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Ballot Access News:

Alabama Representative Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) has agreed to introduce a bill to lower the number of signatures needed for minor parties and non-presidential independent candidates. He has been in the legislature since 2003. Thanks to Steven Gordon for this news.

Posted to IPR by Paulie.

Disclosure: I am a member of the executive committee of the Libertarian Party of Alabama. I have also personally gathered tens of thousands of signatures to get the Libertarian Party of Alabama on the ballot in 1998-2000, 2004, 2006 and 2008, as well as recruited and managed other petitioners. As a result of our work in 1998-2000, LPA was able to overcome the highest retention requirements in the nation (20% in a statewide race) and run 58 candidates for office in 2002. I have also personally lobbied legislators for ballot access reform in our state.

In other news discussed at the LPA exec comm meeting yesterday:

Cam Ward’s bill mentioned above also has a possible sponsor in the Senate, Trip Pittman (R-Baldwin County).

In addition to the ballot access bill, Independent Alabama is working on a proportional representation bill with Rep. Demetrius Newton, (D-Jefferson County). Proportional representation would move the state from a winner-take-all system for electoral votes to a proportional allocation of the statewide presidential vote. Currently, the state has nine electoral votes, so any party or independent presidential candidate that gets one ninth of the statewide vote would get a presidential elector. It would also help the Democrats, since Alabama is currently a solidly reliable Republican state in presidential elections – as well as help the entire state of Alabama, since currently, with the state’s electoral votes being a foregone conclusion, national candidates and national media have little incentive to pay attention to Alabama.

Independent Alabama will meet at 6 PM this Tuesday, Jan. 27, at 2330 Highland Ave. in Birmingham (the LPA headquarters and the law firm of Cleveland and Cleveland building). Directions.

Also this Tuesday, at 7:30 pm, there will be a meeting of the UAB (Birmingham) Students for Liberty. Heritage Hall room 124 at UAB. LPA Vice Chair Mike Rster will be attending (and possibly speaking – I’m not sure on the latter). I will try to attend both meetings if possible.

Also on the LPA legislative agenda, No2REAL ID and no to National Animal Identification System (NAIS). It was reported that Liberty House in Madison, Alabama is working on this issue. We are also hoping that Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC), an opponent of “REAL ID,” will address it in his keynote speech to the Alabama Republicans.

The Alabama Homebrewers Association and Free The Hops are working on getting legislation introduced and passed, and have several meetings coming up in different parts of the state.

We also heard from Jesse Adkinson, who is working with Alabamians for Tax Free Food, a new organization that is working to repeal grocery sales taxes in Alabama. Currently, the group only has a web presence on LinkedIn, a social networking site.

Jesse explained that the current bill in the legislature is less than ideal from the group’s perspective, since it offsets cuts in grocery taxes by making federal taxes non-deductible on state income tax forms. The bill has support from the legislature’s Black Caucus. We discussed the possibility of friendly amendments, as well as ideas about working on repealing grocery taxes at the county and city levels, including an effort already being organized in Birmingham. Additionally, we floated the idea of also working to repeal sales taxes on medicine, although no concrete action on that has yet taken place.

Members of the LPA are working with Project HOPE and the Alabama Committee to Abolish the Death Penalty.

We are also helping start a new group, Alabamians for Transparent Government. Among the issues we hope to work on: Putting itemized state and local government expenditures online. An Alabama Right to Know bill is being introduced by State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) and Rep. Mike Ball (R-Madison) that will include:

1) Transparency in government spending. A searchable database of all state expenditures; contracts; legislative grants; and state grants.

2) Requiring electronic filing of campaign contributions and expenditures.

3) Disclosure of all public officials or family members of public officials who are employed by the state, or who have a contract with the state, county or a municipality.

Further innovations could include live web casts of the public’s business so that any citizen could view key legislative budget-writing committees at work, key public boards and commissions, perhaps even the governor’s cabinet meetings.

In the past, Alabama Arise and coalitions of the state’s newspapers have worked on pushing for open meetings and enforcement of state sunshine (open meeting) laws.

We heard from several candidates who are interested in getting on the ballot as Libertarian candidates: Scott Glennon in US House District 5, Jason Granholm in US House District 3, Leo McDermott in US House District 1, and our previous write-in Governor candidate, Loretta Nall, who is planning to run in Alabama House District 81. Loretta reports that current incumbent, Democrat Betty Carol Graham, has not had a challenger for her seat in over a decade. More information about these candidates in a separate upcoming post.

