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LNC Members Speak Out on Executive Session

secret

After the September Libertarian National Committee (LNC) meeting and the resulting hubbub about executive session, I decided to approach LNC members – current and former – to see what their thoughts were on their own use of executive session.

I contacted all current LNC members via email but only eight of twenty-five chose to respond. The executive officers – Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer – are conspicuous in their absence. Responses are posted in the same order in which I received them. In other words, the first response here is the first one I received, and so on.

5 Questions

Here are the questions I asked of each participant.

  1. I understand the limitations on the use of executive session are comprehensively defined in the LNC Policy Manual – is this correct, or are they also defined elsewhere? Is this [Aug 9 2005 version] the latest version, or is there a more recent one and, if so, may I have an electronic copy?

  2. Do you think that LNC executive session is overused (i.e., used for topics not explicitly named for its use in the LNC Policy Manual)? or do you think the limitations are strictly observed?

  3. In your opinion, are the restrictions in the LNC Policy Manual on LNC executive session too broad? just right? not broad enough?

  4. Do you recommend any best practices, bylaws changes, modifications to the LNC Policy Manual or any other measures to ensure that LNC executive session is used properly?

  5. Have you ever witnessed any votes being taken or official decisions being made in LNC executive session?

1. Dan Karlan

Dan Karlan is Region 5 North Representative (Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont) and can be reached at [email protected].

  1. That is correct, and I believe that is the latest copy.

  2. No, I don’t think it is overused.

  3. The Policy Manual restrictions are about right.

  4. I don’t recommend any changes.

  5. I have never witnessed a vote taken during Executive Session. On rare
    occasions, a decision will be agreed upon by all present, but the matter
    has ALWAYS been formalized when we emerged from Executive Session.

I have nothing to add. You might, however, also want to consult the LNC
Counsel, Bill Hall, for his public take on the matter.

[I did in fact email Bill Hall, but never heard back from him.]

2. John Famularo

John Famularo served as national LP Secretary from 1993 to 1996.

  1. The use of the executive session outlined in the Policy Manual is overly broad AND the LNC misuses even that broad latitude.

  2. There are no changes in he policy manual that can force the LNC to be more open if they wish to be closed. The policy manual is a creation of the LNC and they can interpret it in any way they want. There is no practical effective way to force the LNC to do anything, including adherence to the bylaws. The LNC has been in violation of the LP bylaws and the LNC policy manual ever since their creation.

  3. Since I don’t currently sit on the LNC I don’t KNOW of any votes being taken, but any yutz with ears knows that significant decisions are being made.

One thing that has been documented and distributed by the LNC attorney is that LNC members are not allowed to discuss matters raised in executive session outside of executive session, even among themselves. This is both legally incorrect and against the spirit of libertarianism.

I have thought about this for many years since my service on the LNC as regional rep and as an elected at large officer. The only body that has authority over the LNC is the assembly of the state delegates when they are sitting at the national convention. At the next national convention they should raise these questions early in the convention. As early as before the adoption of the agenda. Prior to the fiddling with the platform or the bylaws, a discussion as to the sense of the body concerning secrecy versus openness. What example of libertarian government do we want to set for the general public to observe? If we are still unsure of whether we are anarchists or minarchists we should revisit the 1974 Dallas Accords.

Getting back to the policy manual, if the national convention agrees that it wants openness, then they should elect LNC members who espouse openness.

I know of no valid reason to hold a closed LNC session. None. There are many reasons that seem to justify holding a closed session, but none withstand scrutiny when observed in the light of a desire for maximum openness and the implementation of libertarian ideals.

3. Chuck Moulton

Chuck Moulton served as national LP Vice-Chairman from 2006-2008.

  1. Correct. There are more recent versions. Every time the LNC amends the Policy Manual, a new version is produced. I will email you the latest version I have, but I believe an even later version is available.

  2. Yes, it is overused.

  3. In my opinion the restrictions are not tight enough.

  4. No, I haven’t given much thought to specific wording on that issue. Certainly the process can be improved, but I don’t know how.

  5. No.

4. Hardy Macia

Hardy Macia is Region 5 North Alternate Representative (Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont) and can be reached at [email protected].

I’ve attended meetings of the LNC as both a LNC board member and prior to that as an audience member. I’ve had to wait for the Executive session to drag on for what seems like a long time for people who are not part of it. But I’ve been on both sides, and I’ve been on my local city council when we’ve used Executive sessions also to discuss employee matters. I believe that the Executive session is not being abused (at least not in the last term when I participated in it). The items discussed in exec session are stated before hand as required by bylaws/roberts rules and are of a sensitive personnel or legal matter. The exec session will get off topic occasionally, but that’s the nature of any discussion and usually it is brought back onto top fairly quickly because members understand that it is for limited use and the gallery is waiting outside.

5. Angela Keaton

Angela Keaton is one of five LNC At-Large Representatives and can be reached at [email protected].

  1. Yes, it has been overused and even once inappropriately used by me at the December meeting in Charleston to discuss the RP resolution—one of the many moronic moves I made during my first term.

    ES is strictly for discussion of potential litigation (interpreted to mean legal strategy) and personnel matters. There are several examples but of course if I discuss them I will be charged with violating the confidentiality of the ES.

  2. If they were actually followed, they would be acceptable.

  3. Yes, a very clear concise statement as to what the ES is for before the session and we take a vote. Now, there were be RR implications but more importantly we should have a discussion on Roberts Rules is appropriate.

