Encounters with Prohibition Party Activist Leroy Pletten

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Longtime Prohibition Party activist Leroy Pletten died earlier this year at the age of 68.  Pletten, an anti-smoking activist, differed from his fellow party members in holding generally progressive views.  In 2004 and 2008, as the running mate of Gene Amondson, Pletten served as the party’s vice presidential nominee.  In addition, he had a major role in the party split between 2003 and 2007 as leader of the faction opposing multi-time presidential nominee Earl Dodge. His advocacy against Dodge continued after Dodge’s 2007 death, spreading even to wikipedia.

I first came in contact with Pletten in May 2010 to inquire about whether he planned to seek the Prohibition Party’s 2012 presidential nomination in light of Amondson’s sudden death in July 2009. (At the time, I was writing the Wikipedia biography for Amondson and hoping to find something to report at Wikinews)  In response to my e-mail, Pletten did not directly answer my question about his 2012 intentions, but instead linked me to multiple pages on his personal website and said he was fighting the “No. 1 cause of premature death and disability,” i.e. smoking.

Upon further research on Pletten months later, I came upon a Wikipedia user by the name “Smokedoctor.”  The edits I discovered were on the Earl Dodge talk page from the Summer of 2008.  There, Smokedoctor argued with a user by the name of “Caldodge,” who I later confirmed to be Dodge’s son Calvin.  On the page, Smokedoctor cited to both the Colorado Secretary of State website and Pletten’s personal website, and compared the Dodge faction to Civil War secessionists.  He claimed that Dodge stole items and had used insanity as a defense, arguing that Dodge had symptoms of a “mental disorder.”  Caldodge correctly assumed from Smokedoctor’s citation to Pletten’s website that Smokedoctor was Pletten, whom Caldodge referred to as the “ringleader of the anti-Dodge faction.”  In response, Smokedoctor accused Caldodge of “paranoia” in believing “somebody named Leroy Pletten controls the [Colorado Secretary of State website].”  Caldodge rejected Smokedoctor’s duplicity and questioned why Pletten continued to attack Dodge even after he had died.

In the edit history for the Earl Dodge article, I discovered that Smokedoctor and Caldodge were engaged in a bitter edit war over content Smokedoctor wished to add to the article.  Smokedoctor’s first edit stated that in 2003:

The historic [Prohibition Party] had chosen to not re-elect Earl Dodge faction due to concerns about his not satisfactorily accounting for Party finances, expelling disfavored members without a vote, not properly managing the Party, and his worsening reputation outside the Party.

Earl Dodge and his small group of adherents seceded from the historic Party. They set up a different “Party” they named the “National Prohibition Party” and formally incorporated it in the State of Colorado as a separate organization. That new Party could not receive answers to their mailings, nor funds from donors to the historic Party, if they admitted theirs was a different Party. So they, without permission, sent mailings and solicited donations using the historic name.

Caldodge reverted the edit leading to the edit war.  Smokedoctor made another edit largely in line with the initial edit.  It added that “in 1999 by one vote (a 9-8 vote), with a number of abstentions, [the Prohibition Party] almost defeated Mr. Dodge [for the presidential nomination],” and that

Some members in the historic Party claim that Dodge had, pre-secession, transferred historic party assets to the National Prohibition Foundation, which they claim is controlled by Dodge’s family. See the Party History Site at http://www.prohibitionists.org/History/history.html .

The Foundation (which has existed since 1952) is currently controlled by one of Dodge’s daughters and Howard Lydick. Lydick was the new Dodge Party’s 2004 vice-presidential candidate, handpicked at a private meeting of Dodge’s few adherents held in Dodge’s home. The attendance was so low, some eight or so, that Dodge ordered the attendance number kept secret. In 2007, Dodge held another “convention” of his new party, privately in his living room, attended by only three persons, himself, Lydick, and one other “delegate.” While attendance was also kept secret, an historic party member found out, and passed the word.

The edit war continued for the next couple months with other users getting involved.  Smokedoctor’s edits are largely excluded from the present article.

Smokedoctor also made edits to the main Prohibition Party article, adding to the opening line that the party’s objective included “dealing with the starter/gateway drug, tobacco.”  He changed “Division of 2003” to “Secession of 2003” and wrote a detailed narrative of the split:

In 2003, the Prohibition National Committee experienced a secession. A small number of members seceded. They formally incorporated in the State of Colorado in September 2003. They called their new Party the “National Prohibition Party,” i.e., they added the word “National” to differentiate their new Party from the historic Party.

