Exits, Transitions, and Making NY Free Again

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So why the year and a half break in posting, as those who paid enough attention to my scribblings to care, might also care to ask? Well, as most non-bloggers know, life can be, or become too busy to keep up a journal or collect one’s thoughts (which is probably why they don’t run a blog). Suffice to say, there were a few other preoccupations that became more pressing, even, than politics for me, and a few political objectives that were deemed more pressing than, or warranting a break from this blog, to wit:

Plans and Projects

Among the politically-related activities happening in the interim was my further exploration of the concepts explained in last year’s “growth hacking liberty” article, to find or confirm opportunities existed that matched what was then described. There will be subsequent posts on certain upcoming real world ways to implement getting more Libertarians elected, or achieving victories for liberty. Those current examples involve 2020 to a great degree, and will be discussed in much greater detail presently on this blog. I have also been working on setting up a sister blog (devoted specifically to Christian libertarian, or other cultural and philosophical subjects), and plan to go active with it by the start of the new year. I have also become more fascinated by certain Presidential candidates coming up to represent the Libertarian or voluntaryist way in 2020, from Adam Kokesh to Nic Leobold. More on these campaigns are definitely coming up.

Circumstances have also changed in my own local group (discussed further down) that is moving me into taking a position leading the launch of a NYC-based Libertarian Political Action Committee in 2020 to assist liberty causes and candidates in the new decade. This project will encompass traditional as well as innovative fundraising efforts if successful, and in improving the organization of efforts to curb or reverse the trend towards ongoing gun control, eminent domain abuse, and producing more criminal justice reform or other libertarian goals in the city and state. More details on this project will be explored as the different components of this drive develop.

Many, Many Political Turns

There of course have been many, many crazy, or significant events (or both) dropping since summer 2018, representing a number of changes in the local, national and world landscape. In my neck of the woods, the biggest liberty event by far has been the ballot access victory of the Libertarian Party of New York (or LPNY, the state affilliate of the national LP) achieved by the performance of LP candidate Larry Sharpe in the 2018 race for Govenor. His 96,000 votes or roughly 2% showing in the race gained permanent ballot status for LPNY, allowing the LP to get an officially recognized line on the ballot for every election from 2020 going forward (so long as the party has a similar 1% plus vote total in future gubernatorial elections). This, in theory, should result in an explosion of new enrollments of registered Libertarians in the state, and more candidates (who can now be more easily fielded) to represent the party up and down the ballot.

Nationally, my prediction that the Democrats would face ‘doomsday’ in the midterm elections turned out to be premature, as they attained majority control of the U.S. House in Congress. The Dems’ deathknell was postponed largely due to the phenomenon of rampant election fraud and manipulation across the nation. This was especially true in California, where in every close race where the Democratic candidate lost as of election night, “vote harvested” absentee votes appeared to magically flip traditionally GOP seats Democrat after a few days (or weeks) of extra counting. In Florida the the rigging was so obvious that even mainstream pols like Senator Rubio and state Attorney General Bondi called it out as it was happening, thereby saving the elections of a new Republican Governor and Senator from being stolen.

Despite promising up and down that the Democratic take control of the House would not be used to clog up the legislative calendar with a non-stop “get Trump” impeachment campaign, the Pelosi-led forces (guided by the deep state-controlled intelligence community) has bombarded the schedule with such investigations, with the apparent intent of aggravating or harassing him out of office. The campaign has already crashed and burned with the Mueller Russia-gate investigation coming up snake eyes, and they are currently crashing and burning on Ukriane-gate, another CIA-fanned scandal based on a phantom “whistleblower” floating a phantom bribery/Quid Pro Quo charge against the President. My next post will be going into this craziness in detail. My updated pronouncement is Dem doomsday will result in November 2020, as a result of going down this insane path.

