Oregon LP Fight Goes to Court

Oregon Libertarians are fighting for control of the state party, and now they’re taking their battle to court. The Oregonian has the story…

Perhaps best known for wanting to kill taxes and legalize pot, Libertarians believe government governs best when it governs least.

But in Oregon, some members of the live-and-let-live party are going to court and trying to boot each other out.

Wes Wagner, a Clackamas County party vice-chairman, sued the Libertarian Party of Oregon last month, claiming the state committee has turned into a power-hungry oligarchy. That prompted the chairman and treasurer to resign last week. The new chairman has hired an attorney, and now Wagner faces possible expulsion.

“Basically, one man has become the party, and they’re acting like an authoritarian regime,” says Wagner, an information technology consultant who ran against House Minority Leader Wayne Scott, R-Canby, in November.

“It’s an extreme embarrassment that the party that calls itself the ‘party of principle’ appears to have none.”

But it’s Wagner who’s being the lousy Libertarian, says Richard Burke, the party’s executive director.

“He’s waving around lawsuits like a cowboy waves around a gun,” he says.

The party’s public spat—which has dragged on for months—doesn’t directly affect most of Oregon. There are only about 15,300 registered Libertarians out of nearly 2 million voters in the state. About 200 members pay $50 each year to have some say in what the party does.

Libertarians are used to bucking authority. They’re not used to trying to squash each other.

“It’s just not appropriate,” says Shane Cory, executive director of the National Libertarian Committee, sighing over the lawsuit.

The establishment says the critics are abusing the courts to get their political way. The critics say the party can’t stand if leaders won’t clean up.

“If you couldn’t reform this, you might as well pack up and go home,” Wagner says. “If it actually destroys the party in the process, so be it.”

The in-fighting started last summer, when the group petitioned to recall the chairman. They alleged leaders ignored bylaws, dug the party into a financial hole and mishandled papers.

Before Christmas, Wagner sued in Washington County Circuit Court, demanding the party obey its rules and pony up documents.

None of the players is behaving like a model Libertarian, says Pacific University political science instructor Jim Moore.

“But remember,” he says, “the very fact there is a party for Libertarians is an un-Libertarian kind of thing.”

13 Responses to “Oregon LP Fight Goes to Court”

  1. Timothy West Says:

    They’re not used to trying to squash each other.

    HA! :D Since when? That’s the sum total of most of my personal first hand experience in the the LP - ‘not as libertarian as me , so go join some other party.’

    but I’ve been treated very well in person with 4 or 5 exceptions. It mostly seems to be internet blood sport.

  2. Jason Gatties Says:

    I’ve had some of the same experiences Timothy has had in the past with the LP. The difference is, I can get over it, move on and attempt to make things better rather than just constantly whining about it.

  3. Timothy West Says:

    whining for over 4 years now, and proud of it. When I’m dead, it will stop for good.

  4. Trent Hill Says:

    The LP is like every other minor party. It will have infighting over who is pure,and who is not. The idea is to tiptoe the balance between your moderate and radical libs, while trying not to lose the Paleolibertarians (although they arent exactly catered to). This reminds me of the GP/GPUSA conflict, or the recent Tampa Crisis in the CP. It is simply infighting. Lets face it, these parties are based on principles,and thus are more prone to fight each other over these established principles.

  5. George Phillies Says:

    If you listen to the two sides in the OR dispute, you will discover that this dispute has nothing to do on either side with purism or federalism or anarchism. Like most other major disputes within our party in the last decade or more, it has entirely different roots.

    Hopefully the National Committee will not recycle their Arizona error by trying to dictate a setlement in a state dispute.

  6. Roscoe Says:

    Every state LP convention I’ve ever attended seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time parsing and refining its by-laws. So why don’t they follow them? If they don’t, are members expected to shut up or leave or try to enforce the by-laws? If the by-laws are too restrictive when reality intervenes, then amend them under the accepted process.

  7. Carl Says:

    I don’t know the particulars of the Oregon case, but in other cases I have seen, the underlying problem is that there are too many Libertarians that know how to game Robert’s Rules of Order. Robert’s Rules are designed to enable a well-behaved group (more followers than leaders) to come to a consensus. Doesn’t work with a group of libertarians.

