L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 108, February 12, 2001
Plenty of Abuse to Go Around
by Jim Babka
Exclusive to TLE
From: "Jim Babka" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I was the press secretary for the Harry Browne campaign in 2000. Please consider this (attached) letter to the editor an official response to Jacob Hornberger, who wrote in issue #106.
I apologize in advance for the length of it. As I state early in the article, this letter represents but a tenth of what I could write on the subject, and that would be a conservative estimate.
Please contact me if you have any questions, or edits in mind. Thanks in advance for your consideration.
Let me start by introducing myself so that it is clear that I'm in a position to address these matters with authority and finality. My name is Jim Babka, and I was the Press Secretary for the Harry Browne 2000 campaign. I'll cover my credentials in greater detail at the conclusion of this letter.
What follows is a specific and official response to Mr. Hornberger, who wrote a letter for your last issue. I apologize for the length of it, but even at this length, I'm left with the feeling I've only said a tenth of what could (and should) be said.
It should be noted that in EVERY one of these cases, this information has been made publicly available by either Harry Browne or Perry Willis. None of this has deterred Mr. Hornberger, he's simply adapted his mode, and re-attacked. I suspect this time will be no different. And, those who've attempted to privately contact Harry Browne or the campaign, to determine the voracity of Hornberger's charges have found us to be quite forthcoming (even for, as you'll discover later, Mr. Hornberger). Personally, I wish I could have those hours back to do more productive things for the campaign and my party. I have been told by virtually all who have called me that our accuser does not return his phone calls or emails on this matter.
The 2000 exploratory committee and campaign did not make payments to anyone on the national staff, including Bill Winter and Steve Dasbach. This has been stated publicly. In the past Mr. Hornberger's response has been to up the ante and request signed affidavits from nearly a dozen people, said affidavits stating they'd received nothing of any value from the Browne campaign.
Optopia Productions is Perry Willis' company. Optopia was a PUBLICLY DISCLOSED contractor for the Libertarian Party, managing Project Archimedes. Project Archimedes was designed and managed by Mr. Willis during his tenure as National Director. After Perry lefts as National Director, it was deemed to be in the best interests of the party and the project to have a transition period to turn Archimedes over to the new National Director in the future—the demands of the project would be too much for an incoming National Director now short of staff. In the real world they call this a transition, and that's exactly what happened here. Mr. Willis has not been involved in Project Archimedes for about two years.
Perry Willis has maintained Optopia Productions. It appears in the FEC reports (available online). Payments made to it covered up nothing. If Willis was seeking to hide information he could have put the entire staff on that payroll, but instead he disclosed all salaries openly on the FEC reports, including his. By far, the largest item Optopia billed the campaign for was health insurance for the full-time staff members. Casual perusal of FEC reports demonstrates this.
The concept of Peter Orvetti "outing" Browne on the payments to LP staff (occurring back in 1995) is an example of Hornberger's adaptability—because this information was already public knowledge.
To illustrate how deep Mr. Hornberger's deception runs, all of this was explained to him in excruciating detail in an hours long meeting held in Perry Willis' office, with Bill Winter and Steve Dasbach present, back in 1997. And it gets worse, because all of these payments were disclosed to the LNC (discussion of them occurs in the minutes) by the parties involved back in 1996, shortly after they occurred.
It's also typical of Hornberger's way of using loaded language to create an impression. Hornberger says, "Browne was forced to admit…" How can Orvetti force Browne to do anything—much less admit something he's supposedly been covering up for years? Orvetti asked a question and Browne answered it—the same way he's answered the question for years.
It's cute that Hornberger has called for a certified audit.
First, he maintains rigid secrecy about the operations of his organization, the Future of Freedom Foundation. Yes, they've probably filed the necessary paperwork with the IRS, but how he spends the $300,000 plus he raises each year is largely a mystery. Surely it can't cost that much to send 4,000 copies of the tiny (literally) magazine "Freedom Daily" (not a daily but a monthly publication, by the way) and to fax out op-eds to dozens of small, free, weekly newspapers—can it?
Of course, I'm not calling for an audit of FFF, yet. What Mr. Hornberger does is between him and his donors. But it's worth pointing out here that he doesn't reveal anything about his finances. On the other hand, he demands endless audits, affidavits, and disclosures from the Browne campaign. And he keeps claiming to discover "secrets" about the Browne campaign's finances—even though he has never once revealed anything that wasn't a matter of public knowledge long before he "discovered" it.
Second, who does Hornberger propose is going to pay for an Audit of the campaign? The campaign finished with a debt in excess of $90,000. Our friendliest vendor was our largest creditor—if you ordered a book, bumper sticker or video, he's the one who got it to you on time, and for much of the campaign he was operating his business at a loss. Two of our employees have forgiven $20,000 in back pay, and one employee is still owed more than $10,000. I'm not asking you to feel sorry for any of these people, just to acknowledge their sacrifice.
Hornberger, on the other hand, sacrificed nothing. He quit his campaign 53 days after he started it in 1999. He hid in the bushes and took sniper shots that demoralized party faithful and depressed contributions. As was detailed in the final campaign report by Perry Willis, the Browne campaign made mistakes but they were all either tactical or fundraising constraints.
It's important to note that the Libertarian National Committee did commission such an audit of the 1996 Browne campaign books and operations in 1997. The 1996 team passed with flying colors. Most of Hornberger's pre-convention attacks on the Browne team included Sharon Ayers, despite the existence of such an audit. That didn't cause him to apologize. It didn't even cause him to stop this vendetta campaign. As I indicated earlier, he just adapted.
