New Path Plan for the Libertarian Party: Healing the LNC

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Earlier chapters discussed *what* the LNC needs to do. Here we turn to a different question, namely how the LNC should organize in order to do its work. Perhaps also buried here is some discussion of how not to organize, at least if you want results.

Actually, this Step’s changes start happening before any of the other changes. To fix our Party, we first have to fix how it goes about its business. However, if we’d started with Parliamentary Procedure rather than Quick Fixes, Real Politics, Fund Raising, and Member Acquisition, most of you would have chucked this book into the nearest wastebasket. Or hauled it out to the firing range for some well-deserved target practice. So the last actually shall be first. The deeds in this last section really must start happening before anything else can.

If we want to have an effective LNC, we need to suppress the Roberts cult that tries to replace substantive discussion with hairsplitting centered on what should be entirely procedural rules. The Summer 2005 Policy Manual was 41 pages of narrow columns and large type. The December 2009 Policy manual is 56 pages of wide columns and small type. We once had a Policy Manual that was simply an ordered set of operational motions passed by the LNC. We now have a bloated Policy Manual riddled with footnotes to Roberts, complete with the claim that if the LNC Secretary modifies the manual, and if the LNC does not reject the changes, the changes are binding. We need a Policy Manual that reflects LNC Policy, not a Policy Manual that reflects mind games of a few Committee members

How do we get from here to there? An important answer is the leadership provided by whoever is chairing the meeting. Our face-to-face LNC meetings are extremely time-constrained. Parliamentary games that draw matters out so that real business cannot be transacted are unacceptable. Claims that the majority cannot proceed with substantive business without supermajority votes are unacceptable. A competent chair will keep LNC meetings on track so they may advance our march to the Libertarian future of peace, freedom, and opportunity.

Having made clear that the LNC is here to do real work, how do we get that work done? Face-to-face meetings are very short. There are only 17 or so LNC members, and at present only a half-dozen staff members. What should we do?

Fortunately, we have our own history to draw upon. We have the period of the 1990s, when the party was growing and becoming more active, and the last decade, when our party entered its death spiral.

Learning about our party’s organization and management two decades ago is not as easy as it sounds. Once upon a time, our party’s archives were readily available on the LP.ORG

web site. They’re not there any more. Fortunately, New Path Regional Representative candidate Jake Porter found places where some of those minutes were available, and has made them available on his web site at http://libertarianstrategymonthly.com/news/libertarian-archives

As representative examples of how the LNC functioned when the party was advancing, consider minutes from two decades ago. It’s very different than the LNC today. LNC Members spent their time talking about the serious business of the party and the work they had actually done.

For Summer 1991, a typical meeting had reports from:

Executive Committee
Headquarters
Membership Committee
Affiliate Parties Committee.
Affiliate Campaigns Subcommittee
Audit
Management Committee
Outreach Committee
Convention Oversight Committee
Advertising/Publications Review Committee
Convention Committee
Appointments Bylaws and Rules Committee
Media Relations Committee
Internal Education Committee
Program Committee
LP News
Legal Action Committee
Budget

These were real with multiple members. As can be seen from their reports, they were actually doing substantial work between meetings.

If we look back another decade, to the minutes for December 4 and 5 1982, we find

Budget Committee
Finance Committee
1983 Fund-Raising Goal
Mailing List Committee
National Convention Oversight Committee
Advertising and Publications Review Committee
Advertising and Publication Subcommittee
Internal Education Committee

and

“Discussion of need to form a “young libertarian party” campus-type
unit: Walter moved that the Libertarian National Committee create a temporary “Campus Libertarian” Committee and name an interim Chairman.

“The Chairman, and such others as he/she may appoint, will investigate the need for a permanent CL unit and report his or her findings at the March 12-13 meeting in San Mateo. After discussion Walter’s motion passed. Evers moved that the committee be Scott Olmsted, Kathleen Richman and Jay Hilgartner with Olmsted at Chair. Evers motion passed.”

Look forward to 2010. What do you find? A convention committee. A publications review committee.