    If the LP wants to reduce its tendency to fission, it needs to adopt Range Voting internally. (see www.rangevoting.org) This worked quite well for the Strategic Planning Team. It worked well for the LRC when applied (and has just now been reimplemented at a higher fidelity level).

    Range voting minimizes “Bayesian Regret,” i.e., the total overall dissatisfaction with the result of a vote. Plurality voting minimizes regret only for the strongest faction, weaker factions be damned. In organizations, high Bayesian regret translates into factionalism and fission. In countries, it translates into terrorism and/or dictatorship.

  8. matt Says:

    You’re absolutely right about Robert’s Rules. I’ve never been to any party meetings, but if they’re anything like every other meeting I’ve ever participated in or observed, a good standardized parliamentary procedure would help.

    Also, being schooled on the rules would make the emerging party candidates better lawmakers if and when they are elected to the legislature.

    That being said, Carl, I’d hate to assume that terrorism and dictatorship are direct results of not having range voting. That’s a leap.

  9. Brian S Says:

    Roberts’ Rules are a way for a small minority to gain and maintain control of a volunteer organization, because regular people neither know nor care about them. You can have order without Roberts’ Rules. I was chair of a county-level LP for a while in the 90s and never once used Roberts’ Rules, even in meetings of 100+ people. You just don’t need them.

  10. Carl Says:

    Matt: lack of range voting is not the only reason for terrorism and dictarship, of course, but range voting is a partial solution to these problems.

    Both terrorism and dictatorship arise when there is a substantial minority that is extremely dissatisfied with the results of the democratic process and see little chance for redress within that process.

    Plurality-take-all elections allow a strong faction to run the show without sufficient checks. Parliamentary systems with coalitions forming a government also disenfranchise minority factions.

    Range voting does not always satisfy the majority criterion, but I consider this a feature, vs. a bug. If a majority in a nation are racists, then majority rule can lead to very evil results. Better to have rule by a government that is a bit less pleasing to the racists while reducing the injustice to the despised minority.

    Sunni Arabs are not going to be well served by a democratic Iraq. Lebanese Christians are not well served by a truly democratic Lebanon.

    However, it is possible—though not guaranteed—that such minorities could have sufficient influence in a range-voting system to prevent the worst abuses by the majority faction. In a range voting system a successful strategy can be one of being a not bad choice for members of the majority faction while being a MUCH better choice for the minority than the favorite of the majority.

    For those who think that terrorism is a Muslim phenomenon, vs. a weakness in democracy, consider Northern Ireland.

  11. Seth Says:

    Coming from Oregon (now in the great Free State of NH), I can tell you that this internal battle’s been building for a long long time, years… and those of us who got disgusted with the Oregon LP leadership over those years, and left, well, suffice it to day, we hope the ‘critics’ win…

  12. Chris Hickman Says:

    How about ORLP’s fight for accountability from the national LP’s communications director, who aided Stephen Van Dyke in ripping off the world of $12,000+?

  13. Ron L. Boozell Says:

    I am the founder of yahoo!s largest libertarian goup

    I have been somewhat active over the years within the LPO.
    For a short time I was Secretary to the local party.
    I protested the war in IraQ, I gathered signatures for an Inititive (that did not pass)
    that would have allowed Oregonians to grow Pot in their back yards,
    and this year I am hosting another StoptheDrugWarParty.

    “I do not support the initiation of force (or fraud) to achieve social or political goals.”

    I want to assure you that the issues that the LPO are facing have been years in the making and have little to do at this point with philosophical differences or one group trying to grab power.

    A decade ago, a group of republican refugees got together and created a caucus,
    They quickly took control of the LPO and have done whatever it took to keep control.

    The leaders of the LPO have engaged in repeated fraudulent and illegal acts which includes the recent mis-handling of recent recall election.

    The Reformers within the local party simply want the Party of Principle to once again have leaders that represent the ideal, and all people who share our values, regardless of income level, or personal style.

    Anyone interested in joining this fight please contact me THIS WEEK.
    (today is January 29) SUBJECT LINE: Ron I want to vote them out

    Ron L. Boozell
    [email protected]

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