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Navigating the Keaton-LNC Brouhaha

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If you’re confused and feeling overwhelmed by all the bile being spilled around the issue of disciplining Libertarian National Committee At-Large Representative Angela Keaton, you’re not alone.

Flood Fails to Show Harm to LP

LNC Region 4 Representative Stewart Flood is accusing Ms Keaton of disloyalty to the LP, engaging in reckless behavior, violating executive session and threatening violence against him.

While Mr Flood convinces that Ms Keaton has acted unprofessionally, he fails to prove that her actions have harmed the LP. In fact, I only find a demonstrated potential for harm in one of his charges. Mr Flood’s case does not warrant the removal of Ms Keaton from the Libertarian National Committee.

However, his brazen attempt to distract the LP from the cause of advancing liberty does constitute “conduct injurious to the Libertarian Party”.

Charges go Back to June

I first thought that the controversy surrounding Ms Keaton had originated at the September LNC meeting when she, in the course of live-blogging the meeting, was accused of releasing sensitive information from LNC executive session.

Now that Mr Flood has released both his charges [PDF] against Ms Keaton and his evidence in support of those charges [PDF], it’s apparent that the displeasure with Ms Keaton goes back to at least June of this year.

Do the Charges Warrant Removal from the LNC?

Since the national LP bylaws don’t define what the causes for removal from office are, we can only rely on our own judgments.

In the first paragraph of Mr Flood’s resolution, he claims that “Angela Keaton has engaged in conduct injurious to the Libertarian Party and its purposes”. I submit that this is the standard by which his charges should be judged. Do her alleged actions injure the LP and it’s purposes? Let’s see.

Breach of a Board Member’s Fiduciary Duty of Loyalty

Does an LNC member have a duty to be loyal to the LP. I’m not convinced of this fact and I’m unable to find any reasoning by Mr Flood to support this implicit contention.

“The LP is hopeless”

for seeking to undermine the success of and attempting to injure the Libertarian Party and its public image by posting on her blog in July 2008, “Friends don’t let friends join the LP” and on September 5, 2008, “The LP is hopeless”

Given that “the LP is hopeless” is a sentiment shared by many and logically supported even by this latest round of internecine battles (including Mr Flood’s own resolution) and given that Mr Flood has failed to establish any such duty of loyalty to the party, I don’t find this worthy of disciplinary action.

Some members of the party I dare say would even applaud Ms Keaton for this statement, treating it as a wake-up call that the LP is off course and needs a correction.

Verdict: FAIL

Supporting the Boston Tea Party

for violating the fiduciary duty of a board member by joining and providing material support to a competing political party while serving on the board of the Libertarian Party

The competing political party appears to be the Boston Tea Party, a tiny libertarian party that is as much about competing with the LP as it is reforming it. Many, but not all, members of the BTP are also LP members. Some might even consider it a caucus within the LP.

Ms Keaton is a member of the national and California Boston Tea Party Facebook groups and on both is listed as an officer, her office being “ultimate antiwar activist”, which is more an honorific than an actual party office.

Has the Boston Tea Party actually caused any harm to the LP? Not that I can find. In fact, it endorsed many Libertarian Party candidates in this year’s election.

What about those LNC members who voted to allow Ron Paul’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination to use BallotBase? Was that not material support of a competing political party?

What about Bob Barr, the 2008 LP Presidential candidate and an LNC member from 2006 to 2008? He runs a PAC that donates generously to Republican candidates, even in races where the LP has a candidate. Mr Barr has provided a lot of very material support to a political party that is directly competing with the LP in multiple races across the country. Instead of a motion to censure, he got our presidential nomination.

I discard this accusation because Ms Keaton has not provided any significant support to the BTP, the BTP has not injured the LP and because her alleged offense pales in comparison to that of Mr Barr.

Verdict: FAIL (Barr did worse.)

Sabotage of NH-Phillies Lawsuit

for attempting on August 21, 2008 to sabotage the party’s attempt to win the right to candidate substitution for future elections

This alleged sabotage consists of an email sent to LP NH Chairman Brendan Kelly with an appeal to

Do the right thing. Say ‘No’ to this Libertarian Drama. Don’t join this action.

The action in question is a lawsuit to remove Dr. George Phillies from the presidential ballot in New Hampshire. Ballot access expert Richard Winger says the lawsuit is part of “a historic struggle for minor parties to get the same substitution rights that the major parties enjoy”. Others argue that since Mr Barr was already on the ballot in New Hampshire, the only end result of the lawsuit would be to kick Dr Phillies off the ballot.