This secession by some eight members occurred under Earl Dodge. This occurred after a number of complaints concerning his leadership, his financial relationships with the party and its foundations, his refusal to accept new members due to fear they would vote against him, allegations of inadequate accounting and even of thievery. These have been published on the website of the majority. and elsewhere and not disputed on the Dodge faction’s website.

Dodge had seen the handwriting on the wall, when he won at the 1999 Convention by only one vote, 9-8. In 2002, nine members signed a Petition to call a special meeting under the Bylaws.

Dodge saw that he no longer would have a majority vote. The precipitating factor in the secession was Dodge’s excluding the majority from the 2003 Convention. Instead of holding the Convention mandated by Party Bylaws, Dodge instead convened an invitation-only “convention” consisting of eight people including Dodge and two of his daughters. To exclude disfavored members of the majority, Dodge held the pertinent meetings in his living room in Lakewood, CO, on June 12-13 of 2003. Although there was no quorum as a majority of members were neither invited nor participated, this invitation-only meeting purported to be the “2003 convention” and purported to nominate Dodge for a sixth presidential candidacy. Dodge ordered the attendees to keep the low attendance secret. However, the majority soon learned of his action.

Don Webb, a member of the National Committee from Alabama, charged that the convention was irregularly called, in violation of the National Committee by-laws, and lacked a quorum. Other party members who had criticized Dodge’s leadership and had sponsored the presidential bid of Gary Van Horn in 1999 followed the Party Bylaws and convened the party convention due in 2003, at Fairfield Glade, TN. This was done pursuant to the party by-laws September 5-6 of 2003. Dodge and his secessionists chose not to attend.

The convention as convened by the majority accepted new members, thus increased the size of the National Committee, elected Webb the national chairman. This convention of the historic Party, did not accept the new competing Dodge Party’s nomination of Dodge for President. Dodge and his running mate Howard Lydick, having seceded with their some six supporters, did not accept the actions of the historic Party’s Fairfield Glade convention. They continued to campaign for President and Vice President. They concealed from the public their having established and incorporated a different Party, their “National Prohibition Party.” Instead, they filed their slate of Presidential Electors in Colorado still using, albeit without permission, the name of the historic Prohibition Party.

The historic Party decided in early February of 2004 to run the national ticket of Gene C. Amondson for President and Leroy J. Pletten for Vice President. They filed as the Prohibition ticket in Louisiana (the first time the party had appeared on the ballot there since 1888). In Colorado, the Concerns of People Party allowed Amondson to run on its line against Dodge, which was considered at the time to be the “Prohibition Party primary” to settle the future of the party.

Although Amondson won the de facto primary of 2004 by a margin of 1,944 to 140, the secession was not ended. The historic Prohibition Party, pursuant to the Party Bylaws mandating a biennial meeting, held its mid-term party conference in Bedford, PA, on June 15-16 of 2005 and elected Gene Amondson the party chairman, replacing Webb. It then accepted the party affiliates in Florida, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, gaining ballot status in Florida for 2008. It appears that the Dodge group, the new “National Prohibition Party,” did not hold a mid-term conference. They evidently use their own different Bylaws, not the historic Party Bylaws.

In 2007, the two separate Parties held separate nominating conventions. The Dodge group again kept secret their low attendance, perhaps some three or so. The public was not invited.

In contrast, the historic Party welcomed the public, and had over ten times the attendance.

The trustee of the George Pennock Fund initiated legal proceedings to determine which of the two competing parties (the historic 1869 Party, or the new 2003 Party) was the legal recipient of funds left to the party in the 1920’s and 1930’s. This litigation occurred when the new Dodge party that Dodge and his few supporters had established, sent letters to the trustee, alleging that the members of the historic Party had created a new and different Party! Dodge and his few supporters accused the historic Party of doing what they had in fact done, created a new Party.

Due to the brazenness of that Dodge claim, the trustee sought Court involvement. Dodge and his fellow secessionists refused to retract their accusation. This threatened substantial legal costs.

To avoid such substanatial litigation costs due to the expense of defending against Dodge’s false accusation that the 2003 Party was the rightful claimant to funds from the 1920’s – 1930’s notwithstanding the written documentation alluding to the historic 1869 Party, the two separate Parties agreed to divide the money, with the historic Party getting slightly over 50%.

