Monday, July 14, 2008

Texas Libertarian Debates Fair Tax National Communications Director

Is the "Fair Tax" national sales tax proposal a good plan for America? Not according to the Executive Director of the Libertarian Party of Texas, Wes Benedict (that would be me).

Ken Hoagland, National Communications Director for Americans for Fair Taxation, and Wes Benedict debate the Fair Tax June 14 at the 2008 Libertarian Party of Texas state convention.

View excerpts of the debate in the video below:

In case the video doesn't display above try the link below:

Special thanks to volunteer Sean Anderson for recording the debate and posting the video online. Also note that Sean is still editing many videos from the LP Texas convention and it's possible this video may be updated in the future and not available from these links posted.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

My Richard Viguerie Confession

Having Viguerie as a keynote speaker has sparked some controversy, lately. Here's some of my thoughts about this I sent to the Radical LP group plus some of my thoughts from nearly a year ago.

I have not been involved in any of the recent discussions where Viguerie was actually chosen as a replacement for Bob Barr as a keynote speaker.


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: My Richard Viguerie confession
Date: Thu, 22 May 2008 04:09:46 -0500
From: Wes Benedict

Richard Viguerie was a guest speaker just over a year ago at the 2007 Libertarian State Chairs Conference in Orlando. I found his presentation quite inspiring, and as you can see from the note I wrote below to the LNC (almost a year ago), I recommended him as a keynote speaker for our 2008 convention.

Keep in mind I had no idea Bob Barr would be running for President at the time, and as the note below makes clear, I recommended Bob Barr as my second choice.

I found Mr. Viguerie's story quite inspiring. And make no mistake, Mr. Viguerie was clear he was a "conservative" with the goal of holding the Republican Party true to conservative principles, not libertarian principles.

While I did not agree with Mr. Viguerie's goals of achieving conservatism through the Republican Party, I thought Libertarians could learn a lot from the methods he used. I read his book about how he wanted to use tactics that would pull the Republican Party in the conservative direction and thought many of those same principles could be used by the Libertarian Party to pull the general electorate in a more Libertarian direction.

One particular thing that stood out as a tactic that I think Libertarians (including myself) often misunderstand is the role that direct mail plays as a form of advertising, not just fund raising.

I've seen many instances where a Libertarian campaign gets criticized for spending too much money on fund raising. I'll give two scenarios to help make my point. Consider these two scenarios:

Scenario A: Libertarian candidate Smith raises $1 million and spends $500,000 on postcards to voters. (Great--50% spent on advertising!)
Scenario B: Libertarian candidate Smith raises $1 million and spends $500,000 on fund raising letters to voters (with the same info as the postcard but has a return envelope and a fund raising pitch, etc., and results in $300,000 in new revenue--which is spent on more letters). So in this case the campaign spends $800,000 or more on outreach.

I used to be of the mindset that Scenario A was good because 50% was advertising, but did not understand that fund raising letters as in Scenario B were also a form of advertising but one that brought in money to keep the advertising going.

It's late and I'm tired and not in a condition to make sure what I'm writing is clear, but to be clear, I'm saying that despite the recent Bob Barr connections and that I recognize there's a potential conflict here, a year ago I thought Libertarians could learn a lot from Mr. Viguerie's methods.

In 2004, I was one of the main leaders of the successful ballot access petition drive in Texas. Libertarians hadn't had to petition in Texas for 16 years so none of us had experience. We learned on the fly by working very closely with and cooperating with the Nader petition effort. I don't support Nader's views, but definitely learned a lot and benefited a lot by coordinating with his petition effort.

Again, it's real late and I can hardly read my own typing. Not expecting this to alleviate concerns about conflicts. Just providing more background from my viewpoint.

--Wes Benedict
Executive Director
Libertarian Party of Texas

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [Lnc-discuss] Keynoter?
Date: Fri, 06 Jul 2007 16:38:26 -0500
From: Wes Benedict
References: <2058229974.1183728878466.javamail.root@fepweb09>

Can you confirm for me exactly what the keynote speaker is? Is that the main speaker at the fundraising banquet dinner on the last major night of the convention?

Who gets the money from that banquet, the party or the presidential nominee?

I may change my recommendation based on answers above. In any case . . .

