Texas LP in Hot Water with Ethics Commission

From the Austin Chronicle...

Over the last few city election cycles, Libertarian activists Wes Benedict and Arthur DiBianca have made minor careers as political gadflies by churning out campaign-finance complaints against opposing candidates and organizations of all stripes. So last week, when Benedict and his Libertarian Party of Texas got a taste of what they dish out every election season, even he had to laugh. “I’m sure your readers will enjoy the irony of the situation I’m in as much as I have,” the LPT executive director and ex-City Council candidate said of the complaint brought by former Travis County Judge (and political gadfly emeritus) Bill Aleshire.

The Texas Ethics Commission has agreed (perhaps a little gleefully) to investigate Aleshire’s allegations and has set a mid-July deadline for Benedict, as well as LPT treasurer Geoffrey Neale of Austin, and past treasurer Anthony Garcia of Houston, to respond to the charges.

“Gander sauce,” Aleshire said with a chuckle. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. They were taking delight, even advertising on their Web site and in their newsletter, about everybody they were attacking under the campaign-finance law, and they didn’t have the decency to admit they were in violation themselves.” Aleshire, now an attorney in private practice, credited some unnamed sources with piquing his interest in the organization’s financial records on file at the Ethics Commission. After poring over reams of the LPT’s handiwork, Aleshire drew up a list of about 216 things he found wrong with the group’s reports from August 2004 through February 2006.

Aleshire’s 52-page complaint alleges many of the same types of infractions that Benedict and company have accused others of committing. “I admit and understand that campaign finance laws are tricky, but that’s not my point,” Aleshire said. “I think they’ve got more persistent violations than what they’ve pointed out [in other complaints].” Aleshire notes, for example, that the LPT in 2004 accepted a $25,000 loan and hired Benedict before the organization appointed its campaign treasurer, as state law requires. The complaint also suggests that more than half of the $80,878 the group has received in contributions since 2004 has gone into Benedict’s pockets, in excess of his reported monthly salary of $1,670, plus 20% commission on party revenues. “There’s something funky going on there,” Aleshire said.

Benedict, for his part, denies there’s any funky business in play, explaining that much of the money he received covered reimbursements for out-of-pocket expenses he made on such items as office supplies or postage. He also allowed that LPT has had a run of bad luck with treasurers since the state party hung out its shingle almost two years ago. “Obviously there were challenges if the LPT is on its fourth treasurer,” Benedict said, adding that he’s confident in the current treasurer’s ability to get the job done properly. While declining to comment further on specific allegations outlined in the complaint, Benedict went on to explain that the reason he files so many ethics complaints “is to demonstrate that almost nobody follows all of the rules, because they are so complicated,” he said. “I have never claimed that Libertarians are better at filling out campaign-finance forms than others.”

In any event, Benedict and his research partner DiBianca are not likely to let one complaint against the LPT - albeit for 216 alleged infractions - disrupt their filing streak. Last week, the Ethics Commission agreed to accept DiBianca’s complaint against Advanced Micro Devices, for failing to identify the names of “employees and consultants” the company paid $10,000 to help defeat Props. 1 and 2 in the May city election. And two days before Aleshire filed a complaint against the LPT, Benedict decided to take on the influential political action committees of the Building Owners and Managers Association of Austin and the Austin Apartment Association.

15 Responses to “Texas LP in Hot Water with Ethics Commission”

  1. Will Says:

    Wow… just wow…

  2. George Phillies Says:

    Are the alleged financial reports available on the internet?

  3. Stuart Richards Says:

    LOL

    Wes Benedict is the guy who was bitching about “povertarians” back on Tim West’s blog. Now we know why-he wasn’t pocketing enough cash.

  4. Jackcjackson Says:

    “more than half of the $80,878 the group has received in contributions since 2004 has gone into Benedict’s pockets, in excess of his reported monthly salary of $1,670, plus 20% commission on party revenues.”

