For the second time this month, The Libertarian State Leadership Alliance (LSLA) has put on its agenda for their telephone conference discussion of the leadership of the Libertarian Party of Oregon. For the second time, it appears, there was no discussion of it. The issue is that the LSLA lists Tim Reeves as the chairman of the Libertarian of Oregon, but the Libertarian National Committe and the Secretary of State of Oregon list Wes Wagner. According to LSLA by-laws, all state chairs are automatically members of this group, so the issue is now whether the LSLA has the right to decide who they think the chairman of the LPO is. After the telephone conference on Sunday November 24, Richard Burke, who is a member of the Reeves faction and was a party to the lawsuit over the leadership which was dismissed in May of this year , sent a letter to LSLA’s email list making the case for why Tim Reeves should remain the chair on their list. There have been several responses to that letter, and this article will track those letters.
Much of the discussion leading up to this has been covered in a previous IPR thread . For background on the almost 3 years-long LP of Oregon saga, please put LP Oregon in the search engine. It will keep you reading throughout the four day weekend!
Here is Richard Burke’s letter:
Subject: [Statechairs] The Other Side of the Oregon Situation
From: Richard Burke
Date: Mon, Nov 25, 2013 at 7:10 PM
To: LP-State Chairs
Dear LSLA List Email Recipients,
INTRODUCTION. I apologize for the length of this email, and the need for it, but I hope you will take the time to read it. I spent a lot of time writing it and think it is important. I tried to write it well. It will offer you an interesting take on what is going on in Oregon and, hopefully, show you that the LPO as led by Tim Reeves is the legitimate LPO and should be recognized by the LSLA and all organs of the LP. Even if you support Wagner, I hope this will give you something to think about. I will begin by asking you these questions. These are key:
1. What would you think if you woke up one morning and found that your state committee, at a state committee meeting and NOT a properly noticed convention, adopted a completely new set of governing documents in violation of your party bylaws and that those responsible elected themselves to new terms of office based on those documents? Consequences of these new bylaws would be that some members, including lifetime members, would be kicked out. Thousandes of others, who never signed the non-aggression pledge, would be brought in without their knowledge. The organization that existed before, was gone. Would you accept this as legitimate?
2. What would you think if that same group of purported officers attempted to cancel a session of your state party’s convention which had been called by an earlier session of the convention which had failed to make quorum – even when your bylaws say that your State Committee is subordinate to an assembled convention? Would you accept it as valid?
3. Given our signed pledge not to advocate the initiation of force to achieve political goals, how would you feel if this group of purported officers attempted to legitimize their actions and attempt to trump the rights of members and your governing documents by using a state law that applied only to major political parties and not minor parties like the LP? Would you accept it as valid?
All of the above happened in Oregon and was perpetrated by the group led by Wes Wagner. I don’t say this prejudicially against Mr. Wagner, for these facts are not in dispute. The Wagner side simply says that what they did was justified because, as I understand it, of alleged conspiracies with the Republican Party and, perhaps, others, in an alleged attempt to disenfranchise LP voters. If you don’t believe me or simply don’t want to take my word for it, you can see it for yourself on video by pointing your browser to the following link. Wes Wagner is presiding:
This email will not attempt to ascribe motives to what has happened. That is irrelevant in determining if rules were followed or not, which I hope will be important to you. I am also willing to concede that, however misguided, Mr. Wagner and his friends believe they are doing what is right. I will therefore not attempt to paint anyone as “good” or evil”. And, unlike Wagner in his email of Nov. 25, I will not issue any ultimatum or preconditions to our continued participation in LSLA, which we believe has great potential to advance the libertarian movement by assisting in ways outlined by Ken Moellman in his email of Nov. 24.
As best I can, I will focus on what both parties have agreed are the facts of the case. But consider the three questions I ask above. If your answer to any of them is “NO”, you should consider siding with the Reeves LPO. If your answer to all of them is “YES”, you should consider siding with Wagner. Standing by principles sometimes make one unpopular and, is certainly, sometimes inconvenient. As Libertarians, we all experience this. But we claim to be the party of principle. In my mind, this is where the rubber meets the road.
