Second Interview with Ron Nielson

With help from Joe Buchman. See also:

Your Questions for Ron Nielson Part II

First IPR Interview with Gary Johnson Campaign Manager Ron Nielson

Questions for Gary Johnson Campaign Manager Ron Nielson?

Most of the questions were based on what readers wanted to ask, and there will be a final interview in the late afternoon today. Please feel free to ask any remaining or follow up questions in the comment thread of this post by that time. I’ll try to avoid asking the same questions that have already been asked, so please read the previous interviews and questions before posing questions.

PAULIE: What are your expectations for where the campaign will see the
greatest success?

RON: I think we will do well in New Mexico and some other Western states. I believe we will also have surprising pockets of support in many of the non-battleground states. In battleground states, with the magnitude of media coverage for the Democratic and Republican candidates saturating those markets, I think we will have a harder time.

[There was another part to the question, which was repeated in both interviews – “Plus, which specific states have more activism and organization in place that helps the GJ campaign.” I think Ron does not want to sleight the hard working activists in other states by mentioning any states as good examples].

PAULIE: What kind of budget did you estimate you’d have at the start of the
general election campaign?

RON: We had hoped to raise between three and five million dollars in the
general. We’ve raised less than I had hoped we would.

PAULIE: Why do your donation drop cards, on the back where people will not
see them, say that the money is for the primary campaign rather than the
general election campaign?

RON: It’s on the back of the card because it would not fit on the front.
The same language is also on our website. It’s the language that the FEC
requires for us to use to be able to qualify for matching funds. I’ve seen
similar, or identical, language on other campaign fundraising cards.

PAULIE: If Gary runs in 2016, would you be serving as Campaign Manager

RON: Yes, I would support Gary Johnson fully in any decision he makes
regarding a race in 2016.

PAULIE: Richard Winger says, “Ask Ron if Gary Johnson will start talking
about Instant Runoff Voting. Any state is free to pass that for presidential
elections, and Vermont did so 12 years ago, except the Governor vetoed it.
That would end the “wasted-vote” problem.”

RON: We’ll review after the election —I don’t see it as a major issue for
us however.

PAULIE: I’m not sure that’s an issue that a Presidential Campaign should
spend a large portion of its time and efforts to educate the public about.

RON: Paulie . . . you’re probably right.

PAULIE: Do you know of anyone running Gary Johnson advertising ads in their
local areas on their own dimes?

RON: The Freedom and Liberty PAC is running nationwide advertising. I do
not know of any in other specific markets, but I have heard there might be.

[At least one example was provided by a reader in the comment threads of the previous interview and questions.]

PAULIE: I know someone who has run political advertising on their local cable
system for about $3.00 per ad. Can the campaign for 2016, assuming there will be one, do anything to encourage that kind of independent activity by supporters?

RON: That’s not something the campaign can be part of – what are called
“independent ” expenditures. However everyone is free to do that kind of
thing on their own.

PAULIE: Would you be opposed to the LP nominating convention being held over
Labor Day Weekend in 2015?

RON: I believe the Libertarian Party would be put at a great advantage if
they were to hold their nominating convention earlier than they do now. The
more time they can provide the nominee to campaign the better.

PAULIE: LNC is locked into contracts for the 2014 and 2016 conventions with specific dates, cities and hotels. Another possibility that was brought up was nominating the presidential ticket at the 2014 convention, but that would probably require a By-Laws change which can’t happen before that convention, so I don’t see that as likely either.

PAULIE: Did you and your staff understand the difficulties and unfairness
placed on alternative party ballot access when GJ changed Parties?

RON: Well, first Gary always governed as a libertarian, and said so even
back in the 1990s. In December he re-registered with the Libertarian Party.
But, yes, we looked at all the issues and problems from past Libertarian
campaigns including media exclusivity and ballot access issues.

PAULIE: Why was there not more emphasis on the idea that if we could get 5%
we would gain millions for the LP?

RON: That’s an appeal that I believe works best near the end of the campaign
rather than as a rallying cry at the beginning or middle stages. Early on
our goal had been the 15% criteria for entrance into the debates. However,
using the 5% was a strategic plan from the early days of the campaign…
just not a public announcement.

PAULIE: In addition to the great new ad, what specific efforts are being
made to get to the 5% threshold?


1) Grassroots organization, meetups, activism

2) Social media

3) Internet advertising

4) Organized sign waving

5) Radio advertising (earlier on)

6) Two new television ads airing in selected markets nationally

7) The Virtual debate video (just released)

8) The two Free and Equal debates

9) The Ralph Nader debate

10) Ongoing earned media.

PAULIE: I liked the crowd surfing video. I was hoping that would become a
regular thing at other campaign appearances.

