Libertarian Party of Washington Replaces Entire Executive Committee at Convention


The Libertarian Party of Washington State replaced their entire executive committee at their annual convention on May 31, 2014. The new officers are:

C. Michael Pickens, Chairman

Chris Strong, Vice-Chairman

Sean Treasure, Treasurer

Steven Nielson, Secretary


Michael Pickens wrote the following about the changes to his state:

Dramatic improvements based in organizational structure and leadership recently took place in the Libertarian Party of Washington. With the tremendous chance available for the Libertarian Party of Washington to become a major player in Washington State politics, we are doing much more to capitalize on the opportunity.

At-Large Representation to Regional Representation

The organizational structure was restructured from 5 At-Large Representatives to 7 Regional Representatives, giving Libertarians around the state a bigger voice within the state organization and more equal and fair representation. Each Regional Director is charged with establishing county organizations within their region. This helps to continue decentralizing control within the LPWA.

Two Year Terms to One Year Terms

One year is long enough for leadership to prove their worth. We believe one year terms provide leadership with a sense of urgency to get shit done! This also provides activists and members with a way to vote out ineffective leadership earlier. If an elected leader is not doing their job, they will be voted out. If an elected leader is doing a great job, they will be voted back in.

Fundraising Dollars to be Used on the Local Level

To prevent the State Executive Committee from becoming distracted by disputes about expenditures of fundraising, our funds will be distributed to the local regions so they can be used in the most efficient manner possible. Local activists will be able to test new strategies and innovate with donated funds. SEC meetings will necessarily focus on reports about where money was spent and what resulted.

Picture seven centers of creativity freed from centralized control and so able to test new strategies for growing our movement. Successful strategies can be duplicated in other regions and failed strategies avoided. Our goal is failure! Success only comes by learning what not to do, so let’s make lots of mistakes as fast as possible so we can learn from them and find the winning mix to propel our success.

New Leadership

In Jim Collins book,“From Good to Great” he talks about recruiting the right people to help take an organization to the next level: “Get the right people on the bus, get the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.” This is exactly what we did. We voted out the entire State Executive Committee and replaced them with highly motivated, action-oriented leaders.

Our new leadership can easily articulate the values we all share as Libertarians and are willing to promote and spread them. They understand their new position is not just a fancy title but a responsibility to achieve results and they have deep passion for achieving levels of success like no one has ever seen. Every new State Executive Committee Member elected has experience in the most basic functions of a political party, knocking on doors. We are not afraid of leading from the front, in the trenches, with our campaigns and candidates.

This understanding gives us direct insight and feedback from our campaign on how we can best serve them. It is not our job to tell our activists what to do, it is our job to support our activists and candidates to the best of our ability. We have essentially turned our state party into one big campaign support team. We are determined to elect Libertarians to office and we aren’t afraid of making mistakes.

The new State Executive Committee looks at failure or mistakes as stepping stones to success. Most people believe failure and success are opposites — we understand success is achieved by persevering through failure. Michael Jordan summed it up best when he said: “I have failed over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”

Our “Sentry” Libertarian Leadership Workshop covers the 5 Failure Levels outlined in the book, “Go For No!” The first level in the 5 Failure Levels is, “The Ability to Fail.” 100% of people have the ability to fail. Sadly, the Libertarian Party of Washington has been stuck here for years. Leadership has been too afraid to run candidates; paralyzed by the fear of rejection and the fear of failure. To win elections we must be willing to go out and give it our best shot. Falling short only means we gain experience necessary for future success.

The second level in the 5 Levels of Failure is the willingness to fail. People who develop the willingness to fail come to see failure as a natural byproduct of the process of seeking success. Yet they only tolerate failure enough to get what they think they need in life. No more. The former leadership were just fine with the party “existing” but were not motivated enough to stretch their comfort zones to make sure the party thrived.

The third level in the 5 Levels of Failure is, “The Wantingness to Fail.” Having the wantingness to fail goes beyond the mere tolerance or acceptance of failure as a part of life. Wantingness means developing the desire to fail with the inner faith that personal growth follows — not just tolerating rejection but actually seeking it and enjoying the experience.

The 4th level is called, “Failing Bigger and Failing Faster.” The people who ascend to level four are those who have come to the conclusion that if failing is good, then failing faster is better! Not just failing faster, but increasing our failure rate. Fail pursuing big goals worthy of the effort like running for office, running candidates around the state, and getting as many people on board as possible.

The final level is for people who understand that massive success requires multiplication of effort. Level five people enlist others to fail with them, knowing that if individual failure means individual success, then group failure equals group success! Level 5 is titled, “Failing Exponentially.” This is the premise guiding our actions to create regions, decentralize power, and encourage candidates and activists to get active, to learn new skills, to grow and become experts at running campaigns and recruiting new Libertarians. Remember, every expert was at first an amateur.

We are poised to achieve massive growth for the Libertarian Party of Washington. We have already started to prove it. It 2012 there were about 40 people in attendance at our state party convention, this past convention we had over 200. In 2012 there were no Libertarians on the ballot running for state office, this year we have 12 Libertarians on the ballot who have all committed to running for office a minimum of three times.

However, just because we made these changes to our bylaws and leadership doesn’t automatically mean that we will succeed. We understand this. It will take massive action and we have one year to accomplish as much as we possibly can. Something needs to be done to fix our government.

We’re here because we don’t trust our politicians. We are here because we want our liberties back. We’re going to win this war for our freedoms and we will win it now, but not just by telling everybody what’s wrong with our government, the laws forced upon us, or the regulations that stifle economic growth and human innovation.

We are winning by pointing out the positive alternatives to authoritarianism. By offering solutions to our most pressing issues.
People ask, “why is no one voting in elections anymore?” Well, it’s because millions of people know that it doesn’t make any difference.

When we only have a choice between authoritarian Republican or an authoritarian Democrat, our votes really didn’t matter. This is why it is so important for us as an organization to take elections seriously and to run solid campaigns. The whole point about Libertarians running for office is so that we make voting matter again. It matters who we send to represent us in our government.

The one way we can beat this corrupt political class is to make sure we give the people a choice, in every election, for every elected position, a real choice between tyranny or liberty. Between Authoritarians or Libertarians.

The philosophy of liberty is the most moral and ethical political philosophy in existence. We are on the right side of justice we are on the right side of history. top-down authoritarian control of the actions of peaceful people is the scourge of humanity.

And we will continue to challenge the political class, who thinks the same, who acts the same, who cares nothing for principal, who cares little for liberty, these people are in politics as a professional career. Their goal is self perpetuation it’s about getting reelected, about growing the size and scope of intrusive government control that’s who they are.

As you know it’s not who we are. What motivates us is the belief that we own ourselves. And we understand that liberty breeds prosperity, allows for greater human happiness, and provides a fertile ground for innovation and creativity.

We believe that “we the people” should be the masters of our own destiny. The captains of our own ship. We believe in our own resolve and the integrity of our Libertarian candidates. We believe in our ability to replace corrupt and tyrannical politicians with statesmen who are more concerned with the well being of future generations, not the well being of their future political careers.

Through good times and bad times my determination has never once faltered because I understand that the libertarian party may be the only chance we’ve got to save our liberties and regain ownership over our lives and that is why we must stand together and fight for it.

Please contribute and get active with the “NEW” Libertarian Party of Washington State today to help with our continued growth and advancement! Join us in helping our Libertarian candidates get elected to office. We are winning.

To volunteer

To donate

The changes to the State Executive Committee did not happen without some drama. Mr. Pickens was removed from his non-paid position of Executive Director earlier in the month by Larry Nicholas, the state party chairman at that time. When contacted, Mr. Nicholas sent IPR this link as an explanation:

Rating & Review of Executive Director C. Michael Pickens
(January 2013 to May 1, 2014)

NOTE: In the following report, the agreed job description of the Executive Director is presented in normal black type, while the Chairman’s comments are in blue italics and the Chairman’s grade given in red type. Executive Director was an unpaid position and the agreement was that with acceptance of a separate contract with Mr. Pickens Company, Libertarian Leadership Consulting (LLC), he would also act as Executive Director. Generally the agreement with LLC was that half of the donations exceeding the 2012 base year for that month, would go to LLC. Income from convention, special events or the sale of merchandise was not included.


The Executive Director, working with the State Chair and party officers, oversees all programmatic and fundraising activities of the state party. The Executive Director is responsible for winning elections for Libertarians in a complex, competitive political environment. He or she must be reliable, honest, loyal and discreet. The Executive Director reports to the State Chair.