Loretta also updated us on legislation. Alabama compassionate care (medical marijuana) legislation will be introduced this term by Jefferson County Democrat Patricia Todd, who Loretta believes will be more proactive in pushing the legislation than the bill’s previous sponsor, Democrat Laura Hall of Madison County.

Our next Compassionate Care meeting will take place on Jan. 31 from 1-3 pm at the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge (same place as last time) located at 4th Ave N and 17 st. This will be our last meeting before the legislative session starts so it is important that y’all be there with as many people as you can round up.

Pass this invite along to everyone you know and I hope to see you on Saturday Jan. 31.

If anyone needs further info I can be reached at 256-625-9599 or lorettanall@gmail.com

Best,
Loretta Nall

The address above is in Birmingham. The meeting will focus on citizen legislative lobbying training.

Among other legislation she has been monitoring, Loretta pointed out HB 59, by Democrat Chris England (District 70 – Tuscaloosa), which would allow for expunging drug arrests from arrestee’s records, a bill to introduce Initiative and Referendum by Republican Mike Ball of Madison County, and a bill to stop police from disarming citizens during emergencies by Democrat Marc Keahey of District 65 (Choctaw, Clarke and Washington counties) as legislation to support.

On the flip side, Loretta recommended that we work to stop Republican Attorney General Troy King‘s crime package, which includes a proposal to mandatorily test all pregnant women in Alabama for illegal drugs, and put them in prison as well as take away their children if they test positive. Additionally, King’s legislative would make parole application more difficult, further worsening the state’s prison overcrowding crisis.

Loretta’s report on King’s package:

All,

Here is the 2009 legislative package of bills that Attorney General Troy King wishes to pass this session. There are some very bad bills here that we need to KILL until they are DEAD! DEAD! DEAD! The ones that need killing the quickest are in bold.

AG King’s 2009 legislative package to fight crime

* Revisions to the Community Notification Act, known as the Adam Walsh Act, sponsored by Representative Ken Guin and Senator Wendell Mitchell.

This bill provides greater protection to the public by providing for more effective monitoring of convicted sex offenders, including their online activities. There would be greater information sharing between all levels of government, so that sex offenders could be more effectively tracked and monitored. The bill adds YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs to those facilities of which a sex offender may not live within 2000 feet. It updates Alabama law to cover technological crimes such as video voyeurism. It makes it a crime for someone else to help a sex offender circumvent the notification and registration law. Numerous additional safeguards and restrictions are included. Most of these changes in this proposed legislation are required by federal law, and noncompliance would cost Alabama loss of certain federal funding.

* Online Solicitation Bill, sponsored by Representative Steve McMillan and Senator Myron Penn.

This bill moves the law forward in two important ways. First, it specifies that attempted solicitation of a child victim is a crime, regardless of whether an actual child is involved. Currently, the law is not clear that a person can be charged with soliciting a child by computer if the person being solicited is, in fact, a law enforcement officer, and not a child. Second, it expands the law to make clear that it is a crime to solicit a child not just by computer, but by any online method to ensure that new technologies are covered. The class B felony of soliciting a child by computer could be charged if a person who is at least three years older than his victim believes he or she is soliciting a child less than 16.

* Chemical Endangerment of an Unborn Child Bill, sponsored by Representative Frank McDaniel and Senator Lowell Barron.

Currently, unborn children whose mothers abuse drugs have no protection of the law. This bill redefines the crime of possession of a controlled substance, to include also the presence of a controlled substance in a person’s body. Therefore, pregnant women who test positive for a controlled substance would be subject to a class B felony. The sentencing judge could suspend the sentence and order a drug treatment program upon a first offense.

* Notoriety Bill, sponsored by Representative Cam Ward and Senator Zeb Little.

This bill also has two primary goals: to provide better opportunities and enforcement of restitution for victims of crime, and to prevent criminals, particularly those on death row, from profiting from the notoriety of their crimes. If felons created artwork or any thing of value and attempted to sell it, the profits would be seized to compensate their victims. The bill would establish mandatory minimum compensation for capital murder at $50 thousand, and for a second or more rape conviction at $10 thousand. The Attorney General could ask a court to seize the offender’s assets to satisfy the restitution order, and prison officials could seize any outgoing mail to search for anything of value that could be used to satisfy restitution to victims.