    Well, if its been 2 years, he would have made $40,000 ( about half of the total) just off his regular salary. And thats not includng any commission. So either way I dont see how there is “excess”’ if he is already supposed to be paid that much anyway. There doesnt need to be anything in “excess’ for him to pocket over half.

  5. Timothy West Says:

    20% commission on party revenues?????

    I cant buy that. I can understand having to make a living if you do a job for the state lp fulltime, but that is too much. Thats like a goddamn excise tax on support for the party.

    bad. bad. bad.

  6. Chris Moore Says:

    So the party “made” $80,878 over two years. So that’s $40,439 per year. Benedict has a salary of $20,040 per year. His commission would be $8,087.80. So according to these numbers, he is rightfully owed $28,127.80 per year. That’s 70% of revenue.

    That percentage may seem high, but if that is what the party agreed to, then Benedict has done nothing wrong. Though in the future they may consider making the position voluntary if that is all the money they can bring in.

    And why say “more than half” when the real number just in salary and commission is closer to three-quarters. It gives absolutely no information about the “excess”.

  7. Rock Howard Says:

    I few factiods for those who care…

    A large proportion of the funds sent to Wes were reimbursements for his expenses. He regularly paid for mass mailings and other large items up front and let the LPT reimburse him.

    The current LPTexas books balance to the penny. Geoffrey Neale is the Treasurer and he is doing a fine job.

    Over 2/3 of the complaints are for contributors who declined to state their occupation and employer. The rules only specify that the LPT ask for this information—and they can show that they did.

    The complaint itself kicks off with a bunch of verbaige like “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” and “those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” This was a put up job. You can learn more about that in my blog at http://rockhoward.org/blog/attack/

    The most likely outcome of this matter is a small fine. Meanwhile we have two candidates—Michael Badnarik and myself—with much better than usual chances of breaking through for a win. The LPT is also in a position to be “kingmaker” in at least half a dozen state house races.

    We are making progress in Texas and this attack on the party is just a small indication of that.

  8. Trevor Southerland Says:

    Tim,

    20% commission on top of his small salary isn’t too much.

    Most people who are employees of state parties (such as myself and Mr. Benedict) make far less than they could elsewhere, and far under the average incomes for where they live…

    But we make that sacarfice because of our dedication to the Libertarian Party. To say that an employee doesn’t deserve just compensation for his work is just wrong.

    The main question is has Wes Benedict done a good job in Texas, and I think most all Texas LP’ers would say yes.

    As a matter of fact; I’d probably be caught arguing that his salary (and others) are far lower than they should be… but they accept it due to their dedication.

  9. Joey Dauben Says:

    Speaking as a Republican political observer here, (who knows Wes personally) but had it not been for the LP of TX hiring Wes full-time, you wouldn’t have seen a record number of LP candidates on the ballot in Texas this year.

    I subscribe to every party’s e-mail list and what have you, and I’ve followed what Wes has done for the party.

    As an organization, it’s obvious he’s done a dang good job due to the candidate recruitment and PR strategy they LP is working on (I still receive postal-mail notifications as well.)

    So all of you who say he’s being paid too much need to understand that a political organization doesn’t work with all volunteers. Seriously, this is precisely the main reason I left the third party movement, too many damn complainers and not enough people willing to cough up money where their mouths are.

    Jerks.

    hah

  10. Gary Odom Says:

    Your points are all good and valid (particularly your point that a lot of 3rd Party folks do expect to be able to compete using volunteers-meaning an amateur operation), but your last sentence just proves that when the going gets tough, the impatient and expedient go back to the major parties where they can satisfy their need for instant gratification instead of themselves providing the strength and leadership to overcome these failings.

  11. George Phillies Says:

    20% is a representative commission for fundraisers. I have heard substantially higher percentages. I am very happy that Freedom BVallot Access found someone who will settle for less. I am reminded of the LPNC, whose deal with its former Executive Director was that he got a fixed percentage of the money he raised but no base salary.