Primary responsibilities and duties include, but are not limited to:

Fundraising [C-]

• [C-] Directing fundraising efforts, developing a fundraising plan, and working with finance staff and fundraising committee to implement fundraising plan. [No plan ever presented to the SEC, Mr. Pickens would meet with various people/ contacts but we don’t have a list or how he developed it]
• [D-] Working with fundraising consultants and telemarketers to monitor and maximize fundraising efforts. [Started the 1st month with his own telemarketing crew, but never used again for efforts to boost our events or general membership drives etc.]
• [B] Establishing and maintaining relationships with large donors. [He has contacted a number of large donors and obtained various donations, but many seem to have been a one-time donation and didn’t continue or make the promised large contributions. Fundraising this Fiscal year (Aug 1) was only small fraction and I do not believe he earned any money to date on the fundraising contract. With current contributions, I believe we will still be substantially below last year]
Communications & Outreach [D-]
• [F] Working with Communications Director and Chair to issue press releases, speak out on important issues, respond to attacks, and present the Libertarian Party in a positive, professional light. [Early on I worked w/ Alec but that ended and Mr. Pickens did few if any that I recall and none that came from me. Has had public postings, disparaging in crude language, of a sitting Legislator. Posted on the Statechairs list comments disparaging of LNC members and statechairs such that I was required to apologize for him. ]
• [D] Overseeing programs such as voter registration and state and national party membership drives.
o [No voter registration, some state membership drives with limited success and dropped efforts of gaining national members and in fact started to publically try to convince people to not join national or give them any money]
• [D] Overseeing development and production of party-building and message delivery tools, including brochures, newsletters, fax briefings, and Web site.
o [Despite requesting me to change the newsletter editor and promises to work on it, he never followed through and resulted in only creating a rift in the SEC. In February made promises to layout the newsletter and either put it together in Spokane or help the crew to put it together in the Seattle Metro area. Created a Simjim, but only for the potential candidates to hand out. Has changed the website and design a couple times. Now on Nation Builder and initially had a lot of articles up, without sending to chair for prior review. Website seems to be a good quality and will need on-going maintenance of content]
Campaigns [C+]
• [F] Working with Political Director to develop and implement campaign plans to win elections at the local, legislative, congressional, and statewide levels. No Political Director, so default is the party chairman. Refused to work with the party chairman, would not listen in creating a strategy or in how candidates might be vetted. Stated reason for not communicating or cooperating with the chair was disagreement in a particular campaign even though the chair made numerous attempts to continue to work together despite our disagreements.
• [A] Overseeing the coordinated campaign efforts across the state. Did an excellent job of lining up candidates around the state. Exceeded authority in that he set up websites & email addresses connected to the party before they have been endorsed. Designed literature/ websites/ on-line layouts with official party logos before candidates were endorsed. There was no formal policy in place but the default position should have been to not allow such use of party resources without permission instead of allowing it.
• [A] Understanding grassroots organization. Very good at initial organization, but poor record (at this time) in continuing such organizations.
• [N/A] Demonstrate an understanding of the use of technology on winning elections. No rating at this time, no elections won at this time.
• [N/A] Demonstrating an understanding of all aspects of elections including state of the art campaign techniques, campaign planning, targeting, polling, election law, and get-out-the-vote programs. This is out of scope as the party does not actually run the candidates elections. No rating at this time

Management [D-]

• [N/A] Coordination of consultants’ activities. No rating at this time, no consultants currently used by the party
• [D] Managing political relationships and acting as liaison with the staffs of groups such as:
o Libertarian National Committee (LNC) Stated would do a membership drive for national, however, ended up not doing so and in fact openly discouraging members from joining national.
o Libertarian National Campaign Committee (LNCC) N/A at this time
o Libertarian State Leadership Alliance (LSLA) Little interest in the LSLA and little participation in the process. Note, this should probably be for the chairman only and rating not affected by his actions here.
o LPWA County leaders Has initially been very good traveling and visiting in person and attending county meetings. However, has been to few for approx. 7 months (Aug –Feb). Actions of attending meetings in person are above and beyond what the scope should be since it requires long distances and possibly a few consecutive days of back & forth. This has increased rating otherwise.
o Leaders in other state parties Initially, created relationship and strategy with the RLC Republican Liberty Caucus). Presented strategy to Chair, but in the current year, has scrapped that relationship and broken promises implied or made to RLC. At best RLC could have been strong strategic partner, but now, at worst, would be strong political enemy. Has disparaged the Chairman’s relationships with other party leaders.
o leaders in presidential campaigns N/A
• [C] Overseeing and maintaining relationships with elected official and key constituencies both in Washington and nationally. After first appointed, he spent days in Olympia meeting with Legislators and staff, creating good relationships. Few if any national relationships and didn’t follow through w/ contact for Rep Larson –no affect on rating. For the 2014 session, the only time I recall he spent in Olympia was during Day At The Capitol event and did not meet with anyone then, and no reports of activity this year. From what I recall, he spent very little or no time after June of 2013 in Olympia or working to build on those relationships started and in fact stated he has given up on trying to work with legislators and changing focus to elect Libertarians to office.
• [D] Hiring the Communication Director, Political Director, and other staff. Other than staff, these directors should be out of scope. Initially had staff of 1 that was let go sometime in August. Claimed to have staff in Sacramento working on LPWA projects, but that claim has been denied. There were a few interns & misc volunteers helping with writing, logos, layouts etc. Without a regular report of staff, this is hard to rate. However, the effect was that there was no staff to directly assist the chair or officers in their duties.
• [F] Performing reviews and encouraging staff development. Without regular reports of what staff and who, this is hard to rate, but the lack of staff assisting the chair or officers was below expectations. With no current visible staff, overall job performance is suffering.
• [F] Reviewing staff functions and restructuring job responsibilities as needed. Never submitted proposed staff design or functions.

Operations [C-]

• [C] Serving as the chief strategic and tactical executive of the Washington State Libertarian Party (LPWA). Initially designed a strategy of working with the RLC on elections and helped with the tactics that resulted in the change to the bylaws that allowed the party to endorse Liberty candidates of other parties. However, changed strategy of working with the RLC this year without consultation with the SEC or the chairman. Scope should be reduced to be clear that the Chairman or the SEC set strategy and tactics.
• [F] Working with the Chair, Treasurer and Staff to develop and adhere to an operating budget. Initially working with Treasurer on budget items, but no further effort beyond July of ’13. Chair developed a 3 year budget proposal in March this year, but he only sent me one email on it stating we should increase the assumed income from contributions. This project really needed the Exe Dir involved. Stated that he expected to more than double the 2013 contributions for this year. As of this time, we are about 50% of last year at best.
• [B] Working with Chair, Washington State Libertarian Party and Staff to determine goals and priorities and monitor progress. Attended and participated in the strategic planning session held in November of ’13.
• [F] Developing training programs for the state party, including precinct committee and candidate training sessions. In May of ’13 informed the chair that as a part of the conditions for a donation of $120,000 from a Business Owner in California, he had to put together 4 training videos for activists etc. and they would be available on-line. However, they were never presented to the party and when asked recently he seemed to not even know what I was talking about. Numerous other times talked about on-line training, but none have been presented to the party for our use.
• [F] Coordinate with Party Secretary in preparing written reports for all meetings of the State committee, Executive committee and Executive Board. To my knowledge, never followed through with working with the Secretary.
• [A] Attending LPWA Executive Committee meetings, LNC meetings, and County Party meetings. He did attend nearly all the SEC meetings as I recall, one LNC meeting I believe and a number of county party meetings. I believe that the LNC meetings are out of scope and more than should be asked as they require long distance flights around the country quarterly. County party meetings Should not be required to make them all considering distance/ timing.
• [N/A] Making sure all campaign finance reports, tax returns, and other required reports are accurately and timely filed by Finance Director and Staff. No Finance Director or staff, these are dealt with by the Secretary, Treasurer or Chairman is needed.
• [N/A] Organizing all meetings of the State committee and Executive committee as required by state party bylaws and state statute. This is out of scope, though arranging location, scheduling and posting notices would be nice. He did arrange location and post notices for some of the meetings.


July thru September Mr. Pickens spent most of his time in Sacramento and offered little support. He spent time on going back and forth in deciding which Customer Contact software / program the party should use. Made contacts with possible candidates. Did come to Spokane for the mini-convention that I’ve been wanting to have since becoming chairman. In November he came to the Strategy Retreat facilitated by Ed Barton, for the SEC and other actives. Not much activity over the winter in events, but put the Liberty Lion medal deal together with the NW Territorial Mint, worked with various candidate potentials and much work in implementing Nation Builder as the new Website and Customer Contact system. In December I started to put pressure on him about the Day at the Capitol and he reserved a room for the event. However, through January he did very little to support that event and even told me he could not make it. I pushed DAC off a month and completed putting together the event with only promotion from Mr. Pickens the last 2 weeks before the event. Since then he has been traveling the state and working for campaigns –not just meeting with candidates and lining them up for endorsement. I was unable to get him to work with me on the convention and our contact was very limited throughout April and not taking my calls (5 unanswered and 3 Voice Mails unanswered) the week of April 21.

April 17th Mr. Pickens told me that he had the Robert Dome Reception covered and when pressed he told me that April 21/ 22 he would meet personally w/ the hotel to negotiate for the room. Then later told me that he had it for $800. I have since found out that it wasn’t until May 2 that he talked with the hotel (not met?) and actually the contract is for $1,050 + Service fee + Tax = $1,482.22. He did state that they would set up a cash bar and the hotel was assuming sales. If $250 of sales occurs, then the cost would be $800 ++ = $1,053.12.

