Sunday, December 17, 2006

Bob Barr joins the LNC. Is he just another Neal Boortz?

Much to the surprise of Libertarian Party (LP) members throughout the US including myself, Bob Barr was just elected to fill a vacancy on the Libertarian National Committee (LNC), the body that governs the national LP. As a former Republican Congressman known for supporting many anti-libertarian initiatives in the past, might Barr turn out to be just another Neal Boortz?

I certainly hope so.

Let’s take a closer look at radio talk show host Neal Boortz first. Boortz is widely known for claiming to be a libertarian, for supporting the LP on air, and for voting for LP candidates. However, he’s significantly despised by many libertarians for his adamant support for the War in Iraq.

As a libertarian who is against the War in Iraq, where do I see the positive impact of Neal Boortz? Purely and simply, Neal Boortz helps to publicize the LP. Even though he supports the War in Iraq, I can’t think of another person in 2006 who has done more to advertise the LP, and quite paradoxically, to advertise the LP’s opposition to the War in Iraq, than Neal Boortz.

As a former Cobb County LP Chair (a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, home to Neal Boortz) and activist, I found that a huge percentage of people that would come up to me at LP outreach booths would mention that they first heard about the LP through Neal Boortz’s talk show. Similarly, now as an activist in Austin, Texas which has a widely followed Boortz syndicated show, I find more and more that people are finding out about the LP in Texas through his popular talk show. Sure, Boortz frequently espouses his rabid support for anti-terrorism methods and his so-called “War on Terror against the Islamofascists,” but the net result in Austin is that with Boortz on the air, more people know about the LP, and similarly, more people know that the Libertarian Party opposes the War in Iraq, even if Boortz supports it.

As a former Republican Congressman, it’s almost assured that Bob Barr will be faced with many questions about his passed support for issues that conflict with the LP platform (current or past versions). Whether or not Barr now fully agrees with the LP platform, the simple fact that he is well-known and will likely gain national media coverage discussing these issues to me is a good thing even if he ends up spending significant time explaining what most Libertarians support and how he doesn’t agree with all of it. We Libertarians need all of the publicity we can get.

As a former Republican, I used to oppose abortion rights, opposed gay freedoms, supported the War on Drugs, thought privacy advocates were simply getting in the way of prosecuting criminals, and I also supported most military actions in our recent history. However, I wasn’t diehard on those issues. I mostly supported them because I was a Republican and the Republican Party held those views. I was a Republican because I was a diehard supporter of free markets, lower taxes, free trade, and opposed welfare.

After Bush One broke his “Read my lips, no new taxes” pledge and Gingrich’s “Contract with America” failed to make government smaller, I stumbled upon the Libertarian Party. I found the Libertarian Party’s consistent support for smaller government on all issues, including civil liberties and social issues, quite compelling. After studying the social and civil liberties issues in more detail, I found compelling evidence to support them, and became an avid supporter of all libertarian principles.

Regarding the War in Iraq, ten years ago, as a knee-jerk Republican, I would have supported it. As a more open-minded and rational yet pragmatic person now, I'll have to prepare a separate posting to list the overwhelming arguments against the horrible mistake of invading Iraq.

As an LNC member, I look forward to working with Bob Barr. Perhaps he’s seen the light on many issues and now supports all Libertarian Party issues as I do. Or, perhaps he still holds faith in government solutions on too many issues. Either way, I expect the net effect of his decision to join the LNC will be more publicity for the diehard libertarian view, even if some of the publicity is in the form of his expressed opposition to some of those views.

Former Congressman Barr, welcome to the Party and thanks for joining us. For now, I'll give you some leeway on social issues. However, if you come out in support of something economically ridiculous like socialized healthcare, well, that would be the last straw for this Texan.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Was the LP Taken Over by Neo-Cons in Portland?

About 311 people in America decided it was worth their time to be delegates and attend the National Convention. About 55% of those delegates voted to delete almost all of the existing platform planks. Afterwards, a much shorter platform was produced by those 311 people willing to show up.

People who did not show up for the convention did not get to vote on the platform. If the Libertarian Party was taken over by Neo-Cons (which I don't believe to be the case), that's because there wasn't 156 non-Neo-Cons (about 3 per state) in America who deemed the convention and its platform worthy of their time.

I missed most of the platform related debate at the convention because I was working on the credentials committee. Additionally, I haven't read the old National LP platform in its entirety in years nor the new National LP platform. Additionally, I didn't read the old LP Texas platform before the state convention nor have I read the new LP Texas platform in its entirety. I recognize those are simply documents
produced by a very large committee and I have very little faith in committees producing much of great value.

I know what it means to be Libertarian regardless of the result of a document produced hastily and haphazardly by a convention.

There are quite a few people who believe a long detailed platform has held back the success of the LP. There may be some truth in that, but I disagree changing the platform will have much affect one way or the other. I field lots of phone calls and e-mails from prospects. Most of them that have issues with the platform have fundamental differences. For example, many claim they agree with us except for the drug issue, or abortion, or public education, or the war on terror, etc.

