Florida Libertarian Convention Report

LP presidential debate participants confer with moderator George Phillies. Facing camera from left are Marc Feldman, Austin Petersen, LPF Chair Char-Lez Braden, Darryl Perry, and Gary Johnson

LP presidential debate participants confer with moderator. Facing camera from left are Marc Feldman, Austin Petersen, LPC Chair Char-Lez Braden, Darryl Perry, and Gary Johnson

This reporter attended the Libertarian Party of Florida convention on Saturday in West Palm Beach.

Wes Benedict speaks to LPF convention

Wes Benedict speaks to LPF convention

LNC Executive Director Wes Benedict spoke early in the day, talking about the challenge of persuading people effectively. He offered a mild libertarian vision (cut military less than 50 percent, minor reductions in social security). The attendees responded with a standing ovation.

The business portion of the meeting was dominated by discussions about party offices and proposed amendments to the LPF Constitution and By-Laws. The most humorous moment of this part was when one attendee stood up and suggested that anyone who comments should state their name before they begin speaking. He was then asked for his name.

While the meeting seemed to run smoothly to this reporter, one member of the Executive Committee complained to those around him about how it was being run.

The agenda item for party nominations was apparently an error, as these are not supposed to be done by vote at convention but rather appointed by the Executive Committee.

The various motions to amend the constitution and by-laws – and to amend the proposed amendments, – led to lively discussion.

Left to right: Gary Johnson, Marc Feldman, Darryl Perry and Austin Petersen

Left to right: Gary Johnson, Marc Feldman, Darryl Perry and Austin Petersen

There was a long lunch break including a presidential debate. All four candidates present spoke well. Feldman was the comedian and had the audience laughing almost every time he spoke. Johnson had the most gravitas and was the most boring. Perry was the purest, repeatedly using the phrase “maximum liberty.” Petersen had an impressive debate performance. He took a somewhat purist libertarian approach, with some attendees remarking that may not be consistent with some of his past position statements.

During the debate there was a huge tiff over Johnson’s campaign debt. Darryl Perry made a reference to campaign debt without mentioning Johnson by name. Johnson interrupted Perry in violation of the debate rules and protested vigorously. At one point the moderator cut Johnson’s microphone off.

This has been a long-running criticism of Johnson, including here on IPR in 2013. On his turn, Johnson asserted that the FEC will not allow his campaign to treat the debt as a write-off and reassured attendees that contributions to his campaign will not go to pay off debt.

During a discussion of foreign policy it struck this reporter that many of the candidates don’t seem to understand that the president’s power in foreign policy is plenary.

John McAfee was not in the debate. It seemed well understood within the attendees that this was a glitch and not McAfee’s fault. One of our sources (consistent with what we heard at the event) tells us:

The LPF originally booked JM for a speaking slot, not a debate— later in the day— and they made their travel plans. At some point prior to the event (but with sufficient time to change their plans apparently) they learned it would be a debate and earlier but to change plans would have cost the campaign several thousand dollars which they did not feel was fair nor a wise investment after the candidates just debated less than 24 hours previously so they came as originally planned and LPF gave him a speaking slot.

After the debate there was a straw poll. Gary Johnson received the most votes but did not get a majority. The total was:

  • 41 Gary Johnson
  • 29 Austin Petersen
  • 8 Marc Feldman
  • 7 Darryl Perry
  • 1 None of the Above

US Senate candidate Augustus Invictus was present at the event. There is a general sense that the LPF’s EC will not support him, but so far there does not appear to be another candidate. Invictus said he might submit himself to the LPF’s candidate selection committee. If not, or if they don’t support him, he will post a filing fee to get on primary ballot. The primary is August 30th. It is this reporter’s understanding that if Invictus is the only one who files, he will be the candidate on the November ballot.

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39 thoughts on “Florida Libertarian Convention Report

  1. Andy

    “This has been a long-running criticism of Johnson, including here on IPR in 2013. On his turn, Johnson asserted that the FEC will not allow his campaign to treat the debt as a write-off and reassured attendees that contributions to his campaign will not go to pay off debt.”

    So when and how does Gary Johnson plan to pay off this debt? If he does not plan to pay of this debt, have the people who are owed the money all agreed to forgiving these debts incurred by Johnson?

