Is OAI diverting resources from the LP?

Previously posted at IPR


Editorial submitted by Paul Frankel:

Recently, Libertarian Party state chairs have been discussing on their list why the dues paying membership of the national LP is declining. This decline is happening at the same time that the LP nationwide is growing its voter registration faster than any other national party, had its best presidential ballot access retention following a midterm election in the party’s 43 year history and the best of any alternative party in a century, is on the winning side of most public policy issues as seen by the results of ballot initiative votes all over the country, was the only nationally-organized party to get more votes in 2014 than 2010, got the party’s best numerical results (out of 11 attempts) and a close second in percentage terms for its presidential ticket in the most recent presidential election… a time when record numbers of Americans are telling opinion pollsters that a new major party is needed and that government is way too big.

One of the list participants, and my successor as Region 7 alternate on the Libertarian National Committee, Daniel Hayes, proposed the following explanation:

Maybe Sustaining memberships are down nationally because we have Gary Johnson the person that ran as a Libertarian in 2012, saying he is going to run as a Libertarian in 2016, traveling around to various National talk shows saying things like:

“The ideal political affiliation right now is independent,” Johnson said. “I would be that, but to get on the ballot in all 50 states would be a $10 million endeavor. Running as a Libertarian, with all the volunteers, they cover that base. They make that happen.”

It is my understanding that Mr. Johnson was on Neil Cavuto’s show on Fox just this past Wednesday and said the same thing.

I don’t believe that is why national dues paying membership is down. National LP needs a website that doesn’t suck (I know this is being worked on but results are what count and for now we (LP national) have a website that is terrible, as was discussed at the last LNC meeting. We need updated outreach materials. Again, being worked on, but not here yet. We need training in all the basics of local organizational and campaign management for our candidates and state and county leadership, promoted heavily. Materials exist, but need to be updated and promoted much, much, much more. The database needs a lot better management, as has been discussed at length on past LNCs. We need states and national LP that see their relationship as synergy rather than competition, and which all encourage rather than discourage people to participate at the national, state AND county/parish levels. We need to get with the modern age and how people like to do things these days and push monthly, rather than yearly, donations and push them heavily and constantly. Among other things they are opt out, as opposed to opt in as with the yearly ones, and psychologically less painful for equal annualized amounts of contributions. We need to get a lot better at leveraging our volunteer database, as much or more than our donors. Above all we need prospecting. Passive recruiting does not work. If you don’t ask you don’t get.

Blaming these organizational weaknesses on OAI is just scapegoating pure and simple.

Opinions on the ideal desirability of running as an independent (or of saying so in interviews) vary, and I had my share of comments about it in this comment thread, but here is one less negative way of looking at it proposed by Andy Craig:

1) The point about independent ballot labels is just factually correct. A candidate with that ballot label (in the states that allow it, vs. “nomination by petition” or “no affiliation” etc.) will typically do better, because of the positive connotations the word has vs. the neutral-at-best connotations associated with a Libertarian label among the average voter.

2) In part because of that, I’ve seen many Libertarians also refer to themselves as “independent”, even where they’re clearly LP candidates who have that label. In our little corner of political nerd-world, that’s obviously incorrect and contradictory, but to the vast majority of people who think “independent” means “any non-D, non-R candidate” it lets you tap into those positive associations. Heck, it’s even used that way in the name of this website.

3) It lets him raise the point about ballot access and what a hurdle that is, which is worth raising in its own right but also leads into his point about 270+EV ballot access as a genuine threshold for the debates.

4) Far from putting down the LP, it raises one of our strongest strengths, something which plays heavily into successful candidate recruitment: the established ballot access we have earned in most states, and the capacity to successfully petition onto most if not all of the rest. It’s basically saying “I’d rather start with a half million Libertarians behind me, then all on my own from scratch.” – which isn’t an insult.

In any case, Gary Johnson 2012 campaign manager Ron Nielson has categorically stated in an email:

If Gary runs for President he will run as a Libertarian. […] Regarding help for the LP……Gary has been very helpful with many state party fundraising and recruitment efforts for many years now …..and continues with trips planned throughout the spring at state conventions. OAIPAC is specific[ly] taking on upcoming ballot access projects. OAI is promoting a liberty agenda throughout the country…. see this link:

Mr. Hayes continues:

How many resources are being misdirected away from National and the states and put into Our America Initiative, which looks like the framework for a new Political Party to me and not just a PAC like some have claimed. I think people need to start asking themselves this question. Also, How many state chairm[e]n or vice-chairm[e]n and other leader[s] are OAI directors? Maybe if people were not putting their energies and efforts of their state organizations into the coffers of OAI and it’s Honorary Chairman Climbing Mountains in Antarctica, living a Rock Star lifestyle building a national movement directed towards one person, things might be better for the National party membership.