* DUI Revisions, sponsored by Representatives Marc Keahey and Spencer Collier and Senator Rusty Glover.

This toughens penalties for DUI offenders, especially the very worst, and closes a loophole that kept courts from considering DUI convictions that were older than five years when they were sentencing repeat offenders. Penalties would be increased for all offenders, and those who repeatedly drive while drunk–with four or more convictions–would be sentenced to serve at least six months in jail. Penalties would also be enhanced for the “extremely intoxicated” driver, whose blood alcohol content is more than double the legal limit.

* Nolo Contendere Bill, sponsored by Representative Jamie Ison.

This bill helps keep criminals from hiding their out-of-state criminal records from Alabama Courts. Alabama law currently does not recognize “nolo contendere” or no contest pleas made in other states, where the defendant does not actually plead guilty to the crime but accepts a conviction by not contesting the charge. For example, during the 2005 trial of Jeremy Jones for a brutal rape and murder, prosecutors were barred from informing the jury of his evil past, which included three separate nolo contendere pleas to sexual assault. Attorney General King has named this The Lisa Marie Nichols Justice for Victims Act, in honor of the victim that his office convicted Jones for killing. The proposed law treats allows the State to use the nolo contendere plea to impeach the testimony of a witness, to count as an aggravating circumstance in sentencing for a capital murder, and for enhanced penalties under the Habitual Offender Act.

* Families to be Present at Executions, sponsored by Representative Billy Beasley.

Under current law, only two immediate family members of the victim may be present at an execution. This bill would increase that number to eight immediate family members. It would also allow for the presence of the prosecuting district attorney or his or her representative, and one officer from the arresting branch of law enforcement.

* Concurrent/Consecutive Sentencing and Parole Eligibility Reform, sponsored by Representative Cam Ward and Senator Ted Little.

This law would give real meaning to each consecutive sentence, in determining when an inmate becomes eligible for parole consideration. Currently, the law treats consecutive and concurrent sentences the same if the sentence is more than 30 years. Under Attorney General King’s proposal, each sentence would be measured separately and for each sentence, the inmate could not be considered for parole until he or she had served one-third of the sentence or ten years, whichever is shortest.

* Photo Voter ID, sponsored by Representative Greg Canfield and Senator Larry Dixon.

Voter fraud continues to be a serious problem throughout Alabama, and this bill is designed to stop the fraud and corruption that plague Alabama elections. Any person voting in person or by absentee ballot would have to submit valid photo identification. The photo ID would have to be a driver’s license or state ID card from the Department of Public Safety, passports, or other photo ID cards issued by the federal or state governments.

* Felon Voting Bill, sponsored by Representative Randy Wood.

This legislation would resolve any confusion over which convicted felons are ineligible to vote because their crimes may have involved moral turpitude. Attorney General King proposes the simple remedy that all convicted felons lose their civil and political rights-including the right to vote-and sets aside any question of whether the particular felonies involved moral turpitude. Convicted felons would not be able to vote unless and until they successfully applied to have their rights restored by the Board of Pardons and Paroles. This is a proposed amendment to the Constitution of Alabama, and would have to be ratified by the voters of Alabama.

* Reporting of Gunshot Wounds to Law Enforcement, sponsored by Representative Billy Beasley.

Under existing law, except under limited circumstances, health care providers in Alabama may not initiate reports to law enforcement about gunshot wounds and stabbings without written consent of the patient. This bill would mandate reporting by health care providers, and would supersede any privilege under state law such as doctor/patient privilege.

* Cock fighting Legislation, sponsored by Representative Cam Ward.

Cock fighting is one of the most serious forms of animal cruelty and Alabama law in this area is antiquated and inadequate, providing at most a $50 fine. This bill would make it a class C felony to fight cocks, own, train or keep cocks for fighting, keep a cockpit, or promote cock fighting. There would be a stiff fine of up to $1,000 a day for the owner or operator of the cockpit, or, up to three times the gross receipts derived from cock fighting. Property purchased with profits from cock fighting, or used in connection with cock fighting, would be subject to forfeiture. Furthermore, it would be a class A misdemeanor to be knowingly present at a cock fight.

