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LNC Falls Short of Own Policies on Transparency, Due Process

The Libertarian National Committee (LNC) Policy Manual, 44 pages of rules, responsibilities and procedures for the LNC and LP headquarters, was released this week by Marc Montoni of the Virginia LP. Dated June 26 of this year, a close reading of the manual reveals significant differences between policy and practice in the national Libertarian Party.

The Libertarian National Committee (LNC) Policy Manual, 44 pages of rules, responsibilities and procedures for the LNC and LP headquarters, was released this week by Marc Montoni of the Virginia LP. Dated June 26 of this year, a close reading of the manual reveals significant differences between policy and practice in the national Libertarian Party.

I.2.A: Meeting Agendas

At I.2.A, the policy manual states:

The agenda [for LNC meetings] shall also be posted on the LP.Org website at least seven days prior to the meeting.

According to Louise Calise of LP headquarters “agendas are under the tab of Party and LNC Meeting Archives.” However, the latest agenda I found there is for the August 19-20, 2006 meeting. At the time of publication, there was no comment from any LNC members I queried as to whether the September 6-7 meeting’s agenda was distributed in accordance with this policy.

I.2.C: Recordings of Meetings

The Director shall be responsible for recording all LNC meetings on audio or video medium, providing a copy to the Secretary, retaining the recordings for one year at LPHQ, and making copies available to any other member upon request at cost.

I emailed LP member services and was told by LP Director of Operations Robert S. Kraus that “The policy manual has been recently revised and copies of the recordings are for internal use only.”

Decision to Cease LNC Meeting Recordings

At-Large Representative Angela Keaton documented this decision at the September 6-7, 2008 LNC meeting

Sullentrup moves to eliminate the policy that we video tape the meeting. …

Starr than says that all meeting should be recorded by [sic] destroyed after the minutes are approved. …

Kraus: costs of tape, plus staff member is too much. He doesn’t want to be responsible at meetings for tending to this.

Starr, Colley, Karlan, Flood, Dixon, Sink-Burris, Hinkle, Jingozian vote to destroy records as soon as the minutes are approved. It passes.

Region 5 – North Representative Dan Karlan explained his vote as follows:

The point of the minutes is to record what happened. Normally, that should be sufficient, and if that is the case, recordings become superfluous. Retaining them can readily become a filing nightmare, and it is certain that whoever has that task will be routinely called on to make copies of meetings going way back. That isn’t appropriate, as a policy.

Ms Keaton responded to Mr Karlan’s statement:

It’s typical parliamentarian drivel which does not address any of current problems the LNC has with regard to abuse of the Executive Session privilege or how RRON is used to manipulate and distort the interests of the membership.

What does the term “appropriate” mean? What are the actual metrics as to how often people ask for records? As a non practicing lawyer, I find it irresponsible bordering on idiotic that LNC does not keep tapes of the meetings.

Mr Karlan added:

However, I will report that we also had a mail ballot since the meeting, in which the motion was to preserve specifically the tapes of THIS meeting for longer, and I voted for that motion, overriding the POLICY when special circumstances warrant it.

Recordings from the Past Year Never Made

I emailed Mr Kraus again, asking if the policy manual revision applied to recordings of meetings from the past year as well. “We have not recorded meetings for several years. Sorry.” said Mr Kraus.

Mr Kraus confirmed that the Sep 6-7 meeting was the first one taped in years, adding: “We have an excellent secretary whose minutes have been unquestionably accurate.”

According to copies of the LNC Policy Manual dated March 1, 2005 and December 10, 2007, this exact same recording policy was in effect on those dates as well.

Recordings for Executive Sessions not Falling Under Limits

Recordings were also mandated for LNC executive sessions not falling under the limits set in I.2.F.3, saying in I.2.F.5:

With regard to Executive Sessions relating to topics not enumerated above [I.2.F.3, see below], recordings shall be made and minutes shall be taken. Immediately upon return to Open Session, the LNC may either – by majority vote – treat those recordings and minutes consistent with i [I.2.F.3] (destroy them) or to treat those recordings and minutes consistent with ii (to maintain them as non-public records subject to possible future release upon a vote of two-thirds of those LNC members present at a future meeting).