  4. No votes. What I have witnessed includes abuse, insults and slander. I will discuss this publicly when I am no longer on the LNC.

I also asked Ms. Keaton why she felt she was within her rights to reveal that information (see below) which prompted the LNC to consider requesting her resignation.

Said in ExSession. I’m within my rights to reveal this:

We don’t have a contract b/t the Barr Camp and LNC b/c….Cory asserted to both Carling and Redpath that they were afraid that someone would reveal data. I didn’t know what the hell they were talking about until it was further explained that Cory was afraid that I would misuse “data.” #

Here is Ms. Keaton’s reply.

  1. There was not a legitimate ES in place.

  2. This was a serious allegation against me that was not aware of nor had any defense prepared.

  3. M Carling has no official capacity whatsoever to speak for the LNC. He is not entitled to an ES unless he is being hired as staff or takes the bar exam.

  4. I left the ES to report on this. The LNC was aware of this.

6. Rachel Hawkridge

Rachel Hawkridge is Region 7 Representative (Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, Washington) and can be reached at [email protected].

  1. I don’t know if they’re anywhere else … New version – adopted after Denver, attached.

  2. No [Not overused]. Yes [limitations are strictly observed].

  3. I think they’re appropriate. Don’t need any more, can’t see any that could be cut.

  4. No – I think it is used appropriately. It is a policy very similar to my husband’s school board policy. Anyone in the ExecSession can object – and end the session. The subject of the meeting is specified in open meeting, the committee votes; then no action is take in executive session.

  5. No.

I’ve published both questions and answers on my blog, also posted the relevant sections of Policy. Not all business can be done in public – strategy decisions, contract negotiations, employee/personnel/staff matters are not appropriate for open meetings. If you don’t understand that one – then think about having your annual review in a public place. «shudder»

7. Julie Fox

Julie Fox is Region 6 Representative (Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin) and can be reached at [email protected].

  1. The copy in the last LNC meeting packet indicated a date of June 26, 2008. I have asked Robert Krause where I can get a copy of the most updated version. I will follow up with you once I receive a reply from Robert.

  2. I served as Alternate for Region 1 last term of the LNC. I do not feel that Exec Sessions have been overused. While there were a relatively large number of them at the last LNC meeting, the reasons for entering into each session were appropriate based on what our policy manual states.

  3. I don’t have any issues with how the current policy manual is written. Although the first reason stated in the policy manual is legal matters, all the items listed in the policy manual, with the exception of board self-evaluation, contain potential legal issues. Any issues that could possibly result in the LNC being sued should definitely be held in Exec Session. If not, we threaten the assets of the party, and thus our members, by opening issues up that have potential legal consequences.

  4. One change that I recommend is that the LNC keep minutes of Exec Sessions, and determine at a later date if it is legally in our best interest to make those minutes public. The local library board that I served on for four years did just that. We held Exec Sessions for the same reasons that the LNC does, but we kept minutes. Each year two board members reviewed minutes still kept confidential, and recommended to the rest of the board if those minutes should remain confidential or not. I think this would be a good practice for the LNC to adopt and I plan on making a motion to that effect no later than the December LNC meeting.

  5. No.

8. Stewart Flood

Stewart Flood is Region 4 Representative (Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas) and can be reached at [email protected].

  1. The version of the policy manual that you referenced is most definitely not the latest version. I do not know what the distribution rules are for this document. I would recommend contacting our national office and asking if you may have a copy. That said, the section on executive session appears to be consistent with the current policy manual.

  2. I have been on the LNC as a representative or alternate for the past two terms. I have attended every meeting and have been present in every executive session. I do not believe that executive session is overused.

  3. There are clearly meetings which require a more significant use of executive session than others do, but that is completely understandable due to the nature of the political election cycle.

  4. I believe that the limits regarding the use of executive session are good. They are neither too restrictive or too broad. Since the committee must decide to go into executive session, a majority (or more in some cases) must agree that the issue or issues to be discussed qualify. This, I believe, also ensures that we only use executive session when necessary.

  5. I have not seen any formal decision made or any vote taken in executive session. There have been a few times when I have personally believed from a particular discussion that action of a certain nature might take place, but that has not always been the case and actions I believed would take place have not always occurred. Motions are not permitted, but as noted in the policy manual, discussion of action which may be taken in open session can certainly occur. Executive session is most often used, as noted before we enter it, as an opportunity for the committee to be informed of the current status of a particular subject that requires executive session to keep contract information or the status of a legal situation confidential.

I’m not sure what I could add as any additional comment. I believe that we should, as a board, operate as openly as possible. Executive session is a necessary part of the process. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions of what executive session is and what it is for. Many of our party members have never served on a board, either of a non-profit, or of a for-profit entity. I have served on boards of both types in the past, and can clearly say that I have witnessed subjects discussed openly in other organizations that should have been in executive session. The LNC uses executive session when necessary and for the right reasons.

9. Mary Ruwart

Mary Ruwart is one of five LNC At-Large Representatives and can be reached at [email protected].

  1. It’s not the latest version of the Manual, but this section looks identical to the one supplied to the LNC at the last meeting.

  2. I believe that the LNC generally goes into executive session properly. Unfortunately, discussion can generate comments that need not be made in executive session. Follow-up from such comments can take the Executive Session into areas that should probably be made in open session. In my experience, this happens, but not often enough to be problematic.