* Bid Law Reform.

This bill would provide more transparency and accountability in governmental transactions. Current law allows certain municipalities to make purchases from elected officials, employees or board member. As a safeguard, this law adds a requirement that two items be filed with the State Ethics Commission: a written finding that conditions of the law had been followed, and a copy of the contract. Any contract that was in violation of the law would be voided, and any public official who knowingly authorized such a contract would be subject to a class C felony. Current law provides certain exemptions to bid law; if a governmental body entered into a contract without submitting it for bid, it would have to clearly state in writing what exemption was used and the report would be open to public inspection. Additional reforms would help to ensure honesty and integrity in Alabama’s public contracts.

* Attempting to Elude Law Enforcement, sponsored by Representative Spencer Collier and Senator Rusty Glover.

This legislation seeks to reduce the number of individuals who flee from law enforcement, particularly by means of a vehicle. Intentional flight from law enforcement would start as a class B misdemeanor, but it would become a class C felony if a motor vehicle is used, and it would be a class B felony if the flight created a risk of injury or death to bystanders. This bill is a high priority for law enforcement and would keep our streets safer for the citizens of Alabama. Attorney General King has named this bill in honor of Montgomery police officer Keith E. Houts who was shot and killed in 2006 while making a traffic stop.

* Civil recovery for Illegal Gambling, sponsored by Representative Randy Wood.

Under existing law, there is no specific provision for a civil cause of action to recover monetary penalties for illegal gambling devices. In the past, owners and operators and others who profit from illegal gambling activities have considered the payment of criminal fines as a cost of doing business. This law provides a strict liability that would make their costs much higher than the potential profits. These new penalties would be used in conjunction with existing criminal and civil causes of action.

Loretta reported that King has stopped his efforts to put teeth into Alabama’s Sex Toy ban since she sent him a blow up pig. Many LPA members believe that now is the time to get on the offensive and work to repeal the sex toy ban completely. Loretta reports that she has more blow up pigs to send to members of the legislature, and other props ready to go.

One additional issue some LPA members are working on is to help stop and repeal mandatory smoking bans on businesses.

In other business, we approved Leo McDermott as interim District Chair for the Mobile area, which previously seceded from the state party several years ago. A concern was raised that Mr. McDermott disagrees with the Libertarian Party’s official non-interventionist foreign policy position. I asked Mr. McDermott if, as the party’s regional representative, he will be able to separate his personal views on foreign policy issues from those of the party. He said he would. Given his answer, I made a motion to accept Mr. McDermott as the interim Mobile District chair, and it passed unanimously.

Ballot access report from Andy Jacobs:

I recently finished a fundraising letter which I e-mailed to a bunch of Libertarians around the country. George Phillies posted this letter on one of his websites and is going to feature it in the next issue of his newsletter.

We have an agreement with a woman named Christy whom we have worked on campaigns with in the past to help us with our fundraising efforts. Christy moved to Tennessee a few months ago and is also planning to come down to Alabama to gather signatures after the fundraising bears more fruit. Christy is in the midst of a move to another apartment and plans to start working on the fundraising after she gets settled. She also recently ordered one of those Magic Jack internet phones which will help with her fundraising efforts.

Here are some pictures of Christy and me at a third party debate that
was held in Nashville, Tennessee last year. Note that neither of us
supported the views of all of the candidates in the debate, but we
did support the concept of having an open debate with candidates that held a variety of views.

http://www.independentpoliticalreport.com/2008/10/pictures-from-third-party-debate/

I recently finished organizing a big fundraising list from which Jake,
Christy, and I will be making calls. We have one or two other
people who may join us in the telephone fundraising effort. We may
also put together a fundraising letter to send to potential donors via
regular mail.

Gaining full party status in Alabama is a major undertaking and will
prbably take a while to complete. Keep in mind that in the last
election cycle it took the Libertarian Party of North Carolina 3 1/2
years to gather the 69,000 (and something) valid signatures for them
to regain ballot status. Alabama requires around 40,000 valid
signatures for full party status, but keep in mind North Carolina has
almost double the population of Alabama and that the Libertarian Party
of North Carolina is bigger than the Libertarian Party of Alabama.