What I think is necessary for our success is more focus on outreach, such as getting our candidates mentioned in the press, getting yard signs up, and getting Libertarian brochures such as the door hangers we now have out to as many people as possible. That is my focus.

The platform that resulted from the National Convention is posted on the National website:

One section entitled "Foreign Affairs" is posted below. I don't think it can be construed to be supporting the War in Iraq. In case it needs to be said, I was against the War in Iraq and support bringing home our troops immediately, not providing another dime for their reconstruction, and ending financial and military aid to all of the Middle East immediately.

The National LP platform:

IV. Foreign Affairs

American foreign policy should seek an America at peace with the world and the defense -- against attack from abroad -- of the lives, liberty, and property of the American people on American soil. Provision of such defense must respect the individual rights of people everywhere.

The principle of non-intervention should guide relationships between governments. The United States government should return to the historic libertarian tradition of avoiding entangling alliances, abstaining totally from foreign quarrels and imperialist adventures, and recognizing the right to unrestricted trade, travel, and immigration.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

"Why use the word 'member' in the context of fundraising?"

Here's what one very successful fundraiser had to say on this topic.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: the LP's use of the word "member"
Date: 7/11/2006, 11:41 AM
From: Rob Kampia
To: Wes

Hi Wes,

I thought I'd take a moment to summarize my thoughts about the use of the words "member" or "membership" that I expressed to you at the beginning of the LP convention in Portland.

As I mentioned at the microphone in the main convention hall on Sunday, I raise $20,000 a day for MPP -- every day, including weekends and holidays -- in addition to having recently raised $25,000 for the LP, plus $2,100 for each of five congressional candidates. With a total budget of $7,000,000 for 2006, MPP is the largest organization in the world that is solely dedicated to ending marijuana prohibition. I say all this only as a way of noting that I have some experience with raising money.

To my mind, there are two ways for the LP to view the word "member": To determine the number and distribution of voting delegates at the national convention, and to maximize the amount of money the LP raises.

When the LP determines the number of delegates each state may send to the LP's national conventions, it makes sense to make each state's number of delegates proportional to the number of people in each state who have donated, say, $25 or more to the national LP in, say, the last 12 months. Whether or not you call such donors "members" or not is immaterial, but it might be useful to call such people "members" -- or some other word -- as shorthand for "people who have donated $25 or more to the national LP in the last 12 months." In this sense, you'd be giving the word "member" a legal definition.

On the second question -- the use of the word "member" as it applies to fundraising -- I absolutely encourage the LP to use the word "member" in this arena. But, in this arena, the use of the word is merely rhetorical; it has no legal meaning.

Why use the word "member" in the context of fundraising? Because the American people -- through decades of exposure to nonprofit organizations, for-profit membership organizations, and almost any other type of organization -- associate the word "member" with the notion of "needing to donate annually in order to keep my membership current." In other words, asking someone to become a "member" of the LP is a powerful marketing tool because -- even though you're initially asking people to make only one donation -- you're also putting the LP in the morally upright position of being able to ask them to renew their "memberships" one year later; indeed, they will *expect* you to ask them to renew their "memberships" one year later (and a handful of times in between). The same expectation does not apply to, say, someone who donates money to an organization by buying a ticket to a benefit concert or buying a brownie at a bake sale.

In addition, someone who views himself or herself as a "member" of an organization is necessarily more mentally and emotionally invested than someone who merely "donates" money to an organization.

In sum, the word "member" is a gift to the LP from thousands of organizations that have worked together to define the word in a way that increases organizational revenues. The LP should accept this gift and use the words "member" and "membership" (in a non-legal sense) when building the LP's donor base in the months and years to come.

Please feel free to share these thoughts as you see fit. Thank you for reading this far ...

Rob Kampia, Executive Director
Marijuana Policy Project
P.O. Box 77492, Washington, D.C. 20013

Please visit to sign up for MPP's free e-mail alerts.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Portland Delegates for Dues

Considering the steady drumbeat of propaganda put out by the so-called "Zero Dues" advocates, I was pleasantly surprised how many Portland convention delegates disagreed with the bad business decision of the former LNC to eliminate dues.

I conducted a survey of Portland convention attendees to gauge their support level for dues. I collected 99 responses, then completed one myself to make it an even 100 which makes the statistics easy to report. This was not a scientific survey, but I did attempt to include as many delegates as I could.

The survey is posted at:

More favored dues (51) than were against dues (29), with undecided (20).