  3. Seems just about right, but I’m open on this.

  4. I wish I could!

  5. No. It’s prohibited and should be.

10. James Lark

James Lark is Region 5 South Representative (Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia) and can be reached at [email protected].

  1. The most recently updated copy of the LNC policy manual in my possession is that of June 26, 2008. Article I, section 2, part F of the LNC policy manual deals with the issue of executive session. I have enclosed that material below. I shall be happy to send you a copy of the policy manual if you would like to receive it. (I sent a copy to my friend and LPVa colleague Marc Montoni several days ago.)

  2. I have had the privilege of serving five terms (counting the current term) as a member of the LNC. In my experience, the LNC has been very good about using executive session only for legitimate purposes. There have been a few occasions where the conversation moved into areas which did not need to be considered in executive session. However, in such cases, someone (or several someones) objected, and the discussion returned to the matters for which the executive session had been initiated to consider.

    In every case that I can recall, the person who moved for consideration of a matter in executive session provided a justification for use of executive session. In two cases that I can remember (both took place during the LNC meeting last December), the validity of the justification was not obvious to me. However, the peculiar nature of certain problems that legitimately require consideration in executive session may force the mover of the motion to be rather oblique in providing justification. Thus, in those two cases I gave the benefit of the doubt to my colleagues who moved for consideration in executive session, with the understanding that I reserved the right to object to use of executive session should I subsequently determine that the matter under consideration did not warrant the use of executive session.

    For whatever it is worth, the LNC meeting on Sept. 6-7 was extraordinary, in that several matters legitimately requiring consideration in executive session had to be considered during the meeting. Specifically, the matters that required LNC attention included the following:

    1. Consideration of legal action against the Federal Election Commission to overturn part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA)

    2. Consideration of legal action against various state agencies concerning discriminatory ballot access laws

    3. Consideration of the actions of a member of LPHQ staff in the course of a petition drive (in the context of possible legal action against the staff member)

    4. Consideration of applicants for the position of Executive Director

    5. Consideration of the organizational structure for LP national conventions (The LP has to be extremely careful how our national conventions are organized, so that we don’t run afoul of BCRA.)

    6. Consideration of how the LNC should proceed to deal with the Federal Election Commission regarding our “midterm conventions” and the requirements of BCRA. (Unlike the Democrats and Republicans, the LP has conventions every two years.)

    7. Consideration of the behavior of an LNC member (Angela Keaton) that took place during the course of the meeting

    I doubt (or, at least, hope) that the LNC will not have any future meetings where so many matters requiring consideration in executive session will occur.

  3. I believe the restrictions are about as good as we are likely to get, although it is possible that the policy manual language can be tweaked somewhat. I am willing to consider suggestions for improvement.

  4. I have never observed a situation in which the LNC took official votes or made official decisions in executive session. There have been several executive sessions in which a member asked for a sense of the committee as to how the committee should proceed. The determination of the sense of the committee could be considered a vote. However, in order for any action to be taken by the LNC based upon such determination, such action would have to be voted upon in open session. In my experience, any action associated with consideration of matters in executive session has been taken due to the result of a vote in open session.

  5. In my opinion, the LNC has not acted improperly or unwisely regarding its use of executive session in those meetings in which I was present. Unfortunately, due to the litigious nature of modern American society and the nature of our political adversaries and various government regulatory agencies, several aspects of Libertarian Party activity cannot be properly addressed in open session without causing substantial risk to the LP. I suspect there will always be some degree of tension between the desire of the LNC to be as open and transparent as possible with our members and the fiduciary responsibility of the LNC to the LP and its assets. I also suspect that there will always be situations where reasonable people of good character will disagree about the way the LNC is conducting the affairs of the LP.

Correction

Please note that LNC Region 6 Alternate Rep Jake Porter also replied. You can see his responses here: Correction for LNC Members Speak Out on Executive Session.

My Conclusions

The consensus of those current LNC members who responded – with the notable exception of Angela Keaton – is that they’re happy with their current use of executive session, and don’t want to change anything. Never have I seen so many people so happy with how a political organization is being run!

Frankly, I’m not sure how to reconcile the radically differing opinions of those who think everything is alright and those who think the LNC is being too secretive. I encourage you to consider each person’s words and make your own judgements.

On a side note, national LP Vice-Chairman Michael Jingozian asked me to call him late at night for his responses but no one answered the phone.

Addendum: Relevant Sections from LNC Policy Manual

From Article I, section 2 of the LNC Policy Manual (dated June 26, 2008):

F. EXECUTIVE SESSIONS

1. LIMITATION OF USE OF EXECUTIVE SESSIONS

The LNC may enter into Executive Session only in compliance with this policy.

2. PREREQUISITES TO ENTERING EXECUTIVE SESSION

Prior to entering into Executive Session, a motion must be made, seconded, and passed. The motion to enter Executive Session must list all reasons for doing so. If the list of reasons is solely comprised of the identified topics listed below, a majority of LNC members voting is required for passage. If any topic other than those listed below is given, a two-thirds vote of LNC members voting shall be required for passage.

3. IDENTIFIED TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION IN EXECUTIVE SESSION

Identified topics for entering into an Executive Session shall include:

i. Legal matters (potential, pending, or past)

ii. Regulatory and compliance matters (potential, pending, or past)

iii. Contractual compliance

iv. Personnel matters (including evaluation, compensation, hiring, or dismissal)

v. Board self-evaluation

vi. Strategic issues (only those requiring confidentiality)

vii. Negotiations (potential, pending, or past)

4. LIMITATION ON ACTION WHILE IN EXECUTIVE SESSION

No action can be taken while in Executive Session. Discussion of action which may be taken in Open Session can occur.

