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.

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