A leak of Libertarian Party leadership communications reveals crude remarks – including a talking point from anti-LGBTQ+ conspiracy theories and discussions of the Colorado Libertarian Party’s collaboration with the GOP – and raises questions about the party’s adherence to Federal Election Commission rules.
Members of the Libertarian National Committee (LNC), the body that steers the national Libertarian Party (LP), engaged in talk of electoral collaboration with state-level Republican party affiliates, according to a leak of some internal communications, and made crude remarks about the LGBTQ+ community. Portions of the leak suggest closeness with a sympathetic political action committee (PAC) that may run afoul of Federal Elections Commission (FEC) regulations, according to a campaign finance expert.
The leak came a year after members of the far-right Mises Caucus (MC) won control of the LNC at the June 2022 Libertarian National Convention. Since then, LP membership and fundraising have dropped. Critics say MC affiliates’ edgy, far-right rhetoric – including anti-LGBTQ+ and pro-secession posts – has contributed to the fall. Internal documents show LNC members acknowledge the declines but cast most of the blame on fundraising software issues.
Miguel Duque, a former LNC representative from Washington state, leaked the cache, which contains hundreds of pages of text messages, a group chat and confidential memos between members of the LNC. The leak became public on Aug. 17. Duque stepped down following the leak. The LNC acknowledged the leak. Hatewatch received the leak from John Hudak, a libertarian critic of the MC.
LNC-Mises PAC questions
The leak reveals interesting aspects of the LNC’s inner workings and its closeness to the MC. The leaked materials suggest a group of LNC representatives had an ongoing chat on an MC Discord server. The MC Discord is an encrypted chat. MC members could see the LNC chat on that server, according to leaked texts. Although MC supporters took over the LNC, the LNC and MC should remain at least partially separate: FEC regulations bar political parties that handle campaigns from collaborating with PACs on advocacy and other aspects of campaigns.
On Dec. 2, 2022, Duque texted at large LNC representative Kathy Yeniscavich that “any back channel chats created for any purpose need to be a lot more selective and exclusive with who is added.”
Yeniscavich replied: “Yes, I don’t like that the Austrians can see our LNC chat. Or at least the [administrators].”
The “Austrians” Yeniscavich referenced are members of the MC, a caucus inside the LP that promotes “paleolibertarianism.” Lew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard pioneered paleolibertarianism, which emphasized far-right aspects such as anti-immigration rhetoric, in the early 1990s to appeal to far-right conservatives. The caucus is named after Ludwig von Mises, an Austrian economist.
Michael Heise heads both the MC and the Mises PAC. There is little separation between the two: PAC filings list the Mises Caucus website as its own and use the MC’s email as its own. The LNC conversation to which Yeniscavich referred operated on the MC Discord server.
The leak suggests that in April, the LNC created a separate Discord server to hold conversations. On April 13, LNC chair Angela McArdle sent a message in the new Discord chat for LNC members that was separate from MC server. Duque leaked this chat.
It remains unclear the extent to which the LNC members discussed LP matters via the chat on the MC Discord server.
Beth Kingsley, who specializes in campaign finance as a partner at the Washington, D.C.-based Harmon Curran law firm, told Hatewatch the chats may be legally problematic. “It would depend what was discussed, and also what the PAC later did with respect to relevant elections,” she said.
The FEC has instituted a “safe harbor rule.” The rule says that if contractors, vendors, political committees or former or current employees have a written policy statement “that creates a firewall,” they are generally safe from FEC investigations, Kingsley said. The firewall should separate individuals who can and cannot speak to outside PACs, the lawyer continued.
Kingsley said most organizations will keep this firewall to preempt investigations where they would be forced to prove no conversations violated regulations. “It’s hard to prove a negative,” Kingsley said.
McArdle responded to Hatewatch’s request for comment by saying it “must be a slow news day. Give my regards to your Luciferian masters.”
She did not respond to a follow-up request by publication time.
Other members of the LNC did not respond to requests for comment.
Extremist in the chat
One exchange reveals McArdle has open communications with the leader of a group the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled an antigovernment extremist organization.
On June 8, McArdle wrote that she received a “tip” about the LP Radical Caucus, which is in opposition to the MC, attempting to “hijack” McArdle’s Zoom meeting.