Note that we are also trying to raise enough money to get ballot
access efforts going in some of the other states were we can legally
start ballot access petitioning this early. For far too many years
the Libertarian Party has been doing ballot access in an inefficient
manner and we are trying to change this. The way that I see it the
Libertarian Party can either start now and do things in an efficient
and intelligent manner, or the Libertarian Party can put it off and
pay more later and do things in an inefficient and stupid manner
(which is more likely to end in failure).

If anyone here has not done so yet, I encourage you to make a
donation to get ballot access going in your own state. Here’s the link…

http://www.al.lp.org/pages/contribute

Be sure to type ballot access in the box for how you want your
donation to be spent.

If everyone in the Libertarian Party of Alabama could kick in say
$25-$100 each it would help jumpstart the Alabama LP ballot access
drive as it would show Libertarian Party members outside of Alabama
that Alabama Libertarians are serious about getting back on the
ballot. If anyone out there is going through financial hard times
even kicking in just $10 or $20 would help.

Every member of the Alabama LP should also be given copies of the
ballot access petition for 2010 and 2012. Contact Paulie as he has copies of them. Sign the petitions yourself and at the very least get your family and friends to sign them.

Andy

I outlined the framework of a business plan for LPA ballot access and field organizing:

> It will cost $180,000 over 3.5 years for field organizers and fund raisers, plus about $20,000 in overhead such as maintaining the HQ (over 3.5 years). [Total $200,000]

This is far more than we have raised previously; it will get us statewide ballot access for all races in 2010 and 2012.

In addition to getting about 40,000 valid signatures for each year
(about 60,000 raw) we want to:

  • Database contacts and give out thousands of brochures/fliers/business cards for the party.
  • Get thousands of voters to sign postcards to their state
    legislators to improve our state’s ballot access laws, and for the other legislative issues we are pushing.

  • Start county chapters in all 67 counties, or as many as we can.
  • Start campus groups at every college in the state, or as many as we can.
  • Hand out fully informed jury rights information in every county.
  • Register thousands of voters and spread information about restoring ex-felons voting rights to as many people as possible.
  • Help organize and build single issue lobbying groups in every county on issues such as: compassionate care (medical marijuana), No to REAL ID and National Animal Identification Systems (NAIS), Proportional representation, Government transparency, Repealing the grocery sales tax, Free the Hops, ending the death penalty, Ending mandatory smoking bans for businesses, Ending the ban on sex toys, and other issues we identify in the course of field organizing throughout the state.
  • Identify and recruit teams of candidates to run as a slate of Libertarian candidates for local and state office in each and every county.
  • Market the Libertarian Party door to door to small businesses
    throughout every single county in the state.

Let’s take the lemons that the state legislature has handed us in the form of prohibitive ballot access barriers and turn them into lemonade!

Paulie

This business plan needs a lot of work; if anyone reading has experience with writing business plans and would like to help, please let me know how to get a hold of you in the comments.

We would like to turn it into a presentation-quality business plan folder which we will distribute to attendees at the upcoming LSLA/LNC in Charleston, SC, Feb 27-Mar. 1st.

We would also like to send an email fundraising letter based on this plan to the thousands of opt-in subscribers to LPA chair Steve Gordon‘s company, LibertarianLists. We are also interested in finding out more about other lists we can borrow, rent or purchase to raise money for implementing this plan as it progresses.

During the course of the meeting, Steve had to turn the gavel over to Vice Chair Mike Rster because for a portion of the meeting because he was being interviewed by CNN.

After the meeting ended, Steve was just starting to help me with writing the business plan when he had to leave unexpectedly, due to his grandfather having his feeding tube pulled. Condolences and best wishes to Steve Gordon and his family.

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I’ve told bits and pieces of this story in response to comments on various threads in various places. Having done so over and over, I feel the need to go ahead and put it all out there now so that everyone has one place to turn to for my perspective as state chair. I’m going to go over this first in timeline format, then share a few additional facts about WV and the ballot access situation for us and other parties. If something in the timeline is a bit confusing, see the facts section for clarification.

December 2007: Bill Redpath approaches then-chair Kirsten Milligan about assisting WV with national party funds for ballot access. I was secretary of the party at that time. Kirsten discussed it with the executive committee, and the concensus we reached was that since we did not have a gubernatorial candidate for 2008, national party funds would be better spent elsewhere, and that we would pursue ballot access in 2012 when we had a gubernatorial candidate so that we could achieve major party status and never have to petition again.