MY CREDENTIALS. Who am I that you should take my opinion seriously at all? To be sure, in considering this issue, credibility is important, so I offer this to to show you I am a serious Libertarian activist intent making the LP more politically relevant statewide and nationally.
I have been a registered Libertarian and LPO member since 1990. I have won six contested elections to local non-partisan office since then, and am the current elected president of the Tualatin Valley Water District, Oregon’s second largest water provider, serving over 200,000. I have one of the largest constituencies of any elected Libertarian in the US.
I was the LP’s nominee for Oregon governor in 1990, and came in third of seven. I worked in the Oregon legislature in 2001 and was responsible for shepherding two bills into law; one made it easier to retain minor party status and one made it easier to obtain major party status.I have served on the LNC, the LSLA, and was state chair in 1993-94 I have been on the Oregon State Committee many times over the years.
I believe political activity is important but, in the end, it is political accomplishment that will change the status quo and the standard we should set for the LP nationwide. Those of us affiliated with what we believe to be the legitimate LPO hold to this standard. In any case, that is my background.
THE BACKGROUND IN OREGON. For some years, there have been factional struggles in Oregon as there have been struggles elsewhere. It is a national phenomenon, as many of you know. The factional struggles have been ugly, and nobody’s hands are clean. In this, I include myself. After all, when in the middle of intra-party controversies over almost 24 years, you’re gonna make some mistakes. And I have made my share. But I can tell you that this is what has happened in Oregon.
1. MARCH 12, 2011 CONVENTION. On March 12, 2011, LPO members assembled at it’s annual business convention in Portland. Among other things, officers were to be elected, Judicial Committee members were to be elected, and bylaw proposals were to be considered.
It was ruled by then Chair Jeff Weston, who is allied with Wagner, that there was no quorum. By one vote, a motion passed to “Adjourn to a Meeting” sponsored by then Vice Chair Wes Wagner. The motion had the effect of recessing the convention until May 21, 2011, when it was argued that a united effort might achieve the required quorum to do business. This motion is legal even when a quorum does not exist under Robert’s Rules of Order.
2. WAGNER BECOMES CHAIR. At the end of this session of the convention, Chair Jeff Weston resigned his position, elevating Wes Wagner to the position of Chair. Had the convention adjourned sine die, according to Weston and our bylaws, all officer positions would become vacant. But by adjourning to a meeting, the terms of office of Wagner, the Secretary, and the Treasurer were extended until the May 21st session of the LPO Annual Convention.
3. WAGNER’S GROUP EXECUTES A COUP (no kidding). The LPO State Committee held a regular meeting, not a noticed convention session, on March 31 prior to the scheduled convention session of May 21. At this convention, Wagner and his associated purportedly adopted new bylaws, elected themselves to new positions under those bylaws, and canceled the convention-mandated session scheduled for May 21.
Wagner and his supporters attempted to legitimize these action by claiming that ORS 248.072 trumps party bylaws and members. The statute says, “The state central committee is the highest party authority in the state and may adopt rules or resolutions for any matter of party government which is not controlled by the laws of this state.”
Unfortunately, for Wagner, the statute applies only to major parties, and only those who agree to be governed by statute. See ORS 248.007, sections 3-7 for documentation of this point. In any case, Wagner and his friends attempted to co-opt the force of the state to achieve a political goal, namely, to legitimize a takeover of the LPO with their proposed governance structure, usurping LPO governing documents that were established over 40 years by LPO members.
None of this is in dispute. Watch the video again if you are unsure, it happens right before your eyes.
4. THE MAY 21st SESSION OF THE LPO CONVENTION. Delegates who did not recognize the Wager Goup’s authority to cancel the convention session mandated by the March 12th session met. After it failed to meet quorum it adjourned sine die and the State Committee met. At this time, the terms of office of all officers ended. It was at this time that vacancies were filled by the LPO State Committee and the Reeves officers were elected.
