LPCO Chair Blasts Bus Bench "Cheap Shot"

The Colorado Freedom Report:  A libertarian journal of politics and culture.

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LPCO Chair Blasts Bus Bench "Cheap Shot"

[Libertarian Party of Colorado State Chair Norm Olsen, Records Director Bo Shaffer, and Legislative Director Paul Tiger here respond to the various exchanges surrounding the LPCO's bus-bench ad campaign. I started off the series with The LP's Bus Bench Bust. This was followed by replies by Ralph Shnelvar, John Berntson, and Tiger, as well as an overview of how the disagreement led to me giving up production of the party's newsletter. (Deb Hamm has taken over that position.)]

Norm Olsen, February 12, 2004

To the Editor:

Your recent report concerning the Libertarian Bus Bench Ads was a cheap shot. You criticize the LPCO Board of Directors without providing your readers with any information or comments from those you criticize. Why is that? Is that what sells? [Perhaps you now know what a cheap shot feels like.]

Despite the fact that you took the time to call three of the directors to inquire about the financial return of fundraising effort associated with the bus bench ads, you never bothered to obtain or even ask about the issues about which you criticize the Board. It appears to me that you called to obtain ammunition for your criticism without ever once hinting that you would be criticizing the Board. In your writing, you never even suggest that there may be good reasons why the Board chose to do what it did. You made absolutely _NO_ effort to provide your readers with the information necessary to make an independent judgment. All you provided them with was YOUR judgment. That's why I call your reporting a cheap shot.

You certainly have the right to be critical of what the LPCO Board does, or doesn't, do. Lord knows the LPCO Board provides ample fertile ground for these efforts. Also, I am certainly not so sensitive that I can't take significant amounts of fair minded criticism. However, if you are going to exercise your right criticize to me or any other Board member, then please have the common courtesy to call that person and ask for their position or opinion. Please show us the common decency of obtaining a response during your interview rather than forcing us to respond in this manner which is very time consuming. Where do you get the arrogance to force me into devoting significant amounts of my time to responding to your sloppy reporting?

May I remind your readers that the individuals making these decisions were elected to the positions they hold. In most cases, they were "elected" in non-contested races (aka volunteered). They stepped up to the plate and said: "Yes, I'll devote a significant portion of my life to the cause of the party, and I will make the decisions the best I know how to make this party grow." They did this when few, if any, would do likewise. They do not get paid, most actually make significant financial contributions to the party as well as the many many hours of time volunteered every week. That you would deny these individuals the common decency of including their "side of the issue" in your "reporting" is indeed an awfully CHEAP SHOT.

Ari Armstrong Replies

Olsen first complains that I criticized "the LPCO Board of Directors without providing [my] readers with any information or comments from those [I] criticize." It would have been nice indeed if even one of the members of the Board had answered the questions I asked. I have yet to receive a final report on the total revenues generated by the fundraiser related to the bus bench ads. I mentioned the four board members who provided me with some information: Fundraising Director Michele Poague, Outreach Director Rand Fanshier, and Treasurer Jeff Oliver, in addition to Olsen.

Olsen speculates I may have written the piece the way I did because that's "what sells," though he admits his speculation is more a barbed comment than a serious one. Olsen surely knows that I get no marginal financial gain from spending my time writing articles about the Libertarian Party of Colorado. He surely also knows that I'm the only independent party who extensively covers the Libertarian Party of Colorado. I suspect he also knows that I wrote the article precisely because I am interested in seeing the party succeed.

But a report that cites the majority of members of the board is inadequate for Olsen. He claims I "never bothered to obtain or even ask about the issues about which [I] criticize the Board." He is correct that I did not ask the board members about their opinions regarding the bus bench ads during the time I was gathering the information I later used in the article. I asked the board members only factual matters pertaining to the finances. However, I did obtain the board's position regarding the ads -- as did every other LPCO member in the party's database.

The fundraising letter pertaining to the bus bench ads is dated November 10, 2003, and it was mailed with the last edition of the party's newsletter, as I mentioned. It did not contain any compelling arguments for funding bus bench ads. In the Fall 2003 edition of Colorado Liberty, the party's newsletter (that I produced), Fanshier (a member of the LPCO board) outlined the case for the ads. Following are the benefits Fanshier claims the ads will produce. First, with the ads in place, "thousands of others are being exposed to the message daily." Second, LP members "[m]ight... be more inclined to speak about [their] politics in public, knowing [they] could refer to the ad that many have seen around town." Third, LP candidates will benefit in the 2004 fall elections, "with the public having been exposed for a year to these professional-looking ads." Fourth, "participation in your local LP affiliate will grow as the ad attracts voters to register Libertarian and sign up for national memberships."

Again, every LPCO member (in the party's database) received this article, written by a member of the LPCO board. In my article, I argued that the benefits Fanshier describes are unlikely to be realized. I made three specific arguments against the bus bench ads. First, "[t]hey are passive, and the message of the proposed ad communicates little." Second, "[i]n 2000, Shawn Elke Glazer purchased bus bench ads in her state legislative district, and they made no discernible difference." Third, the money spent on the bus bench ads could be spent on more useful projects.

Olsen's letter complains that I didn't include the board's opinion about the bus bench ads, but he didn't make any effort to offer additional arguments or evidence that the bus bench ads might be successful. In a reply I e-mailed to Olsen the same day he sent his letter, I commented, "You still haven't offered one single line of reasoning or evidence showing that the bus bench ad, or the fundraiser related to it, was a prudent expenditure of party funds. If you wish to do so, I will be happy to add those comments to your previous remarks." Olsen has not sent me any additional comments.

