Archimedes Shrugged: The Great Libertarian Racket
by Hugh Akston (2001)
The popular satirical newspaper The Onion mocked the Libertarians in July 2000, saying the party’s national convention would be held "in an efficiency apartment just off La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles." The paper said "the convention is expected to be the largest in party history, drawing upwards of 45 Libertarians" – too many for the original site, "the Ventura Boulevard Denny's." The paper astutely poked the LP’s most sensitive point, its pathetic claim to represent the majority of Americans. The LP’s sad-sack repeat candidate Harry Browne was "quoted" by The Onion: "Feel free to take our two-minute quiz to find out if you're a Libertarian and don't even know it" – the LP’s regular pitch that has raised the party to a whopping 0.5% of the vote in national elections.
Back in the real world, many criticize the little quiz, created by David Nolan, a businessman who, as a political novice in 1971, decided to start a political party in his living room with a few of his friends over chips and dip. Writes one critic: "This libertarian quiz asks a set of leading questions to tempt you to proclaim yourself a libertarian. The big trick is that if you answer yes to each question, you are a macho SELF GOVERNOR: there is an unspoken sneer to those who would answer anything else. It is an ideological litmus test. The most obvious criticism of this quiz is that it tries to graph the range of politics onto only 2 axes, as if they were the only two that mattered, rather than the two libertarians want the most change in. For example, if socialists were to create such a test, they would use a different set of axes. The second obvious criticism is typical of polls taken to show false levels of support: the questions are worded to elicit the desired response. This is called framing bias. For example, on a socialist test, you might see a question such as ‘Do you believe people should help each other?’ Libertarians would answer ‘yes’ to this question; the problem is the ‘but’s that are filtered out by the question format. Many libertarians use this as an ‘outreach’ (read: evangelism) tool. By making it easy to get high scores on both axes, subjects can be told that they are already a libertarian and just didn't know it. This is the same sort of suckering that cold readers and other frauds use."
Fox News Channel has criticized the party for its naïve purity: "Articulating pristine purist positions is a self-indulgence only the smallest of parties with a firm ideological base can afford. They can cling to this luxury so long as they remain free of any responsibility for making or influencing policy. But Libertarians say they aspire to something more. If they do, they would have done better to pursue alternative paths to the one they have chosen… Were the LP to display the slightest sense of proportion, it might persuade more Americans to take it seriously. In time, it might even secure one of the most coveted prizes to which a third party can aspire in American politics: inclusion of its candidate in the nationally televised presidential debates. Judging from the rhetoric that flowed freely at the party's convention, recently held in Anaheim, California, there is no chance of this happening."
"Not that anyone would know from the party's rants, rages, and floor fights that Ronald Reagan had ever been president. In its 224 years of existence, the United States never had a leader more willing to use the bully pulpit to warn against the evils of big government. Reagan's tax, regulatory and economic policies spurred on the longest period of economic growth in American history. They also produced much of the wealth today's libertarians want to preserve. As its presidential candidate, the Libertarian Party nominated, as it did in 1996, financial writer Harry Browne. In a speech that was as ponderous as it was pompous, he set his sites on two longstanding libertarian targets, the war on drugs and the military establishment. In both instances, his position is closer to that of his counterpart on the left, Ralph Nader, than to his fellow conservatives."
Fox News said that "Libertarians could have nominated a presidential candidate with the reputation and standing necessary to attract sustained public and media attention. The Libertarians had their opportunity when Jesse Ventura resigned from the Reform Party. The socially liberal and fiscally conservative Minnesota Governor actually calls himself a libertarian. Moreover, he agrees with the Libertarian Party on the issue on which it is most vocal, ending the drug war. The prospect of such a visible and witty personality joining its ranks, even if he declined to run, would have elevated the party's public standing. That, though, would have required the kind of accommodation to Ventura that the Greens have made with Nader. And compromise is, as they keep reminding their listeners, not what Libertarians do."
The LP likes to claim it’s on the move, but the facts are different. The party’s chief rival for major third party, the New Alliance Party, vanished after 1992. But the Reform Party came out of nowhere, and in one election, 1996, received eight times as many votes as the LP ever did in a quarter-century of presidential campaigns. The Green Party also jumped the LP in 1996 and is on its way to contention. In 1988, the LP was "America’s Third Party," now it’s America’s Fifth. And the decline isn’t stopping. A sitting U.S. Senator briefly sought the Constitution Party’s nomination this year, and it looks like Alan Keyes might join that party’s ticket. Even the Natural Law Party’s Jon Hagelin is getting more press than Browne this year!