Do you have any shame, Mr. Hornberger? The campaign is over and you did great damage to the LP. Are you not content? Must you continue to assault people's characters and reputations? Do you believe this will get you the LP nomination in 2004? It didn't get you any new support in 2000. You did a great deal of damage to others, and to yourself.
Repeatedly people have contacted our campaign, or Mr. Browne specifically, and said something to the effect of, "Why do you engage in all this infighting? Why not find common ground and fight together for the cause you believe in?"
Mr. Hornberger's personal philosophy is opposed to finding common ground. He calls his techniques the Stonewall Jackson Strategy. One aspect of this strategy is to always take the offensive and make your enemy do all the responding. Thus, when one charge has been answered, boldly assert two more.
When Hornberger made his first attack in 1997, Harry Browne contacted him—believing Hornberger to be a friend dating back to 1987. He was sure that Hornberger had a sincere and honest misunderstanding. After all, Hornberger had recently sent Browne a letter praising his 1996 campaign, and had repeated his praise at the start of a February 1997 meeting with Browne and (then) Browne Exploratory Committee Director, Jack Dean. Browne offered to provide information to correct errors made in Hornberger's public assertions.
Hornberger replied that Browne shouldn't take it all so seriously; there was nothing personal, this is just politics. Hornberger used the analogy of two lawyers who attack each other viciously in the courtroom and then go out afterward and hoist a couple of beers.
Despite this, Browne refrained from replying publicly to anything Hornberger wrote or said—until early 2000, when the accusations became so vicious they caused fund-raising for the campaign to dry up. At that point, Browne issued one statement. He said that statement would have to suffice; for the good of the party, he wouldn't allow the presidential campaign to turn into a divisive, mud-slinging contest. And he was true to his word.
Mr. Hornberger will do one of two things in response to me. He may choose to ignore what I've written, thinking I'm not of his status level, and therefore not worth responding to. Or, he may choose to dissect my letter, and come up with a bunch more unsubstantiated attacks that can only be answered by this theoretical audit he's proposing.
I'll close on some personal notes.
I, like thousands of others, was attracted to this party by Harry Browne. It was his cogent explanation of the drug war that turned me from disgruntled Republican to a Browne supporter.
From a Browne supporter I evolved into a Libertarian Party activist. I co-founded a county chapter in a major metropolitan area, starting with only 10 members. I chaired it to 53 in 16 months, and when I moved from that area in 1999, it had more than 70 members.
From county chair I became a state party fundraising director. Largely through my efforts state party membership funds increased 150%, and all other sources of fundraising increased by nearly a third.
From there I became a state chair. My state didn't have ballot access for 18 years—going back to the Clark campaign. We had only 6 affiliated chapters covering 11 counties. Because of ballot access challenges, we ran only one partisan campaign in 1998 (which I directed to the fourth best (LP) finish in it category, and the second best fundraising effort). Our state party didn't have a lot of crucial infrastructure including a budget, a media team, candidate services, and a legal team.
My tenure ended when I accepted the job of press secretary for the Harry Browne campaign. But before I left, we obtained ballot access with over 65,000 petition signatures. We had 10 affiliated chapters covering 25 counties. The Ohio LP went on to run more than 70 partisan races, including 18 of 19 congressional districts. Everyone in Ohio had at least one Libertarian to vote for, most had three or more. And, for the first time in many, many years, we had a budget, a media team, candidate services, and a legal team.
I hate using the word "I" because so many people participated in making everything I just listed happen. But it's important you know who's speaking to you. I have a track record that even Jacob Hornberger should envy.
Most importantly, I worked on the Harry Browne campaign. I can vouch for the commitment of everyone on this team. We worked extraordinarily long hours, six to seven days per week. We constantly plotted to improve and suffered disappointment repeatedly. I loved the job—more than any other I've ever had. And I loved the people I worked with.
Perry Willis in particular has taken a beating he doesn't deserve. Since most people in the party don't know him personally, and he serves a supporting rather than candidate role, he's had little or no cover for the increasingly shrill statements that have been made about him.
When Perry Willis became national director, we had 10,000 members. When he left, we had 26,000 members. And his membership program, Archimedes, took us to 33,000 members before it was put on hold for the election year. He's a visionary for our party. He's been a national director, run two national campaigns, and participated in two others. He has an 18 year track record of working for our party, and it was under his direction that the party made the move from a run down house in a dangerous neighborhood, to the respectable Watergate office we have today.
But to me, he's the best boss I've ever had. He's the main reason I haven't returned to my beloved home state, where virtually all of our family and friends reside. Instead, I've chosen to stay and work with him, to work on his passion, which remains attracting and educating massive numbers of libertarians at the lowest possible cost.
Most of the critics continue to do the only thing they know how to do, criticize. They have nothing to offer, no experience, no proof for their theories, only Monday morning quarterbacking—and in the case of Jacob Hornberger, character attacks and insinuations.
None of these folks I'm referring to ever go out and put their ideas into practice—to prove to others they can get better results than the true activists achieve. For example, Hornberger has talked for years about reaching out to minorities. How many of them has he recruited into the LP? How many chapters of immigrants, blacks, the poor, and other unfortunates has he set up?
All of this should end. Mr. Hornberger you've been answered, repeatedly, and instead of accepting those answers, you've created new allegations. You should desist your witch-hunt and apologize to those whose characters you've assaulted. Then, like a minister who's caught in sin, you should turn over your organization to a responsible libertarian so that it can flourish and you should take a sabbatical for reflection. Such a move would demonstrate your sincerity and heal your reputation.