Furthermore, once upon a time the LNC actually spent considerable time in days gone by on the substantive conduct of its operations, as witness the following motion by Karen Allard as passed by the LNC by 1991:

Allard moved:
Whereas contributors above a designated amount are promised a lifetime membership, and
Whereas the LP is thereby obligated to provide certain benefits over the Member’s or organization’s lifetime whichever is less, and
Whereas these benefits constitute a long-term liability on the part of the Party,
Therefore be it resolved that the LP fund this long-term liability according to the following terms:
1. That ninety percent (90%) of all designated Life Memberships be deposited into a Perpetual Trust in the name of the LNC.
2. That ninety percent (90%) of the earnings on said Trust be distributed to the General Fund each quarter.
3. That the Fund be administered by a Board of Trustees comprised of three Trustees, each serving for a six year term.
4. That, whether in case of end of term, resignation, or other vacancy, the Chair of the LNC shall appoint the Trustees and the appointment shall be ratified by two thirds (2/3) vote of the LNC during the next regularly scheduled meeting.
5. That the terms of office of each Trustee be staggered in such a manner that one Trustee is appointed every two years.
6. That the Senior Trustee shall preside over meetings of the Board of Trustees.
7. That a Trustee may be removed from office by two thirds (2/3) vote of the LNC, but only by cause related to management of the Fund.
Upon adoption of this resolution the Chair shall be charged with nominating one Trustee for a two (2) year term, one Trustee for a (4) year term, and one Trustee for a six (6) year term. The announcement of nomination shall be at least thirty (30) days in advance of the next regularly scheduled meeting.

That’s how a serious LNC protects the moneys entrusted to it by the members. Well, that was how a serious LNC in days gone by protected the moneys entrusted to it by its life members. Those moneys are now gone.

The modern alternative to an active, LNC supervising a growing party is the modern LNC, a group whose leading coalition talks of setting goals for its staff. There is an old joke about a navy with more Admirals than ships. For the 17 members of the LNC, there are a half-dozen ill-paid staff members to do the work. Underlying this image of a National Committee that does no work is the so-called Carver Governance model.

The Carver model was created to handle an entirely different state of affairs, namely a non-expert board running an expert facility. For example, you might have a community hospital whose governing board was the spouses of the community good and great donors who support the hospital. The medical staff is first rate, but the board includes people who believe in chiropractic, acupuncture, and Mayan astrology.

How can such a board make a positive contribution rather than getting in the way? It can set goals ‘eliminate preventable childhood diseases in our community’ rather than trying to decide between ‘inoculate all children against whooping cough’ and ‘sacrifice a white bull to Apollo’.

The Carver model refers to the exact opposite of our situation. Our Libertarian Party has on its board and among its volunteers attorneys, IT experts, MBAs,…all the expertise we would like to have and are far too poor to hire. In fact, given the incredible quality of the available volunteers, even if we had the money, we would do better to spend the money on outreach and use our volunteers to do the work.

Unsurprisingly, when you try to apply a governance model in an environment in which it is inappropriate, you get bad results. Our membership is down 60%. Income is down more than 70%. Donations are at levels last seen nearly two decades ago.

It’s time to do things differently. It’s time to go forward to the past. We should return to the governance structure that put our Party on the road to continued growth.

Having said that, how should the LNC be organized to do work? On one hand, the LNC is clearly a “small committee” in the usually-unimportant sense of Roberts’. It is certainly too small to do the work of our national party, even if every LNC member was a full-time volunteer. On the other hand, the LNC is large enough that it starts to become inefficient if every member wants to discuss every topic.

The solution is working groups. We could call them ‘committees’, except most Libertarians know well the phrase ‘Committees–the substitute for work’. We could say ‘subcommittees’, but those sound like they are all without exception composed only of LNC members, which in many cases misses the point of having the group.

A working group should contain a few LNC members, enough to keep the group on course and keep it in touch with the LNC, and volunteers, people who are delighted to give their time to our National Party. Each working group should have an area of responsibility, recognition and support, and a budget as appropriate.

What working groups do we need?

The Libertarian Association of Massachusetts has a set of working groups that reference well the activities you would expect of a state or national party. A few phrasings would change for a national party. For example, the Local Organization Working Group would become the State and Affinity Affiliates Working Group. We paraphrase here from the LAMA Bylaws at LPMass.org as to what LAMA does:

Working groups are composed of a few Committee members plus volunteers. The permanent working groups are Local Organization, Elections, Political Action, Newsletter, Web Support, Outreach, Membership, Fundraising, Convention, Budget and Finance, and Audit and Compensation.