I recommend Richard Viguerie:

1. I found his speech at the state chairs meeting to be the most inspiring I've heard in years. And, he inspired me to want to support the LP! Having someone like a libertarian-leaning elected Republican judge doesn't inspire me to want to support the LP.
2. I don't think having someone like Brian Doherty or Neil Boortz who will bash the LP (regardless of whether that's deserved or not) will be good for fundraising for the LP. Might as well get Timothy West and Greg Dirasian if critiquing the audience is the goal (inside joke--not all LNC members will understand this reference).
3. Despite several months upward trend in membership numbers, by most measures, the LP is in pretty bad shape when compared to just a few years ago on objective measures: elected libertarians, "active" donors, revenue, etc. I recognize many people are optimistic because we have this or that new program that's fixin' to take off, but by objective measures, we're in the doldrums and I think most rational Libertarian Party members realize that. DEPRESSED? Well, misery loves company!
Richard Viguerie, a Republican, really bashed the Republican Party hard, and that inspired me to work harder for the LP.
4. Junk Mail. Viguerie was a big fundraiser and direct-mailer for conservative and Republican causes. Many Libertarian Party members don't know much about the vital role that direct mail plays in raising funds and in providing advertising and growth of the party. I think having several hundred Libertarian Party members getting a lesson on direct mail might not only help them if they work on fundraising efforts, but might also get them to feel better about opening up their wallets at the banquet or in response to future fundraising letters from national.
5. Richard Viguerie claimed he started a "vast right-wing conspiracy." He said no party leaders asked him to do it--he just took it upon himself to do it. I think it would be great for a room full of Libertarians to hear that they don't need to wait for an invitation or approval from Libertarian Party leaders to make something happen. Just do it!
6. Richard Viguerie was interesting and entertaining and informative. Great for a fundraising banquet. I forget who the guy was in Portland who did the PowerPoint presentation full of technical details that I found extremely boring--and way too long (right before the fundraising)!!!!! Ron Paul was the keynote speaker at the LP Texas convention in 2006 and he was great, but we let him go on and on and on for way too long and he was like the third speaker. People were restless, yawning, sneaking out, bored. We still raised good money, but I think we would have raised a lot more if we hadn't let it go on so long. In any case, our state convention banquet was not nearly as bad as that Portland National banquet. Keep it short, interesting, inspiring!

My 2 cents.

Actually, Congressman Barr would also be at the top of my list.

--Wes Benedict
PS: January through June 2007 LP Texas revenue: about $53,000. wrote:
> Folks,
> Any recommendations for a keynote speaker in 2008?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Withdrawing from LNC Vice Chair race

I have decided to withdraw from the race for LNC Vice Chair and don't plan to seek any other position on the LNC at the 2008 Libertarian Party national convention.

It's been an honor and pleasure and a learning experience to serve as the Southwest Region 6 Representative to the LNC for the past two years. Our current LNC has had some spirited arguments and disagreements, but at the risk of inciting plenty of ridicule (that's your cue) I don't think the LNC did anything really stupid this term--and I'm proud of that!

While the Libertarian Party continues to face plenty of challenges, I remain committed to building the Libertarian Party, think it's a worthwhile vehicle for promoting freedom, and I am very positive about the prospects for strong growth in 2008. I'm not bailing out on the Libertarian Party. I'm just changing where I intend to focus my efforts in the short term.

I currently serve as the Executive Director of the Libertarian Party of Texas. Once again, in 2008, we had strong candidate recruitment success in Texas. I've got more than enough to keep me busy.

Our preliminary reports in Texas show that we had a record first quarter fund raising effort of over $42,000 (Jan. 1, 2008-March 31, 2008).

Additionally, I'm running for office myself, again (and promised myself to learn how to make and update my own website, which I'm doing for the first time--so please go easy on me in the short-term; I know it's not up to par yet).

In order to help fill a void that I see, I'm also working on a couple of projects to help Libertarians throughout the country who may find some of the materials I'm offering useful to their efforts:

As far as the LNC Vice Chair position goes, the only other announced candidate I'm aware of is Chuck Moulton, our current Vice Chair. While I think it would be premature to endorse him before we see who else might decide to seek the position, I have great respect for Mr. Moulton, think he's done a fine job as Vice Chair, am quite aware of his strong activism at the state and local level, and think the Libertarian Party would be well-served if Mr. Moulton serves for another term.

I want to thank my colleagues on the LNC (even the Californians) who spend lots of time and thousands of dollars of their own money (it's a volunteer position) just to attend the quarterly meetings, among many other tasks they perform.

I remain committed to the principles of the Libertarian Party and will be doing my part to help make 2008 a year of growth for the Libertarian Party. And I appreciate all of you who find a way and make an effort to help build the Libertarian Party and support Libertarian Party candidates.