The broader populist revolt against swamp or deep state procedural tyranny has continued, but has in many places run into an “Empire Strikes Back” counterattack, be it the impeach-mania circus in the US, or the maniacal manueveuring going on in the UK and EU to block the implementation of Brexit. The swamp MPs have now played their true hand, and shown they just want more extensions so as to completely prevent ever leaving the EU. The new sort-of pro-Brexit Prime Minister Boris Johnson can use that to get a clean Brexit, or the watered down, rehashed May deal he offered to the EU in October. In the US as in UK, it still comes down to the bottom line of establishment resistance, over which the populist parallel is exact:

-US Democrats still do not respect the results of the 2016 election.
-Remainer MPs still do not respect the results of the 2016 election.

Until the immediate dynamic changes, there will be a problem in attaining a true exit from tyranny, the ongoing demeaning of “the deplorables,” relief from the censorhip of alternatives on social media, or true transition to something that better serves a free people. But the promise of those exits and transitions is now before us, more tangible than ever before, thus should give all of us hope.

The Passing of Stevens, and the Queens Libertarians

And locally, my situation and location (Queens, NY) has been affected by the recent loss of Dr. Robert Thomas Stevens, an attorney and leading figure in LP politics in the borough and region for over a decade. Dr. Stevens was truly the ‘Ironman’ of the “Queens Libertarians” (QL) organization (previously the LP of Queens County or LPQC, a chapter of LPNY). He served over the years in turns as its Chair, Membership Secretary, state rep, and main program scheduler, as part of the successful Libertarian education speaking program QL has run through its 25 year straight history of monthly meetings. Stevens also served as Chair of the Pennsylvania Libertarian Party, as a local GOP leader, and as a Presidential candidate of the Objectivist Party. According to his sister Joanne, My dear brother and I were together the night before in the hospital and he looked very well and was happy He was talkative and optimistic.

“I have a beautiful snapshot in my mind of his smile as I waved goodbye unbeknownst that this would be the last time we would say we love each other on this Earth. Tom loved life and people and knowledge. He was so smart. He lived a spirited and enthusiastic life and he truly cared about people. Tom had a great sense of humor and touched so very many lives in such a positive way.” 

As a result of his passing QL has decided to put me back in charge (as I was a past county chair, and Stevens previously announced he was retiring from activity at the end of the year, in part due to health issues). QL will seek to find out if we can re-orient the group into a fundraising organization or PAC, in addition to spearheading a number of area pro-liberty causes and alliances. We feel we have a role in acting as a hub of libertarian activism at this time, in light of the lack of such an emphasis among the chartered LP chapters in the metro area (who are involved in much administrative minutia transforming the LPNY into a permanent party structure as per the state election law). Given the enormous size of the metro area, where the Queens population alone (over 2 million-plus people) would make it a top 10 city in the US if counted as separate from NYC, there is clearly enough room for more than one active libertarian organization per county. To make New York free again, we need more decentralized activist groups, not less, to handle liberty outreach and projects for such an enormous region.

Well, at least Stevens understood that, as did I, and many long time members and friends of LPQC or the Queens Libertarians. But because this independent sensibility (and some local personalities) conflicted with other mentalities within the state LP, the reputation of the Queens group was savaged over the years. The party is a potato chip compared to other entities, but certain self-declared guardians thought it best to demean, isolate, and eventually de-charter this group, to maintain its absolute control over the potato chip. I have avoided going into this internal matter on my blog for years, but will review the history of the controversy on this one occasion, as itemized below:

The 90s-2006 Era

Many activists in the Libertarian Party of New York (LPNY) who extend back to the 1990s in their involvement with the party have been comfortable with the original ‘hub’ form of organizing. The party centered its activity around the meetings held in Manhattan (under a combined 5 borough NYC Libertarian chapter), Long island, and Capitol District regions, with limited stable party presence anywhere else. After the NYC Chapter disbanded over severe divisions about endorsing Howard Stern for Governor in 1994, individual boroughs in NYC were encouraged to organize as local LP chapters under LPNY. The LP of Queens County, founded by Queens real estate broker John Procida in late 1994, was the first county level chapter to do so in NYC, and was its most successful local chapter through the mid 2000s. Even after local affiliates were established for other boroughs, LPQC maintained parity status with Manhattan LP as the most active chapters in the city for the next ten years, at times having the most members, and running more candidates for office during this period than Brooklyn and Staten Island combined.