  12. Joey Dauben Says:

    Wes deserves even more than what he gets now.

    The party has definitely taken advantage of Badnarik’s Congressional race, the 2004 results, the 2006 gubernatorial-independent race and has thrust the LP in a position that could cost some state House Republicans their jobs (in the three-way races with up-and-coming Democrats.)

  13. Wes Benedict Says:

    Thanks for the opportunity to explain the situation:

    http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2006-06-16/cols_postmarks.html

    Benedict Clears Things Up
    Dear Editor,
    Since selling my business in March 2003, I’ve volunteered or worked on political campaigns full time except for a few months researching business opportunities plus a six week vacation in Playa del Carmen “studying Spanish.”

    The only pay I’ve received is $36,138 from the Libertarian Party of Texas for consulting services despite insinuations conjured from Texas Ethics Commission reports and partial contract descriptions. I’ve also spent $14,109 of nonreimbursed funds on my City Council campaigns and have contributed $4,137 to other candidates and political committees during that period.

    Not what my parents expected when I graduated from the University of Michigan with master’s degrees in business and engineering. I’ve forgone about a quarter million in pay working on politics instead of re-entering the business world. However, that’s nothing compared to soldiers who have given their lives for America.

    I’m proud to be working with Libertarians to restore the free-market system that made America the strongest country in the world. Working for a democratically elected committee of Libertarian Party volunteers ain’t easy, but I love each one of them, sometimes quite toughly. However, I look forward to the day when someone more capable than me is willing to take on this role so I can move on without momentum sliding. And at 37 years young, I doubt I’ll have trouble refilling my bank accounts when that becomes my goal again.

    On a less serious note, I want to thank you, Judge Bill Aleshire, for analyzing LPT reports. I’m confident any fines against our treasurers for errors will be less than had the LPT paid for your help. And thanks, Bill, for the witty humor [“Libertarian Ganders Goosed by Aleshire - 216 Times,” News, June 9]. Punish work is more tolerable when the lines are funny.

    Wes Benedict
    Executive director
    Libertarian Party of Texas

  14. Wes Benedict Says:

    The funds alleged to have gone into my pocket was not just my pay. It included reimbursement for postage, other supplies, plus pay for two other part-time subcontractors. Yes, that’s three people’s pay, not just mine. I’ve been paid very little, and less than that incomplete contract description implies.

    When you attack Republicans and Democrats, they’re bound to come back after you. Incidentally, the minor reporting errors alleged are for errors by our Treasurers, not me personally. I don’t file the reports. However, as a member of the Libertarian Party team, I do and will work with our current and past treasurers to fix any problems. However, you’ll find that many of the alleged errors were false accusations (plus a few “near misses”—but nothing wrong with Libertarians getting off on technicalities;-).

    Google “Wes Benedict” or [“Wes Benedict” complaint] for more perspectives, or read these stories and you’ll see why folks are out to find fault with me.

    It will be great when more of you do something that causes democrats and republicans to feel like it’s worth paying attention to you.

    http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2005-05-06/pols_feature4.html

    http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2006-05-05/pols_naked3.html

    http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/05/4roundup.html

    http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/03/21campaignmoney.html

    http://austin.bizjournals.com/austin/stories/2005/05/23/daily16.html

    http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/02/15sos.html

    http://www.dailytexanonline.com/media/paper410/news/2006/02/10/TopStories/Complaint.Alleges.Illegal.Contributions-1608159.shtml

    http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/01/25bentzin.html

    http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2006-01-06/pols_roundup5.html
    —Wes Benedict
    http://wesbenedictforlnc.blogspot.com/
    [email protected]

  15. Angela Keaton Says:

    No one expects those outside of Austin to understand why “Judge” Aleshire is willing to make a complete fool of himself. It comes down to the simple fact that Wes Benedict exposes the holier than thou good governement twits who have destroyed Austin. Bill Aleshire is the one who can’t look at himself in the mirror.

Leave a Reply