Libertarian Party Loses State Parties, Donors After Hard-right Turn
The Libertarian Party (LP) faces the departures of two state-level parties as membership dues drop and some donors flee the party over questions about economic stewardship and the party’s turn to far-right messaging, Hatewatch has found through documents and interviews with former LP members.
The departures came after the Mises Caucus, a group that espouses far-right rhetoric, won near-total control of the party at the LP national convention in Reno, Nevada, in May. Since then, the party has tweeted messaging that aligns with the hard right, including anti-LGBT and pro-secession posts. Prominent Mises Caucus members and state parties have posted in favor of repealing the Civil Rights Act, the 19th Amendment, which enfranchised women, and more. Hatewatch obtained a copy of the Mises Caucus’ “Reno Strategic Action Plan,” which details a plan to win control of the Libertarian National Committee and change planks of the Libertarian Platform to align with their views.
The Virginia Libertarian party dissolved itself after a vote on Sept. 12 over “recent statements endorsed by the national Libertarian Party, that are antithetical to our core principles including restrictions of voting rights of citizens, specifically women, reversing the LP’s 50 year history of support of non-discrimination and freedom of LGBTQ citizens, repeal of the Civil Rights Act and other statements condoning bigotry, even representative democracy itself.”
The national LP disputes the dissolution and continues to recognize a Virginia state affiliate of those who voted against the measure.
The New Mexico affiliate, the term used for Libertarian state parties, disaffiliated from the national party on Aug. 25 after a dispute over state-level changes and “messaging and communications hostile to the principles for which the Libertarian Party was founded,” according to a letter the New Mexico party delivered to the LP.
The LP refused to acknowledge the split, but then voted to disaffiliate itself from the New Mexico party.
Massachusetts also has two libertarian parties, though the LP recognizes only one – the Mises Caucus-aligned party. The split occurred in February after the Libertarian Association of Massachusetts accused the Massachusetts Mises Caucus of using racism as a recruiting tool.
The LP has characterized its change in tone as positive, citing the end of “woke” politics that do not align with common libertarians and higher engagement on social media. But the LP’s Twitter account became a target of ridicule for Mises Caucus critics after hackers took control, changed the display picture and name to “Tyler Hobbs,” and promoted NFTs between Sept. 30 and Oct. 3.
Hobbs, a visual artist and NFT creator, told Hatewatch he had no part in the hack. He said the scammers impersonated him after taking control of the account “to lure victims onto a scamming site. Once there, if they connected their Ethereum wallet [a cryptocurrency] and (unknowingly) authorized a malicious transaction, it would drain the contents of the wallet.”
Hobbs said he and others promptly reported the hack, "but unfortunately Twitter was quite slow to act on those reports.”
Angela McArdle, the chair of the Libertarian National Convention, told Hatewatch the party’s Twitter account was hacked and locked while Twitter investigated. “Based on what we know so far, all of our staff and volunteers followed appropriate security measures,” she said.
McArdle said the “alleged disaffiliation and resolution of the Libertarian Party of Virginia are the actions of a small group of rogue individuals. … The LNC does not acknowledge that any dissolution or disaffiliation took place.”
Regarding the party’s messaging, McArdle said they are “anti-war” and pro-personal and economic freedom. “We want to represent our ideas with passion and enthusiasm,” she said.
McArdle further said there is “a small, resentful faction” of libertarians who disagree with the party’s direction. The LP has seen their actions “play out in a few states, like New Mexico and Virginia. … I believe they would behave this way regardless of what we put on social media.”
Holly Ward, the former chair of the Virginia affiliate, told Hatewatch she knew the Mises Caucus would not be an effective steward of the LP after their national convention victory. She decried the party’s messaging that aligns with what she called the “alt-right.”
Ward said the finances of the LP and Mises Caucus are also raising concerns. Amid the disaffiliation turmoil, the LP posted an August report on its financial status that showed declines in active donors and membership dues. The report showed membership revenue at $700,381 for 2021. As of August, the LP raised $417,411 in 2022, which would put it on track to earn about $600,000 this year. General fundraising went from $1,050,462, or roughly $262,615 per quarter, to $689,771, or about $229,923 per quarter, in 2022.
A graph in the document also shows an uptick in active donors in June, though it declined in July and August.
Brett Bittner, a former member of local, state and national LP bodies since 2009, resigned his post as the chairperson of the Libertarian Party of Pinellas County, Florida, this June. Bittner said he had donated “five figures” to the LP and affiliates over the years. He told Hatewatch the hard-right turn was enough to make him “politically homeless” and end his donations.