The party boasts "over 270 Libertarians serving in elected office." But who are they? There’s a "Weigher of Coal" in Vermont, and a "Viewer of Fences" in that same state. There are the Michigan city council members the party highlighted at its convention as the LP’s national leaders. And there’s a homophobic dairy farmer who got elected to the Vermont state legislature on the LP line, and then had to be begged by national party officials not to quit the party when some Libertarians criticized his pro-hate crusade against gay rights.
A fair number of Libertarians are just plain goofy, like the one who claimed Browne could win by attacking the new Sacajawea gold dollar coin. And of course there’s the LP’s principled defense of the American people against the evil Census bureau, which dares to try to reapportion congressional districts!
Nuttiness abounds. Some Libertarians launched something called The Minerva Project some years ago, in which a band of survivalists, armed with guns, tried to forcibly occupy an island in the nation of Tonga. Others tried to stage a coup in Suriname. Some want to build a wooden artificial "floating free country." And there’s even one Libertarian pushing a website called Secession Net, where she says: "At least 5,000 ethnic, linguistic and racial groups are lumped together into only 189 nation states. A large portion of the world’s people would choose to secede from their respective nation states if given the opportunity" – which is what she wants them to do. Every man his own nation!
Some Libertarians are out-and-out felons. Libertarian Party members Gary and Karen Fincher travel the country signing up new Libertarians, and are amply paid for it by LP members. But this year, the Finchers were arrested in New Mexico – where Gary once assaulted a police officer on duty – when they lied to voters during a ballot drive and registered them as Libertarians without their permission.
The party has a hard time finding real candidates. The party’s political director hyped "celebrities" who would appear at the national convention; they ultimately included washed-up 1970’s folk singer Melanie Safka and the ousted chair of the Reform Party, Jack Gargan. As for late talk of a last-minute surprise celebrity presidential candidate… didn’t happen.
Even Libertarian leaders don’t think much of Libertarian candidates. William Winter was fond of calling the party’s 1998 California gubernatorial candidate Stephen Kubby "that idiot" and has repeatedly referred to Barry Hess, a candidate for the party’s 2000 presidential nomination who is now running for U.S. Senate, as "a moron." He also expressed joy when presidential candidate Lawrence Hines quit the LP, saying he "just didn’t like" the homosexual Hines. In fact, anti-gay language is not unheard of at the LP’s headquarters, especially from Winter and the party’s press agent. George Goetz. National party staffers have also been guilty of racial prejudices, too, judging from the fact that the only two minorities employed by the national office are a data entry clerk and a receptionist, who has not been promoted despite years of service. These two women are never included in any discussions of party matters – even when these meetings include interns. They are treated with condescension and smug contempt.
"The party's ideal society could exist only in the realm of theory," wrote Boston Herald columnist Donald Feder in April. Feder – a former Libertarian Party bigwig himself! – called the LP and Browne "loony," saying Libertarian dogma claims "the Nazis posed no direct threat to us. Impractical? Delusional? Let's just say that if there were Libertarians in the Third Reich, they would have probably been drawing up plans to privatize the autobahns when the Gestapo arrived to take them away." Dean Chambers, a Republican political scientist who quit the LP in disgust, says the "well-intentioned" Libertarians are "so hopelessly clueless on political strategy that they are their own worst enemies."
The party which hates regulations loves making them for itself. Everything has its rule. Candidates need to be nominated by a certain number of people, get signatures from a certain number, and overcome all sorts of barriers thrown up by entrenched power. The humorless Libertarians don’t even see the irony in this! Presidential candidate Barry Hess publicly offered Harry Browne an alliance deal after Browne won the nomination, saying they should work together in 2004 to make a rule preventing candidates from entering the race at the convention. It’s another attempt to close out activists and protect party leaders through the very same sort of regulations Libertarians say they hate.
Despite what they say, Libertarians are willing to support government coercion to meet their own needs. One party activist complained to me one day about noise outside his apartment at 6:15 in the morning and said since the law prohibits noise before 7:00, he called the police. Another Libertarian bragged of his efforts to get a 25 mile per hour speed limit posted and enforced in his neighborhood.