RON: (LAUGHS) Those type of stunts work best when not expected.

PAULIE: Will the campaign consider increasing coordination with other
parties (such as the Greens and/or Constitution party) to help combat ballot
access laws and the CPD over the next few years? Occasionally we do, but
often we seem to fight these battles in a vacuum, though we have the shared

RON: Two things will determine those kind of efforts. First, does it help
our legal case in the lawsuits we have filed, or may file in the future; and
secondly is there significant publicity value to us for doing that.

PAULIE: Do you think more targeted, or project-specific fundraising would
have worked better?

RON: We tried to do that with only limited success. That said, fundraising
is the key to success and we are going to need to explore many options to
make it happen.

PAULIE: To what degree did you follow the campaigns of the Green,
Constitution Parties and others?

RON: We monitor all of the other campaigns, but we did not see much from the
Greens etc., if anything, in the way of earned media compared to what we
were getting.

PAULIE: Anything you’d like the IPR readers to know?

RON: I believe we will gain a great grassroots organization out of our work
on this campaign, especially among 18 to 35 year olds. That is exciting. I
believe it lays a solid foundation and the groundwork for the future that
the Liberty movement needs.

Also we’d like to invite everyone, each of the IPR readers seeing this
message, to join in our celebration in Albuquerque one week from tonight
either in-person of by watching our stream at or by participating in our Google+
hangout. If you organize or become part of one of the watch parties going
on around the USA, we’d like to connect with your video feed so the Governor
can express his gratitude to each of you.

If you have friends or relatives in Albuquerque who support the Liberty
movement, please invite them to join us there as well. We hope to see you
in-person (Editor’s note: There will be lots of free food and a cash bar),
but if not, we hope to see you virtually.

In the meantime please be sure to watch Gary in his final two debates of
this campaign season on November 4th (Editor’s note: with Ralph Nader) and
5th (the second Free and Equal debate), organize watching parties and invite
friends to watch the debates that do not support Gary or know of him. This
is great way to win new supporters.

… and keep up the sign waving, canvasing, phone banking, social media
sharing, in-person persuading, and get-out-the-vote efforts. There’s still
a lot of work to be done, and we need everyone’s 100 percent effort from now
through November 6th.

PAULIE: Thanks. We’ll do this again on Thursday.

RON: Thank you Paulie. And thanks to all the IPR readers too.

More questions? Please ask them in this thread by 5 PM Mountain time (7 Eastern – 6 Central – 4 PM Pacific) today.

8 thoughts on “Second Interview with Ron Nielson

  1. Trent Hill

    Ron seems really level-headed. Kudos to Johnson for picking what seems to be the right guy.

  2. Joe


    >> I think Ron does not want to sleight the hard working activists in other states by mentioning any states as good examples<<

    I think it's also the case that Ron was on daily calls with our four region directors. The region directors were on weekly calls (and more) with each of their State Directors, Campus Coordinators and Finance chairs. Each of the State Directors was tasked with partnering with the State Libertarian Party chairs. (In some states that was seamless. At the other extreme was Oregon . . .). Personally I've worked with Mark Axinn and Wes Wagner on various issues, but not directly with the chairs of other states.

    So I think the answer to that question is probably best answered by our four Region Directors, or from interviews with all 50 State Directors.

  3. Observation

    When virtually ignored by most major media outlets, as has been pretty much the case for all of the minor-party candidates for the White House this year, local coverage becomes critically important.

    Gary Johnson, for example, spoke at Boise State University this past Monday yet didn’t receive any coverage in the online version of the Boise-based Idaho Statesman, the state’s largest daily newspaper. The same thing happened several months ago when he visited Jacksonville, Florida. Nobody in the party had notified the city’s only daily newspaper of his visit.

    Jill Stein’s campaign, incidentally, has done a remarkable job in generating local print, radio and television coverage, including a few feature-length articles in major papers across the country.

  4. FAN of Dr. STAN

    @3 Johnson isn’t a wall St. puppet hence little to non major media coverage.

    Bill Hicks on Politics:

    @4 That is a major blunder, and Johnson had that from the get-go in NH as a R, no one was showing up for NH townhalls last year because the preplanning was TERRIBLE. Like a head football coach catches the blame, the campaign manager gets the blame there. Local media is CRITICAL for alternative candidates. The Major Media is controlled, plain and simple. Proof ? You ask! If they wanted what was best for America they would have covered the Highly Successful Two Term R Gov. Johnson in a 2 to 1 D state over the FAILED one-term (because he couldn’t be re-elected) former Gov.Rmoney ! They want what’s best for their bosses. NOT you.


    As far as campaign fundraising you are only going to get so much from LP members, you must appeal to independents and Rs and Ds to build up a nice warchest.