As the party considered different means of evolving to grow the Libertarian movement in NY during that time, vigorous debate emerged over scaling up the party’s operations and organizing practices. Among the most vocal about proceeding in that direction were LPQC members Dr. Tom Stevens, who suggested increased professionalism and more alliances with liberty-friendly persons in and out of the LP, and Sam Sloan, who preferred litigation as a means for addressing wrongs. It was suggested that the state party should expand its operations beyond organizing a convention and a petition drive each campaign year, and perhaps pursue forming more ‘hubs’ for activity than the Manhattan, LI and Albany centric approach, where the local population could support it.

LPQC was the primary group advocating for more expansion, and for supporting the autonomy of local chapters to develop or try out effective methods to achieve the same. Old line members (who wanted the more tightly controlled ‘hub’ layout to continue) were resistant to this, and to the approach or “look” of activists like Stevens or Sloan, who were seen at times as too combative. Following Stevens becoming a more dominant figure circa 2005, and with dissatisfaction with the early turnout for a LPQC convention in early 2006, certain state members led the creation of a block vote of the state committee to neutralize Queens and Stevens by de-chartering the chapter in November 2006.

Queens hotly objected to the action, quickly reorganized a new LPQC chapter as per the bylaws in January 2007, and brought their case (led by chapter founder Procida) to the 2007 state convention. The convention body present overwhelmingly voted to reinstate LPQC to resolve the issue, but “the faction” would go on to persist in bad mouthing or trying to isolate the Queens chapter for years, while continuing to plot to neutralize or remove Stevens and Sloan. Their most frequent routine was to 1) repeat fact-free accusations and past smears about Stevens (including one charge that went to trial, that he was acquitted of) issued by a previous organization that wanted to marginalize him, rather than expand or grow. 2) Then upon smearing without proving it, proceed immediately to a punitive action (suspension, de-chartering, etc). Sentence first, verdict afterwards, or never.

The 2010 Suspensions

Several persons running for the LP nomination for statewide positions in 2010 (Sam Sloan, Kristin Davis) and other observers of the 2010 state convention (Tom Stevens) expressed there was undue favoritism (among convention organizers) supporting one candidate for Governor, that came at the expense of other candidates. Stevens posted arguments about this on LPNY discussion boards and in his blog, while Sloan litigated about it as an injured party. LPQC supported Sloan’s right to attempt to get his day in court to seek remedy over the matter, but did not endorse his other actions (such as attempting to get the LPNY line via a separate independent petition process, or suing some specific committee members). Davis elected to run for Governor on another created Libertarian line, which she succeeded in petitioning for. It has been suggested that had Davis not perceived favoritism practiced against her at the 2010 convention, she would not have run on a separate libertarian line. Thus many of her 23,000 votes would have gone to the LPNY candidate, and LPNY would have gained permanent ballot status as of that year.

In response to Sloan’s suit, certain members of the state committee chose to assert that they were the victimized party, accused Sloan of practicing aggression, and cast both Sloan and Stevens as performing “disruption” against the state party. During the summer of 2010 in the middle of a LP campaign season, these members (through behind the scenes mobilizing of a block vote, without prior open debate) put forward surprise motions to suspend the LPNY memberships of Stevens and Sloan under the Bylaws.

