Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The $1,000 Challenge

So, you're a Libertarian Candidate, and you want a big donation from me. Sure! I have $1,000 burning a hole in my pocket. You can claim it -- all of it.

But it isn't "free". You'll need to have some ducks in a row. Here are my requirements:


1) You must have a written campaign platform with no substantial deviations from the LP platform or with Libertarian principles. If you're in favor of any new tax, or some form of gun control, or interfering with people trying to move from one place to another, or interfering with the right of association, or more government enforcement related to this or that victimless 'crime', well, I can donate to a bunch of Democrats and Republicans if those things interested me. Libertarianism is about *abolitionism*.

2) You should have a reasonably detailed campaign plan. I will want a copy. While each campaign should have some flexibility in the specifics discussed in its submission, I would expect to see the following information:

(a) A statement specifying the personal financial commitment you will make to your campaign.

(b) A description of the manpower resources committed to the campaign. In particular, the description should included a list of key campaign personnel, along with brief descriptions of their previous campaign experience.

- (i) I am not disposed to provide resources to any campaign that does not have both a campaign manager and a treasurer who knows something about campaign finance reporting requirements.

- (ii) The candidate should serve neither as his own campaign manager nor as his own treasurer, except in unusual circumstances.

(c) A biography of the candidate.

(d) Assessment of whether there is a reasonable chance the candidate will not be able to complete the campaign. (For example, if the candidate has been informed of a possible change in job status, such as being transferred to a different state, this should be disclosed.)

(e) A description of anticipated fundraising sources and activities, along with information about pledges from prospective donors. (As in Item 3 above, information about prospective donors will be treated with discretion. To the extent that such information is included in LPVa or local party files, it may be appropriate to redact names from such reports.)

(f) A description of campaign strategy (e.g., what issues will the campaign emphasize) and a proposed timeline for campaign activities. This description should include information such as anticipated number of votes needed to win, as well as a basic analysis of the voting patterns of the district. (For example, assuming previous data exist, what percentage of voters in the district vote Democrat, vote Republican, vote Libertarian, etc.)

(e) A description of campaign goals and performance metrics. (For example, if the candidate considers winning the election to be unlikely, what are the alternative goals of the campaign? Obtaining at least X number of votes? Causing the incumbent to be defeated? Winning the candidate's home precinct?) Personally, my preference is that all candidates use their races as an opportunity to finding and recruiting the libertarians who are already out there into becoming members, supporters, and -- candidates for next year.

Be realistic. Candidates who overblow their case and generally have absolutely unrealistic expectations aren't going to get *my* money. So many times, I've listened to LP candidates who swear that theirs is a winnable campaign. The fact that they are out-funded and out-volunteered by a factor of 5, 50, or 500 to 1 doesn't seem to faze them. If you think you're going to win, you better have some solid polling results that agree with you.

3) You must have at least the basics assembled of a campaign: a) a website that gives some sort of candidate/campaign overview as well as several high-resolution, media-quality photographs ready for download by media outlets; 2) a basic campaign flyer and yard sign, both with complementary designs to project a consistent image; and items associated with the campaign plan (for instance, if you have a treasurer, you should already have a bank account in the name of the campaign.

4) You must have reasonable credit history. Repeated personal bankruptcies, well... if you can't stay within budget, you should be a Republican or Democrat.

5) You must have a clean criminal history. I may make an exception for victimless crime convictions, but expect full disclosure.

6) You must have a reasonably clean driving record. If you've had three DUI's and been at-fault in more than one or two accidents, well, cowboy, it's time to get yourself a bicycle.

7) You must have a clean civil history. If you have made your fortune like John Edwards did, by filing lawsuits against innocents, well, you're not my candidate. Conversely, if you've been sued six or seven times, sounds to me like you need to find a safer line of work.

8) There must be a disclosure statement, concerning any potentially embarrassing or controversial aspects of the your background. This statement should include all information in items 4, 5, 6, and 7 above; and you must make it available for review by the members who attend your district nominating meeting, as well as the city or county committee and the State Central Committee, PRIOR TO any approval by any of these committees. The state and local party committees will treat these disclosures with discretion; such statements should not be available for public scrutiny.