What do these groups do?
The Local Organization Working Group helps local and topical libertarian organizations. It encourages libertarians to act as local organizers, helps them to organize local and topical groups, and supplies them with information on potential group members. It supports, assists, and publicizes local and topical groups and advises them on possible activities. It develops resources to benefit local and topical groups.

The Elections Working Group helps libertarians win elections. It recruits and trains candidates and volunteers, supports ballot access drives, assists candidates with publications, fundraising, and Get Out The Vote efforts, and collects and distributes useful information to candidates. It works to maintain the honesty of the election process.

The Political Action Working Group supports substantive political activities, other than electioneering for elective office. It assists with Referenda and Public Policy Questions, and aids OPH booths, rallies, demonstrations, protests, letter writing campaigns, litigation, and peaceful petitions for redress of grievances.

The Newsletter Working Group helps the Editor edit and publish the Newsletter.

The Web Support Working Group operates or supports Liberty for Massachusetts Web and Wiki Pages, if any. It seeks to operate State Committee email lists, including a periodical announcements list, a moderated Activists list, and an unmoderated General list.

The Outreach Working Group strives to inform the public about the libertarian direction. It develops and supports publicity and advertising drives, prepares press releases, responds to press inquiries, assists members with letter-writing drives, and produces and distributes outreach material.

The Membership Working Group recruits and retains LPMA Members. It contacts new members to welcome them. It contacts inquirers and invites them to join. It encourages social events, public lectures, and other activities for prospective and current Members. It contacts persons who have ceased to be Members to determine why they left and to invite them to renew.

The Fund Raising Working Group raises money for the State Committee and its Working Groups, PACs, and 527 and other organizations. It cultivates individual donors, and conducts periodic large scale fund raising campaigns. It is scrupulous in promising donors how their money will be spent, and prompt and accurate in reporting to them and to the membership on how their money was actually spent.

The Convention Working Group organizes and conducts the LPMA’s Annual State Convention.

The Budget and Finance Working Group monitors the Party’s funds and proposes an annual budget.

The Audit and Compensation Working Group annually and in addition on request of the State Committee reviews the State Committee’s financial records, and the financial records of the Working Groups, to ensure that they are complete, accurate, and properly reported to the Membership. It determines if moneys have been received and spent in accord with LPMA By-Laws, State Committee actions, legal requirements, and fundamental ethical standards. It reports to the Membership and to the State Committee on irregularities, deficiencies, and deviations, and their causes, and recommends corrective measures.

To these, one might add an Internal Education Working Group and an
Operations/Back Office Working Group.

Now you’ve read how the New Path proposes to fix the LNC. We propose to replace parliamentary mumbo-jumbo with serious business. We propose to replace vague discussions of goals with concrete actions. We propose to replace the fleet with far more Admirals than ships with a Committee that does real work..

5 thoughts on “New Path Plan for the Libertarian Party: Healing the LNC

  1. Geno Canto del Halcon

    Among those who were so discouraged by the devolution of the the LNC that they are no longer active in the LP is Karen Allard. Karen was one of the reasons the LPWA was so successful years ago; we in Washington State very seriously miss her. There are many, many, others.

    The LNC needs to get back to its core mission: promoting the LP through education, campaigns, and support for local affiliates.

    Dr. Phillies seems to be the only candidate for LNC Chair who understands this.

  2. paulie Post author

    The LNC needs to get back to its core mission: promoting the LP through education, campaigns, and support for local affiliates.

    Dr. Phillies seems to be the only candidate for LNC Chair who understands this.

    I wouldn’t say “only.”

    I believe Mark Hinkle and John Jay Myers also support all those things.

  3. Brian Holtz

    The only candidates for LNC Chair who favor motherhood and apple pie are the ones I approve of. Any other candidate obviously favors vague discussions and opposes concrete business.

  4. Steven wilson

    The new path is the only plan that is based on logic, reason, and experience. The party needs clarity, not promotion. Vote PHillies.

  5. George Phillies

    @3

    Anyone can say they are in favor of apple pie. But before you take a bite, compare recipes. New Path has published its recipe — the New Path Program.

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