  2. Andy

    “If he does not plan to pay of this debt,”

    Should read, “If he does not plan to pay off this debt…”

  3. Caryn Ann Harlos

    If McAfee had been here AP’s would have been lower giving GJ the majority. Whether that is good or bad is debatable. It is just the LP mood

    AP’s portions ring hollow with some because they often lack foundation. He waffles in flaming support for rights qua rights and utilitarianism and has rendered himself unable to articulate a theory of “violation” – it is all rah rah constitution with neither philosophical or pragmatic grounding in a consistent manner. Gary embodies a consistent pragmatism – not my thing but he is consistent.

    Darryl is “pure” in consistency with clearly defined grounding – whether one agrees or not.

  4. Andy

    I think that Petersen is doing relatively well because his presentation is good. He also sounds “libertarian enough” in spite of the fact that he’s not a purist, or what a lot of people here would call a hardcore libertarian.

    My problems with Petersen are:

    1) He mocks the NAP which is supposed to be the guiding principle of the party.

    2) He attacks people who talk about people in government engaging in conspiracies.

    3) He has engaged in troll like attacks against people.

    My hunch is that most of the LP delegates at the state conventions held so far, as well as most of the people who are likely to be delegates to the national convention, do not know any of these things about Petersen. Remember, most people, even most Libertarians, do not follow this stuff as closely as most of the regular readers here do.

    So if I did not know points 1, 2, and 3 about Petersen, and I just heard him speak at a convention, I’d probably be more enthusiastic about his campaign.

  5. Jim Polichak from Long Island

    I hate to say it but the turnout at these statewide conventions {as indicated by the number of votes report in this and other similar articles – Less than 100 statewide? Really?} is depressing.
    Back in the early days of the party {1974} I had the privilege of managing a Libertarian {then called the Free Libertarian Party in New York State because Libertarian was considered too close to the then active Liberal Party} candidate in Nassau County on Long Island. We regularly had 15 or 20 people out canvassing for the candidate each weekend. Enough to defeat the designated candidate of the Conservative Party in the Conservative primary.
    In 1976 I was in the Navy at RTC/NTC/ORL {Recruit Training Command – Naval Training Center – Orlando, FL} and I was working with Roger MacBride trying to get him a place on the ballot. Unfortunately, we failed. A federal judge ruled that Roger being the candidate of a political party had to meet the stricter and considerable high signature requirements than did Eugene McCarthy who was running as an independent candidate.

  6. Andy

    “Jim Polichak from Long Island
    April 10, 2016 at 16:23
    I hate to say it but the turnout at these statewide conventions {as indicated by the number of votes report in this and other similar articles – Less than 100 statewide? Really?} is depressing.”

    I agree. Florida is the 3rd most populated state in the country (it recently surpassed New York), so one would think that they’d have more than 100 delegates at their state convention.

    The recent LP convention in California only has 65 delegates which is pretty horrible considering that California has a population of over 38 million people, and considering that they held the convention in Los Angeles, which is the most populated city and metropolitan area in the state, with over 3.9 million people in the city, and over 12 million people in the metropolitan area. The convention was held near Los Angeles International Airport, which means it was in a convenient location for anyone from northern California who wanted to attend but did not feel like driving that far. It was within a 1-3 hour commute for lots of people. Those in San Diego County, San Bernardino, Orange County, Riverside County, Ventura County, Kern County and Santa Barbara County were all within a reasonable driving range from the convention, and there are a lot of people in these counties. The LP of California State Convention that I attended that was held near the Los Angeles International Airport back in 2005 had several times the number of delegates than were at this convention (there were a few hundred).

    The fact that a state LP convention in the largest city and largest metropolitan area of the most populated state only drew 65 delegates is a disturbing sign. I heard that there were other people who attended to watch the debate who were not delegates, but even adding in these people it sounds like peak attendance was only around 100, which is still not good.

  7. Jill Pyeatt

    Andy said: “The fact that a state LP convention in the largest city and largest metropolitan area of the most populated state only drew 65 delegates is a disturbing sign. I heard that there were other people who attended to watch the debate who were not delegates, but even adding in these people it sounds like peak attendance was only around 100, which is still not good.”

    Despite all the Negative Nellies out there, everyone I know who went to CA’s convention thought it went well, and that the state party is getting better. We allowed things to get very low, as far as knowing who to trust and who was doing anything positive for the LP CA, because of the complete lack of communication and transparency that went on for years. It’s going to take a while to build up again, and I’m pleased to see upward and forward movement.

    I also imagine it’s almost as difficult to plan a convention for less than a hundred people as for more than a hundred people. I appreciate all of Mark Hink;es’s and Nancy Neale’s efforts in pulling it off.

  8. Andy

    Jill Pyeatt said: “Despite all the Negative Nellies out there, everyone I know who went to CA’s convention thought it went well, and that the state party is getting better.”