May 6th, I discovered that he signed the Our America Initiative Speaker agreement for Johnson/Gray, as Executive Director for the party and obligating the party before the SEC approved it. The speaker’s fees, airfares and hotel rooms/ meals are about $3,700. In any case he had no authority to sign contracts obligating party funds. He stated at the SEC meeting March 8th, that he was personally responsible for the contract even though he had just signed it in the party’s name and as ED. Another instance of obligating party funds include an order of lapel pins made in November without approval of the SEC or the Chairman, $650. These items alone are enough reason to have fired him.

In the job description, Mr. Pickens states that Loyalty and Discretion is important. His loyalty to the chair was completely gone about 6 weeks before firing him. He would not listen to my side of the story or put aside his views to continue to work with me. Frequently would act and then ask permission if questioned on actions. After firing him, he used information given in discretion to others in order to change the issue from his firing to the private actions of the chairman.

Reporting to the chair, I used to get very regular calls and updates. Different times, such as November to January, I would have periods of little contact.
The firing of Mr. Pickens became the only apparent course of action over the last 3 weeks of April. With no or little communication, unwillingness to work with the chair or even discuss issues, not responding to inquiries about the status of the upcoming state convention, I just didn’t feel I had a choice. However, I tried to give him another chance, so I sent an email that said:

We need to clear out whatever problems there are between us and open communication again. I’ve tried to do that. I want to make it quite clear to you that this is imperative to the good of the party that we do this.

His response: “No”

It was at this point that I knew I had no choice but to fire him. When we talked on May 1st, I offered him the choice to resign or be fired, he choose resignation and I would keep him on as Convention Chairman. As convention chairman, he has not been fully cooperative in working with me.

Larry Nicholas
LPA, Chairman
May 8, 2014

A convention attendee and prior SEC member, Fritz Sands, posted this report on Facebook:

My take on the LPWA changes and the 2014 LPWA Convention

June 3, 2014 at 11:22pm

This note is very hard to write. I was in the middle of the whole mess before the convention. I know most of the people involved and like a significant number of them. And, yeah, all of them are my family. I got that concept from R. Lee Wrights – and he is correct. Even when some libertarians REALLY piss me off, they are family. I have been to Republican caucuses – they are NOT family. I have been to Democratic meetings – they are NOT family. Libertarians are family, even when relations with some of them are strained.

I will endeavor to keep personalities out of my analysis as much as possible. This will not be fully possible, of course, because there is a seriously outsized personality in the middle. I will strive to not have this be a litany of “Mike Pickens did this, Larry did that” but there will be a couple of parts that discuss personalities, because there has to be.

The Purpose of the Party Officers and the SEC

Honestly, I had not really thought about this as a major issue. But clearly it was. One view of the role of the officers and SEC (and, yeah, not surprisingly this is rather my view) is that the SEC keeps the place running and sets policy. Figures out how much money is available and sets a budget. Tris to keep things legal. Takes notes and preserve history. And then volunteers, candidates, campaign managers, event planners, signature gatherers, legislation analysts etc., go run their own areas of interest and expertise and report back. Basically I see the SEC keeping the organization well-grounded so that people have a framework they can call on to get resources to do great things. In fact, I have anticipated that the SEC, and the state party in general, would become less important, not more important, in libertarian activism as local libertarian organizations take off. But then I am a decentralist at heart.
The new leadership who won elections at the convention have a much more active view of the role of the SEC. They believe that the members of the SEC should be highly motivational.

Also, and of some interest, there definitely seems to be a strong top-down view of organization going on here. Which will be very interesting to watch in an organization full of libertarians. It is quite possible that I have misconstrued the intent, and that the regions will have a great deal of autonomy from the state structure, but I will have to see that in action to believe it.

Perhaps this can be viewed as “SEC as caretakers” vs “SEC as leaders”. The events at the convention strongly demonstrate that a large number of libertarians desperately crave strong leadership. Yeah, OK, my head just exploded. But it is clearly true. It mystifies me, but it is clearly true.

I can’t provide that kind of leadership – it is utterly alien to my nature. The former officers of the party certainly could not provide that. The former officers were the ones who showed up – year after year. The party needed newsletters folded? – they/we showed up. The party needed people to stand all day at Hempfest or Gay Pride? – they/we showed up. The party needed stuff hauled? Yeah, you get the idea. Not hugely inspirational folk – but we showed up.

One interesting thought has occurred to me — the fact that many libertarians clearly crave leadership and personal inspiration shows that perhaps libertarians are not all fundamentally outliers in human personality. This can be considered a very good thing. It shows that perhaps Libertarians can move to a position of winning political contests. Of course it also means that Libertarians may well morph in the process into looking a hell of a lot like Republicans and Democrats.

In all seriousness, this might be the best fundamental reason for the manipulated and abrupt change – that Libertarians in WA state want and should get strong leadership, and the old officers and SEC members were not providing that and could not provide that.

I get it now and I certainly didn’t before. It still confuses me, but then people confuse me.

Regions vs At-Large

I don’t know of anyone who has a great deal of heartburn over the concept of regional representatives to the SEC instead of at-large members of the SEC. Although the reps coming from some of the areas in the east part of thestate are going to burn some money on travel (which is one reason why, in a time of lessened interest in the LP, the party abandoned the concept), it is not an unreasonable idea. Some of the regions seem sort of randomly drawn (Why is Snohomish in its own region while King (with much more population) is in a region with Kitsap?)

But, honestly, that is just quibbling. Regional representation may well work. My personal hope was that, instead, we would encourage local parties to form and take over most activism. In my view the state party should be not all that relevant – most political events, activities, and races are local.

One-year terms

I think the terms are too short for really measuring success, but it is probably unlikely that there will be a complete changeover all that often. I think two year terms was a more reasonable idea. But again, not a real piece of drama. I assume that the change was put in primarily to force an immediate election of officers at the convention. In short, a tactic.

The Mike and Larry Show and the History of the Last Two Years

Oh Gods, this is the part I am not sure how to write. Larry was not the most effective chair in the world – fine. And damn he could not control a meeting. But it is really unfair to characterize him as some sort of King Log suppressing activity in the state party. Larry kept things together and put together some great events on a shoestring. Larry could screw things up and not get back with information on time – but he worked with people in a spirit of openness and equality.
OK – now to the challenging part. Mike Pickens. Definitely one of the more large-scale personalities I have dealt with in my life.

I think one of the real problems with Mike Pickens as Executive Director was that he reported to someone. Mike is clearly much happier (and likely much more effective and I am sure much easier to get along with) when he is in charge of both priorities and policy. As Executive Director, Mike decided to set policy by himself (for example, his decision that Libertarian candidates would not accept money for corporations or unions – a policy not founded in LP documents nor in any policy set by the SEC – and the SEC was never actually informed of this policy decision made by Mike). In pursuing this policy, Mike drove at least one candidate away from running as a Libertarian. So basically, in a job where policy and priorities were to be set by others, Mike set them himself.

Don’t get me wrong – Mike was not necessarily incorrect in his policy decisions. A unified stance of not taking campaign contributions for corporations or unions has some political attractiveness and might get us some positive PR to counterbalance the, well, lack of those contributions.

But it seems to me that some debate in the SEC was called for before setting such as policy. Hell – notice would have been nice.

In terms of “Mike does not handle well reporting to others”, when he and Larry came to loggerheads, Mike decided to stop responding to Larry, who was the person who had unilaterally named him ED. I understand that this has been framed as “principles over party”, and that is sort of expected (Libertarians are famous for citing principles as reasons for action and opinions), but I would think resigning because of principles was a cleaner choice than not returning phone calls and emails because of principles.

Again, Larry was NOT necessarily right in trying to discourage Nick’s candidacy up in Whatcom County. And, damn, the bad feelings from that attempt certainly had repercussions.

The dénouement at the May SEC meeting was as ugly as could be expected — maybe uglier. Larry dealt with it as a businessman (because, well, Larry is a businessman) — give the guy a chance to resign from the position he is being fired from “in order to focus on other work” and everyone goes their own way. Mike dealt with it as an activist and an organizer – use the opportunity to mobilize outrage and move to the next stage of the conflict. At that point, of course, the organization was well past the point of there being any good way out. If Larry had understood this was a political and not a personnel event, then I assume he would have laid his case for firing Mike out for all to see. I don’t know if the situation would have gone down any better in the long run (OK, screw that, it is obvious that the situation would have ended up with very little difference in outcome), but perhaps the outrage of others would have been less. Likely not even that, though.

The Whole “Let the Convention Endorse Candidates Who Prefer Another Party” Idea

I authored it (with help from Mike Pickens and Larry). I regret that. I am sorry. Very, very sorry. Especially since it played some part in the drama we have gone through. Honestly, Libertarians are simply not Machiavellian enough (with some exceptions) to pull this off – we aren’t the leadership of the NRA, after all. And, on the whole, I am probably glad we aren’t that Machiavellian. I talked with Robin Koerner about this after the convention – he was shocked at my change of heart because he thought the original idea was brilliant. But really it is only brilliant in theory, not in practice. Most Libertarians simply do not play that kind of game adroitly.

As an example – are Libertarians willing to make any political sacrifice (like of a Libertarian candidate) to help an RLC candidate in exchange for benefits somewhere else? Almost certainly not.