5. MINUTES AND RECORDING OF EXECUTIVE SESSIONS

i. With regard to Executive Sessions relating to topics i, ii, iii, iv, and v above, no recording shall be made and no minutes shall be taken.

ii. With regard to Executive Sessions relating to topics vi and vii above, recordings shall be made and minutes shall be taken, however, those recordings and minutes shall be only be made available to members of the LNC until such time as the LNC – by a vote of two-thirds of those LNC members present – votes to incorporate those recordings and minutes into its public records. Nothing in this section shall require the LNC to ever make these records public.

iii. With regard to Executive Sessions relating to topics not enumerated above, 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 (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).

6. CONFIDENTIALITY

Without exception, LNC members are obligated to maintain complete confidentiality regarding what transpires in any Executive Session whose recordings and minutes have not been made public. The only information that may be communicated by any LNC member regarding any such Executive Session is the time it began, the time it ended, the text of the motion to go into Executive Session, and any publicly available details of the debate and voting on the motion to go into Executive Session. Any LNC member who is unwilling to commit to adhering to this policy regarding any particular Executive Session is obligated to excuse himself or herself from the entire Executive Session and to request that the Secretary notes his or her absence from the Executive Session in the minutes of the meeting.

7. BREACH OF CONFIDENTIALITY

Breach of this requirement of confidentiality shall be grounds of disciplinary action by the LNC without limitation except as provided for in the Bylaws. These restrictions shall not be deemed to prohibit any participant in an Executive Session from publicly disclosing information discussed in Executive Session, if: (1) compelled by legal process to do so; or (2) the same information is publicly available from other sources, not as the result of a participant’s misconduct, and the participant does not reveal that it was discussed in Executive Session; or (3) the LNC, and all the participants in the Executive Session, first consent to its release.

8. LIABILITY FOR BREACH OF CONFIDENTIALITY

Notwithstanding the provisions of Article V, Section 3 A, should a breach of confidentiality by an LNC member result in a liability on the part of the Party, its officers, employees, agents, or other members of the LNC, the provisions of Article V, Section 3 A shall not preclude the Party, officer, employee, agent, or member of the LNC from seeking to hold the breaching LNC member liable.

Photo credit: juria yoshikawa. Photo license.

By George Donnelly

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

27 replies on “LNC Members Speak Out on Executive Session”

I would like to take this opportunity to correct an assertion of Ms. Keaton, above. Of course, she was correct in complaining that Mr. Carling was not an official representative of the LNC. He was not there (at the Executive Session of which Ms. Keaton complained) as a representative of the LNC. We were discussing the contract — or absence thereof — between the LNC and the Barr campaign, and Mr. Carling was there as an official representative of the latter. Therefore, his presence during that specific discussion was entirely appropriate.

Having been a sitting member of numerous boards, both public and private, including unincorporated political parties, the Lord Fairfax Soil & Water Conservation District (a government body), and at least a couple of small corporations, my experience with events of the nature Ms. Keaton described are at odds with Mr. Karlan’s comment. No ES I have ever been part of (willingly or unwillingly) has allowed a party to a contract (in this case a potential contract) to sit in on the body’s ES discussion of said contract. One of the corporate boards I sat on dealt with contracts on a monthly basis.

What we did do was discuss in ES the questions/issues we wanted our staff to raise with the contract partner. The staff would then continue the negotiations based on our instructions, and once all points were addressed, the contract was re-submitted to the body for discussion.

In short, Ms. Keaton probably does have a case. If Mr. Carling was addressed at all, it should have been in open session or in writing via staff.

Now, on a simple common sense level, LNC members should be aware by now that Mr. Carling has generated a lot of controversy around himself in a relatively short time. If LNC members don’t want to be hounded by a substantial portion of active party members, then, as I’ve advised in the past, it should consider carefully the maxim that you shouldn’t go around making decisions that you already know are going to raise the hackles of half of the organization’s most active members (this advice was offered prior to the vote to double dues, and then again to eliminate dues, for example — and, obviously, was ignored).

Instead, back up, slow down, explain what you’re doing (or are about to do) to all of your constituents, and treat their instincts on the matter with something resembling humility and maturity.

Another thing the LNC should do to eliminate a lot of the atmosphere of distrust and suspicion that swirl around it is to make LNC meeting agendas, minutes, the policy manual, and other relevant documents available immediately, rather than after months have passed. Immediately upon the close of each meeting, there should be an “Executive Summary” of the Minutes released; indicating actions taken by the body only (no discussion), and the recorded votes (including who voted, and how) on each item. This is supposed to be a representative body, after all, and constituents have the right to see how their representative voted. A summary of this nature need only be one or two pages long; and it would go a long way towards calming the post-meeting atmosphere.

The statement by one of the LNC members above — “I do not know what the distribution rules are for this document” — is instructive. He’s been on the LNC for two terms and has attended every meeting, but isn’t aware that his constituents have every right to inspect the documents of the Party; and they are thus public (or at least semi-public; viz. open to any LP member) documents. This is probably not a failure of the LNC member himself, but rather a shortcoming in the orientation/training of new LNC members as they are elected.

