Saturday, May 17, 2008

Open letter to the Boston Tea Party national committee

Dear members of the Boston Tea Party's national committee,

It warms my heart to see the BTP chartering affiliates and engaging in real activity once again. Congratulations to chair Jim Davidson on his efforts, and I look forward to meeting all of you in Denver.

It is that meeting, and the motion passed by the national committee pursuant to that meeting, which occasions this letter.

The motion, offered by Dr. Stevens on May 11th and carried on May 13th, reads as follows:

that a meeting of the National Committee of the Boston Tea Party be held on Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 6:30 p.m. at The Buckhorn Exchange in Denver, Colorado (Denver's Oldest Restaurant located at 1000 Osage Street; 303-534-9505;; that all BTP members be invited to observe the proceedings; that all LP Presidential & Vice-Presidential Candidates be invited to seek the BTP Presidential & Vice-Presidential nomination, as well as other individuals invited by other National Committee members; and that the bylaws of the Boston Tea Party be suspended to enable the National Committee to select the Presidential & Vice-Presidential nominees of the Boston Tea Party and to conduct such other business as it deems necessary and appropriate to ensure the future of the Boston Tea Party.

I do not object to a "meatspace" meeting of the national committee. The bylaws provide for it insofar as they only specify that meetings shall be conducted via Internet "in the usual course of things." This clearly allows for the committee to occasionally, for good reason, do otherwise -- and the Libertarian Party's national convention seems like exactly the kind of occasion I had in mind when I wrote those bylaws.

However, the national committee has no legitimate authority to suspend or abrogate the party's bylaws. Nor does it have the authority to select presidential and vice-presidential candidates for the party. Those actions can only be undertaken by the membership in national convention. By blowing the organization of the 2008 national convention per the bylaws, which require it to open no later than Memorial Day and to be preceded by a number of specific actions, some of which were not undertaken by their respective deadlines, we (I sat on the national committee at the time some of this happened) deprived the membership of the ability to exercise its power. Following that screwup with a usurpation of the members' authority is not a solution.

When I founded the Boston Tea Party and wrote its bylaws, I did so on the specific premise that I was setting up an organization based on full member participation of a type which has only become possible on a national scale in the last few years thanks to near-universal Internet access. The portions of the motion above relating to suspension of the bylaws and nomination of a presidential slate by the national committee are not merely in conflict with the bylaws -- they are in conflict with one of the core values of the Boston Tea Party as intended by me and as ratified by the membership at its 2006 convention.

Therefore, I respectfully request that the national committee refrain from following through on those portions of the motion, and give notice that if those portions are acted upon, I will exercise my right as a member, in concert with other members under Article 9, Section H of the bylaws, to overturn the committee's actions.

I would be proud to see the national committee -- speaking for, and ONLY for, itself rather than for the membership -- endorse the Libertarian Party's presidential slate. Of all the likely nominees, even the least "purist libertarian" example, Bob Barr, clearly endorses, at least implicitly, the Boston Tea Party's platform. As a matter of fact, Barr has specifically publicly quoted the affirmative portion of that platform in several articles and interviews, stating that he supports "reducing the size, scope and power of government." The other likely nominees -- Dr. Mary Ruwart, Steve Kubby and even Wayne Allyn Root -- are also running on campaign platforms which clearly fall within the scope of the BTP's. I would even suggest that the national committee consider organizing an "emergency" convention for the summer in order to ask the membership to add the party's endorsement to the national committee's and perhaps get the party back on track as a mass-participation organization.

In extremis, if the members of the state affiliates simply cannot support the LP's ticket, then they're free to nominate their own presidential slates, individually or in collusion. In doing so they would not be in conflict with the bylaws requirement that they endorse the slate nominated by the national convention, since there is not and cannot be any such slate. So long as they don't claim that their slate or slates represent the national BTP, they're well within their rights to go that way.

Thanks again to all of you on the national committee for your efforts to rebuild the Boston Tea Party. I wish you every success and look forward to meeting you in Denver.

Yours in liberty,
Thomas L. Knapp
Founder, Boston Tea Party

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