Defining sabotage as the “undermining of a cause”, and assuming that the right to substitute candidates is a cause important to the LP, this charge against Ms Keaton is reasonable.

However, according to former LP NH executive committee member Seth Cohn, there was not enough support among the leadership of that party in any case. The LP NH leadership had already discussed – and rejected – supporting the lawsuit, even before Ms Keaton contacted Mr Kelly.

Therefore, while I find this accusation to be valid, I don’t think it meets the standard of having done harm to the LP, since Ms Keaton’s plea did not change the outcome.

Verdict: NO HARM DONE

Claiming Root to be Indicted for Fraud

for attempting to injure their public images by knowingly publishing on June 13, 2008 false assertions that an indictment on charges of fraud was pending against Mr. Root

This is based on an email authored by Ms Keaton in which she says:

if the party can survive Andre Marrou, it can survive a possible Root indictment

Ms Keaton claims it was a joke.

I think Mr Flood is making a mountain out of a mole hill here. And Ms Keaton’s supposed accusation did not get any press beyond IPR. What’s more, when you can find comments like the below online via a Google search for “Wayne Allyn Root fraud”, what Ms Keaton said just doesn’t compare.

Wayne doesn’t even believe he can win, this is just that scam he knows he can make coin in so he does it. He runs boiler rooms and is total marketing. #

This accusation fails on all counts.

Verdict: IT WAS A JOKE

Misusing Donor Data

for misusing donor data to contact major LP donors and falsely telling them that the Libertarian Party had defrauded them

On November 6, Ms Keaton sent an email to the LNC Discussion mailing lists that included the following statement:

I have started to contact the donors that Mr. Starr and I visited to apologize for my role in any deception on the part of this body with regard to the actions of Cory, Barr, Redpath and others. The money was accepted under fraudulent circumstances. They thought they were giving to the Libertarian Party to propagate libertarian ideas in the form of libertarian candidates.

Mr Flood’s first assertion rests on the assumption that Ms Keaton’s phone calls to donors were outside the established limits for the contacting of donors. Where can we find such limits defined, if anywhere? Mr Flood does not say.

His second assertion requires that one decide whether or not Bob Barr is in fact a libertarian. This is a matter of some contention, and rightly so.

For us to accept this entire charge, we would need proof that Ms Keaton actually did what she said, but Mr Flood has not provided that.

In order to determine if Ms Keaton’s purported actions harmed the LP, we would need to know if any donors she may have apologized to decided to donate less or cease donating or supporting the LP or persuaded others to do the same. Mr Flood does not provide any information on this.

Verdict: NO HARM DONE

Pattern of Reckless Behavior and Poor Judgment

Unwelcome Sexual Comments about LPHQ Staff Member

for violating the LNC Policy Manual Article 1, Section 8.D and risking sexual harassment accusations by blogging on September 6, 2008, “Nice staff piece of ass, Casey. Dark, young and easy prey for a cougar like myself.”

Here is LNC Policy Manual Article 1, Section 8.D

Any interaction which might be interpreted as abusing the apparent employer-employee relationship must be avoided. This applies to interactions of LNC members with staff, and is to be extended to interactions with any consultant hired by the LNC.

Inappropriate and unprofessional? Undoubtedly. However, this was not an interaction, but something published online. This section of the LNC Policy Manual does not apply.

However, the Article 1, Section 8 discouragement of “unwelcome comments about a person’s body” may apply. According to LP Director of Operations Robert Kraus, Mr Hansen was embarrassed by the comment, which could mean it was unwelcome.

I think this accusation has merit and there is a definite potential for harm to come to the LP as a result of this.

Verdict: GUILTY

Publishing Derogatory Photo of Treasure Starr

for violating LNC Policy Manual, Article 1, Section 8.D (which prohibits harassment of LP staff or fellow LNC members with racial epithets and derogatory posters, pictures, cartoons, or drawings) by posting on her blog on June 16, 2008 a photo-shopped image of herself and Mr. Starr portraying him in Darth Vader costume and Hitler moustache and identifying him as “Darth Herr Vader”

Is the picture at right derogatory (tending to lessen the merit or reputation of a person)?

Comparing someone with Hitler is definitely derogatory, so this charge is valid. But it does not meet the burden of having done harm to the LP.