Chuck Moulton, bless his heart, tried repeatedly to get the LNC to fess up with documents while he was VC, but instead of thanks and gratitude, he was targeted for ambush in Denver with the support of one or more other LNC members, one of whom gave an obliquely insulting speech in support of Moulton’s opponent. With Moulton gone, once again, members are left hanging like chads for months waiting for LNC minutes, getting quivering lower lips and blank stares in response to simple requests for the Policy Manual and other documentation.

Notable exceptions: Rachel Hawkridge and Jim Lark. Hat tip to those two. There may be others, but I have seen direct evidence that these two favor “ASAP” communication.

Generally speaking, the rule is: to prevent or dispel rumors, don’t hog the data.

It doesn’t belong to you anyway.

Thank you George for your work investigating this topic and reporting the results. I would urge those National Committee members who don’t have a problem with current policy to give your consideration to former LP Secretary John Famularo’s statement:

“I have thought about this for many years since my service on the LNC as regional rep and as an elected at large officer… I know of no valid reason to hold a closed LNC session. None. There are many reasons that seem to justify holding a closed session, but none withstand scrutiny when observed in the light of a desire for maximum openness and the implementation of libertarian ideals.”

Perhaps certain potential legal difficulties that people worry would ensue if there were no secret sessions could be addressed via other changes? For instance, in the case of staff, by making it understood upfront, at the time a person is considered to be hired, that personnel matters will not be considered private, that this is just the way we do things in the LP, and if they don’t like it, they may not be a good match for the organization.

In regard to BCRA, it seems to me that this legislation is too often used as an excuse to implement more centralized and top-down structure within the LP. We’ve changed the structure of the party to our own detriment in order to do what was deemed necessary to comply. I think we should stop jumping through hoops. If government comes after us, we ought to raise a stink with international authorities and the public about it.

Marc appearently took part of my response out of context. The question that I was asked was whether George could have an electronic copy of the document. I responded that I did not know the distribution rules. It is quite normal for organizations to have rules regarding the generation of copies of documents and the form that they are distributed in. This was also about a week after the meeting. Several changes were made to the document, and I was not yet aware of when the new version would be released.

Don’t mistake my answer regarding the form and timing of distribution of the document with one regarding whether or not a copy of any type could be obtained. If I’d been unsure of whether he was allowed to see it, I would have used the term distribution matrix instead of distribution rules.

I’m also unclear why so many people are commenting here and on other sites that members of the LNC are “happy” with executive session. I don’t believe that I indicated anywhere in my response that I like having to use executive session. I mentioned in my response that I have observed things discussed outside of executive session in other organizations where I have served that should have been discussed in executive session. That doesn’t mean that I wanted to discuss them.

Maybe I should have been clearer. I am certainly not “happy” that we need to use executive session. I would prefer that it be unneccessary, but a several things, including DC employment laws, place certain burdens upon us. You many recall that although the committee rarely meets in DC, we are operating under DC law regarding employees and contracts.

But back to parts of people’s comments: M Carling did not represent the Barr Campaign. He was the LNC’s designated liason. The comments about his presence and suggestion that questions be submitted to him in writing make no sense at all.

BICRA. Yes, BICRA is a problem. We can’t ignore it. We also can’t ignore contract negotiations that might be compromised if discussed in public. I don’t agree with the statement that BICRA is used to centralize things. If anything, BICRA is a reason to de-centralize quite a number of functions. Anyone who knows me would attest that I’m not just saying this to respond and make myself or the LNC look good. I have always been quite vocal in my opinion that we should be empowering the state parties and helping them to improve their local operations.

I do, however, believe that the suggestion of a summary of votes cast is a good idea. I supported Chuck in his re-election bid (as he mentioned to me after the election, South Carolina was one of the few states that voted for him) and his matrix of votes and attendance was actually very useful. I’ve thought about taking it over in his absence, but haven’t had time to do it.

I also agree that we do represent the membership. Half of the LNC directly represent states, while half represent the full body of the convention. The convention delegates are from the state parties, so regardless of how a board member is elected we all represent the state parties.

The national party is simply the nexus of the state parties.

Sorry if this response rambled. There were several good points raised that I felt needed response, as well as several that are clearly based on inaccurate information regarding the last meeting. I strongly encourage anyone who is able to attend LNC meetings take the time to do so.

Stewart,

I’m still doing the vote and attendance chart.

http://www.chuckmoulton.org/libertarian/2010/voting/

If you’d like to help with it, I welcome help. Just email me the relevant documents as soon as they are released (LNC meeting minutes and EC meeting minutes) and I’ll add your name to the credits. It would save me the time I spend chasing people down asking them if any EC meetings have happened.

The current chart is based on the version of the minutes posted on Rachel’s blog, so it has no page number references. I hope the September meeting minutes are posted to lp.org before the next LNC meeting.

I’m also unclear why so many people are commenting here and on other sites that members of the LNC are “happy” with executive session

Because 7/8 current members, when asked, expressed satisfaction with their use of executive session. :)

Perhaps the LP-US should move their HQ out of DC?

Thanks for commenting.

Curious, Mr. Donnlley? Not certain how to reconcile Karlan and Flood’s different stories as to Carling’s actual position either. One or the other must be confused, misinformed or punting. Much as the collective recollections seem to leave out Executive Sessions such as the therapy session for Allan Hacker, the Shotgun Willy’s incident, and indulging a Sullentrup unprofessional pop out or two.

Reread Lark and then Famularo’s and Moulton’s responses and compare. I cannot reconcile the current and former member responses either.