Like other political parties, the Libertarians attack their enemies personally. In a typically broad statement, on June 7, in a press release about censorship, Steven Dasbach derided several senators as "sleazy politicians." Among them: John McCain, who spent six years being tortured, and Joseph I. Leiberman, widely considered the very most moral and decent person in the U.S. Senate. Criticize their policies? Sure, that’s fine. But LP leaders always go beyond that, attacking politicians as human persons. That’s because they know their arguments so often ring false and that no one is listening. Only cheap shots can get a neophyte like the chemistry teacher Dasbach heard on the plane of real politicians. These attacks don’t stop at political leaders, though. In a June essay, William Winter called a group of Americans "evil." He said that the Million Mom Marchers were "the 125,000 faces of evil" because of their beliefs. These women, protesting gun laws because of school violence and their desire to protect their children, are "evil" in the minds of the Libertarian Party. Again, Winter couldn’t be bothered to actually treat them with respect and argue against their incorrect position fairly and rationally. He decided to attack them. To Libertarians, a soldier in the Hanoi Hilton is "sleazy," and a mother whose 15-year-old child got shot in the head in the school cafeteria is "evil."
This sort of hatred and contempt for anyone on the outside is the hallmark of the LP. It goes back to 1983, when a group of radicals overthrew the broad-based diverse leadership of the growing party and turned it into the impotent but tightly knit cult it is today. Following the LP’s quasi-success in 1980, the party was set to nominate radio host Gene Burns for president in 1984. Party leaders misled Burns into thinking they had laid a broad-based organization that might take 5% of the vote against Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale. When Burns found out he’d been duped, he quit the race. Edward Crane and David Boaz, now noted heads of the Cato Institute, persuaded foreign policy expert Earl C. Ravenal, an author and fairly well-known lecturer, to become the LP candidate. But LP radicals balked at the idea of nominating a Georgetown University scholar, and instead voted in Dave Bergland, an unknown California lawyer from the party’s extremist faction. The moderates stormed out of the convention, which then nominated a convicted felon-turned-salesman, Jim Lewis, for vice president. The Bergland-Lewis ticket couldn’t break a quarter-million votes, and barely outpolled perennial fringe candidate Lyndon Hermyle LaRouche.
After a disappointing showing in 1988, with the walkout of moderates continuing, a small group of profiteers seized control and still runs the party today. One of the secret powers in the Libertarian Party is Michael Emmerling, who mysteriously changed his name to Michael Emmerling Cloud and later Michael Cloud. Cloud was the campaign guru for Andre Marrou, the party’s disasterous 1992 presidential candidate who was revealed as a deadbeat dad during that campaign. Cloud quit the campaign in disgrace when $hold_dollar93,000 out of ,000 he raised in a ballot access drive was unaccounted for. Many Libertarians believe Cloud pocketed the cash, writing it off as "expenses." The ,000 Cloud did turn over to Marrou only bought the LP 291,000 votes – the party’s second-worst showing in two decades.
Marrou’s running mate, Nancy Lord, could not break the 1,000 vote mark in her 1990 run for mayor of Washington, D.C. Lord made her name as a defendant in medical toxicity cases, and in a quixotic crusade against the Food and Drug Administration and against the makers of the mental health drug Prozac. After her vice presidential bid, she moved to rural Nevada where she holed up to write a right-wing online newsletter. She recently married J.J. Johnson, head of an armed extremist militia group. Johnson is now an LP candidate for U.S. Senate.
Carla Howell is another creature of the Browne cabal. A mid-level executive from Massachusetts, Michael Emmerling has convinced Libertarians that Howell can beat Sen. Edward Kennedy this year. For months, the Howell campaign has bragged it would be Kennedy’s only rival, get the endorsement of Massachusetts Republican leaders, and take at least 33% of the vote. Now, Kennedy has a GOP foe on the ballot, and the media isn’t even mentioning Howell anymore. She won’t break 5%. But that’s not what it’s about – it’s about the national fundraising machine "Cloud" has set up for Howell, which nets him over ,000 a year. And why is Howell Cloud’s latest pawn? She’s his girlfriend.
But Emmerling really hit pay dirt in 1995, when he hooked up with an aging con man called Harry – never Harold – Browne. Browne, who dropped out of college after two weeks and has never held a real job, makes his money offering legally questionable investing tips. The flim-flam man Browne has written many silly books, including "Fail-Safe Investing : Lifelong Financial Safety in 30 Minutes," "The Economic Time Bomb : How You Can Profit from the Emerging Crises," "Harry Browne's Complete Guide to Swiss Banks," "How You Can Profit From the Coming Devaluation," "Inflation-Proofing Your Investments," and "New Profits from the Monetary Crisis." Not surprisingly, most of these dubious tomes are out of print – despite Browne’s emergence as a "serious and viable" contender for the presidency!