The Process of the Change

This is the part the angers me intensely. I am not particularly angered by what was changed (and I am CERTAINLY not angry about not being a member of the SEC any more), but I am REALLY angry with how the changes were written and passed. Just to let everyone know that this is where my blood pressure rises.

When the group of candidates and activists who wrote the changes got together to do so, they knew damn well that the party had a standing Constitution and Bylaws Committee, chaired by Michael Donahue. They knew there was a public Google group for it that anyone could join and use to suggest and debate changes. They knew that we had worked on changes the previous year (Mike Pickens was an integral part of shaping those changes). They knew that they could and should work in public on changes to the Constitution and Bylaws and ask others for contributions and thoughts and suggestions.

Instead the decision was consciously made to work in secret and drop the major changes on the SEC at the last minute. There has been a mantra both before and after the convention that this was “done according to the rules”. It was not done in accordance with the process that had been set up and working. Also, the parliamentarian who was hired for the convention ruled that it was not done in accordance with the rules (but the group that did it had a 2/3 vote at the convention, so the rules didn’t matter).

Basically secrecy was used as a military tactic. The LPWA was considered a battlefield, and the old SEC was considered the enemy to be utmaneuvered and surprised. There are consequences to playing the game like that. Trust is an easily-damaged commodity and events after the convention have demonstrated that openness and transparency are not exactly second nature to the new leadership.

In addition to using secrecy as a weapon, the people who put through the changes gagged the convention. That is a blunt word, but the only word to use. I have NEVER in my life of attending meetings and conventions seen a question called with not one sentence of debate allowed. And this was not just any change, it was an expulsion of officers halfway through their term and a complete rewriting of the rules of the organization. All rammed through by a secret group that allowed not one comment at the convention. That is grotesque behavior for a group of libertarians — you know, believers in individuals. It was truly obscene. I believe I am making my opinion clear.

OK, enough rage…

The Purpose of a Political Party

If Mike Pickens were older, balder, heavier, and much, much richer, I suppose he could go around yelling “Candidates! Candidates! Candidates!”. The statement was repeated often that running candidates is the primary mission of a political party. I question that assertion.

To me it all depends on resources. In times of low resources, running candidates may be less effective than supplying volunteers for initiative efforts or sending people to testify on legislation. I find it interesting that there definitely is a focus this year on state assembly level races. I hope the candidates run in much more local races next – races that might well be winnable. Traditionally, people interested in office run in local (usually non-partisan) races first, after all.

Being more conservative in my concepts of available resources, instead this year I would have gone for a very active effort to work with allies on I-591 and a lot of effort to try to get unified “legalize homegrow” marijuana legislation or an initiative and not worried about elections for state representative. Of all the groups in the state, we might be in the best position to get the various marijuana activist factions to start playing nice with each other. And we are one of the few pro-gun-owner groups who can send people to talk to a lot of groups in Seattle – groups who don’t like a lot of stereotypical NRA types but also do not trust the government to know where all the guns are. In short, to me that might have been a more productive use of very limited resources.

I would like to make myself clear – I would not have stopped anyone from running for office this year. But I would not have focused on that.

Yeah, I know — I am boring.

However, we now have a strong state leadership that is entirely candidate-focused. Time will tell how that works. The assumption of the new leadership clearly is that running candidates brings in many more resources and that the party will not be resource constrained.

Dealing With The New Chair

Another difficult section to write. Again, I am not going to do “Let’s bash Pickens”. I hope much of what I say here Mike would agree with. And, who knows, maybe he will appreciate some of the things he does not agree with.

Mike Pickens is intensely charismatic. He can charge up a room and inspire people to put in a LOT of effort. I am honestly deeply impressed at his accomplishment in getting a dozen people to go through the major effort to run for state-level public office. He is extremely energetic and is always in motion.

As I wrote above, Mike Pickens is difficult if he is not setting priorities and policy. Of course, now he is setting those things.

Mike tends to take on every job thrown in the area. Some of those jobs get done quite well; some of them get done sort of OK; and some of them get discarded. This happened repeatedly when Mike was Executive Director. Unfortunately, since Mike takes on all of those jobs, the tasks discarded will likely not be picked up by anyone else. I deeply regret that the LPWA (OK, Larry, but the rest of us were there and could have made a fuss) took Mike on as Executive Director, because the presence of an ED with time and resources made it way too damn easy for the rest of us with high-load jobs or businesses or health issues or families to just ask Mike to take on more things and if they didn’t get done then they didn’t get done but we could figure that they had been assigned. Yeah, that was lazy on our parts. Mea culpa.

Libertarians as a whole have a penchant for turning disagreements into fighting matters of principle. Really notorious. Really, really notorious. Anyone for a hefty dose of “It’s your life, Ayn Rand!”? And compromise is very difficult when the argument is framed as a fight over principles. In fact, compromise will then be framed as immoral. I have seen Mike Pickens turn arguments of tactics, of process, of priorities into matters of principle. He has a strong streak of “My way or the highway”. Things will be difficult if he cannot learn to suppress that tendency. I hope he does.

My Thoughts on the Next Year

I hope there is a huge amount of activity for the endorsed candidates between now and November. I really hope for some great numbers to celebrate on November 4th.

However, then there is November 5th. I think a key test for the new leadership will be how well the party can handle the post-election slump in interest. (And, yeah, I do not think any of our candidates will win in the November election. If I am wrong, I will be celebrating big time, of course.) From what I have read, the new leadership does not think there will be a slump of interest, and seem to be heavily counting on there not being a slump of interest. That is a highly interesting assumption. I hope it turns out to be true, of course. But (as is pretty obvious) I think that assumption is likely to be not well founded. Yeah, I know, boring again.

If I would have the party leadership focus on one thing over the next year, it would be finances. Both in terms of making sure the party has resources to fund the activities that get promised, and in making sure that the PDC-mandated reporting and separation of funds is adhered to with utter precision. If we start posing an actual threat to the elites, that is where they are likely to come at us. I deeply hope the new treasureris an absolute hard case who will not allow any corner-cutting.

Anyways, I wish the best of success to the leadership (including Mike Pickens) and all of the candidates. I will remain an active member and will see people at events, etc.

Peace out.

90 thoughts on “Libertarian Party of Washington Replaces Entire Executive Committee at Convention

  1. Mike Mizer

    Ok, this is what pisses me off about politics. All who know me know I am very outspoken, passionate about my beliefs, and will never cater to anyone in an effort to conform to popular opinion. I am honored to be a part of an organization known as the Libertarian Party of Washington State. But here is a little tidbit of info, that some will have little knowledge about by just finding out about the party at face value. It will also show, from my position, why this article is joke.

    In the past (almost) decade, I have researched this party from time to time, and was never truly impressed. As I surfed their sites, and researched their events, I often came to the conclusion that it was something not worth taking seriously, because it wasn’t taking itself seriously. The “party” had more of an appearance as a Monday morning coffee club, than of an actual political movement. I hadn’t seen any major gains developing, and frankly I saw it as being a stagnant representation of what the rest of the country was taking for a joke. Why would I want to be associated with something like that? I don’t take myself for a joke, nor do I take for a joke what we are allowing ourselves to have stripped away of. Those in charge of the party, spoke a (big) game of bringing change to politics, and returning Liberties to our every day lives; yet their movement had shown nothing of the sort. I never saw any news of great minds running under the (L) ticket-hell, I never saw people willing to run at all.

    Aside from my independent research, my friend Brent nonchalantly introduced me to Libertarianism. Due to lack of interest generated by what I had access to about the party itself, I often and unknowingly associated him and his views with that of liberal Democrats. Because of this misconception, I chose to stick to my indoctrinated, conservative Republican, viewpoints and way of thinking. That was until I pulled up the page in late 2013. It had a new image. It had a new message. It proved all my misconceptions wrong, while putting in line what my friend had shared with me, to what I really felt about a lot of the issues in our world. Issues that plague the idea of natural rights, personal freedoms, and individual Liberties. Brent wasn’t a liberal hippy democrat. He was a Libertarian. I was a Libertarian. WE were Libertarians, and we needed to know that there was a party full of individuals who thought like us. We didn’t need another social group that conspires to bitch about what was happening all around us; we needed an avenue to be heard and to make a difference. We don’t need chairs filled by old Labor Party Democrats and Liberty Caucus Republicans who failed to make their stake in a two party system; we needed new blood with youth, vigor, and a spirit not willing to take any more shit! We needed the changes ushered in by Michael Pickens, Steven Nielson, Chris Rockhold, Zack Banks, and many others.

    This piece is appropriately titled, “Libertarian Party of Washington Replaces Entire Executive Committee at Convention”. Well, yes we did. We did so because of the many reasons I previously highlighted. We didn’t do it because of an animosity to any one or group of people comprising the SEC; we did it for an animosity to their inability to take action. While I have no problems personally with those who wrote a majority of the slander in this piece, I do have a problem with their political ethic. They liked their fancy titles, and funny hats but failed to live up to them when it came to advocating and growing our cause. “The Chair” gave his Executive Director a mediocre grade, as you will read in article. While I cannot speak for Larry, I can speak for a particular question I confronted him with, with regards to his authoritarian and autonomous (both traits of behavior are extremely unLibertarian) act of removing Michael Pickens:

    Can I ask way Michael was removed from his chair?
    I refer to his chair as Executive Director…

    “Larry the Chair”:
    Not following through on promises made. spending money without (sic) authroization. not supporting me as chair or the various events as he promised. there are problems with the convention. Not taking my calls and being belligerent.