LNC JUDGEMENTS. Despite what Mr. Wagner and his friends might tell you, NOBODY has ruled that the Wagner governing documents or officers are legitimate according to the LPO governing documents at the time, except the LNC. The LNC Executive Committee had voted to recognize the Reeves LPO as legitimate, and when this was appealed to the full LNC, the Reeves group was recognized as the legitimate LPO by a vote of 12-5. After this vote, Wagner and his supporters sent the image of a flaming middle finger to the members of the LNC and appealed their decision to the national Judicial Committee.
The National Judicial Committee did not rule on the merits of the case. Instead, they ruled that they should defer to the Oregon Secretary of State to decide who the legitimate party leaders are and what the legitimate governing documents are. This astounded many people along all factional lines, as it effectively said that the LP would defer to the state in determining who our leaders are. The national Judicial Committee provided no conclusive solution. So what did Oregon’s Secretary of State Say?
OREGON SECRETARY OF STATE JUDGMENT. The Oregon Secretary of State, citing a US Supreme Court Ruling prohibiting election officials from interfering in the internal politics if political parties, would take no action and make no ruling. They would accept the Wagner governing documents for the time being because he was the “Chair of Record” but would make no “ruling” on who was right. They said they would only make a change requested by Wagner, the Chair of Record, or mandated by the courts. This is the reason why we went to the courts. Since then, because of the undecided nature of the situation, they have allowed the Reeves LPO to operate as such in parallel with the Wagner group.
JUDGMENT OF THE COURTS. Despite how Mr. Wagner might characterize his recent win in court, the judge made no decision on the merits of the case. Instead, he ruled only that the courts have no jurisdiction over the matter. This is now being appealed.
If the judge is right, given the position of the Secretary of State, then it means that any Chair of Record can give the Oregon Secretary of State any governing documents or officer lists he or she likes. If this is true, then there are no membership rights anywhere except those supported by the “Chair of Record” whoever he or she might be. These “rights”, of course, could be altered at will by whomever the next “Chair of Record” is. In any party divided by faction, the problems with this are obvious.
How could one build anything on such a foundation?
It is this ruling which is now being appealed by the Reeves LPO, believing that state party bylaws matter and that the membership has rights that cannot be swept away in a manner that violates party bylaws.
2012 National Credentials and Convention Ruling. This whole issue was presented to the 2012 national convention in Las Vegas. Ostensibly, this is the highest authority in the party, even above the national Judicial Committee.
Both the Wagner and Reeves LPO organizations sent delegations to the national convention. The national convention credentials committee voted 4-3 to seat the Reeves delegation after considering the matter. When this was challenged on the floor before all delegates assembled, they too agreed to seat the Reeves delegates. In an attempt to extend an olive branch, the Reeves delegation agreed to include Wagner delegates to backfill the delegation. Others refused this olive branch and were seated with the Georgia delegation.
WHAT ARE WE LEFT WITH? The only thread, the very thin thread, that holds the Wagner group’s claim to legitimacy together, is that the STATE recognizes Wes Wagner as the last “Chair of Record” as of March 31, 2011. Recall they do not say that Wagner’s group is legitimate. In any case, since when does the LP allow the state to say who our leaders are? It is the Judicial Committee who has failed us here, who decided to make their ruling on what the Oregon Secretary of State might rule (and they refuse to rule) instead of whether or not the purported changes were made in accordance with LPO Bylaws.
WHAT THIS MEANS TO LSLA. As is the case with state LP organizations, and the LNC itself, the LSLA needs to decide who it will recognize as the legitimate leadership of the LPO. If the LSLA recognizes the Wagner group, it is legitimizing the actions described above. If the LSLA recognizes the Reeves group, it is recognizing the importance of abiding by state bylaws and the rights of members as defined in conventions of members.
I am willing to discuss this with whomever has questions. My number is xxxxxxxxxx. Thank you.
Richard P. Burke
It was followed by a letter by Fred Jabin:
November 26, 2013 at 9:21 am
In the hopes that either some of the State Chairs might be reading this thread, or that this might be passed on to the state chairs–I would like to respond to Mr. Burke’s letter.
Mr. Burke made it sound as if there were long and standing governing documents that had been agreed upon by the members and were overturned by Wes Wagner and his friends. He states, ” LPO governing documents that were established over 40 years by LPO members”
If this were true, he may have a point about the legitimacy of the actions that were taken on March 31st.