    You must understand the past before you will understand the present.
    The Truth will set you Free!
    True World

    U.S. Deaths in Afghanistan: Obama vs Bush:

  5. paulie Post author

    Rescheduled for today at 5 PM Mountain time (7 Eastern – 6 Central – 4 PM Pacific) because we did not get enough questions. Please ask some questions by then. I will be working a campus table from 10 am to 4 pm central so I will not have a lot of time to review the questions – so please don’t use this thread for arguing back and forth, going off topic etc at least until after that time. Spread the word elsewhere as you deem fit.

  6. Mike Kane

    What is the Johnson campaign doing to help grow the party in terms of signing up members, and getting them involved at the local and state levels, so that they become activists over the next few years?

    Will the Governor take more of a libertarian approach to his messaging in 2016, similar to say a Harry Browne? Or will he continue to promote non L issues such as humanitarian wars, the fraud tax, “I could have administered medicare way better if I could have gotten a block grant”, “I do see a role for FEMA”.

    Do you and the gov feel that taxation by it’s very nature is institutionalized robbery?

    Do you think it’s better to try to attract single issue voters such as “Legalize Marijuana” or “Federal government should treat gay marriages the same”, to a party that they disagree with vehemently on most other issues? Or is it better to discuss why libertarianism is a better political economic system because of fundamental human rights?

  7. Mike Kane

    Does Governor Johnson disagree with this article ?

    Life without FEMA?
    by Sheldon Richman, November 2, 2012

    Advocates of big government never miss a chance to capitalize on a natural disaster. Even before the storm has passed, they will boast that without activist government, recovery would be impossible. Peddlers of this line ask us to imagine what life would be like today — in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy — without FEMA and the state and local emergency agencies. This, they say, is the condition to which opponents of big government would reduce the country.

    But the statists lack imagination.

    If you wonder what life would be like without a particular government agency, it is not enough simply to subtract the agency from a picture of our current world. That would imply a rather disparaging view of the human race. If there were no FEMA, would people just sit around in the rubble for the rest of their lives? Or would they do something, learn from their experience, and take precautions to minimize damage in the future?

    To think people would not or could not do these things unless enlightened politicians were there to help them is to misconstrue the nature of government. What exactly does it bring to the table? Wealth? No, wealth is produced by people in the marketplace. Whatever wealth government has was extracted from producers. Competence and ingenuity? No again. These are attributes of people who would be working in the private economy if they weren’t lured into government employment.

    The only thing government has that no one else has is the legal power to use force against peaceful people — the power to tax, to regulate, and to grant special privileges. That’s it. Anything creative and useful for recovery from a disaster already exists in civil society. No bully is needed.

    Because government relies on force, there’s a big difference between activity in the marketplace and activity in the political realm. The free market’s price signals (when undistorted by government privilege) guide producers toward satisfying consumers, who can’t be compelled to buy. In contrast, government officials face no market test and so get no feedback on success or failure at producing needed services. (This assumes, unrealistically, that politicians primarily have the general population’s welfare in mind, rather than the welfare of special interests.)

    You might think elections provide market-like feedback, but for a host of reasons voting is nothing like decision making in a market. No voter faces the full cost of her decision (most of the cost of a winning vote is imposed on everyone else), and one vote is not likely to be decisive anyway. Moreover, candidates hold bundles of disparate and often vague positions, requiring voters to accept policies they don’t like along with those they do. And that assumes candidates keep their promises, which they frequently fail to do. On the other hand, in a freed market, consumers’ choices would be specific and decisive, consumers would quickly learn if they made good decisions or not. Even today, if they are defrauded, they have recourse in the courts. (Try suing a politician for fraud.)

    All of this explains why the market is a better place than the political realm for decision making. Without a market test, government “services” tend to be inappropriate, inadequate, or extravagant. Payment and service are unlinked. Politicians are judged by theatrics, not real performance.

    Thus, we may conclude that if government were not providing a service people wanted, entrepreneurs in a free market would provide it. Insurance and related services were offered before government got into that business. Mutual-aid associations thrived before the rise of the comprehensive welfare state. And don’t think government was pressed into service because of the inadequacies of civil society. On the contrary, ambitious politicians and bureaucrats crowded out private solutions in quest of votes and power.

    Had there been no FEMA, elaborate networks of for-profit and nonprofit entities would have planned ahead of disasters, mitigated damage, and provided post-disaster assistance. This approach would have been superior to what the government does, because freed markets have entrepreneurs risking their own resources to serve people; gauging success and failure, while governments have grasping bureaucrats and politicians, who get their money by force. That makes all the difference in the world.

    Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va., and author of Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State. Visit his blog “Free Association” at Send him email.

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