Yours in liberty,

--Wes Benedict

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Former LP candidate, Robert McDonald, leads rEVOLution to victory in my Texas district

I am so proud of Robert McDonald and all of the libertarian Ron Paul Republicans in my state senatorial district. Last night's Austin American Statesman reports:

Paul supporters win one, lose one in Travis County

In the SD 25 meeting, the temporary chair who had hoped to be elected the permanent chair of the confab was defeated by a challenger backing U.S. Rep. Paul, R-Lake Jackson, for president. In turn, delegates elected Paul-majority committees to guide them through sorting resolutions and selecting delegates to the state convention in June.

Robert McDonald, an Austin CPA elected the permanent chair of the county’s GOP SD 25 convention, said he won the post by about 17 votes—after which some of what he called the old guard walked out, including the temporary chairman, Brian Padden.

Robert McDonald was the Travis County Libertarian Party candidate for Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3, in 2006.

Since I am the Libertarian Party candidate for Travis County Commissioner, Precinct 3 (see, I obviously was not a delegate to this district 25 Republican convention. Ironically, however, I did attend the district 14 Republican convention as a vendor representing Stop Domain Subsidies.

I have to admit, it was a bit awkward at times, because our vendor table was right next to the COST table. COST is a group working to prevent transportation boondoggles in Austin like light rail. And while I'm against light rail myself, the Executive Committee of Cost includes my Republican opponent, Gerald Daugherty, plus Jim Skaggs, who recently sent me an email saying he used to like the Libertarian Party, but now hates them all because of me. Oh well.

Gerald Daugherty is known as a "toller" in Travis County for supporting putting toll booths all over Central Texas highways. With so many Ron Paul supporters in our precinct (many of whom have helped my campaigns for Austin City Council in the past), and with Ron Paul supporters being suspicious of the taxing and tracking aspects of these toll booths, Gerald Daugherty is likely to get kicked out of office by a strong Democratic challenger in November, and that's partly because I'll be drawing away a lot of Daugherty's former supporters.

In any case, back to the Republican conventions. I found the write-ups below highly entertaining, informative and inspiring.
  1. Blogcritics: Liveblogging a GOP District Convention, by Dave Nalle, the 2002 Libertarian Party candidate for State Representative, District 46.
  2. Daily Paul: Texas Conventions: Update HERE. Definitely read the posted comments.
Some Libertarian Party members have been justifiably concerned about the future of our party with so many current and former Libertarian Party members now working inside the Republican Party. I'm personally more committed to libertarian principles than to the Libertarian Party. Nevertheless, my experience in Texas has been that the Libertarian Party and libertarian principles are both benefiting from the Ron Paul Revolution even though many are working part-time or even full-time inside the Republican Party. The efforts are synergistic, as happens sometimes with organizations like the ACLU on privacy rights, and Democrats when some of them are genuinely supporting freedom issues.

Keep up the great work everyone!

--Wes Benedict

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dr. Mary J. Ruwart, please run for President

Dr. Ruwart:

Libertarian Party members need someone they can trust and respect to run for President. We need someone who can effectively communicate our principles with the public. You're increasingly looking to be the best person who's potentially willing and available to represent the Libertarian Party in 2008.

I know it has not been your ambition to run for President. You, like so many others, have stood by patiently waiting and watching and hoping for someone else with the right principles, experience, skills, and motivation to emerge as a strong candidate to represent the Libertarian Party.

I can tell you with confidence based on my observations and conversations with many Libertarian activists that no such candidate has emerged, yet many Libertarians who have heard your name mentioned (and who haven't yet) as a potential draftee would be thrilled if you were to step forward.

You've been a long-time Libertarian Party activist. Your book "Healing Our World In an Age of Aggression" has on the back cover an endorsement from Congressman Ron Paul: "Healing Our World bridges the gap between conservatives and liberals, Christians and New Agers, special interests and the common good, with practical solutions to our economic and societal woes."

I recently re-read the first two chapters to reassure myself that your book has the ability to reach out to people outside of the Libertarian Party and that's what we need to do to grow the Libertarian Party.

Of course your book "Short Answers to the Tough Questions" remains an excellent resource to help all libertarian activists communicate with others. You've done so much more, but I won't go into greater detail right now.