Also in August, the Federal Elections Commission informed the Mises Caucus’ hybrid PAC, which is capable of accepting unlimited donations, that it found a funding discrepancy of $49,563.40. The FEC gave the Mises PAC until Oct. 3 to account for the excess funds. Michael Heise heads both the Mises Caucus and the Mises PAC.
Ward said that post-Mises Caucus takeover, the LP’s messaging and economic leadership greatly affected her state party’s operations by discouraging enthusiasm. “Memberships were absolutely lapsing … not just our overall aggregate membership had a decline, but physical bodies showing up for physical meetings was in rapid decline. There were no volunteers to do any work. Nobody wanted to.”
Hatewatch obtained the Mises Caucus’ Reno Strategic Action Plan, which lays out the reasoning behind some of the LP’s controversial stances that made headlines after the party adopted them as planks at the Reno convention.
For example, the previous Libertarian abortion plank was explicitly pro-choice. The strategic plan encouraged Mises delegates to force a vote on the plank to remove it. The plan reasons that “the pro-choice plank stands to maintain a progressive cultural hegemony over the LP,” which the Mises Caucus claimed does not exist. The document said the Mises Caucus would similarly reject an anti-choice plank.
Ward explained to Hatewatch that libertarians are split about evenly between pro- and anti-abortion positions.
The plan worked, and delegates deleted the plank.
The document also suggests support for secession in the rewording of the Self-Determination plank. The Mises Caucus reasoned that “‘No means no’ just as clearly when it comes to political association as it does in personal association. Secession down to the level of the individual is a fundamental human right.”
Pro-secession language passed at the convention. It does not appear in the platform on the LP website, but the Mises Caucus-controlled Libertarian National Convention shared their new platform as a document on the LP public mailing lists. That platform does include pro-secession language.
McArdle affirmed the LP’s pro-secession stance. She said the LP supports “the right of peaceful people to choose their own governments. That means we support referendums, election reform, and peaceful secession movements.”
The plan also includes a draft plank to support Agorism, a revolutionary ideology formed by the little-known libertarian Samuel Edward Konkin III.
Agorism attempts to overthrow the state through economics. The ideology calls for the black-market sale of some illegal goods and gray-market sale of legal goods and services outside of government oversight, thereby draining it of tax revenue and giving individuals control of the marketplace. The ideology was popular among some members of the antigovernment, accelerationist boogaloo boys.
“We affirm the right to subvert state controls through black and gray market activity, so long as such activity does not violate individual rights and liberties through theft, fraud, or violence,” the proposed language reads. The plan reasons that nowhere else does the Libertarian Party “advocate for peaceful civil disobedience” or “make clear that individuals have no obligation to obey unjust – and often unconstitutional – laws and regulations.”
Such language does not appear in the LP platform.
When asked about support for Agorism, McArdle said Libertarians “do not support laws or regulations that restrict trade between peaceful, consenting adults.”
‘Irrational and repugnant’
The Mises Caucus further pushed to delete language that condemned “bigotry as irrational and repugnant.” That plan, too, worked, though it caused controversy. Former LP candidate for vice president Spike Cohen proposed adding, “We uphold and defend the rights of every person, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or any other aspect of their identity,” and that measure passed.
The plan says the Mises Caucus wanted to appeal to “the wider liberty movement” by removing the language. “That movement strongly rejects wokism and the word games associated with it.” The removal of the anti-bigotry language and “the deletion of the abortion plank will display that there are serious cultural changes in the party that are more representative of that movement,” the plan states.
Bittner told Hatewatch the appeal to the “wider liberty movement” is an attempt to make hard right ideas viable, “which I don’t think they are.”
Bittner continued: “I’ve not seen this broader liberty movement that they speak of, outside of the edgy meme-lord echo chamber that they belong to.”
When asked about accusations of bigotry, McArdle responded, “Accusations of bigotry have become so hyperbolic and overused recently, that the term has become a generic slur wielded against political enemies.
The LP attempted to adopt a resolution condemning the Southern Poverty Law Center as “irrational and repugnant” following Hatewatch’s critical reporting of the Mises Caucus, but the effort failed.
Bittner said Mises Caucus efforts to remove language condemning bigotry is part of the group’s “bullying” of minorities, including the LGBTQ community.
Bittner resigned ahead of outreach efforts at Pride events in June because he could not ask those “who traditionally have been bullied to join a group where they may find themselves bullied by those who are engaging in the rhetoric that we see from the hard right.”
Photo illustration by SPLC