March 2008: Kirsten Milligan resigns, and I become interim chairman.

April 2008: Russ Verney contacts me about the possibility of the Barr campaign going for ballot access in WV if Barr wins the nomination. He seems enthusiastic, and I am as well. Mr. Verney comes across very well, and I’m genuinely looking forward to working with him on this together at that point.

May 2008: I’m elected chairman for a full term. Tad Britch is elected to replace me as secretary.

May 2008: Several Barr campaign folks speak to me about the possibility of ballot access in WV while I’m in Denver as a delegate, both before and after Barr receives the nomination. Shane Corey and Russ Verney are among them. I ask them to keep in touch moving forward, and state that I’d love to bring out whatever volunteers the state party has available, but that we have very little in the way of funds, and not enough to really pay for petitioners. I state that we would like some training for our volunteers who primarily reside in the north-central area of WV. This is the last time I would be in contact with any Barr campaign staff, however. I mention to Paulie and others that I’d like to have them come petition and party with me in WV if the Barr campaign sends some funds to the state party for ballot access.

June 2008: Towards the very end of June, Jake Witmer contacts me, and says they are petitioning. I mention that I’d like to get some volunteers trained from the state party’s volunteer base. Jake states that he is in Charleston (a few hours south of the north-central area, where we have very few activists and likely no volunteers.) Jake tells me Shane Corey is coming to the Charleston area, and that he’ll be contacting me. I ask if any petitioners are active in northern WV. Jake doesn’t know. Jake sends me some documents including petitions.

July 2008: I’m still in contact with Jake every once in a while. I offer to house petitioners in my home since Morgantown/Fairmont/Clarksburg/Bridgeport is a good area for petitioning. He says he has a friend who might take me up on it if his friend is brought in by the Barr campaign. That never occurs. I also mention that several other members of the state party would likely volunteer couch space or an air-bed. Later on, Jake gives me contact info for Shane who is apparently in Charleston. I am never able to get in contact with Shane, and he never attempts to contact me.

August 2008: The Barr campaign fails to meet its deadlines. Our state party volunteer base was never utilized. Barr also fails to register as a certified write-in candidate, so that write-in votes for Barr would be counted.

September 2008: A state party member calls me, asking about the Barr lawsuit. This is the first I’d heard of it.

Now for some facts. Ballot access is a 2% theshhold of prior-election voters in WV. To achieve major party status (which means you get free ballot access without petitioning) you must have a gubernatorial candidate who receives 1% of the popular vote. After the national convention, the only person who I was ever in contact with regarding the ballot access efforts was Jake Witmer. Jake was not equipped to really do what needed to be done, as a petitioner and not someone with any real authority. In the future, ballot access efforts will be undertaken by the LPWV. I firmly believe this will better serve the interests of LP candidates throughout the state as we move forward.  The Constitution Party achieved ballot access by petition in 2008 for their presidential candidate, as did Ralph Nader as an independent.  The Green Party affiliate, which is called the Mountain Party, had major party status and did not need to petition.

– Matt Harris, LPWV Chair

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Candidate Endorsement: Chris Bennett for Vice President

Chris Bennett[NOTE: Originally posted on Last Free Voice]

As you are hopefully all by now aware, longtime LFV contributor Chris Bennett is seeking the LP’s Vice Presidential nomination. While he would have my support simply for being an LFV contributor and a great guy, there is so much more to his candidacy that I have decided to formally endorse his bid for the LP Vice Presidential nomination.

Chris is 35 years old (will be 36 on August 30th) and lives in Springfield, Illinois. He graduated from Heritage High School in Littleton, Colorado. As an interesting aside, Chris was classmates with Matt Stone, co-creator of “South Park”.

Chris has been married to Evonne Bennett for eight years, and they have two children, Brandon (age 7) and Charity (age 9). He will graduate in May from the University of Illinois at Springfield, with a degree in Political Studies, and a minor in Economics. As such, there should be no question that he has the education to back up his candidacy, especially when compared with other LP candidates (including many of those seeking the LP’s Presidential nomination).