The method used gamed the existing procedures—suspensions were designed for dealing with a pattern of disruption, not a single alleged episode or mere disagreement, and were supposed to be considered only after a prior review of a written case made for the severe action, etc. Instead, the written case prepared and presented against Stevens was supplied during the meeting when the motion was proposed, allowing zero time for review, or with insufficient review time in the case of Sloan. The “written case,” upon examination afterward, consisted merely of postings of discussion threads where some members hotly disagreed with the views, tone or approach of Stevens or Sloan. Some members later expressed if they had had the time to review the written case before the original vote, they would not have voted to suspend. Stevens’ lifetime LPNY membership was also revoked without even a partial reimbursement of his dues, a violation of his membership contract.

The rampant bias behind the action was noted by statements from neutral third party LPNY members, who commented on it at the time. Attempts to table the motions due to these objections were disregarded, as was the matter of the conflict of interest involved by certain members involved in litigation with Sloan voting on his suspension. The fact that the court had dismissed Sloan’s case about favoritism on procedural grounds (the initial judge, and appeals courts, ruled he had filed after the deadline for litigating the matter) was spun as “Sloan’s suits had been thrown out” based on the substance, the latter of which never got to be litigated. Sloan has also pointed out that in one of the suits against another committee member that was litigated on the substance, the judge ruled in his favor. This and other mitigating context appeared to have no impact on the faction set against LPQC, and the two wrongfully suspended members. The bias was compounded by the rulings over the dispute by the parliamentarian, who was on record from before 2010 as against the Queens chapter, and whose rulings, then and in following years, were consistently prejudicial against Stevens, Sloan and LPQC.

While the bylaws stated the suspended members could motion to seek final appeal of the vote by the next state convention,  it was widely understood the instigators of the cynically composed suspensions, who controlled the convention business meeting, would (in likewise cynical fashion) simply table the motion to “run out the clock” thereby completing the expulsion of the two members. To head off this outcome, LPQC unanimously voted at their county convention of 2011 to issue a formal complaint statement to the LPNY state committee, advocating they vacate the invalidly performed suspensions. LPQC advised the membership status of Stevens and Sloan was unresolved until the issue was addressed, and that LPNY should at least modify the bylaws to clarify members expulsed at the state level could serve as officers at the local level, especially if they were members of good standing at the national level or other states. The basic answer of the state committee, to both the complaint and the bylaws change, was to ignore both issues for years.

The 2016 Issues

While many supported this faction-led committee stance out of opposition to some of Sloan’s litigation activity, which was thought to be potentially hurtful to encouraging people to join the party, its actual effect was to actually destabilize involvement of long-standing members with the party, which discouraged many Libertarians in Queens from continuing to be active with LPNY. LPQC continued to point out that its complaint to the LPNY state committee over the blatantly suspect expulsions had never been properly resolved, and its members therefore continued to elect Stevens and/or Sloan to local officer positions. It also noted that the fact that both members continued to be active LP members nationally or in other LP chartered organizations around the country (Stevens was PA state chair in 2012, and Sloan has served as an officer in the San Francisco LP for several years). Over the course of this period, at least four state Chairs who served multi-year terms sided with LPQC, along with a few national officers (such as Larry Sharpe), a sign that a constructive resolution to the issue was nearing. In 2015, a state committee vote to effectively reinstate Stevens failed due to a tie vote, an outcome further indicating the unreasonable faction was losing its influence.

But when LPQC again announced it would propose the motion once more in 2016, the same faction who engineered the disputed actions of 2010 mobilized, outside of proper open debate at a state committee meeting, to generate a block vote to remove the charter of LPQC, over “violating the bylaws” (by not removing the LPQC officer status of Stevens). LPQC disputed the charge, pointing out the unresolved complaint about the suspension votes, the unreimbursed dues to Stevens, and that he and Sloan were properly elected local chapter officers under the bylaws. Even though LPQC stated the motion to de-charter was out of order, to which the Chair agreed, the block vote assembled overruled him, and the committee voted to remove LPQC’s charter. The intent was to remove LPQC so it would no longer have the standing to reprise the complaint against the suspensions going forward.