For years, Browne advised friends against getting involved in the LP, which he considered a foolish and pointless organization. In fact, Browne is on record as saying voting is for losers. He never voted for a Libertarian presidential candidate other than himself, and wrote in 1973 that voting is pointless. "I have no temptation to vote, to campaign, to try and stop a candidate who promises new follies," he said. But the prospect of a long-term moneymaking opportunity masquerading as a presidential campaign brought Browne into politics.
Perry Willis, a bearded, ill-kempt activist with no political expertise, was bought by the Browne campaign in 1995. Willis, then receiving ,000 per year for serving as National Director of the tiny LP, started taking payoffs from Browne to support his campaign from within the LP leadership offices – despite the fact that three other candidates were seeking the LP presidential nomination, including Rick Tompkins, whose decades of LP activism far eclipsed that of the newcomer Browne.
"It would be difficult to imagine a clearer conflict of interest and a more improper payment," says Jacob Hornberger. "As a salaried official of the Libertarian Party, Willis owed a fiduciary duty of loyalty to the party and to the members of the party. By accepting money on the side to advance Browne's personal campaign interests and by helping Browne to defeat his two opponents for the LP presidential nomination, Willis violated and compromised the fiduciary duty that he owed to the Libertarian Party as LP national director." It set up a weird situation where Tompkins, an LP member, was paying dues that went to a Browne operative!
Willis was widely considered inept as National Director despite his ,000 salary, with longtime confidante William Winter saying "organization is not his strong suit." This despite the fact that Willis was being paid to organize a political party! LP activists knew that, by 1996, Willis was the front man, running Browne’s inside campaign for the LP nomination, while Winter was actually running the day-to-day operations of the party, as he still does today under the figurehead rule of Stephen Dasbach.
Dasbach fancies himself a national political leader, but is a joke among the D.C. media that knows he exists. A portly, balding high school chemistry teacher from Indiana, Dasbach’s idea of business attire is a ragged short-sleeved dress shirt worn with a rayon tie. Rarely bothering to shave, he looks more like a bum than a counterpart to Joe Andrew and Jim Nicholson. And yet he whines that the LP never gets to go on Crossfire!
The Browne cabal has a history of payoff to party bigshots, including the spouses and romantic partners of LP insiders. In 1996, Willis’s girlfriend was on the Browne payroll, and his latest squeeze, Stephanie Yanik, has been employed by the Browne apparatus since 1997. While Yanik has a history as a devoted party activist, she had little background in the design field, but still became the Browne campaign’s chief designer. She created direct mail materials with unattractive and illogical designs, which William Winter has criticized as amateurish and ugly. Browne’s 1996 campaign manager, Sharon Ayers, received over ,000 from Browne. She was on the Libertarian National Committee at the time, and is married to party chief Dave Bergland.
But in addition to collecting money, the Browne campaign had to at least pretend to be running for president. Browne’s entire Libertarian career has consisted of empty promises. In 1995, he said he could be elected president in 1996, and seemed to believe it. His plan was to go up to New Hampshire, enter the Republican primary, and win "7% to 10%" of the vote. If he’d done so, he would have surpassed Sen. Richard Lugar, Sen. Phil Gramm, Rep. Robert K. Dornan, Alan Keyes, and Morry Taylor. It would have won him a lot of publicity and "make ourselves the Third Candidate for President," he wrote at the time. He promised to spend ,000 in New Hampshire and blanket the state with Browne bumper stickers and signs. His New Hampshire "win" would start a groundswell, a la Ross Perot in spring 1992, that would let him raise ,000,000 and beat Clinton, Dole, and Perot in November. It never happened. In fact, Browne didn’t even campaign in New Hampshire.
Browne floated a few other trial balloons. He said he’d campaign in the national CityVote nonbinding primary. He didn’t. He said his national book tour would get him on every major talk show. It didn’t. He said he’d recruit business leaders and Silicon Valley billionaires to his campaign. None signed up. He said he’d make a "powerful and professional National TV ad." It didn’t happen.