Verdict: NO HARM DONE

More Sexual Comments

for violating LNC Policy Manual, Article 1, Section 8.D and risking sexual harassment accusations by posting on her blog on September 6, 2008 sexual comments regarding several LNC Members and one candidate for the Executive Director position

Ms Keaton wrote and allowed to be published the following online in the course of live-blogging the September LNC meeting.

… the stunning blond alt Heather Scott.

Donny Ferguson [candidate for LP Executive Director] is here as well. I felt him up once when I was drunk. Reform Caucus people are so uptight.

The Admiral keeps staying hello. Must be the dress. #

LNC Policy Manual, Article 1, Section 8.D deals with behavior towards employees of the LP, however none of the three persons referenced are employees of the LP.

This charge fails on all counts.

Verdict: FAIL

Collective Deprecation

for violating LNC Policy Manual Article 1 Section 8.A which states, “All collective deprecation, whether alluding to sex, race, color, national origin, disability, age, religion, or any other protected category, must be avoided. Every person is a unique individual, and as the Libertarian Party is the Party of Individual Liberty, this injunction should doubly apply”, for posting on her blog on June 13, 2008 referring to an LP member from the South as a “hillbilly” and further stating, “All those Christian types married to their uncle cousins look the same to me.”

Ms Keaton did indeed publish these statements:

Read, digest and remember that if the party can survive Andre Marrou, it can survive a possible Root indictment*, our leadership’s male menopause and that thick legged hillbilly girl they tried to put on the LNC, Mattson, her name was or something. I don’t know. All those Christian types married to their uncle cousins look the same to me.

However her use of the word “hillbilly” is not for collective deprecation. She called someone a hillbilly, but she did not comment on the collective of hillbillies.

Her statement about “Christian types” remotely sounds like a collective deprecation, but who is she belittling and what for? “Christian types married to their uncle cousins” is the group she is naming. They all “look the same” is the comment.

Are there actually any members of this group “Christian types married to their uncle cousins”? I suspect not. Saying that a group of people all “look the same to me” is widely considered deprecation, though.

While the comment is unprofessional, I don’t think anyone has actually been deprecated. If I say that “all blue idiots from Formalhaut look the same to me”, it may be collective deprecation, but since we don’t know if such beings even exist, I have done nothing wrong. In fact, many would consider it a joke.

This charge fails to show that the LP has been harmed, since we don’t even know if there are any members of this group that Ms Keaton belittled.

Verdict: FAIL

Violating the Confidentiality of Executive Sessions

In both cases, one must ask if the information really had any business being protected by executive session in the first place.

Disclosing Accusation against Her

for violating the confidentiality of the September 7, 2008 Executive Session with a blog post on the same date

Ms Keaton has claimed she was justified in releasing this information (read all about it here) because, among other things, there was not a legitimate executive session in place when the information was disclosed to her.

Stephen Meier makes a detailed argument that, based on the minutes of the September LNC meeting, there was no valid motion to enter executive session. Chuck Moulton and M Carling – who were present at the meeting in question – claim the executive session was entered according to the rules.

In any case, even if we accept that the executive session was valid and the information was privileged, Mr Flood fails to explain how its disclosure harms the LP.

Verdict: FAIL

Disclosing Personal Criticism

for violating the confidentiality of a February 2008 Executive Session with a blog post on June 15, 2008

Apparently, this is the information that Ms Keaton released.

To BetteRose Ryan, … Starr, Carling and Cory were savaging you in an executive session over the Shotgun Willie’s booth. Starr insisted that it scared off other vendors. #

I’m not sure why disclosure of this information required executive session, but even if it did, Mr Flood fails to demonstrate how its disclosure harms the LP.

Verdict: FAIL

Threatening Stewart Flood

for threatening by phone on November 6, 2008, “I could have things done to you.”

Ms Keaton has not denied this charge but neither do we have any evidence of its veracity beyond Mr Flood’s own word. If true, this is unprofessional behavior. But I don’t see how it hurts the LP.

Verdict: NO HARM DONE

Keaton has Angered Multiple Factions

A complicating factor is that Ms Keaton has managed to anger multiple factions, resulting in a kind of perfect storm. Reformers are eager to get rid of a radical. People who like to do things secretly are eager to get rid of a whistleblower. Party loyalists are upset when she criticizes the LP publicly. Petitioners are alienated because she sided with Political Director Sean Haugh against them. Radicals aren’t exactly rallying to her defense, at least not the three leaders of the radical caucus. In fact, on the Radical caucus mailing list some of us have talked about who to replace her with.

