Saturday, November 24, 2007

Decisions, decisions

A little about the Libertarian Party's new fundraising program, Liberty Decides:

Some of the LP's presidential nomination candidates seem to think it's a very good idea. Others aren't as happy about it.

Steve Kubby endorses/pitches the program on his campaign web site.

Christine Smith notifies her supporters that a contribution to Liberty Decides is not a contribution to her campaign on her site.

George Phillies doesn't, so far as I can tell, reference the program at all on his campaign web site, but does respond to it in comments over at Third Party Watch.

My take on it is pretty simple: It's not perfect, but it ain't bad, either. I wish that Ron Paul hadn't been surreptitiously slipped into the mix in various ways, and I wish like hell that Libertarians were contributing to Libertarian pre-nomination campaigns, but Liberty Decides is a smart reaction to a known historical phenomenon.

To wit, in 2004 the Libertarian Party nominated a presidential candidate whose campaign treasury was so tapped out that he couldn't afford a room at the hotel where the convention was held. That's not intended as a slight on Michael Badnarik -- he ran a winning nomination campaign on a shoestring budget, and that's something to be admired.

However, broke is not where you want your campaign to be at when you've just won the nomination and are ready to start contesting the general election. Badnarik had to scramble. He raised a million dollars in five months and ran a very credible campaign on that minimal budget ... but how much more might he have been able to accomplish had the LP been building, in advance, a post-nomination fund for whomever the party nominated?

Liberty Decides is pitched as a way for party contributors to tout their support for this or that candidate (each candidate's spot on the LD page shows a total of contributions made "in his or her name"), and much of the money collected goes to support regular party operations -- but 40% of it goes into a general election fund for "coordinated expenditures" to promote the party's presidential ticket in the general election. I think that's a good thing.

I understand why some of the presidential candidates don't like Liberty Decides much. This is a hardscrabble nomination campaign already: Ron Paul has sucked the air out of the LP room, and the only campaigns with much money are the ones for candidates with sufficient wealth to bankroll themselves to a degree instead of relying on contributors. It's not unreasonable to assume that some of the money going into Liberty Decides would, in the absence of the program, have flowed instead into their campaigns.

George Phillies in particular has long been a critic of the national organization's fundraising and spending priorities and habits, and doesn't see Liberty Decides as a turn in the right direction. He's not just a talker, either, he's a doer -- principal officer of Freedom Ballot Access, which is exactly what it sounds like (Steve Kubby and myself both also serve on that organization's board, btw).

I see it somewhat differently. Yes, I wish that y'all out there would start sending checks to the Kubby campaign, and I encourage you to do so. But ...

... if you're not absolutely sure which candidate you support, or if you've "maxed out" to that candidate, Liberty Decides looks like a damn good place to invest in the party's success. The nomination will surely sort itself out -- and I predict that it will do so in a way that doesn't obviously correlate to money raised or spent -- and once it has, I want to see the nominee doing some righteous ass-kicking right off the starting blocks.

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