Unfortunately that isn’t an accurate statement. The governing documents that were in place (and every governing document from the previous decade) were made under circumstances that had serious and legitimate claims against the process. Members had been excluded, notice had not been given correctly, processes had not been followed correctly.
There were no governing documents that we could determine were created without some wrong doing. Much more concerning, they were likely made against Oregon Election Law. (I’m not referring to the statutes that only apply to “major parties”)
Mr. Burke also makes it sound as if his lawsuit will some how change Oregon’s Secretary of State policy. The SOS will accept the officer list and governing documents from the current chair regardless of the outcome of Mr. Burke’s lawsuit. This should not be construed with the state telling us who are leaders are. I may not like the state election laws–but suing my political party won’t change them.
Lets say that it is determined that the new bylaws and constitution are invalid, would that mean that the “Reeve’s faction” is the legitimate party leadership?
If, the new rules did not go into affect then the old leaders would still have been the officers and representatives during the meeting that the “Reeve’s faction” held. All of the state committee members who had been part of the state committee before the rules change would still be on the state committee.
The “Reeve’s faction’s” claim to legitimacy is predicated on the notion that a meeting they held (after a convention that didn’t happen) gives them authority. They fail to mention that they made no attempt to notify all the party members, or even all of the state committee members that they were going to hold a state committee meeting. The convention had been cancelled, the website and meet-up group page both listed the convention as cancelled and there was no notice that there would be any state committee meeting after the cancelled convention.
The “Reeve’s faction” assembled a small group of people, which excluded most of the people who were active in the party and most of the state committee members, and decided to elect themselves officers. They subsequently held state committee meetings but failed to invite all of people who were state committee members (under the bylaws they are claiming to uphold). During there state committee meetings they voted to disaffiliate several counties, even though they hadn’t even invited the representatives from those counties to participate in the meetings.
If the new LPO rules are declared illegitimate, the “Reeve’s faction” would still not be the legitimate
representatives from Oregon because they didn’t follow legitimate steps to elect their officers.
It is up to the LSLA who they let be they allow to be their members. I am not a member of the LSLA and I don’t claim to have any right to let you decide who you want to be in your group. But it might be important to recognize that LPO is not subject to the rulings of the LSLA or to the national Libertarian Party. The Libertarian Party of Oregon preceded the national LP and has the legal right to use the name and according to Oregon state election law–is subject to the LPO members (which state law defines as electors registered with the party) not any national organization.
If you do some research into Oregon’s third parties you will find that both the Green party and the Constitution party in Oregon have had fall outs with their national organizations. In both cases the State parties have kept their ballot access, their name,, and their registered voters. The national organization lost influence over the state organization. I would highly prefer if the local, state, and national Libertarian organizations worked together.
I strongly suggest that if you are concerned about ballot access in Oregon that you make your criteria for the State chair that represents Oregon to be the one that the SOS recognizes as the state chair. This would not be taking a side in the legitimacy of one group of leaders over another–it would merely be a recognition that whoever has ballot access is the group that is relevant.
If you are an LSLA member and you have questions, you may reach me at
Here is a email from Doug Craig:
I understand there have been differences in the past…but at this moment the sos and the LNC has Wes Wagner as chairman and that is who should be on this list….A non statechair should not be on here to make his case on why he should be on here…His case at this point to us is irrelevant….Doug Craig chair Georgia…LnC alt”
Here is a note from Mark Axinn:
Doug is correct. It’s not up to us to decide this nonsense.
LSLA does not determine who a state chair is; the state’s membership does.
I am sick of this bickering and request that the LSLA board immediately place Wagner on this list not because I support his position, but because he is currently the Oregon Chair. I take no position on the merits of the dispute and wish the warring parties would stop informing me of the legitimacy of their respective positions. I really, really, really don’t fucking care!
BTW, the pendency of an appeal of the dismissal of a lawsuit does not alter the situation. The LP Judiciary Committee and the Oregon Secretary of State (idiotic authorities) have already ruled for Wagner, so he’s the winner of this battle.
Let’s now return to running our state organizations.
Mark N. Axinn
From Dan Drexler:
I agree with Doug. It’s well past time to move on.