Ragged Band of Defenders

Her principle defenders appear to be personal friends, members roughly aligned under a banner of reform and transparency in the LP, people who have or are seriously considering dropping out of the LP, Outright Libertarians and others who are simply opposed on principle to removing a popular and twice duly-elected rep.

State LPs Express their Opposition

Several state affiliates have passed resolutions in opposition to Mr Flood’s proposed resolution, including Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Nevada and Massachusetts.

New York LP Chair Eric Sundwall has obliquely threatened to disaffiliate if Ms Keaton is removed.

The Outright Libertarians released a statement urging their members to oppose Mr Flood’s resolution, saying “we have determined that this witch hunt is more about the ideology of Angela’s attackers than about Angela’s own behavior.”

There is even a proposal to suspend national LP Chairman Bill Redpath instead.

Is this Worthy of the LP’s Time?

Personal attacks like this will inevitably cause controversy and arouse the opposition. If you’re going to do it, why not make an airtight case? Anything less is a brazen attempt to waste people’s time and harm the organization.

I submit that Mr Flood has done more harm to the LP in this last week with his largely unsupported and frivolous accusations than he accuses Ms Keaton of doing. Mr Flood should withdraw his resolution immediately so that the LP can focus on advancing liberty in the United States, its real – and only genuine – purpose.

Other Coverage

Photo credit: belgianchocolate. Photo license.

By George Donnelly

I'm building a tribe of radical libertarians to voluntarize the world by 2064. Join me.

12 replies on “Navigating the Keaton-LNC Brouhaha”

Awesome coverage. I’m impressed. And at the same time, once again saddened I can’t get you to group blog.

Anyway, one thing….I read Sundwall’s piece and did not see anything about disaffiliating, but you did say it was oblique. What did I miss?

You’re too kind.

The thing is, I like to keep control over what I write. If it’s mainly for posting links and brief comments, I might be up for it, but for the longer and more original stuff, I just like to keep direct control of it. Though I would be up for occasional guest posts.

re/ Sundwall, I am referring to where he says:

If we cannot function with a general transparency and proceed to render verdict or judgment without reasonable due process, I would consider such resolutions as necessary for potential secession of affiliates as reasonable and with proper cause.

Thanks for commenting.

You’re too kind.

I wouldn’t say it unless I meant it.

The thing is, I like to keep control over what I write.

I wouldn’t alter what you write, and certainly don’t expect any exclusivity over anything you post – in fact, cross-posting is encouraged.


If it’s mainly for posting links and brief comments, I might be up for it, but for the longer and more original stuff, I just like to keep direct control of it. Though I would be up for occasional guest posts.

You can post as much or as little as you like. I’ll send you an invite if I haven’t already.

George Donnelly wrote:

Reformers are eager to get rid of a radical.

You seem to be painting with a wide brush. I see no evidence of this allegation. The Reform movement at reformthelp.org believes in big tent libertarianism which is inclusive of radicals.

Most of the prominent reformers that I know (e.g., Brian Holtz) want to compete in the marketplace of ideas with respect to strategy, not silence their opposition. This reminds me of an experience at the Federalist Society national lawyers convention, which I attended recently. During a panel on judicial conflicts of interest, a staffer of Russ Feingold, who was sponsoring a bill imposing dollar limits on educational sessions for judges, read a hypothetical where George Soros paid a billion dollars for judicial retreats in Aruba to train judges on how to be more liberal. Someone stood up and said “Is your Soros hypothetical supposed to scare us? Liberals can spend whatever they want. We will win in the free market of ideas, not by silencing our opposition.” The whole audience stood up and applauded.

Many people seem to misuse the word “reformers” to apply to purist conservative ideologues. It is unfortunate that this misuse of term continues to propagate. There may be purist conservative ideologues who want Angela off the LNC, but I would not put Stewart Flood in that group.

George,

You should be representing Ms. Keaton at the meeting. It would be much more helpful than various state affiliates making demands or vague threats of disaffiliation. Issues have been raised and they must be addressed so the committee can move on. The George Phillies “defense” of Ms. Keaton is the equivalent of the speeder pulled over and telling the officer that others were going as fast or faster than they were.

Of course everyone can have their opinions on the matter, but the ones that count are the LNC members.

Mik, interesting idea. :) Unfortunately, I’m 3200 miles from San Diego.