I was hoping Ron Paul would seek the Libertarian Party nomination and I know you've been actively supporting his campaign as a volunteer, but I think he's made it clear now that he's going to stay in the race for President as a Republican and won't consider a Libertarian Party nomination. I still hold out hope that former Congressman Bob Barr, who's serving on the Libertarian National Committee, will consider entering the race. If he does, I think he'd make the strongest candidate and I'd support him, but he has not indicated a willingness to run.

About a dozen others are seeking the LP nomination, but based on the Presidential debate hosted last weekend by the Libertarian State Leadership Alliance in Las Vegas, none of the current contenders are inspiring enough support. Like many others, I came away from that debate with the feeling "is this the best we can do?"

Here's a rundown on some of the top contenders who participated in that debate.

Wayne Allyn Root

I had high hopes for Root, but he has let me down. While some are put off by his aggressive sales approach, I actually like his enthusiastic presentation style even if at times it seems over the top. Root justifiably claims to be a Barry Goldwater conservative and free market supporter. Nevertheless, Root's comments continue to show he instinctively supports the so-called "war on terror" and foreign intervention. He made comments at the debate that the war on terror was real but that the Iraq War was mismanaged. I beg to differ. Our military readily and efficiently conquered the Iraqi military and facilitated the execution of Saddam Hussein. The issue is that America should follow a policy of non-interventionism and should not have invaded Iraq in the first place, regardless of how well it could be managed. Doing so was unjust and likely has added to the instability in the Middle East and has served to recruit even more terrorists. The unjust invasion of Iraq is not made just by attempts at nation-building. We need to get the US military out of Iraq now. Root has ignored advice from Libertarians on this issue. Perhaps he's received bad advice from misguided Libertarians on how to handle the terrorism issue. Nevertheless, he's unlikely to gain the support of a majority of Libertarian Party delegates.

Additionally, Root wrote a book titled "Millionaire Republican." When asked how much of his own money he would spend on his campaign at the debate, something he's been asked many times before, he responded that he would donate five thousand dollars of campaign contributions (not his own money) to a Libertarian political action committee.

Steve Kubby

Steve Kubby is a well-known cancer survivor who successfully led the passage of a medical marijuana initiative in California. By all means he's a heroic activist and a proven warrior for freedom, but his performance at the debate showed he wasn't going to be a strong articulate spokesman for the party. He gives a good stump speech explaining the oppression he's endured under the heavy hand of government, but when asked questions, his responses aren't sharp and on topic.

George Phillies

George Phillies scored some points on humor at the debate, but his constant attacks on fellow Libertarians over the years continue to alienate him from potential supporters. He's his own worst enemy. He's run for National LP Chair four times and lost every time. While I respect his tenacity, he continues to wrack up ever more enemies, few supporters, and is unlikely to get enough support to win the nomination. Additionally, he's taken positions on numerous issues that Libertarians disagree with, and his presentation style is that of a brainy physics professor, which he is.

Michael Jingozian

I originally wrote him off as a flake and considered him bottom-tier. But Jingozian has assembled a strong professional campaign organization and appears legitimately to have raised and spent more on his campaign than any of the other candidates. He's a very successful businessman and a likable guy. He actually scored points with me at the debate which is why I now rank him up with the other top contenders mentioned here. But I have doubts that his vague policy prescriptions and feel-good presentation style will resonate with enough Libertarian Party members to garner the nomination. He's the Barack Obama of the Libertarian Party without the oomph!

The Others

Several other candidates have been campaigning but none of them are serious enough or credible enough to be likely nominees although several provide ample entertainment value.

In Conclusion

Dr. Ruwart, I'm confident that if you are willing to seek the nomination for President, you will win the nomination and will represent the Libertarian Party well. I don't think Libertarians are expecting miracles this time. But many of us are concerned that our current cast of characters just aren't going to do justice to our party as our Presidential nominee.

You're someone with a proven track record of successful libertarian activism, generosity, sincerity, and a complete understanding and dedication to the principles of freedom. I'm offering you my support and encouraging others to support you if you're willing to carry the torch for the Libertarian Party as our Presidential nominee in 2008.

And despite all of the hard work and burden involved with running a Presidential campaign, I bet you'll have a damn good time if you decide to do it.

Please let Libertarians know if you're willing to run and do so soon. Many of us are eagerly awaiting for a highly respectable candidate like you to support.


--Wes Benedict

(Wes Benedict is the Region 6 Representative to the Libertarian National Committee, serves as Executive Director of the Libertarian Party of Texas, and is a candidate for Vice Chair of the Libertarian National Committee.)