It’s pure fantasy with zero relation to any kind of reality that OAI has any plans to become a new political party. Very few resources are going to OAI and none of them are being directed away from the LP. That is fixed sized pie/zero sum game thinking which is also in no way related to reality. What we have instead in states where the LP and OAI work together as friends is synergy. Libertarian activists often find themselves more effective at lobbying the legislature when they identify themselves as being affiliated with a nonpartisan national PAC than when they identify themselves as activists with a “third” party. The CPD lawsuit could help whoever the LP nominee ends up being (2016 and beyond) – especially if we win the lawsuit, but even if we lose (by bringing more publicity to the issue of debate exclusion). At the state level we provide an avenue for big L and small l libertarians to work together on legislative lobbying. All of this helps the LP.

As LPNY chair Mark Axinn wrote in the same thread on the state chairs list,

I strongly doubt that Gary Johnson or Ron Nielson are foolish people. Starting a new political party without the resources of Tom Golisano or Ross Perot or the organizational platform of the LP is foolish.

I do not know many people who have contributed financially to OAI and I actually doubt it has raised much money so far. (Johnson has said that a truly successful Presidential campaign needs $50,000,000. Has OAI raised even 1% of that?)

I do know some people who have contributed some of their time and energy to it, which is fine as the LP does not have an exclusive hold on any of our resources. (If I give money to FEE or IJ, does that take away from my commitment to the LP? Of course not.)

Gary Johnson wants to run for President again. He was not as “pure” a Libertarian as Harry Browne, but I for one was proud to have him as our candidate in 2012. I would be very surprised if he does not seek the same position again in 2016.

I agree. And from what Ron has told me OAI has not raised significant money so far. I’m not sure if he wants me to tell you or not, so I’ll let him tell you if in fact he is spending more money on making it run than it raises from all other donors combined, i.e. if it’s a net loss for him at this point.

Norm Olsen commented to the LNC list:

I take Gary Johnson’s comments, in context, to be a compliment to the
Libertarian party.

He is simply expressing a truth; the very basic reality is that:

1> Gary Johnson wants to run for president and needs ballot access, and
2> The LP will most likely want Gary Johnson to be our candidate and all we
have to offer is ballot access.

This is simple logic; it’s often called “win-win”.

Gary may not pass the Libertarian test of everyone in our party, but he said
it very well when he said:

“Whatever party you run for – Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green –
you’re carrying baggage that, whether you think you’re carrying it or not,
you are, because you are the representative of that party. I always tell
people that running as a Libertarian, I have the least amount of explaining
to do.”


PS> Gary is a self-made man of means and lives the life style he chooses
without cost or expense to others or infringing upon the rights of others to
do likewise. I find this to be very Libertarian. I’m disappointed that a
Libertarian would choose to criticize that.

Norman T Olsen
Regional Representative, Region 1
Libertarian National Committee

Daniel Hayes again:

When there is an argument in a state between various factions, OAI often seems to be there to take a side and/or fuel the dissent.

That is entirely false. OAI takes absolutely no position whatsoever in any intra-party faction fights in ANY state. It’s true that individuals who have also separately chosen to take OAI leadership roles in a few states are in their other capacities involved in intra-LP faction fights. OAI does not encourage them to do that in any way whatsoever. It’s also none of our business as OAI what they do or do not do in their LP capacities.

Daniel Hayes continues:

Since 2012, Gary Johnson has been CONSISTENTLY been a poor advocate for the National Libertarian Party on the national level. […] We need to stop supporting people that don’t truly support us.

I’m not sure how you mean that exactly. If you mean he should be encouraging people to join the LP in his interviews as Harry Browne did, I agree. But even without doing that, he still gets a lot of mentions of the LP in the media, and that is good for us. If you mean that he should read some Harry Browne and other libertarian authors for some ideas I would also agree, but he’s still easily in the libertarian ballpark of ideology even with the stances he has now. I disagree that Gary Johnson is “not truly supporting us,” although I do wish he would support us even more, as in constantly asking people to join the LP as Harry Browne did, and losing the “ideal way to run would be independent” bit in interviews. However, it’s really looking at the glass as half empty if you only focus on that and ignore all the mention of the LP that press coverage of Gary Johnson creates, his endorsements of downticket LP candidates, his appearances at state and local LP conventions and events helping draw attendance to these events and an opportunity for joint fundraising and for the LP reps there to make membership pitches to people who would not otherwise be there, and so on.

