Saturday, May 19, 2007

1979 - Campaign for the Libertarian Nomination

Author Injection: (Author injections make it possible for me to talk about personal experiences and insights that as the Author I would skip. Freedom was not about making the least ethical people rich; it was about freedom for everyone.)

In 1979 I was wearing several hats. While serving as Southern California Vice Chairman and the first LP Party Chairman for Los Angeles County I was also Chairman of the local region of the California LP for the San Fernando Valley. This meant I had to make sure our local organization, which had been pretty dead when I moved there from West Los Angeles, was rejuvenated and able to undertake the goal of having a full slate of candidates on the ballot. That meant coming up with candidates and money.

(items with this graphic are available on my cafe press site, in the Libertarian Legends Section. There is also a Ron Paul section, if you are interested. People seem to like those parts.)

Cunningly figuring out that people would always come out for food we put on a crepe dinner and then a Picnic. I personally wrote up the flyer for the crepe dinner, describing the food in graphic detail. RSVPs started coming in the moment they hit the mailboxes. It was an all you can eat event as was the picnic.

Any event sells better if you provide celebrities. The upcoming nominating convention was bringing in multiple libertarian celebrities and we made use of that to persuade Roger Mac Bride to allow us to honor him at a Birthday Party. Roger was always a good sport and was happy to help out. 
A few days before the Bonaventure Convention began the San Fernando Valley, known then as Region 11, threw a Birthday Party for Roger Mac Bride that would fund its slate of candidate for the next year. It was Roger's 50th birthday and he spent the day chatting with activists, candidates, and their families at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post. We had arranged for a cake and a case of very good wine, chosen by Bob Binsley, one of our local candidates. 
The Mac Bride Picnic netted nearly $2,000.00.

Two of the fundraisers we did were the Dessert Book and the Atlas Slugged baseball shirt designed for the monumental softball game wherein the Atlas Sluggers challenged the Rest of the World to come and have at it. My kids were the cheerleaders in outfits that coordinated nicely with our blue and gold shirts with the Atlas Slugged logo. We narrowly missed being sued by Jack Dean, the originator of the Sam Adams Award, who did not notice that the bases were cardboard. I had never actually seen a softball game that had fancy equipment, one of the outcomes of spending my life with my nose stuck in a book. 
Naturally, we lost. But to play The Rest of the World All Stars had had to pay for the Picnic so the campaigns won and that was the idea. 
We cut the costs of campaign literature for the slate of candidates by producing artwork that could change out one side to put in the name of the candidate, his or her race, and a statement. This cut our costs and kept us within the budget. Budgets were something that Ed Crane never seemed to understand but he had his own personal billionaire. 
In the immediate wake of the Picnic I learned a valuable lesson on the mind set of the Crane Machine. At our executive committee meeting for the local region the report on fundraising was read; the money raised was in the bank and the campaigns were ready to go. A long time activist raised her hand to suggest that the money be donated to the Clark Campaign. I did not say a word but if looks could have killed her body would have been stretched out cold. She had not been of any conspicuous help with the events but I knew, because she had told me, she had been fraternizing with Ed Crane. 
The money stayed in our own Treasury. But having listened to her reasons for this proposal, that focusing on the top of the ticket would be a far better use of the money she had not helped raise, I gained an insight into the mind set of Ed Crane that would be borne out over and over through the next decades. 
End Author Moment.

The opposition to the Hunscher nomination was not focused around Ed Clark as a candidate, but around Ed Crane and the kind of campaign he would run with funds provided by the Koch Brothers. Koch money had put the Libertarian Party on the ballot in California and was spent lavishly on everything but resources for local organizing. The Clark Campaign bifurcated inquiries to the campaign and only those who made low levels of donations were shared with local regions. Those in the 'alpha' group, meeting local activists expressed surprise that there was already a local organization there. 
Crane was not liked. Even with billions on tap obtaining the nomination for Clark was not easy. If Ed Clark had not been well liked and respected in his own right it would have been impossible. So unpopular was Crane at that point that he could not assume the title of Clark Campaign Chairman and instead a beard was used to hold that title in the person of Ray Cunningham, a former Libertarian mayoral candidate from San Francisco; Cunningham had no control over decision making. 
Ed Clark was an attractive, intelligent candidate who as far as any of us could tell had no input on issues or campaign strategy. He was articulate and good natured but he was chief legal counsel for Arco, with offices in the Arco Towers in Downtown Los Angeles and he could spare only four months for active campaigning. The campaign, as designed by Crane and laid out before John Anderson was in the race, was structurally flawed as an electoral strategy to build an effective organization for promoting local solutions to social and political issues; it was also flawed as a vehicle to secure serious attention for the ideas of freedom nationally. 
The battle for the nomination had been intentionally deceptive. Material that would have made delegates aware of the intention of the campaign were withheld and attention was focused on the glossy materials and the exciting possibilities presented by having a billionaire as the vice presidential candidate. Money is always seductive. 
Crane had persuaded the younger brother of Koch Industries, David Koch, to run for the vice presidential nomination. Both he and his brother, Charles, were at the convention for the occasion. Crane had seen that fundraising would be far easier if the billionaires who were funding Cato were also funding his first chance for calling the shots in presidential politics. 
Concern and outrage over the control exerted over the convention program reached a peak in the spring of 1979, necessitating a meeting between Crane and activists from the Southern California area. The meeting took place at the home of Bruce Lagasse, a former LPC chairman and resulted in some grudging additions to the program by Crane. One of these was a workshop by Michael Emerling, another was an evening of folk music by a software engineer named Craig Franklin. 
The lies retailed by Crane and Co. included hiding their intention to run a campaign that presented as 'low tax liberal.' This was known before the nominating convention. The presidential candidate in fact was presenting not so much his own views but the strategic vision and views of Ed Crane. The effect of this was to reinforce an internal party culture that used lies to achieve its goals as a matter of course; a sort of early Straussianism served up without the underpinning of ideological justification. Crane acted as if local activists were incapable of organizing themselves. If this was so one had to wonder how he thought they would manage to govern themselves if libertarianism was successful. This question, among others, was never formally raised in the discussions of goals and strategy that evidently never took place. 
Deception practiced by those in control and justified as necessary because those perceived as 'lower down' in a hierarchy is the classical justification of any tyranny. The issue of transparency in government and the right of the people to have all of the information essential to make informed decisions had been defenestrated before the LP was out of the single digits. This would prove to be a constant over the next decades. 
The Clark – Crane Campaign reinforced this message by running a very much top down campaign. It did nothing to encourage or build local organizations. This reflected the organizational philosophy of Ed Crane and not that of the Clarks. 
The issue of local organizing had been decided; the issue had never been formally raised. 
Cato had been organized in 1977 when, in the wake of the Libertarian National Convention in San Francisco, Ed Crane moved to D. C.. Crane was just leaving the office of National LP Chairman and at the close of the convention had announced to an elevator full of libertarians that he was, “going to Washington D. C. to get rich.” That he accomplished.

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