Libertarian Party of Indiana
There has been more discussion today.
Pat Dixon wrote this:
On Wed, Nov 27, 2013 at 7:58 PM, Patrick Dixon
> You should include the motion(s) regarding the agenda in your
> minutes. The action to remove the discussion of Oregon for the
> state chair’s email list from the agenda should be included.
> Brett Bittner and I voted to maintain that agenda item, you
> and Alicia voted to remove it. The specific item was III.C:
> C. LPO State Chair on LSLA List 10 Min
> Yours in Liberty,
> Pat Dixon
> Chair, Libertarian Party of Texas
On Wed, Nov 27, 2013 at 8:47 PM,
My two cents:
Keep it in.
I’d followed this long enough and strongly discouraged litigation. Nonetheless, the ligitation occured. The issue was settled whether you regard it as just or unjust, and further settled in terms of legally or for the purposes of all practicality.
I’d further argue that the appeal is moot (which, in CT, would deprive the Appellate Court of subject matter jurisdiction because no practical relief could be afforded), though I think Mark Axinn and I (can’t speak for him, but he may agree) would say that, assuming Oregon had a collateral consequences doctrine, the appeal *might* continue anyway.
Regardless, my personal opinion, and not one registered on behalf of the LPCT, is that Reeves ought to be removed from the list as a state chair.
I’m certainly interested in some further discussion on this in terms of the appeal.
Vice Chair, LPCT
From: mark axinn
To: Dan Reale ; Pat Dixon ; Aaron Starr
Cc: LP-State Chairs ; Wes Wagner
Sent: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 10:21 PM
Subject: RE: [Statechairs] Minutes from this evening’s LSLA Executive BoardConference Call
Until an appellate court decides otherwise, the ruling of the court below is the law of the case. It is possible to stay a ruling (e.g.., that a party must pay damages to another body) by obtaining a bond pending appeal or by depositing the amount of the award/judgment into Court, but that does not apply to rulings of dismissal since there is nothing to stay.
So, if the Reeves Group’s lawsuit challenging the appointment (as confirmed by Oregon’s SOS) of Wes Wagner as Oregon Chair was dismissed, regardless of the merits of such decision it is the law of the case unless and until reversed by a higher court.
I have argued civil appeals for over 30 years, including two last month. The rate of reversal on a breach of contract or tort action in my state is approx. 20% (i.e., approx. 80% of the appellate decisions in New York are affirmances). On Election Law matters, the reversal rate is even lower.
I would be surprised if Oregon is that different.
So, once again, the situation is that the law in Oregon is that Wagner is the State Chair and LSLA neither should nor can question that determination. If the LP in Oregon wishes to replace Wagner with Reeves or the Man in the Moon one day, that is Oregon’s business and not ours. Until that happens, Wagner is State Chair and Reeves should not be a member of this group as a state chair.
As always, I am not addressing the merits of the situation, just whether LSLA has the right (it doesn’t) not to accept the decision already made in Oregon.
Dan Reale Again:
Date: Wed, Nov 27, 2013 at 8:59 PM
Subject: Re: [Statechairs] Minutes from this evening’s LSLA Executive BoardConference Call
To: mark axinn
, Pat Dixon , Aaron Starr
Cc: LP-State Chairs
, Wes Wagner
I think it should be further added, in light of this (without commenting on the merits) that the only thing at issue ultimately would be attorney’s fees. It wasn’t like it was a pretrial motion to dismiss per se, but it was a judgment of dismissal based on summary judgment as I understand it.
Let’s entertain the possibility that Oregon’s appellate court found error. Even then, it would take an inordinate amount of time to brief the case, have it argued and let the appeal run its course. In Connecticut, appeals can run six months if things move quickly, assuming no one files any motions to terminate the stay, motions to review termination of the stay, motions for articulation or petitions for certification. That also assumes no transcripts are required and the record doesn’t read like War and Peace. I’d say you’re looking at at least a year on average.
By the time this runs its course (and what issues are presented for review may limit this further), the best the Plaintiffs can hope for is a reversal without the possibility of the relief sought.
Vice Chair, LPCT