Starchild is correct. BCRA is the mouldy catch all drawer. It does provide the non-law school grads on the LNC both an excuse and a smart sound bite to avoid actually doing work.

I look forward to see who or what the focus is in San Diego which will distract us from actual accomplishment or any frank analysis of why the Barr campaign failed by nearly every metric.

“The consensus of those current LNC members who responded – with the notable exception of Angela Keaton – is that they’re happy with their current use of executive session, and don’t want to change anything. Never have I seen so many people so happy with how a political organization is being run!”

You have made a huge leap here, George, that has no logical footing. I never professed to be “happy” with use of ExSess. Nor has anyone else.

You asked about the policy, and about how I’ve seen it used. I’ve been in *exactly* 3 LNC meetings, only 1 of which was at the table, and there is a fairly steep learning curve.

Reading minutes from old meetings is interesting . . . gentle day, y’all . . . moment of silence at 11am PST to Stop the H8! Demonstrations nationwide.

Rachel, you said (see above) that you do not think executive session is abused by the Libertarian National Committee and that the limitations on its use are strictly observed. You said “I think it is used appropriately”. You had neither criticism of your use of executive session as an LNC member nor suggestions for improvement. In fact, you defended its use strenuously.

I said:

The consensus of those current LNC members who responded … is that they’re happy with their current use of executive session

Notice, I did not say you are glad about the fact that you feel you must use executive session. I said you are content with the manner in which you are currently using executive session.

I use “happy” in the sense of “content”. “Content” meaning here “satisfied”. “Satisfied” being defined as:

having fulfilled the desires, expectations, needs, or demands of (a person, the mind, etc.)

Therefore, I conclude that you are happy/content/satisfied with your current use of executive session.

My foundation for this conclusion is entirely logical, well-reasoned and even based in your own statements.

You have a gentle day now.

Rachel,

All my archness and bitchtasticness aside, the more interesting issue is that George Donnelly, Marc Montoni and Starchild do not seem to be happy, pleased or content in how we handle these matters. We do answer to them.

One of the reasons that this is my last term is that I am not as effective as Marc Montoni or Susan Hogarth, which represent the quality of board members we should be attracting. We are not drawing serious libertarians with a background in either activism or administration. A clean sweep is needed if the LNC is going to be either productive or credible again. Also, I don’t want to develop the insider mind set that keeps one from honest analysis of the institution. Hence the differences in Jim Lark’s take as opposed to John Famularo’s. That’s not to say Lark is dishonest but that he seems to be struggling in his response in a way that gives me pause as to whether he is actually happy, content or pleased.

I honestly can’t say if I’m happy or not about how the LNC uses executive session. I would have to be present during one or more executive sessions in order to form an opinion and clearly that is not possible.

I am concerned though that so many people are suspicious of the LNC. I respect the opinions of those 3 dissenters highlighted in this article (and the other 7, too). I think the below article highlights several transparency issues of significant concern that the LNC could address:

http://morelibertynow.com/politics/lnc-falls-short-policies

I’d like to form a Transparency Caucus in the LP in order to identify what concrete and specific steps we can take to be more open and to restore people’s trust as well as to field a slate of candidates for LNC in 2010 that sign a transparency pledge, so that we can effect real change.

This is not a reformer vs radical issue. This is about running an organization in the sunshine, not the dark.

I’m sorry to hear Angela is not running again.

Thanks for commenting.

As a quick note, I take exception to the notion that “international authorities” ought to be engaged on behalf of the LP to fight a battle against injust legislation at the US federal level. Starchild, you should know better than to suggest such a thing.

With regards to moving HQ from DC, I’d suggest looking into Wyoming. I’ve done some research regarding laws in a large number of states related to forming a corporation, forming a non-profit entity, and forming a non-profit political entity. Wyoming stands out as being very reasonable. I’m not familiar with DC, as I always simply assumed that it was not worthwhile to investigate.

The transparency pledge for LNC candidates seems like a pretty reasonable idea. I expect that anyone and everyone would sign it, if it was not written in an unreasonable fashion.

Brian, nice try, but I never said that anything was actually happening in the dark that should be out in the sunshine instead. How should I know? I’m not privy to these things.

All I know is that many people have expressed concern about secretiveness. People are losing trust in the LP. I’ll point you to this article again, which demonstrates how the LNC is not following their own rules with respect to transparency on some matters:

http://morelibertynow.com/politics/lnc-falls-short-policies

Even if all of this suspicion and distrust is entirely mistaken, we need to take steps to restore that trust. That means running the party in a transparent manner. Some concrete actions that could be taken by the LNC might be:

– publish the agendas for all meetings, in-person, telephone or just executive committee, at least one week ahead of time.

– answer questions about the ballot access drive (they currently refuse to under advice of counsel)

– videotape the meetings

– announce all EC and telephone meetings ahead of time and tell people how they can participate. Participation in telephone meetings may only mean the ability to listen to non-executive-session stuff. That’s fine.

– more strictly limit the conditions under which executive session may be used, and enforce them. Write clearer rules on who outside the LNC may participate in executive sessions.

– Post the missing minutes from the last 2 years

– Post minutes of the mailing list or just open it, for non-executive session stuff.

– Make available the support materials promised in the LNC Policy Manual

– Use contracts when dealing with independent contractors

I’m sure others with more experience in the LP will have many more ideas.

Thanks for commenting.