Key to the list below:

Two-letter abreviation (responses from 30 states)

Response to the question "Are you FOR og AGAINST Dues?":
1=Strongly support dues (29 responses)
2=Somewhat favor dues (22 responses)
3=Undecided, flexible, depends, other (20 responses)
4=Somewhat against dues (12 responses)
5=Strongly against dues (17 responses)

Delegate Status:
D=Delegate (95 responses)
A=Alternate Delegate (2 responses)
blank=Not a delegate or delegate status not indicated (3 responses)

Delegates amended the Bylaws to require roll call votes for all substantive LNC motions. This was largely a response of indignation to the secret ballot vote by the prior LNC which temporarily raised dues from $25 to $50. As dues is a substantive issue, I trust most delegates to the convention who responded to my survey will apply the same standard of openness to my survey results. If you want your name made secret, call me at (512) 442-4910 and I'll hide your name.

LNC Officers:
7 LNC officers with positions noted submitted responses.

State, Number, Delegate Status, Name, LNC Officer

AL 4 D Barbara Gordon
AL 4 D Deborah Gordon
AK 1 D Scott Kohlhaas
AZ 3 D Barry Hess
AZ 5 D George Squyres
AR 1 D Gerhard Langguth
CA 1 D Andrew Bourdon
CA 1 D Jerry Dixon
CA 1 D Jay Jones
CA 1 D Vibeke Seymour
CA 1 D Thomas Sipos
CA 2 D Elizabeth Brierly
CA 3 D Lois Garcia
CA 3 D Scott Lieberman Region 2 1st Alt
CA 5 D Bud Raymond
GA 3 D Mark Augustyn
IL 1 D Kenton McMillen
IL 2 D John Jascob
IL 3 D Val Vetter
IN 1 D Robert Everline
IN 2 D Greg Hertzsch
IN 2 D James O'Gallagher
IN 2 D Mike Sylvester
IN 2 D Karena Sylvester
IN 4 D Sheri Sharlow
IN 5 D Charles Geckler
IN 5 D Laura Rutherford
IN 5 D John Rutherford
IN 5 D Todd Singer
IA 3 D Edward Wright
KS 5 D Rob Hodgkinson
KY 2 D Ken Moellman
MD 1 D Steve Boone
MD 3 D Mick Sarwark
MI 1 D James Hudler
MI 1 D Jeremy Linden
MI 2 D Nathan Allen
MI 3 D Andrew Hall
MI 3 D Robert Schubring
MI 4 D Elizabeth Bagwell
MI 4 D Lawrence W Johnson
MI 5 D Lawrence W Johnson (I guess I didn't say not to vote twice)
MS 2 D Gregory Arrigo
MT 3 D Roger Roots
NV 3 D Brendan Trainor
NH 5 D Brendan Kelly
NJ 2 D Dan Karlan At-Large Rep
NY 1 D M Carling Region 2 Rep
NY 2 D Alden Link
NC 2 D Bernard Carman
NC 2 D Joy Elliot
OH 1 D David Macko
OH 2 D Kevin Knedler
OR 1 D Edith McDaniel
OR 1 D Don McDaniel
OR 1 D Carla Pelaer
OR 2 D Inessa Hamilton-Lee
OR 2 D Lars Hedbor
OR 2 D Steve Pearson
OR 3 James Foster
OR 3 D Richard Whitehead
OR 4 D Derek Bradley
OR 4 D Thomas Rowlette
OR 5 D Jerry Defoe
PA 3 D Michael Robertson
SC 5 D Jeff Dimit
SC 5 D Steward Flood Region 4 Alt
SC 5 D Timothy Moultrie
TX 1 D Wes Benedict Region 6 Rep
TX 1 D Matt Finkel
TX 1 D Nancy Neale Region 6 Alt
TX 2 D Jon Airheart
TX 2 D Emily Cowan
TX 2 D Frederick Drew
TX 3 D Guy McLendon
TX 5 D John Shuey
UT 1 D Willy Marshall
UT 3 D Rob Latham
VT 4 D Hardy Machia Region 7 Rep*
VA 1 D Elizabeth Bowles
VA 1 D William Redpath National Chair
VA 1 D Shelley Tamres
VA 1 D Marianne Volpe
WA 1 D Sharon Ayres
WA 1 A Jeffry Fisher
WA 1 D Robert Hill
WA 2 D Richard Bonesteel
WA 2 D Peter Wilkie
WA 3 D Ruth Bennett
WA 3 D Ruth Bennett
WA 3 David Carson
WA 3 D Judi First
WA 4 A Mikael Mortensen
WA 4 D Arne Mortensen
WA 5 D Dan Goebel
WA 5 D Brett Wilhelm
WA 5 D Michael Wilson
WI 4 D Jeremy Keil At-Large Rep
?? 1 Anonymous

* Macia checked 3 and 5, so I assigned 4 as an average.
Judi First of Washinton wrote the comment "don't like the limitations of the choices" so I assigned her a 3.

I attempted to get these surveys out to every delegate (there were about 315 total). However, this was admittedly not a scientific survey.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Texas Two-Step Turnaround 2

On October 30, 2003, I e-mailed all 59 County LP Chairs and Executive Committee members listed on our website. I explained the upcoming 45,540 signature petition drive we faced and asked for volunteer coordinators and signature commitments.