Olsen writes, "It appears to me that you called to obtain ammunition for your criticism without ever once hinting that you would be criticizing the Board." My answer to this is, "So what?" I contacted the board to obtain specific, factual information about the bus bench ad and its related fundraiser. I already had the opinion of the board, as did every other member of the party, and thus I didn't need to ask for a repetition of that opinion. I have a different opinion, one with at least some evidence to support it. No member of the board has brought to my attention any additional point that would cause me to reconsider my opinion. If simple facts are "ammunition" against the bus bench ad campaign, then that is an indictment of the campaign.

Olsen complains, "In your writing, you never even suggest that there may be good reasons why the Board chose to do what it did." I suggeted what the expected benefits are, and I conclude those benefits are unlikely to be realized. If Olsen can offer additional "good reasons why the Board chose to do what it did," then he is free to do so, and LPCO members can consider those arguments when they're presented.

Thus, I deny Olsen's assertion that my article was a "cheap shot." It was a reasoned reply to the board's very expensive "shot" to fund bus bench ads, a move well-publicized by the board. Olsen suggests I lacked decency for not "obtaining a response during [my] interview." However, I had considered the board's published case, and that was sufficient for me to form a reasoned judgment.

Olsen claims I forced the board "to respond in this manner which is very time consuming." However, neither Olsen nor any other member of the board has actually responded to the points of my article. There is no reason to expect that a reply to the article would be any more time consuming than an inquiry before the fact, especially given I had already read the board's opinion. Also, Olsen owes it to LPCO members to take a little time to explain the board's decisions. Olsen claims I am arrogant and sloppy in my reporting, yet he has not been able to point out any error in my reporting or offer new light on the board's decision. Indeed, his letter is little more than a series of ad hominem attacks.

Olsen next points out that the board members are volunteers who "do not get paid." So what? Does their volunteer status mean they're immune from criticism? If so, then the LPCO cannot succeed as a political party. I get criticized for my work all the time. The issue is not who's doing what work for free or who got their feelings hurt. The issue is, are the bus bench ads a good idea? I argued they aren't, and nothing in Olsen's letter provides any reason for concluding otherwise. (Also, it's not strictly true that board members "do not get paid." Campaign Director Michael McKinzie noted he got paid a small amount to help update the party's database, an expense that strikes me as prudent.)

Bo Shaffer, February 10, 2004

Ari,

I had no problem with your *article*..... (If other board members are going to take board business out of the Board, they should at *least* get it right)

The problem *I* have is with someone working for us who has such an opinion of the Board and it's members.

You have every right to say whatever you please..... in your *own* venue. Burt, when you work for someone, you *don't* bite the hand that feeds you....... or you will no longer get fed.

And, for accuracy's sake..... you get *more* than $400 per issue.......you also get a half page ad for free. Something *I* never approved......

'Nuff said til tonight....

Bo

Ari Armstrong Replies

First, I didn't "bite" anyone's hand. I offered reasoned, useful criticism. Sensible, results-oriented board members count such criticism as a benefit.

Second, to say that a paltry $400 per quarter "feeds" me is laughable. I gave the LPCO a cut-rate price for my services while producing arguably the most professional newsletter in the LPCO's history.

Finally, Shaffer incorrectly states I got "a half page ad for free." I exchanged the ad for an LPCO ad with the Colorado Freedom Report. That deal was approved by Publications Director Steve Gallant, and it was a fair deal.

Paul Tiger, February 11, 2004

Ari,

Happy that you printed my letter - though long.

In reply as to why I couldn't simply go ahead and get signs printed for my truck is this. I didn't have access to the digital presentation. I am not in contact with the people that were going to make the signs. I don't even know who it is that was going to print the signs. I asked for this information, saying that I could and would get it done myself, and any and all information was denied to me. I accepted that, because this board decided long ago not to be a committee of nine. We work cooperatively, but we don't interfere in other member's work and we intentionally don't sit on each other's committees.

For example, I haven't messed around with the hullabaloo concerning the publication and printing of Liberty, while others may have. Not my job. My job is well defined, and I stick to it. While I do other things in the LPBC and I help others with campaigns, I only do that when asked. I don't tell Travis for example, how to run his show, I have participated, but only when asked to, and when I can.

The bus bench ads and issues surrounding it came to me as a board member, and as a board member I could and did choose to vote for or against various bits and pieces of it. Same with the publication of Liberty. That is not interference or active promotion. I didn't care for the way in which (and still don't) bus bench ads have stretched on and on, developing a life of their own. I have repeatedly argued for alacrity and urgency, and voted against fund raising with this neat idea. I was not in the majority. Bus bench ads have turned from a great idea into a time sink.

I also think that the publication of Liberty has become a money loser and a time sink as well. I have repeatedly voted to scale it back (to dues paying members only).

Advocating for ideas or denouncing them with my board vote is not some type of conspiracy, as has been reported in some quarters. I was elected to this body by the membership and feel obligated to do my duty. If others feel that this is inappropriate, they will have the opportunity to fill board positions in May and find out for themselves how the board does work or can work.

I digress. I cannot force people to give me ad decals for my truck if they don't want to. Apparently, my money and desire have no effect on them. All I have heard is what I would believe as excuses. They may appear to be valid excuses to those that are making them, but they don't land that way in my quarters.

Moot point, because it doesn't appear that bus bench ads are going to occur at all. Unless this message kicks some asses into gear.

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