Not only did Browne not want to bother campaigning, he wouldn’t let anyone else campaign for him, either, even after he was nominated. His vice presidential running mate, self-made computer executive Josephine Jorgensen, wanted to travel the nation and speak. Browne wouldn’t let her. He refused to campaign with her. In fact, her only role was a brief appearance in a television ad that aired once. Many Libertarians had hoped Jorgensen would run for president in 2000; in its 29 years, the LP has only run older white males for president. But Jorgensen was so fed up that she basically vanished from the LP, and hasn’t even publicly endorsed Browne this year.
Pennsylvania Libertarians wanted to help Browne in 1996. Working with Browne’s Washington campaign headquarters, LP activist Ken Sturzenacker arranged a Keystone State campaign tour for Browne. Finally, the national campaign agreed to send Browne to Pennsylvania for Labor Day weekend. The tour would have hit Pittsburgh, Johnstown, York, Lancaster, Scranton, Wilkes–Barre, Allentown, Bethlehem, and Philadelphia. A fundraiser had already secured ,000 in early donations if Browne appeared. Campus speeches were scheduled, as were radio and television appearances. Even a Philadelphia motorcade was arranged. Everything was set. Then, less than two weeks before Labor Day, a Browne flack called Sturzenacker and told him, "Harry doesn’t do that sort of stuff." Browne didn’t show. At the 2000 convention, Pennsylvania overwhelmingly voted against Browne.
Just before Election Day 1996, Browne press spokespersons still claimed their man would take 5% of the vote, despite the fact that he never polled over 1.1% in any national poll. On the day before the election, LP founder David Nolan tried to lower expectations, saying 700,000 votes, or 0.7%, would be an achievement. He should have lowered them further.
In 1996, Browne outspent Ralph Nader by over 200 to one, but Nader still finished above Browne on Election Day. The Browne ’96 campaign spent ,073,600. Nader spent less than ,000. But Browne, Willis, and Emmerling won – they made over a million bucks! And they never stopped running. But there was some business to take care of first.
The "party of principle" devoted itself so much to Browne that it purged his rivals. After the 1996 convention, the national LP actually disaffiliated the Arizona Libertarian Party because it supported Browne rival Rick Tompkins. Those states that supported Browne’s opponent Donald Gorman this year had better look out!
The LP likes to purge anyone who doesn’t toe the line. Despite the party’s claims of openness and respect for free speech, several delegates to the national convention this year tried to get presidential candidate David Lynne Hollist thrown off the ballot even after he was formally nominated. Why? Because Hollist’s nominating speaker said some things they didn’t like! Because Hollist’s speaker criticized the LP in his speech, these delegates tried to prevent Hollist from running for president.
The purges are directly tied into Browne’s takeover of the party, especially its media apparatus. After the 1996 election, LP News, which was then run outside of the LP headquarters by an impartial volunteer, ran a lengthy and intriguing ongoing debate between Browne and Hornberger about the direction of the party. As the party’s two frontrunners for 2000, the series was illuminating and helpful. But when Browne started to fall behind Hornberger in the minds of the readers, he got Dasbach and Bergland to muscle in. For the first time in party history, LP News was taken out of the hands of volunteers and given to a paid employee to edit – Browne lackey William Winter. Since Winter, who was paid by Browne in 1996, wrested control of the paper’s central information outlet, he has refused to print any articles critical of the 1996 Browne campaign or critical of Project Archimedes. Says Hornberger, "If Bill Winter did in fact accept money from Harry Browne on the side, and the uncontroverted evidence suggests he did, in my opinion, all of his subsequent editorial decisions in LP News relating directly or indirectly to Harry Browne are tainted with, at the very least, the appearance of severe impropriety."
"Why is it important whether or not Winter permitted himself to take money on the side while he was a salaried official of the Libertarian Party?" asked Hornberger. "Don't we libertarians believe in people making money? Of course, but again, the ethical issue is not whether people should make more money but how they make the money. Like Willis and Ayres, Winter had a fiduciary duty of loyalty to the party and to the members of the party generally. If he did in fact accept money from Browne on the side while he was a salaried LP official and actually helped Browne to defeat Tompkins and Schiff, he violated the fiduciary duty that he owed to the party. Moreover, the ethical issue is especially important with respect to Winter because he ultimately assumed the position of editor of LP News, the official newspaper of the Libertarian Party. I think everyone can understand the vital importance of a newspaper editor's maintaining his independence and not compromising his editorial integrity. Otherwise, there is not only the threat of improper decisions but, equally important, the appearance of improper decisions."