Much to my surprise, AOL froze my e-mail account!

I had to phone tech support to have it re-instated. They had frozen it because nearly half of the e-mail addresses had bounced. Not to be defeated, I picked up the phone and started calling our county chairs. Depressingly, many of their phone numbers were either disconnected, gave fax tones, or rang continuously without any answering system.

I began to fully realize the mess our state party organization had become. For the first time in 16 years we faced a petition drive for ballot access, and our state and county organizations were in shambles. The state database volunteer had resigned and our website was a wreck with outdated contact information. A few months later the state treasurer ceased activities. The state secretary hadn’t published minutes for months. All of the officers had been at each others' throats but were done bickering and basically went AWOL. While many of those individuals were excellent county activists and some continue to contribute significantly today, for whatever the reason, the group dynamics at the time proved dysfunctional.

Fortunately, a ballot access committee formed with Pat Dixon at the helm and took charge of the petition drive. None of the state party officers were on that committee. Without being able to do justice to the heroic efforts of the people who made this happen, I'll just say that in May 2004 the LP of Texas turned in over 80,000 signatures and qualified for the ballot.

At the 2004 state convention, most ballot access committee leaders took positions on the state committee. I was hired for the newly created position of Executive Director.

Shortly after taking my position as Executive Director, I proceeded to work with our new Secretary, Laura Coker-Garcia, to update our website contacts. On July 1, 2004, I phoned the 800 number listed on our website and left a voicemail to see what would happen. The message on the 800 number mentioned our former (2002) candidate for governor as well as another person’s phone number which I tried, but it was disconnected.

With additional investigation I was able to find who had access to the voicemail box for the 800 number. Upon checking it, I found it had 6 months' worth of unchecked messages and there had probably been more that were automatically deleted. A sampling of transcripts of some of those voicemails:

“This is Michael M@@@ 210-533-####; want to know if y'all have 28th congressional district candidate; I would run as libertarian. . . .”

“Ross, interested in helping LP with campaigning in El Paso”

“Ken F@@@, Dallas TX 214-275-####. I called R H and his phone is disconnected. Chris J's message center doesn't give anything to leave a message on. I'm in Arlington and want to get a hold of where the Gary Nolan campaign meeting will be. Maybe I'll get on the computer one day.”

“Albert Wood with Valley Morning Star, we're doing series of stories . . .”

“Hi, my name is Melvin W@@@, I'm trying to find a petition to sign.”

“Hi, this is Wes Benedict, I was calling about the...the-uh...this phone number...the uh 800-422-1776 [gee I sound weird on tape]. I'm curious who gets these messages. If you'd give me a call at 512-442-4910. Thanks a lot and I hope this voicemail works. Thanks, bye.”

In August and September, I was bombarded by requests for contact information for our November 2004 candidates. Unfortunately, much of the contact information I had was outdated. The press was begging for phone numbers and photos of our candidates, but I only had that information for some of them.

While some of you may find this information depressing, I found it truly inspiring. Libertarians constantly whine about the lack of press coverage, but what I found was that the press was begging to cover us if we would only help them a little. Volunteers contact us begging to help if we will only give them something worthwhile to do. We make it extremely difficult for voters to find out about our candidates, yet many voters continue to vote Libertarian.

Recently, some Libertarian activists have argued extensively over the failure of the Libertarian Party to achieve greater success and have blamed things such as our platform, the membership pledge, and plenty more.

I’m not sure how much our platform has to do with our success or failure, but I’ll bet my boots that unanswered phones and outdated websites are problems we can all agree on.
Have you heard of Dallas (Dallas County) or Fort Worth (Tarrant County) Texas? Pretty big cities, right? Now check out their Libertarian websites:

(Note: these websites might have changed since this was posted.)

Nobody from Dallas or Fort Worth gets to tell me why the LP is not doing better without explaining this first.

Despite our continued localized weaknesses, the LP of Texas has a record number of candidates this year, is on track for record fundraising, and our party and candidates are getting record amounts of media coverage.

Step One of the Texas Two Step turnaround was electing new officers, getting our state party communications and database management functioning, and recruiting an army of candidates. There was no magic bullet. Just hard work, common sense, and attention to detail.

Step Two is still in progress for the Texas LP. I’ll let you know how Step Two turns out in November.

Step One is just getting under way for the National Libertarian Party. I urge you to contact your state chairs and LNC Representatives and tell them to focus on Step One. Clean up their unfinnished business before starting new projects they can't handle. No more gimmicks. No more excuses. No more silver bullets. No more pretending to dance when they're barely able to stand up without hurting themselves.

Lots of obvious easy fixes have me bullish on the National LP and I'm excited about getting to work. Stay tuned for details . . .

(disclosure: my boots are hiking boots and I'm not a dancer)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Elected Regional LNC Representative

I want to thank the delegates from the states who agreed to form the Southwest Region at the Portland National Convention for electing me to serve on the Libertarian National Committee. Nancy Neale of Texas was elected Alternate.

