Saturday, May 19, 2007

1980 - The Crane Machine in operation

And to Grab Control you need to be sneaky

NOTE: I'm leaving this small piece mostly as it was when originally written, which was before Hart Williams called me to find out what I knew about Crane, Howie and their lick-spittles, brown-nosers, and lackeys.  

Murray Rothbard was arguably the most influential voice for Austrian Economics in the world; he was asked to serve on the Cato Board of Directors and was given stock in the enterprise. Being an economist does not usually make you rich, so a little stock meant a lot of to Murray. 

Murray Rothbard enthusiastically supported the Crane Machine and the Clark candidacy going into the nomination process. After the campaign's lackluster showing in November of 1980 Rothbard used his Libertarian Forum to exhaustively critique the campaign and the White Papers Crane had produced; these glossily produced policy pieces effectively superseded the LP platform and were produced under the direct oversight of Ed Crane. There is no evidence that Clark himself had any input in the matter. The subjects included the privatization of Social Security. 
The criticism from Rothbard focused on Ed Clark in the immediate wake of the Clark Campaign. Clark had been left holding the debt Crane and the campaign had run up in the last few weeks. This focus on Clark by Rothbard continued until Rothbard was ousted from the Cato Board in January of 1981. In the immediate aftermath of that highly irregular proceeding, which took place at the Cato Board Meeting in Oklahoma, Rothbard began characterizing Ed Crane as the personification of the devil. But Crane had consistently used the same methods, deceit and misdirection, to achieve his goal, which was a concentration of power that remained in his own hands as he slid from position to position within the LP. This should have come as no surprise to Rothbard. 
At the close of the 1980 presidential campaign Crane still had absolute control of the National Libertarian Party; he had hired most of the employees and they were personally loyal to him. Many among these individuals, who were listed by Rothbard in Libertarian Review, remain active today in the constellation of nonprofits that are funded from the same sources as Cato. All of these individuals became wealthy because of the association; some few were well to do before they got to know Ed Crane, but those were the exceptions.

Author Digression:

The White Papers were a great potential resource for local candidates. For Congress they provided a well thought out plan for action that could be used to make libertarian candidates sound far more knowledgeable and well briefed than they generally were. For state level candidates they provided insights unusual even in major party candidates. 
The first time I saw a sampling of the White Papers I lusted after them for my candidates. The San Fernando Valley had a full slate and I wanted to thriftily have full set copied for each candidate. Chris Hocker was pointed out to me as the Commissar of White Paper Copies. 
For the next three years I requested, asked, demanded, and pleaded for a set. I even offered to pay money. No White Papers appeared through they were promised several times. 
Finally I got the Chris Commissar on the phone and he told me to memo him. I promised to do so and sent on the request forthwith. Again, they did not appear. This was the second round of elections I had been through without the White Papers. I had first asked for them in 1979. So finally I sent the following to Commissar Hocker. I know it was not exactly nice but I was getting pretty annoyed.

Note of A Political Nature to Chris Hocker
Privily speak I of promises well made
For I would have you know I them remember
For pen to paper thus I put - for so you bade,
And hearing thus your words could I malinger?

You said that you would give me many wonders
For papers writ with wisdom good and clear
That Clark did read to parry many blunders
Of policy when run he did last year.

And murmured you of booklets that you wrote
Designed to teach my candidates of things
That will make them yet less clumsy with the votes
And credit to the cause of freedom bring.

So find the stuff - tout suite, and make it fast!
For I needed it all months ago, you ass!

I sincerely apologize for calling Chris an ass. He is really rather nice for a toadie or lickspittle, there being two of the terms used by everyone to refer to the hierarchy within the Crane Machine. Murray Rothbard called them Craniacs, actually. The levels of status went: Crony, Toadie, and Lickspittle. It is very possible Chris was a Crony, level B. I was never sure which he was but I am sure he was a very high ranking one, which ever category he fell into. 
The Clark Campaign was a real disappointment after the warm, friendly, experience of the Mac Bride Campaign but everyone pitched in and tried to make it work. I was asked to be co-chair for the Clark Campaign for California along with a friend of mine named Gary Meade. This changed afterwards. Crane was always a great one for rewriting history. But I did not mind, I was relieved that I did not have to shoulder any of the debts. 
The Most Magnificent Moment of the Campaign was planned for autumn and was called, Alternative '80. The idea was a series of events across the United States linked by television. Today that sounds like nothing much but then it was a Big Deal. The Central Diamond in this tiara of triumph was to take place with a posh event attended by hundreds or thousands of people at the Century City Hotel. 
The Clark Campaign shipped in an organizer to handle this, which was a good thing because we already had our hands full with local campaigns and fundraising. I suspect that rather than kindly intent what was going on was a centralizing of control but as it turned out in this case that did not matter.