Still today, William Winter refuses to say if he took money from Browne in 1996, even though other Browne insiders say he received about ,000, and even though Perry Willis has admitted it. The two men developed a campaign plan that Browne presented to some of his investment plan pigeons. The money was funneled to Willis and Winter through Sharon Ayers, the Browne flunkie who made over ,000 off the 1996 campaign, who served on the LP national committee while it was investigating Browne’s own corruption, and who is married to Dave Bergland, who led the LP from 1998-2000, while the party was again happily going into Browne’s pocket. Bergland’s campaign for chair was headed by Browne, the man who paid off Ayers.
Peter Orveti, who was an editor of The Hotline and worked at the Cato Institute, worked as a consultant for the LP and wrote some articles for LP News. These were generally much better than the usual stuff that appeared in the paper, much more journalistic than the standard stuff written by Winter. But Winter didn’t like the way Orveti wrote, and got rid of this actual journalist. Instead of having a professional writer doing LP News, it’s now written as it has been since 1994 by a graphic designer with no past journalistic experience, William Winter. And it shows. While LP News is a good-looking paper, the stories are pretty abysmal. But Winter was so insistent on doing it his way that he forced out an actual talented writer and editor. Orveti has since left the LP entirely, fed up.
Winter’s arrogance has negatively impacted the party’s press relations. He refused to let a Liberty magazine reporter cover the LP national convention because he didn’t like Liberty’s coverage of the LP. But hardly any other news organizations were interested in the event, and so Winter cost the party much-needed coverage. What didn’t he like? Liberty magazine took Browne to task before this year’s convention. R.W. Bradford, the editor, published a 16-page investigation of the Browne/Bergland/Willis/Winter corruption cabal. Liberty concluded that most of the charges were true, and that Browne and Bergland had lied repeatedly in response. Winter didn’t want to face the facts, and locked Bradford out.
The party even purged one of its most devoted activists, Gene Ciesewsky. Ciesewsky, who set up the nation’s first and most successful LP political action committee, was hired to serve as national director. But unlike Dasbach, he didn’t just fall in behind the puppeteers of Willis and Winter, who have secretly run the LP together since 1993. Because of his independence, they got Ciesewsky fired – by Dasbach, then national chair -- just months after he had moved to Washington, D.C., to take the job! Ciesewsky then ran for LP national chair in 1998, losing to Bergland. Bergland hired his buddy Dasbach to serve as national director, and got the national LP to sue Ciesewsky for "improper use of the party's mailing list" – a lawsuit that cost the LP over ,000 just before a presidential election year began.
Dasbach has publicly admitted that the national office was the scene of corruption in 1996. "It is not a rumor that at least one member of the national staff took money from a presidential candidate during the last election," he said. "It is fact, fully disclosed to both the members of the LNC and the delegates to the 1996 convention. It was specifically discussed during the August 1995 LNC meeting -- the discussion and relevant votes are documented on pages 7-9 of the minutes. The topic was also discussed at the December 1995 LNC meeting and is documented on pages 23-25 of the minutes."
Jacob Hornberger summarized it well: "Dasbach was the LP national chairman when Browne paid money to Perry Willis while Willis was serving as LP national director and while Browne was vying for the 1996 LP presidential nomination against fellow Libertarians Rick Tompkins and Irwin Schiff. And Willis abandoned his fiduciary duty to remain fair and impartial between the three presidential candidates and instead became an active partisan for Harry Browne, the candidate who had paid him the money on the side, helping him to defeat his fellow Libertarians for the LP presidential nomination. Dasbach was also LP national chairman when Browne paid money to LP staff member and current editor of LP News, Bill Winter, during the same period of time. And Winter also abandoned his fiduciary duty to remain fair and impartial and instead became a partisan of Browne, helping him to defeat his fellow Libertarians Tompkins and Schiff. Dasbach was also LP national chairman when Browne paid more than ,000 to David Bergland's wife, Sharon Ayres, while she was serving on the LP National Committee. (Bergland and Ayres have also never provided documentary proof, including a W-2 or a 1099, of Browne's claim that the money he paid Ayres included reimbursed expenses.) Like Willis and Winter, Ayres violated her fiduciary duty to remain fair and impartial between the three presidential candidates and instead became an active partisan for Harry Browne, the candidate who was paying her the money, helping Browne to defeat his (and her) fellow Libertarians for the LP presidential nomination."