The following state delegations agreed to join the Southwest Region:

New Mexico

I hope you all traveled home from Portland safely. I look forward to working with you to build the Libertarian Party's effectiveness at the local, state, regional, and national levels.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Libertarian Branding, Logos, Africa & 3M

An old note of mine. Note, the last paragraph is what matters.

National should avoid potentially divisive ideas like adopting certain colors when there are other more urgent projects. Bold and risky experimentation should occur at the state, county, candidate, or PAC level rather than being imposed by the National LP. If wildly successful at the local level, then those ideas would likely be easy to sell nationally. However, many great new ideas tend to not have quite the success envisioned. Better to fail small than waste everyone's time.


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Libertarian Branding, Logos, Africa & 3M
Date: 2/21/2005, 6:38 PM
Wes Benedict
To: Tx

Ten years ago I was driving across Botswana back to South Africa when an agitated elephant stepped onto the roadway a short distance away (true story). I guarantee you the following thought NEVER crossed my mind: "There's the Republican Party logo!"

Much LP discussion lately has focused on branding, marketing, messaging, logos, and other terms that have different meanings, and are frequently misused. Here I want to specifically point out problems with our Libertarian Party LOGO along the following categories:

1. What the Statue of Liberty symbolizes
2. Inconsistent designs
3. Color
4. Connecting the logo to the party

1. Uses of the Statue of Liberty

Similar to the way not all elephants or donkeys make you think of the Republican or Democratic Parties, not all Statues of Liberty make you think of the Libertarian Party. Below are some of the thoughts invoked by the Statue of Liberty (note these are thoughts that may pop into the general public's minds, not necessarily mine):

a) a symbol of America
b) a symbol of New York
c) a government monument
d) a government monument from the damn French
e) the big green broad who keeps inviting all those damn foreigners to America (just to clarify, I'm pro-immigration; I'm referring to non-libertarians here)
f) the ACLU logo
g) open up the business pages, count the number of businesses with Liberty that use the Statue--my favorite is Liberty Tax Service
f) the Libertarian Party

2. Inconsistent designs

Similar to the way not all the elephants remind you of the Republican Party, not all Statues of Liberty lead people to think of the Libertarian Party. The Statue of Liberty is overused which dilutes its value as a symbol for the LP. The one Statue of Liberty that actually does invoke the LP when I see it is the blue one attached below. It's repeated use and distinctive color and shape is what causes me to associate it with the LP. Unfortunately, artists for our website and websites have confused "any" statue of liberty with the LP logo, Lady Liberty. The LP Logo should be the most prominent symbol on the websites, but instead appear discreetly. Even worse is our Libertarian Party of Texas logo, a black Lady Liberty on a pea-green Texas. No kidding, print out the LPTX logo in color, then open a can of Lessuer brand Very Young Small Early Peas, smash a pea on the paper, and you'll see it is exactly the same color as our LPTX logo.

Before working at 3M in South Africa, I had a project as a manufacturing engineer at a 3M diskette manufacturing plant in Oklahoma. One of my responsibilities was to reduce the number of 3.5" diskettes that had to be discarded because of manufacturing defects. Would you believe that one of the most expensive categories of waste in the manufacturing process was when the 3M logo which was silk-screen printed onto the metal shutters had slight imperfections like tiny holes in the image or slight smudges? 3M guarded the look of it's logo so closely, that even a slightly imperfectly printed logo caused the whole product to be discarded regardless of whether the diskette still worked fine. Eventually they did the only smart thing, which was outsource to China, but that's a free trade story and I'm talking about branding and logos. The point is, 3M, and many other companies, are extremely protective of their logos and have exact font, design, and color standards that are rigidly imposed on all divisions worldwide to ensure consistency.

3. The Color Purple

I don't know who first proposed it, but I like the idea of the LP taking on the color purple as a branding tool. Reasons:

a) The red state, blue state paradigm has firmly taken hold associating Republicans with red and Democrats with blue.
b) Purple is a cross between blue and red, and in some ways, the LP is a combination of liberal and conservative.
c) The orange thing in Ukraine really proved how powerful a color associated with a movement can be, but that color won't work for us now.
d) Green is associated with the Green Party. Yellow sounds cowardly, is associated with Lance Armstrong now (who is trying to ban smoking in Austin bars) and doesn't show up on white paper very well unless surrounded by a darker color.
e) For some, purple invokes images of royalty or even gayness, but I think the relationship is weak, and additionally, in some ways appropriate for the LP.
f) Red White & Blue looks really good and patriotic, but it's too over-used and diluted for people to associate it with the LP.