The tip came from T.J. Kosin, a co-founder of the Proud American Patriots Network (PAPN). PAPN is a Pennsylvania-based antigovernment extremist organization. PAPN started in 2020, according to archived website records. PAPN began organizing against COVID-19 masking at local schools in 2021. Local journalists then exposed the group’s ties to the Three Percenters antigovernment sub-ideology in 2021. PAPN’s website sold Three Percenter clothing for $25 to $35. Kosin denied any connection to the Three Percenters, despite selling their branded merchandise.
McArdle shared a screenshot of a text message conversation she had with Kosin. The entire chat is not visible, but a message where McArdle tells Kosin she paid him for something is visible above messages about the Zoom meeting.
Ahead of the June 2022 LP national convention, critics of the MC told Hatewatch they feared their takeover would result in the LP not running candidates in electoral races that were competitive for Republican candidates.
In November 2022, the Libertarian candidate for Arizona’s Senate seat dropped out and endorsed Blake Masters, the far-right GOP candidate. Masters lost to Mark Kelly, who won 51% of the vote to Masters’ 46.5%.
Then, in June, the Libertarian Party of Colorado (LPCO) entered into an agreement with the Colorado GOP not to run candidates if Colorado Republicans made certain pledges.
On June 13, Dustin Blankenship, an at-large LNC representative, wrote in the Discord chat that the agreement was “a bad look.”
Mike Rufo, another LNC at-large representative, responded: “It’s dumb. To publicize it [sic] and the GOP is using them.”
LNC vice chair Andrew Watkins said in the leak he didn’t “necessarily disagree with the strategy, but making it official and public is just dumb.”
LNC representative Otto Dassing responded: “What a sh*t show … Couldn’t just keep their mouths shut. Pretty sure that’s how KYLP operates,” implying the Kentucky Libertarian Party chooses not to run Libertarian candidates in competitive races for GOP candidates.
The Kentucky Libertarian Party did not respond to a request for comment.
McArdle said that same day it was “possibly fine so long as it wasnt [sic] official and they walk it back.”
In August, LPCO unveiled the official pledges it wants Colorado GOP candidates to sign. Among the proposed promises: bans on red light and speeding traffic enforcement cameras and a push for a peace deal with Russia and an end to foreign funding for Ukraine, among other policies.
The leaked Discord chat shows McArdle used an anti-LGBTQ+ talking point and other members made crude remarks about the LGBTQ+ community. Most of the rhetoric focused on trans people. LGBTQ+ rights have become a focal point in the far-right’s culture war. Members of the far right have made conspiratorial claims about members of the LGBTQ+ community “grooming” children in schools and elsewhere, which have led to book bans and violence.
On April 15, Yeniscavich shared a screenshot of a Facebook post by another libertarian that was critical of an anti-transition post McArdle made. McArdle said that “Lolberts,” a pejorative term for libertarians with whom other libertarians disagree, “are big mad I dont [sic] think 14 year olds [sic] have the right to chop off their penises just cuz [sic] they watched a YouTube video of some pedo telling them to do it.”
McArdle’s comment echoed conspiracy theories about pedophiles using LGBTQ+ equality to groom children for abuse in schools or public restrooms.
Studies show those close to children’s families commit the majority of child abuse. About 27% of girls and 5% of boys experience sexual abuse, according to a 2014 study. The Indiana Center for the Prevention of Youth Abuse and Suicide says more “than 90% of abusers are people children know and trust.” The center further says “30-40%” are members of their own family and “50% are abused by someone outside of the family whom they know and trust.”
On April 15, Blankenship posted a photo of Tyler Harris, the former executive director of the LNC. Blankenship said Harris “said to tell [McArdle] hello! He’ll be coming for her in 24,” the year when LP members will elect party leadership at a national convention.
Blankenship said in the chat that his friend “thought Tyler was a gay man” and Blankenship “had to explain” that Harris has a wife and kids.
“I fully expect him to transition in the next few years,” McArdle responded.
On April 17, Blankenship shared a Facebook post from Harris in the leaked chat. In the post, Harris shared a cocktail he had created.
Watkins responded that Harris is “def gay.” McArdle asked if Harris is “gay or trans?”
Blankenship responded: “He’s a lesbian trans woman.”
Blankenship then went on to describe a “fraternity brother” who transitioned, then married another trans person. Blankenship said his friend, to whom Blankenship refers as “she/they,” is “a huge libertarian. … She wants to run for office and become a party leader.”
McArdle replied: “Lol never show her our [messages]!”
Photo illustration by SPLC