The death of Dodge in November 2007 left the new Party without a presidential nominee. Some party leaders attempted to end the secession, but were rebuffed. Amondson continues to be the chairman of the historic Prohibition Party. In the spring of 2008, the new Party, Dodge’s small group — without a known meeting or vote and again excluding disfavored individuals — purported to have nominated Amondson for President, but they retained Lydick as their VP nominee.

In later edits he provided his views on the reason why Prohibition in the United States failed:

[T]he [18th] Amendment was politically written by the Congress, not based on medical science. Note Dr. “Thacher’s suggestion that we made a mistake not to cut off tobacco first,” before adopting Prohibition, as noted by Pryns Hopkins, Ph.D., Gone Up in Smoke: An Analysis of Tobaccoism (Culver City, CA: The Highland Press, 1948), p 222.

Further undermining it, the Amendment was politically written to not take effect for one year after adoption. This enabled the affluent to hoard alcohol, and led to class resentments and divisions, undermining the Amendment’s effectiveness.

The era during which alcohol was illegal in the USA is generally known as “Prohibition”. The enactment of national prohibition took away the party’s main issue, and the party declined in importance. Nonetheless, ninety percent (90%) of the American people quit drinking alcohol during Prohibition. Crime did not increase, contrary to myth. Due to the political and class division aspects of the Amendment, the “Prohibition” era saw the rise of “Speakeasies” and bootleggers. Due to the class divisions aspect, an amount of organized crime enabled the non-affluent some measure of access like that of the affluent.

By the start of the Great Depression, the cause of prohibition as politicized by the Amendment’s wording style and its not being based on medical science, led to it being considered discredited by much of the public. National prohibition was repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933. Its core cause having fallen into disfavor, the US Prohibition Party declined into insignificance.

Through the years, nearly all of Smokedoctor’s edits were removed from the page.

After reviewing Smokedoctor’s edits, I used Wikipedia’s e-mail function to send an e-mail to Smokedoctor in January 2011.  He responded and confirmed that he was in fact Leroy Pletten, but did not go into much detail when asked about Prohibition Party matters.  At the time, I was in the process of a Wikinews interview with Jim Hedges, the former Tax Assessor of Thompson Township in Pennsylvania who was running for the party’s 2012 presidential nomination (and who later lost the nomination to Jack Fellure before later being named the party’s 2016 nominee).  I asked Hedges about Pletten and he informed me that Pletten:

Enjoys hair-splitting!  His career was spent as a civilian employee of the Army, preparing court cases against people the Army wanted to get rid of.  He’s not a lawyer, but he has had a lot of legal experience.  And having been paid to be an attack dog for so many years, he has trouble getting out of that mind-set now.  You have to get to know him before you can like him, but he really is an OK guy.

In fact, recently, I read through part of the litigation (.doc file download will be begin upon clicking) concerning the Pennock Trust in which Pletten spoke out against the Dodge faction.  It is certainly worth a read (although Pletten is misidentified as “Mr. Plutten”).  The issue concerning the Pennock trust was finally resolved in 2014, when the full trust was restored to the Prohibition Party.  Moreover, it turns out that Pletten was a whistleblower and was fired from his civilian position in the Army after uncovering abuses.

In one of Pletten’s final edits to Wikipedia as Smokedoctor, in October 2013, he cited an unpublished presentation he made in 1966 to the article on Zeno’s paradoxes.  This led to another edit war, which caused Pletten to be threatened with a block.  In response to the threat, Pletten pleaded his case on the Administrator’s noticeboard and delivered a profound statement about his Wikipedia experiences:

Someone keeps deleting my information on a solution to Zeno’s Paradox, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeno’s_paradoxes

They do not cite any basis for their mere conclusory claims of the information being somehow “disruptive.” They merely make the accusation. And delete the information.

They violate Wikipedia policy which is to improve, be cooperative, not merely as a first step, issue decrees by simply removing something not agreed with, and going on to issuing threats of being banned.

Please instruct people that when they disagree with information, their mere bald opinionated unsupported assertion it is “disruptive” is not proof it is.

I realize Wikipedia is easy to access, so people with inadequate education may oppose and reject information they personally dislike. But that is no basis for denying other readers the information.

Thank you.

/s/ Smokedoctor aka Leroy

Perhaps symbolic of a life spent jousting at dragons that nearly everyone else saw only as windmills, Wikipedia administrators closed Pletten’s request as lacking merit and his information was excluded from the page.

Nevertheless, Pletten was able to speak his mind unfiltered on YouTube.  Below is a series of videos from Pletten’s YouTube channel, recorded in 2012, perhaps his final recordings:

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