Frequently when I hear Libertarians planning a presence at a public event, the topic of "wouldn't it be great if we could all wear the same T-shirts?" It never happens because there are so many various LP T-shirts of various colors. If purple was adopted as the LP color, I think you'd see a proliferation of LP T-shirts that may not all say the same thing, but many would be purple making it easier to achieve a team look spontaneously and individually like when lions attack a baby giraffe and there's a bunch of orange cats altogether creating a temporary voluntary herd of cats wearing the same color who actually didn't have to be "officially" herded or told what to wear.

Finally, I think we'd all look really good in purple T-shirts, collared shirts, or a combination.

4. Connecting the Logo to the Party

I've already stressed how the Statue of Liberty symbolized many things besides the Libertarian Party. Another frequent problem mentioned is how the word Libertarian is too long, sounds like liberal or librarian, and we frequently stumble over the small l or big L Libertarian designation. I'm reminded of a company I once worked for with a similar problem that was called Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, Inc. What a mouthful and how totally misleading considering that they didn't really do any mining and were an international company, not just a Minnesota one. Eventually they took on the name 3M.

I'm proposing a similar transformation for the Libertarian Party. Start calling it the "LP," and use a color purple logo like the one below to help start the transition. Retain the Lady Liberty logo and the text "ibertarian" and "arty" at least temporarily until "LP" is well enough known in the general public that the additional designation is no longer required. All states and counties should use the same logo, but could follow it with the name of their state or county in black the way 3M does with "Worldwide" above. Another benefit of the Logo below is that from a far distance, you can still make out what it is if you are already somewhat familiar with it, similar to the way you can recognize the 7 in 7-Eleven even if you can't read the "eleven" part from the distance. Also, think McDonalds, BP, etc. here. A trick I use to judge the effectiveness of a bumper sticker or yard sign is to stand it up, and then start waking away from it until I can barely see it anymore. If it rapidly becomes a blur, I don't like it. If it retains a distinctive identifiable shape at long distance, I like it.

We are lucky that the term "LP" used to refer to a type of recording media that is fading away which makes the term available for us to transform its meaning similar to the way CD changed meanings from financial instrument to music recording media. Also, LP rolls off the tongue plenty easily.

Although I'm more of an engineer than a marketing expert, I did take a marketing class in graduate school at Michigan and saved the textbook, "Marketing Management" by Philip Kotler, which is considered to be the bible of marketing in many circles. Additionally, in 2001, the company I one-third owned spent $25,000 to buy out the rights to a trademark and trade secret. I've thought about branding and trademarks before when my money was at stake.

Finally, marketing has many definitions and is a very broad topic. Nevertheless, in general, there is a difference between marketing, market research, surveys, sales, branding, images, messages, symbols, and logos. In my opinion, the purple thing I drew above is simply a logo (which contains an image of Lady Liberty which is loosely a symbol of what the LP stands for), which is a component of branding and marketing.

The above is just one idea created with a few hours work this afternoon because I keep hearing about marketing and branding from the LP at the state and national levels and wanted to provide my 2 cent worth (4 hours worth) before the LP embarks on some big expensive branding effort (plus due to dissatisfaction from the Badnarik signs and stickers). I'd rather they postpone the branding effort until they can get the national database and website functioning more efficiently. If the LNC embarks on an expensive branding effort with poor results and meanwhile allows the website and national database dysfunction to go on, I'll work to elect different LNC reps next time. Marketing experts know that poor customer service will destroy any brand.

--Wes Benedict

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Dues Consideration at Convention

I'm asking for help with a proposal to achieve a consensus on the path forward for the National Libertarian Party with respect to dues.

What I'd like to accomplish is to take a poll of the delegates at the National Convention to determine how many would like to see a dues-paying membership option restored. If a dues option prevails, I'd prefer to defer the determination of the amount or inclusion of UMP or not to the LNC. While secret ballots, parliamentary maneuvers, and by-laws interpretations have plagued past efforts, I do believe the next LNC would respect a clear mandate, if there is one, from the delegates.

I don't know the appropriate mechanism to make this happen. While a voice vote sense of the body requested by the chair might suffice, with this being such a contentious issue, I'd rather see an actual vote count than rely on the volume of ayes and nays from the delegates on what has become an emotional issue.

I personally would like to see a dues plan re-implemented if a large majority of delegates (perhaps 60%) agreed and I would work to achieve that consensus through an educational effort. I've made it clear in the past that I thought eliminating the dues option was a negative move.

We can retain the free membership option with the signing of the current pledge or perhaps another act an individual might take that demonstrates a request to be a member for free.

"I'm Pro-Choice on Everthing--Including Dues."

Nevertheless, I also think changing the policies too frequently incurs its own costs. I've spent lots of time myself changing brochures, getting changes made to Texas websites, and explaining the changes to Libertarians in Texas.

If a consensus of delegates voted to re-institute dues, then I think theLNC could feel comfortable changing the policy again. Otherwise, I'd be hesitant to make another change so soon.