Chris also has the actual experience to back him up. As a libertarian activist for the last 16 years, he has volunteered on four presidential campaigns, three of them Libertarians. He was Scheduling Coordinator for the late Aaron Russo during his 2004 presidential campaign, and was also heavily involved in the Marrou and Badnarik presidential campaigns. He is currently the Legislative Chair for the Libertarian Party of Illinois, where he has fought for better ballot access for third parties in one of the most difficult ballot access states in the country.

Chris announced his candidacy right here on Last Free Voice last year, and his platform is as follows:

I will not make promises I can not keep. I do not have 200,000 dollars in future contributions and I am not endorsed by a famous dead person. However there are some promises I will keep:

I am strongly against the invasion and the “police action” in Iraq and will help push for an anti-war resolution at the Denver Convention.

I am against a fair tax and I will continue to fight to decrease the tax burden for all Americans.

I will continue to fight to restore our civil liberties and constitutional rights and fight to eliminate the Patriot Act, the Real ID Act, the Military Commissions Act and the North American Union.

As an African-American, I will use my candidacy to recruit more minorities and women into the libertarian movement.

As a soon-to-be college graduate, I will continue to convince younger voters and non-voters that the Libertarian Party is the future not the two “boot on your neck” parties and use my candidacy to re-energize libertarian college campus and local organizations across the country.

If I am nominated, I will help/assist state parties on getting our presidential ticket on their respective state ballots.

If I am nominated, I will assist serious Libertarian candidates running for office in all facets of their campaign across the country.

The days of a dormant Libertarian Party VP candidate are over. Our VP candidate should be as active as our Presidential candidate and I will proudly work with whoever you choose as our Presidential candidate in order to spread our message of liberty and freedom to the American people.

Chris has been working hard to spread the word about his candidacy, and in fact he is one of the few Libertarian candidates to get attention from the mainstream press. Even better, he received FRONT PAGE attention in a major newspaper, the Springfield State Journal-Register.

By BERNARD SCHOENBURG
POLITICAL WRITER

Published Monday, October 15, 2007

At 6-foot-9, Chris Bennett is hard to miss. And his political aspirations match his height.

Bennett, 35, a senior at the University of Illinois at Springfield, is hoping to become the vice presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party.

“The days of a dormant Libertarian Party VP candidate are over,” said Bennett in a news release announcing his quest last week. “Our VP candidate should be as active as our presidential candidate and I will proudly work with whoever you choose as our presidential candidate in order to spread our message of liberty and freedom to the American people.”

Bennett was soft-spoken as he explained in an interview how he realized, after working on Bill Clinton’s primary campaign in 1992, that he didn’t really believe in Clinton’s platform.

“I just didn’t like how he wanted more government in more stuff,” Bennett said. “I didn’t like government having more control over the health-care situation, as Hillary tried to do and she’s proposing to do now.”

So, Bennett said, “I went soul searching.”

“The Republicans didn’t feel right,” he said. “They never really do reach out to minorities or a lot of women. And the Democrats, it just seems like they were taking the black vote for granted. So I decided ‘I’m going to search for another party.’”

Bennett had seen a Libertarian Party convention on C-SPAN. The convention included an African-American candidate for the presidential nomination, Richard Boddie.

“He was saying stuff that I really agreed with,” said Bennett, who is black.

Bennett now has been a Libertarian activist for more than 15 years, including working as scheduling coordinator during the late Aaron Russo’s 2004 attempt to be the Libertarian nominee for president.

“For the longest time, I used to carry a Constitution in my back pocket,” Bennett said, “so if anybody wanted to get in a philosophical, constitutional argument, I could whip out my Constitution.”

Bennett doesn’t think the country’s leaders are adhering to the Constitution, including going to war in Iraq without a formal declaration of war. Among his platform planks are “restore our civil liberties and constitutional rights,” including elimination of the Patriot Act and a proposed federal “Real ID” identification card. He said both invade people’s privacy.

He’d like to see lower taxes, with eventual elimination of the Internal Revenue Service.

Bennett frequently posts on Web sites, including one called

lastfreevoice.com, often in strong language.

“Jesse Jackson has taken up the anti-gun issue only because he failed as a ‘civil rights’ leader and pushes his new agenda to re-invent himself,” Bennett claims in one entry. “Just remember Hitler forced his people to give up their guns and look what happened; millions died in concentration camps. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; I’ll defend those values with my gun to protect my right to bear arms.”