    I hate to sound negative, Jill, but I’m just disappointed by the lack of progress of the Libertarian Party in general. I was active in the Libertarian Party of California from the late 1990’s up until the mid 2000’s. so it is especially disappointing for me to see the LP of California as a shell of its former self.

    California is not the only state LP affiliate that has gone downhill, several of them have, and as a whole, the Libertarian Party is just not where I thought it would be in 2016 back when I first became a member in 1996. Back in 1996 I envisioned that by 2016 that the Libertarian Party would be much larger and more successful than it actually is currently.

  9. wredlich Post author

    I would estimate overall attendance at closer to 150. Not all attendees were delegates – I was not a delegate and thus could not vote.

    I didn’t notice any open, public reception toward Invictus, neither positive not negative. But from private conversations he is not well liked.

  10. George Phillies

    “At one point the moderator cut Johnson’s microphone off.” At some point he shut up, but we did not have a way to turn off a single microphone , or so I was told by the tech people.

    I’ll come to what he said later today. My late flight was delayed, and I actually did not get to sleep until 3AM or so this morning.

  11. George Phillies

    Chris,

    Invictus had a table at the convention. It was never attended when I passed by. I gather that he was there.

    George

  12. Marc Allan Feldman

    As I announced in the Florida Convention, I am in the process of recruiting my wife’s mother, Carole Belaga, to join the Libertarian Party and to run for the Senate nomination.
    At this point, her main question is whether she can put her age down as: NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.

  13. William Saturn

    Dr. Feldman,

    Do you plan on filling out the short questionnaire I sent to you the other day? Many of your fellow candidates have already done so.

  14. Pete Blome

    Dr. Feldman, reference the comment you made about your mother-in-law…are you seriously recruiting her to run for U.S. Senate in Florida? If you are asking her to run in a serious campaign, FS 99.021 (1) (b) 2. requires potential candidates of any political party to swear or affirm that they have not been a member of another political party for 365 days prior to the beginning of the qualifying period for the office they seek. The qualifying period for 2016 starts 20 June 2016. If she was a member of another political party during the previous year she would be prohibited from running as a Libertarian. Is the intent of the campaign to gain standing so as to contest this unconstitutional law in court? She may run as an NPA, but that does nothing to compete with the Invictus campaign. He would still be on the ballot as a Libertarian because FS 96.096 took away the power of all political parties to decide who can be on the ballot under a particular party label. I consider this law to also be unconstitutional. The question about writing down her age…is that a serious point or are you just joking in general? Are you or her willing to fund the $10440 filing fee? If any of these answers are a genuine intention to run, please call me. I believe you have my card.

    The rap poem was very good. Its on the NFLP Facebook page, as I said it would be.

  15. Observer

    Watching the video, it seems pretty obvious that the audience was firmly on Gary’s side when Perry tried to lie about the campaign debt and then the ostensible moderator tried to join in the attack.

  16. Andy

    “Observer
    April 12, 2016 at 13:06
    Watching the video, it seems pretty obvious that the audience was firmly on Gary’s side when Perry tried to lie about the campaign debt and then the ostensible moderator tried to join in the attack.”

    What lie did Perry tell about the campaign debt? Is there money owed from Gary Johnson 2012 or not? If there is money owed from Gary Johnson 2012, have all of those that are owed money agreed to forgive the debt, and if not, is there a plan to pay these debts?

  17. George Phillies

    What are you claiming was Perry’s lie, observer? Come on, don’t be shy, let’s be specific here.

    I mean, you’re hiding behind a pseudonym, so you really can’t hurt your good name by making a fool out of yourself in public.

    So what with some level of precision are you claiming was the lie?

  18. George Phillies

    Was it, perhaps, the other 330,000+ of debt that Perry didn’t mention? The extra 100,000 give or take of debt that postdated the FEC report he appeared to be quoting?

    Was it that he forgot to mention that if Johnson “settled” the part of his debt that can legally be settled, leaving the part he cannot make go away, Johnson no longer owed the debt because his creditors ate it?

    Let’s hear it.

  19. Stewart Flood

    Regardless of whether the Johnson 2012 campaign can write off debt or if Perry’s statements were accurate or inaccurate, the only thing the moderator should have done was stop Johnson from interrupting. Dr Phillies’ comment in support of Perry came over the stream loud and clear. That was, technically, “out of order” on the part of the moderator.

    Aside from that incident, the debate was run quite well.