The day came and hundreds of people did in fact turn out for the lavish event and for the great food. The television worked and there were celebrities. Sort of. Honestly, I did not think of Howard Jarvis, who stole Proposition 13 from Libertarians who lived in the San Fernando Valley, a celebrity. Perhaps my standards are too high, however. 
On the way out I did have one moment of amusement and illumination. I had attended the event with a fellow activist, Janice Vargo. She and I, without any plan that this would happen, found ourselves climbing into an elevator with Ed Crane and Charles Koch. For once Ed was quiet and Charles was talking rather heatedly. In this way I learned that Alternative '80 had lost a quarter of a million dollars instead of making a profit and, worst of all, Little Brother David had to use Capital instead of Interest to pay for it! (Exclamation point is his and not mine.) Even billionaires have their limits. I somehow did not feel sorry for Ed although he looked very sad right then. Charles Koch went on to vehemently demand that Crane either focus on Cato or the LP, but not both. 
It was a good moment. But we discovered that Crane was not going to accept this kind of limitation, even from his own personal billionaire. 
End Author Digression:

The ideas of Libertarianism were about individual rights, individual action, and taking back power for the individual. The absent but needed component for allowing individuals to exercise their own power were alternative organizing structures that allowed individuals to make their own choices and so exercise both control and personal accountability on the most local level possible. Many had originally seen the LP as the natural starting point for this.
However, the structure adopted by the LP as a political party centralized power and there was no means for exacting accountability. The By-Laws had mandated a Judicial Committee to meet as needed but no rules, standards or protocols had been created or evidently even contemplated. As a result it was not useful as a means for resolving conflict, becoming itself a weapon of political warfare.
The problem of ensuring accountability is one that systemically plagues government today and this is mirrored in all the political parties through which the people are forced to act. It is a curious oversight that Libertarians, theoretically committed to the concept of individual rights and accountability continue to fall for the trappings of power and control.
The lack of an effective, internal mediation agency would soon cause shock waves to ripple through the LP.

The LP organizes itself around presidential campaigns for the most part, but in the wake of the Clark Campaign talk started on giving the LP different leadership. The race for National Chairman became a hot issue and three candidates eventually threw their hats in the ring. One was John Mason from Colorado, running as a unity candidate. The Crane Machine opposition was Kent Guida from Maryland. But the surprise candidate was Alicia Clark.
The Crane Machine worked hard for Guida but made it clear that they preferred Mason over Alicia. On the last ballot the Crane Machine delegates had thrown their support to Mason, so this was the outcome they least preferred.

Alicia won. Crane, even with Koch money, was just too much.

Alicia was dedicated to decentralizing the LP but much of her time was spent fighting battles with the National Chairman, Eric O'Keefe. After months spent trying to work with him Alicia fired him and had the locks changed on the National Office. The guy she chose for this was Craig Franklin, the folk singer who Crane had slighted at the Clark Nominating Convention. Franklin also was on the Judicial Committee.

Alicia was far better qualified to be National Chairman than the other two candidates on the basis of her background and experience. When she married Ed Clark she was the CEO of a multinational corporation with headquarters in New York. She had an earned Ph. D. in Chemistry and her family had been prominent, and dedicated to reform, in Mexican politics for many years. Despite this, the Crane Machine treated her with barely concealed contempt and concealed the facts on her background where ever possible as they had done, evidently by their own internal policies, with Hunscher and others. 
The Judicial committee would be called to act for the first time in LP history before the Crane Machine was finished. 
Firing the director of an organization is the prerogative of its chairman normally, and this firing was supported absolutely by the bylaws. That did not stop the Crane Machine from trying to overturn the firing, however. The rancor and vicious assaults on Alicia and the new Director astonished those attending but were very much in line with a cadre who had been ousted from a sinecure they assumed they would control in perpetuity.

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