leadership and structure.
“With this decision from Secretary Richardson, we can return our focus to our work toward increasing freedom in Oregon and the rest of the nation. Over the past decade, the Libertarian Party of Oregon has enjoyed unprecedented growth and electoral success, and we’re proud to have contributed to the legalization of recreational marijuana in Oregon, as well as to the recognition of same-sex marriage.
“We look forward to working with Secretary Richardson over the coming years to continue supporting and improving the integrity of elections in the state of Oregon, and defending the inalienable rights inherent to all people, by limiting gov’t to the roles described by the constitutions of the United States and the state of Oregon.”
Richardson, a Republican, was elected to the office last November. At the same time his immediate predecessor in the office, Kate Brown, a Democrat, was elected Governor of Oregon. As Secretary of State, Brown had granted ballot access to the current Libertarian Party of Oregon (Wagner faction) and had required the Burke faction to register as a Political Action Committee.
It was unclear at press time if Governor Brown was involved in this decision by the current Secretary of State.
The Court of Appeals case mentioned by Richard Burke in his comments above remains under review by the Oregon Court. The Court has issued rulings on cases now heard more than a year after having heard arguments in the LPO matter. The court seems to be taking its time and it’s currently unclear how this decision by the Secretary of State may or may not impact those deliberations, or when the Court of Appeals can be expected to issue a ruling on the appeal by PAC 16869.
However, today’s announcement is consistent with the apparent understanding of PAC 16869 which has had posted in the bottom right of their website for several years (and as accessed earlier today, 07 April 17) the following:
“The leadership of the LPO and the governing documents governing it’s (sic) operation are in dispute. The Libertarian National Committee, delegates assembled at the 2012 and 2014 Libertarian National Conventions, the national Libertarian Judicial Committee, and the Oregon LP Judicial Committee recognizes (sic) the leadership and governing documents associated with organization (sic) sponsoring this website. The Oregon Secretary of State is barred from taking a position and has for the moment defaulted to recognizing an alternate organization because it is supported by the most recent “Chair of Record.” This is being contested in a variety of venues and we expect the situation will be resolved soon.” (emphasis added).
The PAC’s website claims that: “This is the official website of the Libertarian Party of Oregon (LPO). This website also serves as a resource for people to learn more about the party . . .”
The PAC appears to be a group designed to appeal to former LP VP candidate Wayne Root Republicans (Root was also an early, ardent supporter of Donald Trump). The following video has been highlighted on their Facebook page since January 2016 (accessed earlier today 07APR17).
More information on PAC 16869 currently operating as “The Libertarian Party of Oregon” can be found at http://lporegon.net
More information about the Libertarian Party of Oregon recognized by both the LNC, and the past two and current Oregon Secretary of State’s office can be found at www.lporegon.org