    Well, there was nothing wrong with the convention; it went off with GREAT success, and without a hitch. Michael did spend money; more than what Larry had dictated, but it wasn’t money not had-it was money not being appropriately used. With regards to Michael and his “supporting…various events”, he orchestrated numerous events around the state. His efforts grew the ACTIVE population of the party exponentially, and almost doubled the attendance at the convention then that of the year prior. Oh, then there’s the small aspect of encouraging the support of a 1200% increase of candidates running for state offices, than of the previous three elections combined local elections! Let not the grade given by a self-centered, vindictive (former) “Chair” skew your opinion; let the facts speak for themselves, as what Libertarian Activist Michael Pickens had done for the Party (and notice the emphasis different from previously mentioned). Think for yourselves. After working with Michael, I have.

  2. Pete Blome

    It seems to me, Mr. Pickens attitude is exactly what is needed to actually win, which is what a political party is all about. I wish him and his team good luck.

  3. Paul Addis

    Is Michael Pickens perfect? No. Did Michael Pickens make mistakes? Yes. Is the LPWA better off because of the efforts of Michael Pickens? Yes.

    The LPWA was like a dying person in need of a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart. Michael Pickens’ audacious conduct over the past year provided that much-needed shot. Now the once lifeless body of the LPWA is vibrantly alive again. The effort was somewhat shocking and abrupt, but the body is generally grateful for being alive.

    Time will tell if this has been a positive turning point for the LPWA. History has judged that the LPWA was in dire need of a positive turning point.

    Thank you, Michael Pickens, for all your tireless effort, motivation, inspiration, creativity, and leadership.

  4. Kristopher Pockell

    Mr. Pickens and the group that voted at the convention represented a 2/3rds majority of all the delegates present. I reject the notion that what was voted changed at the convention was anything less than what the party as a whole wanted. Indeed, the negativity regarding Mr. Pickens is only destructive, and what’s done is done. Let’s move on and be supportive of Mr. Pickens in his new role.

  5. James R. Apker

    As the candidate for the 7th Legislative District, North Eastern Washington, I had no experience or contact with the, then, SEC. I didn’t even know they existed. When I finally did hear from the SEC, it was over web posts, a lot like this, & even then it, at that point in time it had be come a complete blame & bitch fest. Pointing fingers at who screwed up, why they screwed up, when they screwed up.

    Forgive me but the SEC (State Executive Committee) was, under the old guard, very hands off with Candidates from my experience. No call, email, smoke signal, when they found out that I was running for office, No “Hey, lets talk about who you are going run against, how you are going to run,” “not even “you are going to lose your first race so why don’t you try for something more at your local level instead of at the state level.” No nothing. Not that I need that simply because we, the folks here in Eastern Washington, do things on our own. We have to. The West side does like the think that we exist or even they treat us like the red headed stepchild & ignored. (My apologies to any red headed stepchildren who may end up reading this post. No offence intended.) It should be noted that the entire SEC is on the West Side of the state.

    But in this try of political climate, when people are sick & tired of Democrats & Republicans. We have the opportunity to make strides, even with all the first time candidates. To Win seats in the legislator. We need, the state party, a SEC who will get behind candidates & the brand. Support, encourage, and promote people to run for office. To promote the name, promote the brand, to promote successes. In my opinion they were not doing that.

    With that being said, the former SEC should have taken their own ratings & applying it to them selves.

    The current SEC has the drive, the passion, the will, and the push, to succeed in making the Libertarian party an asset in this state! As far the changes that are now law, the member body can change them if they do not work out as intended. As well as each member of the Current SEC can be voted out in a year’s time if the member body so chooses to vote him or her out.

    C. Michael Pickens is young, ambitious, positive, encouraging, engaging & driven to see the party & all future candidate succeed in their bid to get elected in Washington State.

    Not to say that the Previous SEC didn’t, but they seamed less active, from my point of view, less interested in advancing, promoting, encouraging, leading the fight of liberty in the state than the current SEC.

    At the end of the day the SEC should be a bunch of Cheer Leaders for the members, candidates & the party. If they are not positive, not engaged in advancing, promoting, encouraging, leading the fight of liberty in the state, then they needed to either step down with grace & dignity to let some one else lead or they needed to be removed with a majority vote from the member body. Which did happen. Going to this forum, to bring a disagreement with one person or several people & rating him/them in such a way, in my opinion is an emotional, egotistical, & narcissistic issue about losing power & influence with in the state party.

    If Michael Pickens does the same thing, as well as the current SEC body elect/serving, as the previous SEC, they need to do the same thing. Either Step down & leave with Grace & Dignity & Respect, or get voted out by a majority of the member body & replaced with someone who is as Michael Pickens, Chris Strong, Sean Treasure, Steven Nielson are right now! Excited, ambitious, positive, encouraging, driven, engaging in advancing, promoting, and leading the fight of liberty in the state of Washington.

  6. paulie

    Michael Pickens writes:

    It 2012 there were about 40 people in attendance at our state party convention, this past convention we had over 200.


    Very impressive, especially given the state population! More states should learn from that. Like California for example.

  7. Chris Rockhold

    Michael Pickens has been in direct contact with me regarding my campaign, at regular intervals, since he encouraged me to run in 2013. Out of all the state Libertarian party officers, he was the only person with which I had regular phone conversations, or drove to Vancouver to meet with me in person.

    While I understand that Larry and Michael have had their differences, I firmly believe that without C. Michael Pickens’ direct influence, the Washington State Libertarian Party would have just as many candidates running for statewide office as they did last year: 0.

    We like to talk about “establishment” folks in the Democrat and Republican parties, but the truth is that we have some “establishment” types of our own. While they espouse Libertarian ideals, they amount to nothing more than a Libertarian debate club. With Michael Pickens at the helm of the state party, we now have 12 candidates running for state legislative positions, myself included. That is phenomenal! Not only that, many of them are running against only one other candidate. Many of the establishment have told us we can’t win. They believe in a defeatist mentality that will only serve to cripple our movement. I’ve been told that for every naysayer within an organization, it takes 10 positive people to overcome the negative influence of just one person.

    It’s time for the Libertarian Party to grow up, and start acting like a political party. That means we must field candidates, and we must win elections. To do that, we need donors. We need volunteers, and we need people who believe we can win! Michael Pickens has always encouraged me when I doubted myself, or my abilities. He has been an excellent teacher, mentor, and friend. He has steered me in the right direction for finding resources and people to help with my campaign. Michael has dedicated countless hours, and road miles, to helping ensure the success of this party.

    I consider myself very fortunate to have such a friend in Michael Pickens. He has nothing but the utmost dedication and enthusiasm for the Washington state party. I believe that in the months to come, we will have success at the ballot box, right here in Washington state. We will owe much of that success, in no small measure, to C. Michael Pickens!

    Thank you, Michael!

  8. Jon S Hurtley

    All enterprises are either growing or dying. LPWA needs action. Michael brings that. Our candidates are a great collection of honest hardworking citizens who will serve all the people. Let’s support them together!

  9. Michael H. Wilson

    Maybe some of you should stop and consider the fact that Larry Nicholas brought Pickens on as the executive director and Larry knew that the web site needed to be brought up to date and that the LPWA had not had enough candidates previously. Maybe if Larry had not brought Pickens onboard non of the thinks you are applauding would never have happened.

  10. Richard Shepard

    I wish Mr. Pickens luck. Really. Maybe the voters are finally ready for a viable Libertarian Party in Washington State. I truly hope so. But neither am I going to hold my breath.

    The same kind of leadership turnover has happened before in the LPWA. Not once. Not twice. But three times that I am aware of, maybe more. About every 10 years or so, and for some of the same reasons.

    I won’t go into the details, but present purposes it is sufficient to know there was a shake-up in the mid-1980s. Through some hard work (and a bit of luck) the LPWA landed the rights to hold the 1986 National Convention in Seattle, the one that nominated Ron Paul to run for President. However, the preparation for that convention led to several conflicts, some of which involved legitimate strategic decisions and some of which were purely personal between those involved. The net result was that there was an almost complete turnover of party leadership.

    However, some unresolved issues still simmered after the 1986 convention, which issues reached a boiling point in the early 1990s. Members took sides, tempers flared, some members calling for the expulsion of other members. Again, the older members left, either because they were felt underappreciated or because they were just plain tired of the infighting and lack of progress in the cause of liberty.

    The next turnover occurred in the later 1990s. Once again, the cause of liberty had stagnated. Membership was down. Participation was down. This time the entire Executive Committee voluntarily resigned en masse to allow some “new blood” to come in and try its hand. That “new blood” organized a major project to get as many Libertarian candidates on the ballot as possible. The result was that there were 59 (that’s right 59!) statewide and legislative Libertarian candidates on the 2000 partisan election ballot. As luck would have it the LPWA’s Lt. Governor candidate Ruth Bennett received 7.8% of the vote and the LPWA became a “major political party” under Washington law.