    Can Johnson write off the debt? I have no idea, and of course it still concerns me as well as other delegates to the convention. I am sure that there will be a number of very hard-hitting questions directed at him in Orlando, as there will be against Petersen over statements he’s made and McAfee over his recent conversion and his selection of a running mate with an even more checkered past.

    This may be a very nasty floor fight. Remember to bring popcorn.

  20. Andy

    Whether or not Johnson can legally write off the debt, and whether or not writing it off is an ethical thing to do are two different questions.

  21. Stewart Flood

    I agree that it is unethical, regardless of whether it is legal or not. That’s the problem with what they did. It was neither legal or ethical to have someone underwrite the campaign. The FEC already fined them for it.

    Giving away the campaign contributor list, which I believe by agreement belongs to the LNC, is also unethical. If Johnson did not meet his obligation as a candidate to give the LNC the data, then how can he be trusted to do it this time?

    To be accurate (fair not being applicable), several previous presidential campaigns also failed to share the data from the campaign.

    On the plus side of the ledger, Johnson has some name recognition and has built quite a large following that would be likely to grow this election year. On the negative side of the ledger, the campaign was badly mismanaged and financially bankrupt.

    I can see the point that some have made that he is the most “electable” of our candidates, but should that be the only factor? I just took the “I side with” test and I side with Feldman 96%, Perry 95%, Petersen 92%, McAfee 91%, but only 80% with Johnson.

    I am not sure what 4-5% of the answers Feldman and Perry got WRONG, but there is a distinct gap between the first four and Johnson.

    I should probably look at their answers…

  22. Stewart Flood

    I see where Feldman goofed. Small matters like simply saying no to NSA surveillance, instead of the correct answer which is no, and abolish the NSA.

    I’m not sure what the difference is between him saying no to the US preventing Russia from doing things and no we should not get involved. Seems like the same answer to me.

    There were a few more like that. I think the site is broken.

  23. Andy

    The bottom line here is does Gary Johnson 2012 still owe people money, and are the people whom Gary Johnson 2012 owes money to still wanting to collect this money? Are the creditors really OK with letting these debts slide? If any of these creditors still want the money that Gary Johnson 2012 owes them, then what plan is in place to pay these creditors, and what is the time frame that the Gary Johnson campaign has in mind for paying them?

    If the creditors are taking the attitude of it is OK if the Gary Johnson campaign does not pay us, then I suppose that one could argue that the whole thing is a moot point. So do these people want the money that the are owed or not?

    I’d say that not paying people whom you owe money to is unethical, and is a violation of libertarian principles.

  24. Stewart Flood

    That is exactly the point this all hinges on. Gov Johnson has said that the creditors are agreeable to taking mailing lists, with the ability to resell them. But I believe some part of this list may contain donor lists from the LP, which cannot be given away.

    The contract from 2012 with the LNC should be reviewed to see what the agreement was and to verify if this list contains LNC property. That is my main concern. If it does not, and the creditors will accept it as payment (assuming the contract with the LNC is fulfilled), then it may all be able to be settled.

    But this can’t be allowed to happen again. I don’t know how to guarantee that if he becomes our nominee.

  25. Andy

    The lists are not going to all of the creditors. What do these people get from the Johnson campaign?

  26. Darcy G Richardson

    “Watching the video, it seems pretty obvious that the audience was firmly on Gary’s side when Perry tried to lie about the campaign debt and then the ostensible moderator tried to join in the attack.” — Observer

    There’s really nothing Darryl said about Gary Johnson’s staggering 2012 campaign debt that isn’t a matter of public record.

    If anything, Darryl understated the true size and magnitude of Johnson’s debt. He wasn’t looking to pick a fight. That’s not his style. Arguably the most genuine libertarian in the race — a real fighter for individual liberty and for the cause of freedom — and possessing a record of activism virtually unmatched by any other contender for the LP’s presidential nomination, Darryl was merely speaking the truth.

    Then again, some of us realize just how difficult it must be for Gary’s fan boys — placed in the unenviable position of defending one of America’s greatest political deadbeats — to support the former governor’s candidacy.

    Ignoring or denying the facts, all of which are readily available at the FEC’s website, is about the only way to do it.

  27. Darcy G Richardson

    As George Phillies — the gutsy and underappreciated guardian of Libertarian pocketbooks everywhere — stated in an earlier comment, it appears that Gary Johnson now has thirty days to repay the U.S. Treasury some $332,191 in federal matching funds received during the former governor’s sloppily-managed 2012 presidential campaign.

