Oregon Libertarians on the road to resolving split

From the East Oregonian:

SALEM — A reconciliation is in the works between the long-splintered Libertarian Party of Oregon.

Since 2011, there have been two organizations calling themselves the Libertarian Party of Oregon. One is officially recognized by the Secretary of State’s Office. The other group is not.

Kyle Markley, the recognized party’s chairman, says that “tensions have eased considerably” since last summer and the leaders of both groups have met several times.

“Our board of directors has already agreed to accept some of their members as delegates to this year’s Libertarian National Convention, and their board of directors has already agreed to cooperate with our primary election and nomination process,” Markley wrote in an email to the EO/Pamplin Capital Bureau. “There are still difficult details to negotiate, but we are making progress.”

Though there had been divisions in the party for years, in 2011 they came to a head when the then-chair of the party adopted new bylaws, in what the unofficial party characterizes as a “coup.”

The official party views the 2011 move as an effort to limit “undue influence” of party members who didn’t live in Oregon or register as Libertarian voters.

“I think it’s fairest to say that it began with a basic disagreement as to what the nature of the Libertarian Party ought to be,” said Lars Hedbor, a member of the board of the recognized party. “Should it be an organ of the libertarians of Oregon, in other words should it be basically owned and managed by the libertarian voters? …Or should it be basically a paid membership club open to anybody anywhere as long as they wanted to belong to it?”

Richard Burke, who is on the other side of the split and serves as that group’s secretary, sees it differently. He says people who may identify as libertarian register as either Democrats or Republicans to be able to vote in primary elections. (Both the Democratic and Republican parties in Oregon hold closed primaries). He notes that Oregon’s unofficial party is recognized by the national party and its judicial committee.

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7 thoughts on “Oregon Libertarians on the road to resolving split

  1. Jill Pyeatt

    For anyone interested in the history of this debacle, there are 50 or so articles on the Oregon Libertarian party here on IPR that can be found by using the search box.

    I wish them all well, but it appears Burke might not be ready to let things go.

  2. Anon-Tipper Post author


    Yeah, he showed up in the Delaware thread just last week (they’re having some sort of split, similar type of situation to Oregon) and left some long comment about Sarwark undermining him or something that sounded off.

  3. Richard P. Burke

    Dear All,

    To address speculation expressed in the above comments, please know that I am fully in support of, and am one of the architects of, the reunification process now taking place in Oregon. I am the author of the current draft of the Unification Resolution which would bring the two sides together and would delineate responsibilities between them. Kyle Markley had the original idea to split party responsibilities between the two groups in a manner generally described by the Unification Resolution. The current Unification Resolution draft will no doubt go through several iterations, but I believe it will be the basis for reunification. Once adopted, all currently pending litigation will be dropped.

    As a demonstration of our joint commitment to resolving the split, without regard to differences which still exist, the two sides have agreed to send a joint delegation to the national convention in order to avoid another floor fight. We are working on a letter to the LNC Credentials Committee, to become part of the committee’s record. We also plan to use the letter to demonstrate to Oregon Libertarians that both sides are seriously engaged in reunification talks. According to the current draft of the Unification Resolution, this is how reunification would work:

    1. LPO ELECTION PAC. One “Libertarian Party of Oregon” is currently recognized by the Sec. of State as a “Political Party PAC” (PAC #622), recognized by a 2011 ruling of the national LP Judicial Committee, and also recognized by Nick Sarwark as LNC Chair. This PAC will become the “LPO Election PAC” responsible for candidate nominations for partisan office, the selection of delegates to the national convention, and the selection of presidential electors.

    2. LPO ORGANIZATION PAC. The other “Libertarian Party of Oregon,” is currently recognized by four LNC resolutions, 2015 National Judicial Committee rulings, and Oregon’s Secretary of State as a “Miscellaneous PAC” (PAC #16869). This would become the “LPO Organization PAC” responsible for developing party infrastructure, policy positions between conventions, representing the LP at the legislature, candidate recruitment and training and such.

    Each PAC would select two members to serve on a Coordination Committee which would be responsible for resolving disputes between the two groups over implementation of the Unification Resolution, ensure one consistent Internet presence, facilitate data sharing, write the political party statement for the Voters’ Pamphlet statement and such. The four selected members of this committee would select three more, and the Chair and Vice Chair of the committee would rotate between the two sides. Individual members and activists could participate in both PACs, subject to their respective membership requirements. Both PACs would be separately responsible for fundraising, campaign finance reporting, and would be separately liable for any penalties assessed.

    The “LPO Election PAC,” the “LPO Organization PAC,” and the Coordination Committee would, together, make up the new “Libertarian Party of Oregon.” Governing documents for the “LPO Election PAC” and the “LPO Organization PAC” would remain unchanged, but clauses in conflict with the Unification Resolution would be rendered inoperable. The bylaws of both PACs and the Coordination Committee would be submitted by the current “Chair of Record” as the governing documents of the Libertarian Party of Oregon to the Secretary of State and the LNC Secretary.

    I believe this organizational structure would be better for the future of the LPO than outright victory for either side and could be a model for channeling factionalism within the Libertarian Party generally.

    Richard P. Burke, Secretary
    Libertarian Party of Oregon

  4. Richard P. Burke


    Yes, believe it or not, our LPO (the one based on governing documents enacted by members at properly noticed conventions) is recognized by the national party. In addition to the 2015 National Judicial Committee ruling there were four 2011 LNC resolutions (never rescinded) which said so. Nicholas Sarwark has simply refused to implement these resolutions and rulings. Unfortunately, the 2/3 majority needed to circumvent or otherwise deal with Mr. Sarwark on the matter does not exist on the LNC. So the status quo has thus far prevailed.

    Fortunately, I believe the unification process currently underway in Oregon will render much of this to be moot. But even so, Mr. Sarwark’s position carries great import to the Delaware situation and could have national implications.

    In his 2011 Judicial Committee ruling Sarwark, wrote that the party was obliged to recognize whichever organization or leaders are recognized by each state’s Secretary of State (or elections officer). After the 2015 Judicial Committee ruling which rescinded Sarwark’s 2011 ruling, Sarwark doubled down by saying that “we recognize parties, not people,” referring to entities recognized by Secretaries of State. We saw this as anathema to the libertarian movement as Sarwark’s stance effectively cedes the power of determining who our leaders and affiliates are to government officials.

    This is immediately relevant to the Delaware conflict. One must wonder – what will Sarwark’s position be if Delaware’s Sec. of State chose to recognize the “wrong” Libertarian Party of Delaware? Based on Sarwark’s current position, we would have to accept it. If he didn’t accept it, his position on the Oregon dispute would constitute a severe inconsistency.

    Fortunately, Secretaries of State are not coordinating the use of their offices to take advantage of Mr. Sarwark’s position and bringing chaos to our state parties across the nation. Yet.

    Richard P. Burke, Secretary
    Libertarian Party of Oregon

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