A year after the far-right Mises Caucus took over the Libertarian Party, its membership and financial numbers are down. Some state parties, including New Mexico, Virginia and Massachusetts, have splintered or disaffiliated from the national party. Leaked documents Hatewatch obtained show the Libertarian National Committee is squabbling and worried that their takeover is “turning into a disaster.”
Members of the national Libertarian Party (LP) leadership board for months have squabbled and aired concerns about the LP’s challenges under the leadership of the far-right Mises Caucus (MC), according to a cache of leaked documents Hatewatch obtained.
The leak contains hundreds of pages of text messages, group chats and confidential memos between members of the Libertarian National Committee (LNC). Hatewatch received the leak from John Hudak, a libertarian critic of the MC.
Members of the LNC, which steers the national party, have acknowledged the leak in publicly available communications.
The leak appears to come from Miguel Duque, an MC-affiliated LNC representative from Washington state. In a document titled, “START HERE The Takeover has failed by Miguel and Anna Johnson Duque,” Duque’s wife appears to detail their reasons for leaking the documents. Metadata suggests the Duques created the document on Aug. 13. The departure of Lainie Huston, the former interim executive director of the LP, who announced she was leaving her position on July 31 after internal conflicts, appears to have motivated the couple in part. The documents include memos, Discord group chats and text messages between the Duques and LNC members.
The Duques blamed the LNC’s failures on a “lack of vision, which leads back to” LNC chair Angela McArdle. Miguel Duque is still on the LNC, and the documents suggest he and his wife are concerned with staffing issues and a slow response to challenges the LP has faced over fundraising and membership. The Duques claimed these challenges are made worse by the LNC’s inability to obtain “functional data” through software “tools.” The documents detail concerns about CiviCRM, a nonprofit donor fundraising software and internal conflicts between LNC members.
The MC won control of the LP’s national governing body at its national convention held in Reno, Nevada, in 2022. McArdle won the position of chair of the LNC with over 69% of the vote that year. MC candidates won two-thirds of LNC positions at the convention. MC members considered the victory a “takeover” and called it the “Reno Reset.”
“We believe the massive opportunity of the Takeover / Reno Reset has thus far been utterly squandered, that this Party is being severely injured by the avoidable mistakes by leadership outlined here,” the Duque’s document states.
McArdle and others lauded their victory as a turn from what they viewed as left-wing management by the LP’s former LNC. The new leaders stripped the LP’s platform of its pro-abortion rights plank and began posting pro-secession rhetoric. They also stripped the platform of its plank that condemned bigotry as “irrational and repugnant.”
After Hatewatch published an article about the MC’s far-right rhetoric and ties, members of the newly formed LNC attempted to pass a resolution condemning the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as “irrational and repugnant.” The resolution failed.
When asked for comment, Miguel Duque responded that he condemns the SPLC “as irrational and repugnant,” referencing the failed resolution. However, in a text message to McArdle contained in the leak, Anna Johnson Duque said she was “secretly thrilled” the resolution failed due to internal LNC politics.
McArdle and others thought the turn to far-right rhetoric and the MC’s management would appeal to Libertarians, who McArdle believed were “far more right leaning” than the MC. McArdle said during a debate for the position of LNC chair that the MC would “make this [party] functional and not embarrassing for you.”
The leaked documents show McArdle has waning confidence in the Reno Reset. “The takeover is turning into a disaster,” McArdle said in a confidential memo from May that the leak contains. “Members have asked me what we are doing. We spend lots of time in executive session, dealing with lawsuits and personnel issues,” she wrote in the memo, titled “LNC Dysfunction - Is There A Realistic Path Forward?”
The memo does not explicitly state the nature of the lawsuits. The LNC has filed one lawsuit against the eight Michigan Libertarian candidates over their use of the LP trademark after a leadership dispute in that state.
The LP has further lost state affiliates. New Mexico and Virginia both disaffiliated, though the LP organized new parties in both states. Massachusetts has two Libertarian parties: One controlled by the MC and another that splintered over concerns about the MC’s far-right rhetoric. Pennsylvania has the Keystone Party, which libertarians formed after they saw the LP as “veering too hard to the right.”
McArdle also aired concerns over the LP’s finances. Publicly available monthly reports that LNC officials prepare have showed that membership and financials have taken a sustained a steady fall since the MC took over. According to the June 2023 membership report, the LP’s “sustaining members” – those who have donated at least $25 in the 12 preceding months, according to the LP’s bylaws – have dropped to slightly over 14,000. This was a 6.5% drop from the preceding month, and a drop of nearly 3,000 since Dec. 2022.
“In the face of financial challenges, we have lost the purpose and vision of what we set out to do and are thrashing around like a drowning person. It is very hard to save someone who is thrashing about,” McArdle wrote in the document.
McArdle echoed the Duques and said the LP’s staff say their “main fundraising tool and data are a disaster.”
When asked for comment about the leak and her remarks in the memo, McArdle said: “We’re in an excellent place right now, we’re going to kick ass in 2024, and prove wrong the depraved vultures who pay attention to this sort of gossip.”
The Duques wrote, “Fundraising and membership are down for various reasons, and the data is so wrecked that it’s very difficult to objectively pinpoint the real reasons or the severity.”
Hatewatch asked Holly Ward, the former chair of the Virginia Libertarian Party that disaffiliated, what she believed to be the reason for the drop in funds and members.
After seeing portions of the leaked material, Ward told Hatewatch it “is clear that even the Mises Caucus knows that what they set out to accomplish has failed, as any movement built on hatred and division is destined to fail.”
She concluded: “They have, for a time, been able to lie to their supporters about this fact, but their internal conversations make clear they are no longer able to lie to themselves.”
Photo illustration by SPLC