The absence of recordings presumably means that the LNC believes all executive sessions over the past year have fallen under the limits set for them in I.2.F.3, which are:

  1. Legal matters (potential, pending, or past)
  2. Regulatory and compliance matters (potential, pending, or past)
  3. Contractual compliance
  4. Personnel matters (including evaluation, compensation, hiring, or dismissal)
  5. Board self-evaluation
  6. Strategic issues (only those requiring confidentiality)
  7. Negotiations (potential, pending, or past)

However, former LNC Vice-Chair Chuck Moulton, who served on the LNC from 2004-2008, said that executive session is overused. “In my opinion the restrictions are not tight enough.” he added.

I.8: Harassment and Offensive Behavior Prohibition

I.8 details what is considered offensive behavior and how it will be dealt with. At the September 6-7 LNC meeting, Ms Keaton reported that accusations of “sexual violation” were brought against her.

Starr: Motion to direct Angela Keaton to apologize two the sexually violated employees. #

The charges that I violated ExSession and that I sexually violated two employees. Yes, you read that right. #

The Policy Manual states that, among other things, the following conduct could constitute harassment:

  • off-color jokes
  • sexual innuendoes
  • unwelcome comments about a person’s body

And dictates the following course of action to deal with accusations:

In response to every complaint, LNC will take prompt and necessary steps to investigate the matter and will protect the individual’s confidentiality, as much as possible, recognizing the need to thoroughly investigate all complaints.

According to Region 7 Representative Rachel Hawkridge at least a partial investigation was conducted:

There was printed copy of blogged material handed out. When asked if she did it, Angela said “yes”. So, yes there was some investigation. The more telling, and more important point? Did anyone ask the two young staffers involved? Apparently, not until later.

Alleged Sexual Violation Victim “Seemed Flattered”

According to Mr Moulton, who was present at the meeting, one of the victims of Ms Keaton’s alleged “sexual violation” “seemed flattered” and said that “it was no big deal” in response to Ms Keaton calling him “very sexy”.

III.2.A: Position Description of National Secretary

According to III.2.A, minutes for conference calls or “other technology that permits remote access” “shall be mailed or e-mailed to all LNC members not more than 10 days after each meeting.” And III.2.E says that LNC conference call minutes shall be posted “to an archive section on the LP.Org website.”

According to Mr Moulton all conference calls are Executive Committee meetings, the minutes for which are not confidential. The minutes at lp.org for the Dec 31 2005 and earlier conference calls support this claim.

But the policy manual has different rules for executive committee minutes, limiting their distribution only to LNC members. From VI.1.C:

Minutes shall be kept of Executive Committee meetings … Executive Committee minutes shall be distributed to all LNC members … within 7 days of such approval.

“I have not seen any evidence the policy manual is not being followed in this area.” said Region 6 Alternate Representative Jake Porter.

At the time of publication, however, there was no comment from LP Secretary Robert Sullentrup and another LNC member I queried. I have not been able to confirm that the Executive Committee minutes are indeed being distributed to LNC members.

In any case, there have been at least nine conference calls since Dec 31, 2005, including:

  • June 1, 2006
  • November 5, 2006
  • May 23, 2007
  • September 30, 2007
  • January 27, 2008
  • April 5, 2008
  • May 4, 2008
  • May 10, 2008
  • July 16, 2008

Sources: 1, 2, 3.

And no minutes for these meetings are available at the lp.org archives. I did find minutes for the July 16, 2008 meeting.

Minutes for “other technology that permits remote access”

The LNC Discuss email discussion list qualifies as “technology that permits remote access”, but no minutes are posted for list activities and the archives are closed to the public. At the time of publication, there was no comment from Mr Sullentrup on this issue.