Bennett said he actually doesn’t own a gun, but believes in the right to own one.

He’s also taken off on television preachers who get rich through their appeals.

“TV evangelists are the scum of the Christian community,” he said, writing about recent allegations of misspending by Richard Roberts, son of Oral Roberts. “Isn’t it immoral to steal from your contributors for your own lavish lifestyles …? Who do they think they are — the GOVERNMENT?”

And in an essay chastising Democrats for not doing more to get U.S. troops out of Iraq, he refers to the president as “Fuhrer Bush.”

Bennett is pro-life on abortion, which goes against the Libertarian platform. But he thinks other Libertarians may be coming around. He also thinks steps should be taken to legalize drugs.

A native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Bennett moved to Littleton, Colo., at age 9. He’s been married to his wife, Evonne, for 71/2 years, and they have two children. He moved to Springfield in 2005 to attend UIS.

While he said rural or suburban Libertarians might not be keyed into the issue of race relations, those from urban areas are, and he thinks the party is good for African-Americans.

In addition to ending discriminatory drug laws, which he blames for too many blacks being in prison, the Libertarians’ anti-tax sentiment would also help, Bennett said.

“If we lower taxes, people would be more able to get the house that they want or be able to contribute to their church or their social organization a little bit more,” he said. People could also “save for a rainy day.”

“I know a lot of people who would like to start their own IRA account, but they can’t because they’re taxed so much,” Bennett said.

Clearly, Chris interacts well with the media, and is able to get across his point intelligently, but also in a way that the average person can easily understand.

For the above reasons, I endorse Chris Bennett, without reservation, for the Libertarian Party’s Vice Presidential candidacy.

This brings me to another point. Chris is in desperate need of donations, to help him get to the Libertarian Party Convention in Denver. As a family man working his way through college, with a wife and two children, he is far from wealthy. Not only will he need the funds for travel and hotel, plus incidentals such as food and beverage, he will also need the funds to print brochures, to hand out to the delegates in order to get the votes he needs.

We all give money to other candidates, whether Ron Paul or Steve Kubby or George Phillies, or someone else. We need to start giving money for Chris’s campaign, because unless he can afford to get to Denver, he will be unable to continue his campaign. It would be a travesty if a qualified candidate such as Chris was not seriously considered for the LP’s Vice Presidential nomination, solely because he lacks the funds to attend the convention. We can do much better than that, especially with a candidate who has proven his worth. If we all pitch in, we can get Chris to Denver.

You can make donations to Chris’s campaign by clicking here, or you can click directly on the “donate” link on his website, which will take you to the same place. You can donate by credit card, debit card, or by setting up other payment arrangements via PayPal.

While I normally would never ask anyone to donate to a specific campaign, I’m making an exception in this case. Chris is “one of us”, a valuable and respected member of the blogosphere, a valuable and respected contributor to Last Free Voice, and a valuable and respected member of the libertarian movement, who has given freely not only of his time and expertise on other campaigns, but also has managed to engage in hands-on activism while in college and trying to raise a family.

Chris is not just another libertarian on the internet, waxing philosophical about libertarianism, who suddenly decides he should be nominated to represent the LP in a lofty position; nor is is a Johnny-Come-Lately to the LP who suddenly decided he should be nominated for for the Vice Presidency; he has actually made many years of sacrifices which benefit us all, and he has the experience and education to back up his campaign for the Vice Presidency.

Unlike many candidates, Chris is not looking to raise millions. He has set a goal of $3000 to attend the LP Convention, and since I used to live in Denver, I can assure you that it’s a very reasonable goal, especially since it will also cover the costs of his campaign brochures.

I have made a commitment to donate $100 to Chris’s campaign, to help him get to Denver. If only 29 more people match that commitment (and I know there are many others who can afford to do so), Chris will have met his goal. However, even if you can only spare $10, or $20, or $50 – or if you can give the legal maximum of $2300 per person, or $4600 per married couple – you can rest easy with that donation, knowing Chris is a tried and proven libertarian, and a candidate who has actually earned that donation through his many years of activism on behalf of libertarians everywhere.

Please, help spread the word. Let’s raise the funds necessary to get Chris to Denver!

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