I’m just wondering if you can summarize the substantive reasons you’ve heard — if any — about why “people have expressed concern about secretiveness” regarding executive sessions. Your earlier posting about LNC compliance with policy about minutes etc. contains zero specifics about how executive sessions might be being abused.

I said: “people have expressed concern about secretiveness”. You added “regarding executive sessions” to the end of that sentence, not me. Another nice try. ;)

The referenced post about the LNC falling short of their own polices is not about abuse of executive session. There is mention of that by some of the people I interviewed for it, but that is not the topic of the article.

I have no idea if executive session is being abused or not. How would I know? I’m not privy to such things. I don’t pretend to have any specifics about how it might be being abused and I refuse to speculate.

I asked if you can explain why I as an LP activist should worry that executive session is being abused. You responded by saying “people have expressed concern about secretiveness”. If that wasn’t in response to my question about executive-session “darkness”, then my original question still stands.

If you have no reason to think that executive session is a problem, then I remain curious how that came to be the subject of this interview project.

Brian, you did not post that question here before now. I have no answer to that question.

Again, many people have expressed concern, allegations were made, rumors spread. Some people just suspect, others are convinced, that the LNC is abusing executive session.

Hence, it became a topic worthy of an interview project.

I hope that answers your questions.

Thanks for commenting.

George, with all due respect, some folks think they are clever and tend to spend days bloviating on blogs and email lists creating straw men for their clever little minds to knock over.

I learned a long time ago that those who are so intensely factional that they can justify spending four or five hours a day diddling around on the internet, mostly engaging in 1) scheming with their factional allies against everyone else and 2) attacking or otherwise attempting to undermine anyone who isn’t in their incestuous little “camp” are probably only worth ignoring.

If someone provides an answer to a question that wasn’t asked, and then attacks you for having asked the question you didn’t ask, just turn your back on them. They are simply playing games and aren’t worth even a nod or one second of your time.

If you respond to them, you’re playing in their sewer pit. Their only purpose in engaging you is to thieve your time and credibility and make you look bad in the eyes of others.

Ignore them.

My question was always the same: can you tell us as specifically as you can what we LP activists should worry is happening in the dark here that should be happening in the sunshine instead?

I think I’ve got my answer now. Thanks.

There’s really no need for the LP to come to grips with its traditions of secrecy, abuse of power, corruption, and mistreatment of members. After all, libertarians now have choices when they look for a political party. The Boston Tea Party has a now well-tested openness policy built into our national bylaws. We’ve also addressed corruption, abuse of power, and membership rule quite successfully.

I would like to see the LP continue to prey upon its members for a little bit of money. It would also be great to see the LP continue to be a party without principles, a party of corruption, and a party where ne0-conservative candidates like Barr can embarrass the members by snubbing the Campaign for Liberty.

Of course, that’s only because I’d like to see the Boston Tea Party win the hearts and minds of libertarians and be the party of principle for the future. It gives me great satisfaction that I stopped paying national dues to you people in the late 1990s. As long as you bicker and feud over who was allowed to say what, justify your secret sessions, and make a mockery of the members, I’ll continue to refuse to be a member of your party.

One of the things that reading Tim Weiner’s book _Legacy of Ashes_ has reminded me is how thoroughly we went through this while issue of secret politics and secret assassinations and secret wars during the 1970s. The crimes of Nixon, Kissinger, Rumsfeld, Cheney, et al., were not adequately punished at the time. Although we discovered and thoroughly reviewed the repeated failures of secret politics, secret assassinations, and secret wars, with events like the Pentagon Papers, the Watergate Hearings, and the Church Commission, these problems did not go away. We had Iran Contra, we have the Iraq war, and it turns out the link between the Taliban and al Qaeda was largely manufactured, too.

Moreover, we’ve learned a great deal since the 1970s about poisonous secrets during FDR’s reign, about the extent to which Churchill and FDR knew exactly what the Japanese were about to do and how they deliberately failed to warn allies and their own military about these plans. We’ve learned about more secret wars in Congo, in Indonesia, and elsewhere. We’ve learned about more massacres of civilians funded by USA taxpayer dollars. We’ve learned more about Kissinger’s role in Mao killing by slow torture a group of generals who wanted to overthrow him in 1971, his role in Pinochet’s government coming to and holding onto power, and darker secrets about Cambodia and Laos.

We have, in short, learned a great deal about how secrecy is a disease. It is an illness that thwarts the success of a free society. Gorbachev had more to teach about openness in the 1980s than, judging by their comments here, any member of the LNC has learned with the noteworthy exception of Angela Keaton.

Those of you who want to seize the reins of power and be in charge of the next round of secret wars, the rounding up of the usual suspects, and all the governmental power to destroy lives are, of course, going to continue justifying your use of secrecy for this purpose or that. In a free society, people who want to be employed by a national political party should expect full disclosure of the terms of their agreements. In an open society, wrongdoing by a member of the staff of a national political party should be known to the members of that party, and to the public generally. In the unlikely event you are going to accomplish anything with a lawsuit, you’ll need to spend the money of the members of your party, and you ought to inform them what you plan to do with their money.

But you don’t think so. You think you ought to have secrets. You want to get away with things, keep secrets, and attack anyone who tells those secrets. You are fools, incapable of making a free society, or an open one.

Which, after all, is why the Boston Tea Party exists. You were fools to dismantle your carefully crafted platform in 2006. You were fools to nominate a nasty former-CIA agent, former drug war prosecutor, former neo-conservative Congress critter who voted for war, who continues to seek military intervention in Colombia, and who has been a complete jerk toward people in the gay and pagan communities.