Supporting Materials List from LPHQ

According to III.2.H.:

The Secretary shall assure that LNC agendas, minutes, mail ballots, resolution updates, and other supporting material shall be sent without charge to all LNC members … Any Party member may obtain these materials at his or her own cost. A list of such material shall be available from LPHQ on request …

At the time of publication, there was no comment from LP HQ as to whether this list exists.

V.1.C. Contracts with Independent Contractors

Independent contractors doing business with the LNC are required to sign formal contracts which clearly set forth the parties’ intention that they be treated as independent contractors.

However, according to Paul, a veteran LP petitioner, this policy has not been implemented:

… there were no signed agreements [during the 2008 ballot access drive]. We are independent contractors.

We were contracted by LPHQ in most states. In Mass., I was first contracted 50/50 by the state and national parties, and later by the state party only. …

In IL and AL I was contracted by the national party (subbed through Pickens officially), and the same was true in PA with Mark and Andy.

However, earlier in the year in UT and AZ I dealt with the state/local parties directly. In all other states where I discussed going in, it was all through LPHQ. UT was the only written contract.

“Our attorney has asked me to not make any comments about these petitioners for publication. Sorry.” said LP Politicial Director Sean Haugh, in response to inquiries.

At the time of publication, there was no comment from Scott Kohlhaas, who reportedly also played a role in managing the LP 2008 ballot access drive.

LNC Member Fundraising

According to the lp.org leadership page:

Perhaps one of the most important task [sic] that is expected from a board member of the Libertarian National Committee is to raise funds for the organization through a combination of personal contributions and funds raised through personal solicitations.

However, there is no mention of this responsibility in either the bylaws or the policy manual.

“It appears to have been added after the new website was launched. I do not know who added it, but in the past I have requested it be removed.” said Mr Porter.

At the time of publication, there was no comment from any other LNC members I queried on this issue. LP HQ staff replied that they had forwarded the question to Mr Sullentrup. At the time of publication, there was no comment from him, either.

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First published at Last Free Voice.

By George Donnelly

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One reply on “LNC Falls Short of Own Policies on Transparency, Due Process”

It is my experience that the overwhelming majority of LP party members care little or nothing of what the LNC does and/or how it administrates the assets of the LP. They are satisfied with a “showing of the flag” in the presidential elections every four years regardless of the efficacy of such efforts in affecting public policy or the efficiency in their use of LP resources.

From time to time there are a few members who do care about the details and seek to know and investigate what is going on at the LP headquarters and the LNC. This is treated as an annoyance by the LP staff (including paid consultants) and the LNC in general. The last thing they want is a wider evaluation or debate on their decisions.
The more the general membership can be kept from the details the better. They blunt the general libertarian suspicion of government secrecy with a deflection and an appeal to paranoia with:
“We are a private organization” and
“The Ds and Rs are out to get us, so we can’t let them know”

Eventually the potential reformers just go away.

The LP is very successful in achieving its real goal, that is, maintaining existence, and totally unsuccessful in achieving its stated goal of changing public policy in a libertarian direction. The real goal is too minimal and the stated goal is too grandiose.

Every attempt to develop a strategic plan to achieve a greater real goal in a reasonable time frame has ended is failure. Mainly because no one wants to admit that they have no idea of how to develop a detailed plan to achieve the grandiose plan. They fall back on the simplistic original plan at the formation of the LP in 1972 which simply put is “build it and they will come”.

In order to change the plan, a majority of the supporting members at some point in time will have to become dissatisfied with the current plan or lack thereof and reorganize the party. This may be impossible because supporting members who become dissatisfied are 10 times more likely to become non-supporting members than reforming supporting members.

There are approximately 20 times as many former supporting members as current supporting members. Even most former party officers are no longer active in the party. This is not true of either Dems or Reps.

I don’t want to discourage any potential reformers but they need to be realistic and well organized. If they can muster a simple majority of the delegates at future conventions they can implement reforms. More easily with a 2/3rds majority. However, they will have to consider the more likely scenario that they will only have a committed minority. Splitting the majority on certain key issues might give them an effective winning plurality.

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