    Unfortunately, that success was short-lived. The SCOTUS decided California Democratic Party v. Jones that same year, which invalidated a primary system in California that was similar to the one Washington had used since the 1930s. Over the next 8 years the LPWA, along with the Democratic and Republican Parties, was embroiled in two lawsuits, and several appeals of those lawsuits, regarding the primary election system that Washington would adopt going forward. Part of the sequelae of the new legislation and the lawsuits was that the LPWA lost its “major party” status.

    Here is where it is important to recognize that the new “top two” primary system and the lawsuits surrounding them have radically changed the elections landscape for all political parties, but for third parties especially. No longer can we assure that our candidate will be on the general election ballot. Neither could we even assure that a candidate claiming the “Libertarian” banner was a member of the party!

    However, there is a bright spot to this turn of events. The “top two” is a majority election system, meaning that the eventual winner MUST take more than half of the total votes to win. Most election systems in the United States, including the one that was invalidated, are plurality election systems. Under plurality election systems the electorate naturally gravitates to a two-party system. See, Duverger’s Law (look it up if you need to). Thus, under the “top two” the LPWA is no longer crippled with the so-called “spoiler” effect.

    Nonetheless, even if party activists understand these changes, it doesn’t mean that the electorate understands what has changed. Neither does it assure that anybody, even seasoned activists, truly understands the best strategy to win elections under this new system.

    Mr. Pickens and his team think they have a good strategy. And maybe they do. Time will tell. There are still some very basic requirements to success that either haven’t changed or have only changed a little bit. Fundraising, Publicity strategies, Fundraising, GOTV strategies and Fundraising.

    On top of that Libertarians have an especially hard task in that their basic philosophy of independence and self-sufficiency undercuts attempts to organize and work together. Over the years I have seen administration after administration come in with high hopes and great plans only to discover there are too many idea people and too few workers. That will be the real test of Mr. Pickens and Co. Can they harness the universal love of liberty held by party members into a successful movement? Or are they going to be reduced to herding cats?

    As I said, I wish Mr. Pickens luck. However, as I also said, until I see a group of activists who are willing to put personal agendas aside and work for the cause, I am not very hopeful.

  11. paulie

    Pete Blome

    2014/06/22 at 9:13 am

    Same Pete Blome that asked me why it was my business what happens in Florida?

  12. paulie

    Note to self: leave notes to self here so others may share the joy of knowing self’s inner thought process 🙂

  13. Rory L.

    I understand that a small but vocal minority in LPWA want to turn back the clock. However, the strategy and leadership in the SEC before this years convention was either non-existent or completely ineffective. We now have more members, more visibility, and actually have candidates running for office. This is largely due to the efforts of Michael Pickens. I want a party lead by people who get shit done and all other considerations, while important, are secondary. Rather than continuing this campaign to smear and sabotage, you might let go of the anger in being displaced by effective leaders, and consider helping build on the progress already made.

  14. paulie

    Good luck.

    BTW where is the campaign of smear and sabotage? Most of the comment I am seeing are positive about Pickens and the new group.

  15. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    Yeah, I’m a little surprised too at the talk of smearing Mr. Pickens. I don’t think this article does that. I knew that he had been removed from his ED position, but didn’t post anything until I knew what was going on. Then, I saw Mr. Sands’ write-up, and shortly thereafter was sent Mr. Nicholas’ review of Pickens. Of course I asked Michael about it, and he sent me the article I posted first. I sat on all three for a few days wondering how to present them, and then decided just pulling all three together made sense. My actual reason for posting it as an article is because there seem to be so many state LP parties going through serious growing pains now. This state seemed to pull through it well without getting everyone’s attention, and I think that’s newsworthy.

    Especially noteworthy to me is the fact that they’re a Top-Two state, just like mine. All I’ve been told this year about the horrifying and quick degradation of our state party (California) is the excuse “Top Two”. Yeah, right, and the Pope’s turning Jewish.

  16. paulie

    Jill, I think your article does a great job of presenting different viewpoints. There is no reason to go around pretending that different viewpoints do not exist or that everyone was happy with the changes in leadership and rules when obviously some people are not.

  17. David Terry

    Jill Pyeatt; ” Yeah, right, and the Pope’s turning Jewish.”

    Have you been peaking under the Pontiff’s raiment?

  18. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    Okay, Dave, you made me laugh, and I definitely need that right now!

  19. Michael H. Wilson

    Rory L. Larry Nicholas and those on the SEC understood that there were problems both with the web site and with recruiting and running candidates which is one of the reason Michael Pickens was brought on board. The SEC tried to solve the problems. Now they are being blamed because the problems existed.

  20. paulie

    Give Pickens a chance to show if his approach works. If it doesn’t, that will become obvious soon enough. If it does, maybe other states will be able to learn from it.

  21. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    What you say, Michael Wilson, is quite possibly true. It’s possible that Michael Pickens fixed the things he was brought in to do, let the attention go to his head, and caused a huge personality head-butting. We’ve all seen those things happen in politics, workplaces, heck, even families.

    Do you have specific insights to add? We have three opinions posted in the article, but no one has tried to put the three in perspective to each other. It sounds like you might have some insights you can add.

  22. Michael H. Wilson

    I guess I could do something but it won’t be today. Maybe tomorrow. How dat?

  23. Michael H. Wilson

    I met Mr. Pickens at the Las Vegas LP convention in 2012. Larry Nicholas, the Chair of the LPWA, introduced us and informed me that Mr. Pickens was probably going to move to Washington State and was going to be working with the LPWA. Some months later he was introduced to the LPWA State Executive Committee at a meeting and his role in the party as executive director was outlined to us at that meeting. Larry Nicholas had set a goal of fixing the web site when he ran for chair and all of us knew that we needed to expand the outreach efforts to find candidates as well as new members and to support those candidates. The web site was fixed by two others shortly after Larry’s term began. This left the issue of recruiting candidates and campaigns still to be worked on.

    Mr. Pickens’ agreement with the LPWA list outreach to potential candidates and possible volunteers, voter education related to the Libertarian principles, fundraising and monthly reports related to these issues.

    My first serious concern regarding Mr. Pickens came during the days just before the LPWA convention in the spring of 2013. I received a notice of the convention in the mail and the first thing I noticed was that it costs 65 cent to send out. Mr. Pickens informed me that this was a project he had handled for the convention. In my experience this cost was excessive and questionable. I later learned that the mailing was much more expensive than it should have been had the party’s nonprofit bulk mail permit been used. Bulk mail is a significant tool that anyone who has experience in politics, especially an executive director, should know how to use and the benefits of using. At the time I was willing to excuse this and offered to help with the next convention mailing in order to keep the costs down. However, over the next few months I noted a pattern that made me question the skills Mr. Pickens had in his role and his willingness to ask questions.

    About that same time he came up with the idea of a medallion with a lion on it to be used for fund raising. More than one person questioned the lion since that animal is known as the King of the Jungle which is not something most libertarians appreciate. Those comments were ignored.

    For the most part elections in odd numbered years in Washington State are for local offices. Some of the races are non partisan while others are partisan. There are a lot of these races in which LPWA candidates could participate such as those for local school boards. There are 295 school boards in the state with five board members each, except for Seattle which has a seven member board. About 500 or more of these seats are up each election if my calculations are correct along with city council, county commissioners, fire districts and a few others.

    In his role as executive director the first thing Mr. Pickens should have done was to establish a PAC for fund raising, look at local races and try to find candidates to run for some of these positions. Instead the LPWA ended up with just a few candidates who apparently had taken the initiative themselves for the most part and decided to run. None of whom were elected in November. No PAC was set up to receive funds and apparently few people were asked if that many.

    Later in the campaign season Mr. Pickens began to work with one of the candidates who was running and when it was suggested that the door to door effort begin as soon as possible he pushed back against that idea and said they could wait until October since a group he had taken a course from had a candidate of their own who waited until October to start their door to door campaigning. If someone does not understand that they need to getting going as soon as possible in any campaign for office they have little or no idea how to run a campaign. Besides the weather turns nasty in October in Washington State and by mid month ballots are in the mail if not in homes already thanks to our vote by mail elections process.

    It was at this time that I became convinced that Mr. Pickens was unqualified for his position as executive director. Not knowing is one thing but lacking a willingness to ask questions or take a suggestion tells me that a person has a closed mind and in politics, especially given the Libertarian Party’s position with the electorate, that can only be described as a negative attitude.

    The most recent LPWA convention is being hailed as a success. That depends on how you define success. The SEC was told that we could expect around 260 people to attend. There were about 90 voting delegates for the business session. All though I left early, I understand that about 130 were there for the lunch and just over 100, maybe 110, for the banquet. That is a lower than the 260 discussed much earlier. Other than the notice in the news letter which the SEC volunteers prepared and sent out there was no other notice to my knowledge except perhaps calls to Mr. Pickens’ supporters.

    There were a number of other incidents that caused me to question his skills but the final incident was when he posted a comment on Facebook calling a sitting Washington State Representative corrupt. To the best of my knowledge there was no investigation of this person at the time and there is not today.