Obviously, we don’t have someone else that can be put out there to counter him,

That’s not obvious to me. Competition is healthy and good and will make us stronger. If you have other candidates you would like to encourage to run, please encourage them to run regardless of what Gov. Johnson does or does not do and regardless of when he does or does not do it. Competition raises the bar and makes whoever wins the nomination at the end (whether it be Gary Johnson or one of these other folks) a better candidate. If Gary beats them for the nomination he’ll be a better candidate as a result, and they will be better candidates in some future race should they run again. And if one of them beats him for the nomination, they will have earned it. If for any reason Gary is not able to or decides not to run, we’ll have better prepared backups. So in other words, I don’t see competition as a bad thing. Make it happen!

but do we really need to have our State Organizations directing their volunteers and members in his direction?

If you mean towards a GJ16 campaign, if there will be one, I am not in favor of our state organizations officially endorsing candidates for the prez nomination before it happens, although I think individual state party officers should be free to do so. If you mean OAI, then OAI is more than just Gary Johnson and we could continue to exist and function as OAI whether or not Gov. Johnson remains involved with OAI. Should state parties steer volunteers and members to OAI? Not necessarily, but individual state party officers should be able to, and IMO there’s nothing wrong with state parties promoting a variety of different nonpartisan libertarian movement organizations (to make their members aware that these organizations exist and could use their help), hopefully on a mutually cooperative basis, and/or letting their members know about a variety of campaigns seeking their support for the presidential nomination on an equitable basis.

It’s also untrue that OAI is all about Gary Johnson. It’s true that he is our honorary chairman, and that we help book appointments for Gov. Johnson and Judge Gray, but we have advisory councils with over a hundred experts on a wide variety of issues whose opinion pieces we help promote throughout traditional and social media, a tax deductible foundation which is working to open up the debate to more than just the two establishment political parties, dozens of state projects pushing lobbying on pro-liberty issues in most of the states in the country and more on the way (including but in no way limited to improving ballot access laws in various states).

OAI is a non-partisan organization; if Gary Johnson runs for president again as many people expect, that will be a legally separate organization. Nothing about participating in OAI means that you have to support the LP (although many of our leaders are also LP activists, others are not) or, if you do, that you have to support Gary Johnson for our nomination. I myself am not committed to doing so – although I consider Gary a friend, I am also friends with Darryl Perry, as far as I know on good terms with Dr. Feldman, and generally want to know what my choices will be before I make up my mind as a delegate. In 2012 I did not make up my mind until the convention, but supported our nominee as state director of his campaign in Alabama post-convention. I may well not make up my mind until the convention in 2016. One of the candidates seeking the nomination this time, Dr. Marc Feldman, was Ohio director of OAI. He resigned that position, but that was his own choice – he would have been welcome to stay on as an OAI state director and seek the LP presidential nomination at the same time had he chosen to do so. Since then, we have asked Darryl Perry, another candidate for the presidential nomination, to become a state director for OAI with the full knowledge that he is running for the nomination. He didn’t accept that offer, but if at any point he wants to take it and if at that point his state does not already have a director, being a candidate for the LP nomination would not prevent him from also being an OAI state director. Supporters of these or other candidates for the LP nomination, as well as small l libertarians who vote for other parties, are all welcome to be involved in OAI, just as those who support Gary Johnson as a political candidate, should he choose to be one again, are.

I hope I’ve answered the questions about OAI diverting resources from the LP. If not, I’ll answer more in the comment thread. There are other questions about the GJ2012 campaign which I have addressed in past threads, and I am sure will need to address in this thread and future threads. I am not addressing those in this article because they are legally separate organizations, despite the obvious substantial overlap in leadership and structure.


Paul “paulie” Frankel

  • Southern Region Director, Alabama state director and Eastern region co-deputy director of OAI
  • Former LNC Region 7 Alternate 2012-2014
  • Volunteer reporter, IPR
  • Volunteer, LP national social media content teams
  • Likely uncommitted delegate to the next LP national convention; past delegate to the 2000, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014 national LP conventions
  • Past at large and regional rep, Libertarian Party of Alabama exec comm, several terms on and off since 1998
  • Member of the national LP continuously since 1994/1995, Life Member since 2000
  • Professional ballot access petitioner, contractor, manager and consultant

205-534-1622 cell *

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