"Why have so many good people left the party in droves?" asks Hornberger. "Why are registered Libertarians voting for Democrat and Republican and non-Libertarian third-party presidential candidates instead of Libertarian presidential candidates? Indeed, why did the Libertarian Party's 1988 presidential nominee, Ron Paul, choose to run a successful race for Congress under the banner of the Republican Party rather than the Libertarian Party? Or why Virginia Postrel, editor at large at Reason magazine, avoids the term ‘libertarian’ because people might connect her to the ‘fringe Libertarian Party.’"
As the party gets taken less and less seriously, it gets easier for Browne and Company to make money. It’s all a moneymaking racket. Browne has learned well from the brilliant and amoral political con artist Lenora Fulani, who built a fortune as the cultlike head of the New Alliance Party from the 1980s through 1994. Browne, too, sees how much money there is in being the permanent head of a fringe party. He and Willis can keep raking in the bucks from poor saps who they convince will soon have "liberty." The revolution’s just around the corner! There’s a groundswell! Harry Browne’s on a roll! And the money pours in. Hornberger notes that "already there are rumblings (and grumblings) that after the November election, Browne intends to reactivate his presidential exploratory committee (for 2004) and begin another 4-year cycle of campaign fundraising (without disclosure as to how the money is spent). There is also talk by LP National Director Steve Dasbach of Archimedes II, with new fundraising drives and new rosy direct-mail membership goals."
Archimedes. There’s that word. The linchpin of all that has been done to turn the LP from an idealistic effort to grow a third party into a personal moneymaking racket run by a few shady characters.
In February 1997, Browne said he wouldn’t run for president again unless the LP had 200,000 members by 2000. Immediately, Browne’s henchman Perry Willis, whom Browne had bribed and paid off while Willis worked as an "impartial" national director of the LP, went to work recruiting 200,000 members on the LP’s dime. By 1998, Willis had left the LP’s formal employ to work for Browne. But Dasbach put Willis on the payroll of the "impartial" party anyway, to develop Project Archimedes – a project specifically devoted to getting 200,000 LP members so Browne would run again! Despite the fact that several other presidential candidates were in the race in 1998, including Jim Burns, J.R. Herbaugh, Jacob Hornberger, Lawrence Hines, David Lynne Hollist, and Kip Lee, the party’s national director knowingly hired a Browne staffer to run a pro-Browne project out of the impartial party’s national office using party funds to pay for it – funds contributed by some of Browne’s very opponents! During this time, Dasbach authorized the LP to pay ,032.86 to Willis and Yanik through Willis’s front company, Optopia. (In fact, by his own admission, Willis has made ,882.71 on the Browne 2000 campaign via Optopia. That’s a quarter of the campaign’s total fundraising! It’s like Karl Rove earning ,000,000 for running the Bush campaign.)
Perry Willis and Dave Bergland decided to grow the LP through the dubious pyramid scheme of Archimedes. The plan, really nothing more than standard direct–mail fundraising, called for sending out tens of thousands of letters to various sorts of conservatives who had no interest in the LP that could be proven. When a few "billionaires" got the form letter in their mail, Willis and Bergland reasoned, they would contribute millions of dollars to the LP, bringing in more members and electing President Browne in 2000. Bergland wanted to "build a Libertarian Party Too Big to Ignore," he said in a letter to delegates during his 1998 campaign for Libertarian national chairman. Bergland vowed that there would be 50,000 paying members of the LP by July 4, 1999, and 100,000 by July 4, 2000. Today, there are about 32,000.
"The national Libertarian Party has suffered what might be its worst debacle in the party’s 28-year history," wrote Jacob Hornberger. "Project Archimedes, the four-year direct-mail campaign to bring party membership to 200,000 members by the year 2000 has fallen 170,000 members short of its goal. An estimated ,000,000 of donor money spent on the campaign has gone down the drain. Project Archimedes, however, is not simply a well-intentioned project gone awry. Its failure is rooted in unethical interlocking relationships, conflicts of interest, and improper payments to LP staff members, LP National Committee members, and ‘independent consultants’ to the LP national office. The debacle is also rooted in the five-year marriage between Harry Browne and the national office of the Libertarian Party."
Between 1997 and the spring of 2000, the Browne campaign paid Emmerling ,947.05, even though he was not formally affiliated with the campaign and was working with Winter and Dasbach on a regular basis. Longtime Willis friend Jack Dean was paid ,072.58 for various services. Browne’s old friend Jack Williams was paid ,550.40. According to the Browne campaign, Williams’s job was to answer e-mail messages for Browne. Browne paid himself ,209.78 via his publishing house for his own books. Willis paid himself and his girlfriend Yanik over ,000 via their own company.