    The Libertarian Party has been working to gain some respect with the media and the public for years. To have the executive director, who is supposed to be the public face of the LPWA, make such a comment is unacceptable. We can disagree but we don’t have to be disagreeable is an old saying. Mr. Pickens decided to ignore that bit of wisdom.


  24. Andy

    Michael H. Wilson said: “There were a number of other incidents that caused me to question his skills but the final incident was when he posted a comment on Facebook calling a sitting Washington State Representative corrupt. To the best of my knowledge there was no investigation of this person at the time and there is not today.”

    Almost all politicians are corrupt to some degree. Some would even argue that all politicians are corrupt.

  25. Fritz Sands

    One can have a personal opinion that all politicians are corrupt, but when one is the spokesman for a political party, it would be professional to have some data to back up one’s assertions before stating such things about a specific politician.

  26. Michael H. Wilson

    Andy from what I have been told the Representative who this comment was about is aware of the comment and who made it. That just make it a bit difficult for any LPWA member who appears before his committees and testifies. It also might make it difficult for the Libertarian candidates who is running against him in this election. We will see.

  27. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    I don’t know Mr. Pickens well, although I have nothing in particular against him, I’m in Southern CA, and he was from the Sacramento (which is Northern), so we actually didn’t even run across each other much. Right around the time he came was when the party in CA became quite dysfuntional, although I don’t think he had anything to do with it. Since the EX Com did things secretly, I really don’t know what was going on in the CA LP, though I am chair of one of the biggest regions in LA County.

    I know Pickens rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. He made a poor judgement call by making a big deal that Washington’s convention (in 2013) had more people than CA’s convention did. It may have been fact, but certainly sealed his fate for a lot of us in CA.

    People who do politics often have highly developed egos (I need to include myself in this category, or at least I’ve been told). That’s just the nature of the beast. I suspect he’ll have a few humbling experiences soon enough…

  28. Andy

    Jill Pyeatt Post authorJune 25, 2014 at 10:24 pm “I know Pickens rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. He made a poor judgement call by making a big deal that Washington’s convention (in 2013) had more people than CA’s convention did. It may have been fact, but certainly sealed his fate for a lot of us in CA.”

    I’ve only spoken to C. Michael Pickens one time, and it was a brief conversation, so I don’t really know him, but I agree with him, California 2014 State Convention was a joke, and Washington’s 2014 State Convention was much bigger and better.

    Libertarians in California should be ashamed, and should be motivated to do better now and in the future.

  29. Wes Wagner

    Well California is ground zero for the Starr Chamber’s extremely impressive leadership capabilities.

  30. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    Starr actually has little support by Libertarians in California. Based on his treatment at conventions, I think that’s true with Northern CA. No one trusts him.

  31. David Terry

    Yeah! You folks are so trustworthy in California! That must be the reason people are trying to divide it into 3,4,5,6, different states.

  32. Joe

    What would that do to the US Senate? out of the 10 new senators, the break would probably be 7 democrats, 3 republicans, I’m guessing. (if they got 6 states — 10 new senators). Reps would not change, I gather (at least not by much, if at all), but tremendous impact on the Senate.

  33. Kevin Bjornson

    I’ve been active in the LPWA longer than anybody who has commented here.

    Richard Shepherd had a good account of parallels in party history but left out some things. We didn’t get major party status out of the clear blue sky based on one candidate’s performance. The party’s infrastructure was patiently built up over a period of years. At one point, all party records and assets were in my drawer and we in west king county had the only regularly scheduled LP meeting in the state. Our WKCLP chairs raised funds, paying for an office and our first executive director. We lost major party status in part due to the purity police re-taking the party and reinstating kooky planks in the platform.

  34. Kevin Bjornson

    There is a confusing continuation to the sorry saga of Michael Pickens and his brave new crew.

    Nielson is now chair. He has received reports of Pickens’ embezzlement of party funds and launched an internal investigation leading to a secret report. Nielson has issued a “gag order” but himself disclosed some information after my persistent questioning.

    Nielson disclosed that he and his SEC have forwarded to LPWA Judicial Committee this report, redacted to remove medical information, and appended this:

    “For informal review as to actions to be taken regarding banning individuals from the party for life due to illegal activity adversely impacting the LPWA.”

    He has accused un-named persons of criminal activity. Would this be impersonations or false identity on Facebook, like lying about one’s age when talking with minors?

    Or does he view criticism of his or Pickens’ conduct as criminal behavior? I haven’t received any such communications in my inbox. If this is a “whisper” campaign, as Nielson has alleged, they (or he) must have been whispering very quietly.

    Are private conversations subject to criminal sanction when critical? On what authority does he propose to ban a person or persons for “life”?

    Apparently Nielson has already come to a conclusion prior to the informal recommendation of JudCom; isn’t that a job for law enforcement agencies? (and not Nielson, the SEC or JudCom). Wouldn’t that be like the Catholic Church handling complaints of sexual abuse of minors by priests, through internal church procedures? Wouldn’t that be a cover-up?

    If the comments were simply political criticism, how does that amount to criminal behavior?

  35. Michael Pickens


    The “reports” of embezzlement were nothing but rumors. There was no evidence to back up the claims against me. Not only that, but I never even had access to the party bank account when I was Chair. This was nothing but a poorly executed smear campaign against me. I have donated thousands of hours and invested thousands of dollars into the Libertarian Party and I will continue to do so. My mission is way more important than a small group of former leaders who want nothing more than revenge because they haven’t learned to control their egos.

    So instead of just going out and recruit more people, like I did, they are resorting to smear tactics and you are just parroting their lies.

  36. Kevin Bjornson

    How convenient, to claim exoneration from a secret report. After you told me about the existence of the report, i asked Nielson for a copy. He kept on saying I could have the report and to stop asking or he would file a criminal complaint against me for harassment.

    Nielson claims the report is available in the minutes of the September SEC meeting, which are supposed to be available online. However the last five SEC meetings are not yet available yet, though earlier ones are.

    The report that is supposed to be available, is redacted, allegedly due to medical information contained therein.

    Of course, not all money goes through banks, but is in the form of cash. Hard to audit. And, what about the kickbacks the party was supposed to get for the over-priced silver coins from NW Mint?

    I parrot no lies, I’m simply asking questions and making logical deductions from your claims and those of Nielson. Are the “former leaders” (whom you refer to as smear mongers) the ones Nielson is considering filing criminal complaints about, to punish them for exercising their free speech? May we see the secret JudCom report that investigated the secret SEC report?

    If you really donated thousands of dollars to LPWA,while a paid executive director, that doesn’t seem very smart (to receive a taxable income as ED and then donate to a political party that can offer no tax deductions). Why not instead, simply take a lower salary?

  37. Andy

    Was he paid on a commission or on an hourly basis, or was his position as an unpaid volunteer?

  38. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    It’s strange to have this article revived after more than a year. I hope the Washington LP isn’t getting ready to implode, like a few other state parties have.

  39. Fritz Sands

    There was a separate deal with a company belonging to Mr. Pickens for fund-raising with commission. Again, that was separate — at my insistence (among others) the two arrangements were completely uncoupled. For his work as ED, there was no compensation.

  40. Jill Pyeatt Post author


    The Florida LP is suffering significant “growing pains” at this time, also.

  41. Michael H. Wilson

    Pickens writes; “My mission is way more important than a small group of former leaders who want nothing more than revenge because they haven’t learned to control their egos.”

    As one of the directors who lost their position at the 2014 Auburn convention I can assure you not one of the former officers or directors has approached me suggesting revenge or a smear campaign be conducted against anyone. The fact is I doubt that most of them know or even care at this point, what is going on within the LPWA. I’m probably the only one stupid enough to stay involved. No one has called me, no one has emailed me, or made any other form of contact suggesting that anything of that nature be organized.

  42. David Terry

    Jill wrote: “It’s strange to have this article revived after more than a year. I hope the Washington LP isn’t getting ready to implode, like a few other state parties have.

    Actually Jill, it was 1 day shy of 4 months. But it seems that sometimes a month of haggling on this list seems like a year!

  43. Fritz Sands

    I will second the comment from Michael Wilson. Those of us who were booted in 2014 have moved on. The closest we came to anything coordinated was that a group of former LPWA leaders (most from before my time) got together to drink beer in a pub. I’m good with that, and I wish nothing but the best to the LPWA.

  44. Fritz Sands

    Glad to hear it about Oregon. The last I heard they still had two competing sets of state executive committees. Has that been resolved, or does that redundancy not impact their effectiveness?

  45. Wang Tang-Fu

    “1 day shy of 4 months.”

    Arithmetic and dates aren’t your strong suit, are they? Look at the year of the dates too before you correct other people.

    “But it seems that sometimes a month of haggling on this list seems like a year!”

    You mean you can’t find your way out?

  46. Wang Tang-Fu

    ” The last I heard they still had two competing sets of state executive committees.”

    Only one of them has ballot access. The other one is a PAC that consists of Dave Terry and about a half dozen of his friends who exhibit a similarly firm grasp of logic, facts and reality as he does in the comment about dates above, or the comment on the open thread this morning where he fantasized that someone was talking to him when it should have been readily obvious that they were not, or indeed almost any other comment he ever makes.