I've written many successful fundraising letters for the Libertarian Party of Texas. I think the National LP could explain the change to its members in a positive letter with a rational strategy for the future that contained something like the following:

"The Libertarian Party is the party of entrepreneurs. As every entrepreneur knows, experimentation and change is essential for progress. However, most entrepreneurs also know that not every idea or change proves to be successful. The elimination of dues was a bold plan intended to transform the Libertarian Party into a more politically oriented party. However, the results are in and the reality of the data cannot be ignored. blah blah blah . . ."

"While our party will continue to strive to focus more on real world politics, dues-paying memberships appear proven to be a more successful form of fundraising and party building than other things we've tried. Sixty-X percent of convention delegates agreed. We're proud to be able admit our mistake, and will certainly make more in the future, but blah blah blah . . . Please renew your membership today."

What I don't want to see is a by-laws committee ruling or a parliamentary procedure that throws the party into chaos or causes us to take a path that's different from what most of us would choose if given the chance to make a fair choice.

For the record, fundraising and political activity has been on a strong upward trend in Texas recently and we haven't implemented a dues plan, but I think our success has nothing to do with eliminating national dues. If many other states are experiencing an upward trend, then perhaps the National LP has taken the right path by eliminating dues. However, if many other states are hurting and the National LP is weaker and unable to assist other states in need, then we need to correct a mistake.

Texas has now built up about $3,600 in monthly pledge revenue from over 100 donors while our UMP check was only $1,481. Likewise, one-time donations are strong as well.

I think state and county LP organizations should focus on politics and candidate recruitment and campaigns, while the National LP is better positioned with bulk mail economies of scale to focus on identifying new Libertarians willing to make a small financial commitment by paying dues or even signing up as free members.

I'm asking for your help in figuring out a plan or procedure that might help our party achieve a consensus vote and move forward.

-- Wes Benedict
Executive Director
Libertarian Party of Texas
Disclosure: these views are my own and should not be construed torepresent others.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Yard Sign Selection

Results from the fundraising letter and yard sign survey sent to Texas Libertarians.

1. Torch with purple and black
(15% 1st choice)

2. Blue text only
(19% 1st choice)

3. Torch with teal and brown
(16% 1st Choice)

4. Blue and red with text only


Monday, April 10, 2006

DUES: Geoff Neale's comments to the LPTX

These comments are from Geoff Neale to the LPTX Executive Committee and should not be construed to imply support or opposition to Wes Benedict's campaign for a position on the LNC.

From: Geoff Neale
To: LPTX Executive Committee
Date: 4/9/06

I humbly disagree with one insinuation - that dues don't work.

The LNC set the dues level at $25 in about 1989.

In 1998, the LNC created UMP. At that time, most states had dues, and National had dues. The idea that each state and National were duplicating renewal efforts was behind the impetus to offer economy of scale improvements. By having National do the renewals for both, and then forwarding a portion of dues to the states, the renewals would be done professionally, and both state and National would benefit.

Prior to UMP, every California member paid $20 for California membership, and $25 for National membership. California received $20, but paid their own renewal expenses. National received $25, but paid their own renewal expenses.

Then UMP was codified, but the LNC screwed up big time. Rather than saying "Let's make this attractive enough by coming up with a new dues number that is somewhere between the old and the new", they didn't change National dues. Dues remained at $25 - but now it was for BOTH National and State.

Prior to this, we were making huge outreach mailings under a project called Archimedes. Some have argued whether or not this was worthwhile monetarily, but our dues paying membership rose rapidly up to about 32,000.

After UMP, for some strange reason, funds started drying up. Membership flattened, and peaked at about 33,000. National could no longer afford much in the way of outreach mailings. Starting in 2000, membership began falling. National tried one more Archimedes mailing, but it dropped a few days after 9/11 - it cost over $75,000 and garnered a few hundred responses. Since then we've been basically broke, and we've not done any significant outreach.

These economic problems started when UMP was created. Why?

Prior to UMP, National retained $25 of every $25 membership. Afterwards, with UMP I, it retained on average $10 per member. With UMP II (Son of UMP), it retained only $7 per member.

Because the LNC made a fiscally stupid decision, primarily because Steve Dasbach told them that the increased numbers of members other-than-renewal donations would offset the losses (which they never did), the LNC fell into an ongoing deficit situation.

So now, in order to correct the mistakes that were made, we've eliminated dues altogether, and our revenues are plummeting. National is now telling groups like the state chairs that their fundraising is more effective, because they HAVE REDUCED THE PEOPLE THEY ARE FUNDRAISING FROM TO PROVEN DONORS. In other words, no new donors, because we
don't ask for money from people who haven't given before.

What mistakes did National make?

1). Dues should have been a reflection of the costs of providing the direct and indirect services, and should have been adjusted over time to reflect the realities of inflating expenses. If we'd followed inflation, the $25 1989 dues would today be in excess of $40.

2). When UMP was created, a new dues level of approx: $40 per member should have been set, and the members should have been educated as to why $40 is better than $25 (National) plus $20 (State). Instead we reduced revenues drastically while increasing the costs of services.