Immediately after the vote, lo and behold, the leaders of the removal of the chapters introduced a Queens Republican to the meeting, who had already agreed to serve as a TCC (Temporary County Chair) for forming a new Queens chapter. Neither info on this individual, or the group of members he formed the new chapter with, had ever been provided to LPQC in the months beforehand. This represented a certain “flexibility” and selective attention to the rules the faction had not allowed for, or afforded to LPQC. The new TCC held a founding meeting months later without all members of LPNY in Queens (in particular, the members of the de-chartered chapter) being notified, a violation of the bylaws designed to prevent the disenfranchised Queens members from being represented in the new chapter. In promoting the LP citywide nominating convention in 2017, former LPQC persons who were LPNY members were again not notified, also in violation of the bylaws.

Going Forward

These actions were disingenuous, outrageous and discpicable when they happened, and remain so today. As a result this top-down, divisive approach to chapter building, the new, replacement or “Astroturf” Queens chapter had three years of struggle gaining any traction in the borough. Only with the success of Larry Sharpe in 2018 did a group emerge, under Queens Chair Michael Arcati, that was stable enough to perform the transition into a more viable, now “permanent ballot status” LP chapter under NY Election law. The original LPQC re-formed as the Queens Libertarians by January 2017, and has continued its schedule of “second Saturday of the month” meetings (from 1994 to present), refusing to be defined by the attacks on its reputation and defamation of its long term members. QL is currently transitioning into functioning as a PAC, while retaining its speaker program and monthly discussion based meetings. QL regrets that the new Queens LP had to suffer from being mostly kept in the dark about how the previous group was bullied out of its charter.

Both QL and the new LP of Queens have reached out to each other by the end of 2018, and approved a solidarity motion for the two groups by summer 2019. The joint statement affims essentially that QL recognizes the Queens LP as the “real LP chapter” and recommends its members join it, while LP Queens recognizes the circumstances concerning the treatment of LPQC in the 2010s was never properly resolved by the old LPNY state committee,  and has not been helpful to party development in Queens. Sam Sloan was recently elected as Treasurer of the Bronx LP chapter, meaning under the new circumstances following 2018, wrongfully or supposedly “expulsed” LPNY members can and should be able to serve as officers at the local LP level, just as LPQC has steadfastly maintained.

The improvement of the party’s growth and professionalism in New York eventually finally occurred due to the emerging influence of LP leaders from the Western side of the state since 2014, and Queens business consultant Larry Sharpe’s success in obtaining permanent ballot status for LPNY through his 2018 Gubernatorial campaign. These leaders have largely replaced the remnants of the old state committee, who had been so intent on what they called their “good works” of demeaning, excluding or isolating all figures and chapters who differed from them (as with their disenfranchisement of “the Procida group” or LPQC). This remnant still wants to exercise these toxic veto powers, however, and recently complained that the old LPNY organization’s rules (under the old bylaws) should still govern the new LPNY structure that is officially recognized as a party under the state’s election laws. Sam Sloan has named names in calling out the remnants who campaign for permanent “hub” control of LPNY and micro-management of the local chapters:

“…The Blay Tarnoff Group was noted for internal disputes and the efforts of Blay Tarnoff and Gary Donoyan to expel the John Procida Group led by Tom Stevens from the Libertarian Party.
The John Procida Group [LPQC] is by far the longest standing and most continuously active Libertarian group in New York State.
Blay Tarnoff wants to keep out of the Libertarian Party Tom Stevens who he expelled and all the other people he expelled from the party.
In other words, the “good works” he refers to were actually bad things Tarnoff did and that was the reason the party never got more than 50,000 votes until now.
In 2010 the Libertarian Party candidate got 48,359 votes. We easily would have gotten more than 50,000 votes had the absentee ballots been counted.
The reason the absentee ballots were not counted was Blay Tarnoff went on an orgy of expelling people he did not like, especially Tom Stevens. Instead of building up the party he was intent on tearing it down.”

And that, friends of liberty, is the more complete context, or the rest of the story. Peace and Freedom, in the 2020s and beyond!

 

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