  47. David Terry

    Tang without a Wang writes: “Arithmetic and dates aren’t your strong suit, are they? Look at the year of the dates too before you correct other people.

    Actually, I was under the impression that 2014 was so screwed up, it was decided to repeat it over again!

    BTW – thanks for the promotion!

  48. Wang Tang-Fu

    That’s Mr. Wang to you, but you can’t even get that much right. As for the rest of what you wrote, my translation program says it does not compute. Perhaps I am putting in the wrong language? If Mr. Terry is writing in a language other than English, does anyone recognize which language it is, so I can adjust the translation program to the correct dialect? And if he is using English, does anyone understand what he is trying to say there, and could you please put it in different words to give my translation program another chance? Thank you in advance.

  49. George Phillies


    There is the Wagner group, recognized as the state party by the LNC and by the state, that has a vigorous program of putting candidates on the ballot and otherwise doing politics, and the Reeves group, which is suing and complaining to the LNC judiciary Committee, but which cannot stop the Wagner group from running candidates, and does relatively little real politics of its own.

    In some sense there are two parties, but one of them is much more substantial than the other.


  50. Wang Tang-Fu

    The smaller one may actually have more active members that live out of state than in Oregon. For example, one of their leaders lives in Israel (before that, Eastern Europe) at last report and serves on the LNC judicial committee while a second is on trial for murder and other charges in Virginia as of the last time we received an update.

  51. Dave Terry

    “That’s Mr. Wang to you, but you can’t even get that much right.”

    Sorry, I only use the title Mr. on honorable men who deserve respect.

    How ironic that you criticize my grasp of English subtleties, yet you
    apparently are unaware that in the Anglo-American (not to mention,
    the Latin based languages and also other Teutonic and Slavic languages)
    – the Mr. goes with the “last” name – ergo (if you were actually worthy)
    you should be addressed as “Mr. Tang-Fu” NOT Mr. Wang!

    Apparently your error is a direct consequence of your fascination with
    male anatomy!!!

  52. Wang Tang-Fu

    Perhaps Mr. Terry is unaware that in Chinese the family name goes first, so it is indeed Mr. Wang. Tang-Fu is my given name (what in your culture is called a “first name.”) The fascination with male genetalia appears to be on the part of Mr. Terry, even if he wishes to project it unto others in the conversation. But then, how could Mr. Terry be expected to know such simple facts about other cultures and languages, when he has exhibited so little grasp of his own?

    Thank you for at least confirming that your cryptic message above was meant to be in English, Mr. Terry. I wasn’t sure until you did so. My translation program still can’t make heads or tails of what you wrote above, October 25, 2015 at 9:39 pm. Perhaps someone whose English is better than mine can explain it in a way that this confounded machine can understand? You must forgive my translation program; it was first written by one of my Wang ancestors over 6,000 years ago, and many generations of Wangs have added to it it as we have learned of new languages in far flung parts of the world.

  53. Wang Tang-Fu

    I would, however, like to thank Mr. Terry for the excellent link to Urban Dictionary. For those who did not follow the link, one of the definitions provided reads:

    “1) A very common Chinese surname (meaning KING in chinese)
    2) An ancient brand of computer systems
    3) Penis, dong, schlong, dork, johnson, cock, prick, dick
    4) The jaw, jawbone, or cheek bone.
    5) A slap; a blow.
    6) A unit of measuring internet coolness

    Mr. Wang just pulled out his wang(penis) and wanged(slap) you in the wang(the jaw).”

    It appears that Mr. Terry somehow skipped over the first and second definitions and proceeded directly to the third, revealing little except for what is foremost on his own mind. I will let the readers draw their own conclusions here.

  54. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    I don’t see any reason to shut it down, Richard. The Terry/Wang conmments will die down soon, and someone may wish to update us on what’s going on in the state. Most likely, the article and thread will end on its own soon, and will no longer be available unless someone searches for it.

  55. paulie

    We don’t generally close old threads, with very rare exceptions. Every once in a while they get revived, as has happened here. I’m not sure why in this case, but I guess it’s not that important.

  56. Fritz Sands

    This thread has the potential, in time, to be useful again. I hope that at the end of his tenure as Chair, Steven Neilson would perhaps expand it with some honest appraisals of the pros and cons of the approach he chose in 2014. “Transition by coup” is a motif that is not unknown in political circles.

  57. Richard Shepard

    Mr. Terry, I’m pretty thick skinned as it happens. My concern related more to organizational energy, of which LPWA has always had in short supply, at least for the last 30 years or so. Sure, there have been waves of activity, and then lulls, over and over, but nothing substantial to support either membership or growth on a regular basis. There has always been more infighting than progress, in my view. And this thread seems to me to be heading down that same path, again. When I was active I came to the conclusion that the LP was the party that didn’t want to be a party, and thus regularly found ways to shoot itself in the foot.

    One answer, in my view, is that the LPWA needs an institutional memory. Sure, there are only a few “old dogs” still around (my apologies, Kevin, but I fit in that category too) but for the most part nobody really knows what went on before, what worked and what didn’t, and every new administration essentially reinvents the wheel.

    I think, when he was elected, Steve asked me to head up a committee to rebuild that institutional memory and I declined, citing family obligations. Unfortunately those family obligations have only gotten more imperative over time. However, I also note that nobody else has taken up the task, or contacted me to find out what I know or what I experienced, as an officer of the LPWA or as a candidate, or, for that matter, as lead counsel for the LPWA on the primary election litigation.

    In short, while there is some value to be drawn from the lessons of the 2014 “coup”, I consider them rather minor in light of so many more important matters that the LPWA has to address.

    I, of course, have no control over your editorial prerogatives, but it seems to me far more likely that you would get more new articles if you had a policy of shutting off comments on old articles after a certain length of time.

  58. paulie

    I, of course, have no control over your editorial prerogatives, but it seems to me far more likely that you would get more new articles if you had a policy of shutting off comments on old articles after a certain length of time.

    I honestly doubt it. We also have many news tips and article suggestions that the writers/editors never get to. The comments really make IPR what it is, although we have some value as a news outlet. I and probably most of the others wouldn’t be motivate to help run it if it weren’t for the comment “community.” At times, discussions on revived threads have been interesting.

  59. Michael H. Wilson

    The problem I have with this entire issue is that growing the LP is not a difficult problem. In fact I think it is fairly simple. The problem is getting people to agree and then doing it. Fortunately it has all been done before. Unfortunately too many are unwilling to listen or read for that matter.

  60. paulie

    There are many disagreements on details of policies and strategies. I also think the point above about lack of institutional memory is valid.

  61. Fritz Sands

    Yeah, there are definitely problems of “herding cats” when organizing libertarians. But then there are also actions that actively destroy organization. And actions that should be taken but are never really taken. I have seen all of this.

    Mike Wilson has pointed out some simple actions that absolutely should be done to grow the party. He pointed these out during the previous leadership and the current leadership. None of them were rocket science but were basic, boring, non-flashy grunt work. Things like contacting each lapsed member and asking that member to renew. Things like contacting each member of national who does not pay dues to the state party and asking for a contribution.

    The old “herding cats” statement can be a way to dismiss the lack of basic competence at organizational maintenance.

  62. George Phillies

    There are many things that might be nice to do, but that does not mean you have the resources to do them. Gaining members may be quantifiable, but that does not mean it is the most important choice.

  63. Michael H. Wilson

    Thanks for the positive comments Fritz. We all have somethings to offer. For me it has usually come down to making a list of things that we need to do to stay ahead of the demands of the government regulators first and secondly to do the simple things to grow the organization such as contacting the lapsed members.

  64. Michael H. Wilson

    Dr. Phillies when I think of the LP I sometimes am reminded of an old saying that there is strength in numbers which is why I believe it is important to get more people involved. Getting them involved is sometimes as easy as making a few phone calls, or writing a letter. Maybe I am too simple minded but I haven’t seen much that is complicated about this activity of ours.

  65. paulie

    I think people should work on the projects that personally excite them or strike them as most important. Getting more people involved should definitely be one of them, and some people like that activity.

  66. George Phillies

    getting people involved and recruiting members are completely different things. I was discussion membership recruitment, getting people to pay dues or whatever.

  67. Michael H Wilson

    Hey, it is July 11th, 2017 and a new SEC has been elected. IT must be time for a new comment on this article, but maybe later. Interesting that I actually found this while looking for something else.

  68. Kevin S Bjornson

    Despite all the hoopla, Pickens accomplished nothing. The former convention amounted to a coup. Elected officials were thrown out in the middle of their terms (by using obscure rules in novel ways).

    There was a LPWA investigation into allegations of financial wrong-doing on the part of Pickens in his role as executive director. Nielson refused to release the report and convinced the new committee to go along with his “gag order”. He promised to release the report but he never complied with my request.
    Nielson is a parody of a self-important minor official, slick with a fake smile. He was supposed to run for office, but the election results did not include him.

    In California and Washington, Pickens had investors though nobody made a profit except Pickens. He is incompetent, deceptive, arrogant, and unaware of basic libertarian principles. I understand he convinced another financial angel to come to his rescue. New Jersey’s loss is Washington’s gain.

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