If these two mistakes had not been made, then dues would have gradually risen to about $50 by the time of UMP.

Assuming a small drop-off in membership ($50 is not that much), we would have quite easily have continued our outreach efforts, because a significant amount of money would have been available to do that. The actual costs for National would have been somewhere around $30 ($18 for UMP and $12 for servicing, LP News, etc), leaving $20 for outreach. That means that every
year, every member would have given enough in surplus dues to reach approximately 40 people. Given that we achieve a new member rate of approx 1 in 60, and also experienced a very normal dropout rate of 30% of first year members, we'd have achieved and maintain continuing growth of membership. Also, delivering growth significantly increased renewals and non-renewal donations, both of which have floundered.

I've estimated conservatively that our membership could be in excess of 50,000 today if these two mistakes had not been made.

So, you see, Einstein is correct, but the Irish saying goes "If it isn't broken, don't fix it." The LNC fixed what wasn't broken.

Now, to compound things, they've decided that the thing that wasn't broken, that they broke, can't be fixed at all, because it's beyond repair. God forbid they'd say "We screwed up - many times - and should now go back where things were working." No - instead, we fumble forwards into unproven territory.


Friday, February 24, 2006

Why I'm running for regional LNC Representative

I'm excited about the opportunities for Libertarians throughout America, but concerned about recent results from the National Libertarian Party. I want to do my part to make sure the Libertarian Party is strong at the national, state, and local levels.

In the coming weeks, I'll offer my views and solicit your opinions on:

* The LNC
* Political activity
* State parties
* Ballot access
* National fundraising
* Accounting policies
* Dues vs zero-dues membership
* Database management
* Revenue sharing
* The Platform
* National staff
* Independent PACs vs centralization

and many more issues that are critical to the success of Libertarians throughout America.

While I see many serious challenges on many fronts, I see plenty of achievable opportunity for growth in the near term. That's why I'm willing to apply my efforts and resources towards building the Libertarian Party. As an LNC representative, I will do my best to make the most productive decisions for the Libertarian Party.

Qualifications - Resume

Wes Benedict
1403-B Kenwood Ave.
Austin, TX 78704
(512) 442-4910


2004 – present Libertarian Party of Texas, Austin, TX

Executive Director

· Full-time paid position responsible for fundraising, candidate recruitment, state and county organization development, media relations, and infrastructure development including database, website, e-mail lists, and marketing materials. Created this paid position for previously volunteer only organization. Created Assistant Director and Fundraising Director paid staff positions. Multiple appearances on television, radio, and in local newspapers. Recruited record 218 candidates for November 2006 elections.

2000 – 2003 Custom Quality Marble, Inc., Austin, TX


· Bought 1/3 ownership kitchen/bath synthetic marble countertop, shower and tub manufacturing company. Employees: 17. Grew sales from $900,000 to $1.2 million. Sold company in 2003 for $1.2 million (sale price, not gain).

Sept 98 – Jan 00 PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, Atlanta, GA

Consultant, Supply Chain Management/Consumer & Industrial Prod.

May 97 – Aug 97 Intel Corp., Hillsboro, OR

Tauber Manufacturing Institute Internship

· Designed flexible manufacturing process for server systems assembly.

1992-1996 3M Company various states and overseas

Advanced Manufacturing Engineer

· Worked on teams in manufacturing plants to improve productivity, quality, and delivery. Included 6-month projects in South Africa and Italy.


1986-1998 University of Michigan at Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI
Dual Degree: M.B.A. and Masters of Engineering in Manufacturing

1986-1991 University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX
B.S., Mechanical Engineering


May 2005 Austin City Council Candidate

· Placed 2nd out of 5 candidates receiving 10,439 votes or 18% in non-partisan race with incumbent. Campaign activity: $15,000 budget; paid part-time campaign manager; 93 volunteers distributed 40,000 flyers door-to-door; 1,200 bumper stickers distributed; 1,400 yard signs installed; 20,000 automated phone calls; endorsed by Green Party, Austin Toll Party and Independent Texans; 53 public events and forums attended.

2003 - 2004 Volunteer Coordinator, LPTX Ballot Access Committee

· Volunteers collected 10,000 signatures. Assisted management of paid petitioners and validation team. 82,000 raw signatures were submitted to satisfy 45,540 valid signature requirement.

May 2003 Austin City Council Candidate

· Received 35% of vote in at-large two-way non-partisan race.

2002-2003 Travis County LP Secretary

2001-2002 Travis County E-Newsletter Editor: circulation over 700

Nov 2002 Candidate, Travis County Commissioner, Precinct 4

· Received 1,609 votes (4.6%) in 3-way race.

1999 Chair, LP Cobb County, GA

· First meeting I attended in 1998 had 2 other attendees. Started e-newsletter; was appointed chair by existing chair; meetings consistently attracted 15 attendees by the time I left in 2000 for Austin.