When the central leadership of an organization accepts something like this on its agenda (and it was accepted at least a week before the evidence was even released) it’s natural and should be wholly expected that people will feel disempowered, and therefore take slightly more extreme stands than they would have if the leadership or the resolution had been more reasonable.

I use a variation of the George Phillies defense, if you want to call it that, in rendering a verdict of FAIL above on the charge that Ms Keaton materially supported a competing political party.

Actually I think the opinions that matter the most are those of the members and donors. LNC members can donate to the maximum legal limit every time but that’s not going to fund the LP by itself.

Thanks for commenting. :)

[Mik Robertson is Chairman of the Pennsylvania LP affiliate.]

You seem to be painting with a wide brush

Well, I didn’t say all reformers, though I guess that could be inferred. Perhaps you’re right.

This reminds me of an experience

Your analogy is a stretch. My statement is not a scare tactic but what I feel is an accurate representation of reality. Perhaps I should have added “Some” to the beginning of the sentence, perhaps not.

I would not put Stewart Flood in that group.

Neither would I, based on the information I have now. I’m not saying I have any reason for suspicion, just that I have highly limited information on Stewart Flood.

Thanks for commenting. :)

Sounds like Flood’s basic reason for being upset is that she has been openly harshly critical of the LNC, and was not a cheerleader for the Barr campaign. I am not sure that open negativity of an organization is necessarily good for the general morale, but it should be up to the general membership to decide whether to remove her prematurely, not the LNC, since they have more of a potential for conflict of interest. Anyway, the charges seem a bit nit-picky, as if Flood is trying to grab anything he can hold onto to make his case. Perhaps the LNC just needs to learn to all get along and address her concerns instead of encouraging pointless drama.

George,

Radicals aren’t exactly rallying to her defense, at least not the three leaders of the radical caucus.

If you’re including me in that comment, I haven’t “rallied” to any great extent because 1) I’ve been doing a lot of vacationing with my family since Nov 5th; 2) what little free time I’ve had at home has been consumed by data-entry work (address corrections, calendar additions, entering contributions, etc) in my duties as Secretary of the Libertarian Party of Virginia; and 3) assembling / editing a couple of articles destined for the next issue of Virginia Liberty.

In short, attempting to something for the LP.

I am satisfied that the hot lens of intense scrutiny over this that’s been focused on the LNC will ultimately encourage any fence-sitters on the LNC to bury the Keaton motion and move on. I see that the matter has already been deep-sixed to a committee.

My opinion is that Angela should stay on the LNC. I also agree that there are other LNC members who have at least as much, or more, to answer for than she does.

I share Paulie Cannoli’s Paulie Cannoli’s disappointment on the lack of any decisions of substance/productivity today:

7:03paulie_cannoli:And they just punted the mission statement too. Did they actually get anything done yet today?

These LNC meetings cost big bucks. I saw one estimate that each one costs $30k in time, materials, hotel fees, transportation, lodging, opportunity cost, etc. Yet for all that, nothing particularly forward-looking has even been discussed, much less accomplished, yet this weekend. Has the weekend’s events bought us $30,000 worth of progress for the LP or libertarianism? Or even $10,000?

They could be discussing whether/how to introduce new web capabilities to get more buy-in from members, such as your idea for a my.LP.org interface.

There are ballot drives coming up; and as I recall, there are one or two that would get us status for four years (so they will be good for the next presidential campaign) which we could start on now. Are they decising on a plan for those?

There could be a project begun today to mail/phone/email the national membership list now to recruit candidates for any states that have elections next year. Is that on the Agenda?

There could be a project to identify upcoming rallies and protests that have an “in” for LP outreach — such as the “End the Fed” rallies that the LP mostly missed as a venue for outreach. I don’t see anything like that either.

The LP is in the hole. One way to get out of it is to stop making large swaths of the donor base angry. Another way to get out of it is to raise more money. The LP needs to stop running with its legs in a potato sack.

Every activity is an excuse to raise money. The LNC should be concentrating on finding new ways of raising money and recruiting more new donors. Activities not in compliance with that general rule should be swept off the table with extreme prejudice. I hope the LNC collectively sees that it must turn its focus on expansion — tomorrow and at subsequent meetings.

Angela Keaton has not damaged the LP. While I agree with you (George) that a couple of the charges have merit, many LNC decisions over the last several years have done a lot more damage than anything Angela has done.

Thanks to everyone for all the efforts to get the LNC meeting into the sunshine.

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