    Tom Knapp, one of the libertarian movement’s finest writers, succinctly addressed this new and potentially troubling issue yesterday:
    http://knappster.blogspot.com/2016/04/gary-johnsons-campaign-debts-get-bigger.html

    That $332,000 repayment of taxpayer money, of course, is in addition to the massive — and still unresolved — $1,538,000 debt incurred during the 2012 campaign.

    For a guy who proudly claims to have vetoed 750 bills as governor of New Mexico and who, almost matter-of-factly, called for a whopping 43 percent reduction in federal spending during the 2012 presidential campaign, it’s kind of curious that the vastly-overrated Johnson, a self-described “fiscal conservative,” failed to put a stop to any of the profligate and wasteful spending patterns — an inordinate amount of which was spent on ridiculously extravagant staff salaries instead of actual campaign outreach — exhibited by his inept and mysteriously aloof campaign management team four years ago.

    Johnson’s extraordinary lack of prudence when it came to his own campaign spending practices in 2012 — a feeding frenzy of pigs at the trough, all of whom were on his payroll — was baffling, to say the least.

    It was a nice gig for Johnson’s campaign staff, perhaps even a particularly lucrative one for a couple of them, including Ron Nielson, but given the country’s serious economic and fiscal woes the electorate is probably in no mood this year for a mediocre ex-governor who can’t even balance his own campaign’s checkbook.

    Libertarians least of all.

    What’s that old adage about “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…?”

    Choose your 2016 standard-bearer wisely.

  28. George Phillies

    Andy,

    NOTHING, according to the *proposed* debt settlement. The other creditors are not getting a dime.

    Of course, the entity owing the debt is a corporation so, EXCEPT FOR the Federal government over matching funds, the creditors have no claim on assets of Johnson himself or GJ2016. (Attorneys will recognize some recherche exceptions, e.g., ‘piercing the corporate veil’, to what I just said.) (For this reason, when you by broadcast media ads, the terms in my experience are always *cash in advance*.)
    Matching funds are more complicated.

    By agreeing to the deal, the creditors generate some amount of good will, good will in the exact GAAP sense, that has a quantifiable cash value.

    Readers might wonder why one early 2011 creditor for around $30,000 was not paid while the campaign was raising 2.2 million not counting matching funds.

  29. Andy

    “George Phillies
    April 13, 2016 at 03:07
    Andy,

    NOTHING, according to the *proposed* debt settlement. The other creditors are not getting a dime.”

    So if the proposal is to not pay the other creditors, are these creditors who are not receiving anything OK with not receiving anything?

  30. George Phillies

    Andy,
    Some of them but not all of them, according to the current debt settlement plan, are agreeable. After all, there is almost no money in the campaign committee to recover. Cooperation now on the plan might lead to other business later.
    George

  31. Stewart Flood

    Yes, but where is this $300K+ of matching funds going to come from? The FEC isn’t going to let that go without being paid. They will probably take it from the 2016 campaign.

  32. George Phillies

    Stewart,
    When I looked at the matching fund rules with respect to my 2008 campaign, it appeared to me to be fairly clear that if the committee could not pay the candidate personally gets the bill. The actual letter to Johnson says exactly that: “Governor Johnson and the Committee must repay”.

    Otherwise, where is “observer”?

  33. Stewart Flood

    What I can’t understand is how they could have used “primary” matching funds for general election activities. They knew that the money had to be spent. The rules are quite clear.

    Quite a few people warned about matching funds. They sound great on the surface but have serious penalties if you don’t handle them correctly.

  34. George Phillies

    Stewart, There is an explanation in the Audit Report. The explanation goes on for a long while. It includes the statements on the general election drop cards, which said that the money is for primary election expenses.

    Did you ever hear details of a commitment from the Johnson campaign that they would not use Libertarian General election donations to discharge Republican primary election campaign debt.

  35. Sean Scallon

    “US Senate candidate Augustus Invictus was present at the event. There is a general sense that the LPF’s EC will not support him, but so far there does not appear to be another candidate. Invictus said he might submit himself to the LPF’s candidate selection committee. If not, or if they don’t support him, he will post a filing fee to get on primary ballot. The primary is August 30th. It is this reporter’s understanding that if Invictus is the only one who files, he will be the candidate on the November ballot.”

    Glad to see they’ve made progress on this question from indifference to “general sense” they will not support him. That’s fine as far as it goes but it still means he’ll be your Senate nominee in 2016 the LP in Florida will suffer the consequences because of the moral obtuseness in the name of proper party procedure of the Florida LP.

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