This all shows up in the scattershot nature of the Browne 2000 campaign. In August 1999, Browne promised to start appearing in national polls in Spring 2000 "to make the commercial TV networks feel they should cover some part of the LP convention." It didn’t happen. "We hope thereafter, with the party's help, to step up the advertising and build the pressure to get into the debates in October." That won’t happen.
Browne promised his campaign kickoff would include a press conference before members of the national political media on February 15, 2000. "Our national TV advertising will begin at the same time," he said. "We'll use both paid advertising and free media as a one-two punch to start the campaign with a bang. By creating our own visibility through TV advertising, we can impress those who should be supporting us, get the attention of the press, and persuade many voters that their votes will count for more with us than with those with whom they don't really agree."
In December 1999, he vowed to redesign his atrocious campaign website in January 2000. The new site, barely better, debuted six weeks late. Browne promised an impressive nationwide campaign announcement in February. It ultimately consisted of a little-seen interview on C-SPAN, and no national campaign tour at all. The campaign promised to have its "professional" infomercial on the air in February. The video, produced by Kristin Overn, whose only experience was as a location manager on a film called Purple Haze in 1982, came out in April. It has appeared on shopping networks in second-tier U.S. cities and has generated a whopping16,000 information requests. For some reason, it stars the host of Lifetime Television’s now-canceled Supermarket Sweep game show – an A-list political commentator indeed!
Says LP dissident Michael Sensor, "the Browne campaign is not a real campaign. It is a shallow, hollow joke of a campaign. It is a joke of a campaign which is comically out of touch with the American people. But it is also a joke of a campaign which is damaging the Libertarian Party: damage which may ultimately destroy the party as we know it. It is alienating the party from its supporters and the public at large, and is driving talented, dedicated activists away, some permanently. Members of the Libertarian Party should no longer tolerate the puffery, ego-inflation, and cozy interlocking relationships which pervade not only the Libertarian National Committee but also its subsidiary, the Harry Browne for President Campaign. They should not tolerate leaders and candidates who promise and distort and stretch and wiggle, but consistently fail to deliver the goods."
And unlike the Gore and Bush campaigns, which will come to your house and post a lawn sign themselves if you want one, if you want to help Browne you have to pay for it. A lawn sign costs .95. A plastic one is .95. Plus shipping, of course. (From most printers, such signs cost a dollar or two at most.)
In the March 7, 2000, California blanket presidential primary, only 7,961 Libertarians cast their votes for Browne, while Republican candidates netted 15,790 Libertarian votes and Democrats received 6,236. In fact, John McCain handily beat Browne among Libertarians, receiving 9,242 Libertarian votes. In the entire state of California on March 7, Browne could rustle up just 8,188 votes. More registered Libertarians voted for Republican John McCain (9,522) than they voted for fellow Libertarian Harry Browne (8,188). Moreover, George W. Bush and Al Gore combined received more votes from Libertarians (9,008) than Browne did (8,188) and almost as many votes as all Libertarian presidential candidates combined (11,649). Perhaps most significant, among registered Libertarians non-Libertarian presidential candidates garnered twice the number of Libertarian votes than Libertarian presidential candidates: 24,359 to 11,469.
After he declared his candidacy for 2000, Browne was legally required to report his expenditures to the Federal Elections Commission. But he didn’t want to; since 1997, donors had sent in over ,000,000, which was all gone. There were no TV ads, no Browne media presence, no national volunteer network, nothing. The money had gone to Willis, Winter, Dasbach, Bergland, and Company. So Browne tried to evade the law, calling his illegal refusal to disclose documents an act of political courage. Finally he gave in, and admitted that the ,200,000 had all gone to his friends.
Browne still insists a Libertarian will be elected president in 2004. More realistically, Carla Howell has said Browne may finally be the Libertarian to break 1,000,000 votes this year. Recent Zogby polls have put Browne between 0.8% and 1.7% -- or 800,000 to 1,700,000 votes. But that’s not victory. Even Ralph Nader and Patrick Buchanan refuse to acknowledge that Browne is in the race, though both have mentioned Natural Law candidate Jon Hagelin in their campaigns.
"Ever wonder what politicians see when they think of the Libertarian Party?" Browne asked in yet another Cloud/Willis fundraising letter. "An F–5 hurricane with a 30–foot wave surge," was the answer. He’s very wrong. Half the politicians think of the LP as the stupid punchline to a not-very-funny joke. The other half have never heard of it.