What you ought to understand is that people are watching what you do. And every time you do something incredibly stupid, we pick up more members. Every time you do something foolish, we get more activists working for us.

I don’t mind telling you, because it would be really nice if there were two very high quality libertarian political parties in the country. It would be great if you guys ever got your act together. After all, this year a majority of the candidates the Boston Tea Party endorsed and worked to support were candidates from your party – a vast majority. We’re not averse to working to elect libertarians when they are sincere and principled ones.

But even if you get your act together for a time, I don’t think it’s going to last. Which is why I’m committed to the growth and success of BTP. We’re here to stay because your commitment to principles has been fickle. We’re watching you, too. And we have no legal, ethical, nor moral obligation to keep quiet about your choices. Quite the reverse.

If government comes after us, we ought to raise a stink with international authorities and the public about it.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with this necessarily. International is not always a four-letter word. If someone in trouble can reach out to like-minded folks in another state, why not in another country?

Marc, I think you’re right in this case. Since this is my website, though, I like to welcome folks who comment and give them the benefit of the doubt, at least the first few times. :P

Thanks everyone for commenting.

George, the comments from Montoni and Davidson perfectly illustrate the dynamic that you have to be wary of inadvertently feeding. Montoni’s oblique yet hyperbolic vitriol is richly ironic — he’s censor-in-chief of an “incestuous little camp” where I’ve heard that as recently as a week ago he smeared me by name (about a matter that I’ve already explained to him). Out here in the free-speech parts of the Internet, where he has to deal with the real thing instead of an effigy, he’s much more cautious. Davidson is the opposite extreme, disgorging 5 kilobytes of feverishly specific complaints — all without ever coming close to mentioning a single decision or action of the LNC.

I’m simply asking for a précis of the most specific indictment that can be made of LNC’s use of executive session. Since nobody here can muster one, I’ll apply some critical thinking to Dr. Lark’s list and offer a couple of suggestions. First, BCRA is a serious concern of some serious people, but we should always be cautious of BCRA making us too cautious. Second, the real and imagined problems of interpersonal and factional conflicts can only be exacerbated by each marginal minute spent in executive session.

I would suggest that anyone worried about LNC secrecy should focus on its email policy. My (naive?) position is that openness and transparency will ultimately strengthen civility in a healthy (or at least salvageable) organization. (Davidson might agree with me on this principle, while disagreeing on how the BTP example illustrates it.) That’s why I’ve argued (unsuccessfully) for more transparency on the LPUS PlatCom and LPCA ExCom, and why I insist on it for the Reform Caucus forum. Some may worry that more transparency would just give the haters more to hate about, but I think the haters are already hating as hard as they can. Then again, there may be some tactical wisdom in the LNC’s current policy. If a target-poor environment leaves the haters fuming irrelevantly about Kissinger and Mao and sewer pits, that might explain why it seemed in Denver that most delegates pay no attention to the haters’ fulminations.

George, the comments from Montoni and Davidson perfectly illustrate the dynamic that you have to be wary of inadvertently feeding.

Frankly, I sensed a trap in your earlier line of questioning.

I’m not sure what those two persons have to do with that. I can’t say I always agree with the strict moderation on LP-Radicals or Jim’s use of language, but I find things to respect in each of them as well, based on the little that I really know about them. In fact, I have found something noteworthy to respect in almost every person I have encountered in these 14 months since I joined the LP.

I’m simply asking for a précis of the most specific indictment that can be made of LNC’s use of executive session.

Please pose your question to a current or former member of that body, or some outside person who has for any reason been privy to these sessions. That’s what I did and you can see the results above, from those few who chose to participate.

My (naive?) position is that openness and transparency will ultimately strengthen civility in a healthy (or at least salvageable) organization.

I don’t think that’s naive. Transparency is the lifeblood of a voluntary organization, and especially one prone to partisan battles. Such an organization can not continue to exist without it for long.

No trap, just hoping for an overview from somebody with a reputation for reality-based reporting of the available facts. Information about ES is indeed inherently limited, and I haven’t followed the LNC dramas very closely, but I doubt you’d be writing about it except for one particular incident. That, of course, is Angela’s report that the Barr campaign allegedly limited its formal data-sharing with LNC because of alleged fears about what Angela might do with the data. On its face, the LNC’s use of ES in this case didn’t seem abusive, but rather seemed like an arguably reasonable effort to avoid needlessly embarrassing Angela, the LNC, and the Barr campaign. Of course, since Angela was sitting right there in the room, the information probably didn’t feel very non-public to her, and she apparently had reasons for wanting it to be completely public. Absent that incident and its sequelae, I just don’t know of any persistent fire underneath all this executive-session-concern smoke. That’s why my question was directed to you (and others raising “concerns”), and not to the LNC targets of those concerns.

Critics of the LP’s leadership obviously have an interest in creating the impression that LNC abuses executive session, and we each have our own standards for what kind of evidence we require before doing things that might strengthen that impression. My approach is to give fellow Libertarians — Angela, the rest of LNC, Mr. Montoni, etc. — the benefit of the doubt. I don’t know of any Libertarian activists who I’d consider irredeemable or evil — even the ones who publicly say that I or LNC are irredeemable and evil. You go to war against the Nanny State with the comrades you have, not with the comrades you wish you had. The only enemy in this room is the idea that there is an enemy in this room.

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