9) You must have already been certified as "on the ballot".

10) You must have been formally endorsed/nominated as the official LP candidate during a meeting of the members WHO RESIDE WITHIN YOUR ELECTION DISTRICT; *and* you must also be formally approved by the county or city Libertarian committee in which you live. No exceptions. This is how the major-party candidates are nominated, and we can do the same thing.

10) All of the required financial reports must be up-to-date. I'll want copies.

11) "Open Secrets" -- Campaign finance reports should be accessible online on your campaign website; or if it can be linked to VaPAP or the SBOE website, that's fine as long as there is a prominent, non-hidden menu link to that page on your site.

12) You must openly identify yourself as a Libertarian candidate in all campaign appearances, on your literature, on your website, in your media releases, and the like. I will not donate to anyone who has a history of being involved in the Republican Liberty Caucus, the Democratic Freedom Caucus, or who accepts the endorsement of any other political party. Call it being a partisan hack all you want, but I do not intend to give anyone money for sending a mixed message about the abolitionist basis of the libertarian philosophy and the political party that represents it.

13) You must *demonstrate* a thorough understanding of the necessity of recruiting new members into the LP; which means:

- submit all campaign contacts to the LP for followup on a timely basis -- preferably daily

- providing PROMINENT and EASY access to visitors to the campaign website to ask for more information about the LP

14) You must provide some evidence that you have done some serious fundraising already, on your own. I've been in the LP since 1980, and for all of that 30 years, I've observed LP candidates enter races that typically cost a winning winning candidates, oh, say $50,000 -- and then watched them give all sorts of reasons why the LP or LP members should give them thousands of dollars, even though he hasn't even raised a few hundred from friends and family.

It's fairly easy to raise at least a few thousand dollars just from friends and business associates. See:

Additional campaign and party-building tips are available:

"Serious funds" means seriousness about winning the election. The LP candidate seeking election should work towards funding superiority. He should raise and spend as much or more than the COLLECTIVE opposition. Yes, that means if you're in a 3-way race, your fundraising must exceed the funds available to BOTH of your opponents. We're the only guys advocating freedom -- the other guys are BOTH advertising socialism. Unless you have enough dosh that you can drown *them* out, you're not going to win. Fundraising should be at the heart of any serious campaign. If you don't raise money, you can't advertise. If you don't advertise, you aren't going to get elected.

If you can't raise enough to give the majors a serious run for their money, then you're running for the wrong office. Try running for County Board of Supervisors, or Town Council, instead.

However, if you want to stay in the race you're in, and you are not going to win, then it had better be a campaign that directs all efforts to signing up more LP members to build the cadre for next year.

15) You must have demonstrated some ability to find volunteers for your campaign. This is almost as important as fundraising. The majors send their volunteers out to knock on doors for them, to manage their campaigns' "back office", and so on.

16) You must provide in a timely manner a reasonably detailed post-election report to all of your donors, to the LPVA State Central Committee, and to your local endorsing committee.

17) Not a formal requirement for my $1,000, but I'd appreciate provide copies of campaign material (e.g., signs, posters, flyers, bumperstickers, fundraising letters, etc.) and news coverage (e.g., newspaper clippings, video and audiotapes of media interviews) for LPVa archival purposes.

18) If you accept money from me, but you decide to withdraw from your race for any reason other than a medical condition or involuntary transfer by your employer, you shall refund my donation(s) first, before any loans are paid and before any other donors are reimbursed. In the event you have no campaign funds left, you must shall reimburse me and other donors using your own personal funds.


That's my checklist. It's not short, and there are hoops to jump through. But there is $1,000 waiting at the end of the hoops. And, not a single one of my requirements is any less than a major-party candidate would be required to do for them. This is common-sense, party-building stuff.

To make your case, write me at Freedom (/at/) (Remove the obvious spamtrap elements).

Here are a few resources you might find useful:

Campaign Planning Manual from the Libertarian Party of Indiana

Political Resource Library, from