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Libertarian women’s history month: Leslie Graves

31 Mar

Leslie Graves (195? – )  started in Libertarian Party and anti-draft activism and gradually moved to behind the scenes activism in tax and term limitation initiatives and then freedom of information issues.  Many libertarians are not familiar with Ms. Graves, who has never been well profiled on the Internet or in any libertarian publication.
Originally from Spring Green, Wisconsin, her father served in the Korean War.

Leslie matriculated at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland in 1972.  A “Great Books” school, St. John’s requires that students read original sources and texts, even in maths and sciences, from Plato to Freud, Leslie’s college years overlapped with another well known (and now long term) libertarian activist studying at St. John’s College, Tom Palmer, with whom she would later work on the 1980 Ed Clark for President campaign, though apparently they never met as undergraduates.   Years later, after raising children and working in the Libertarian Party,  Graves did graduate work in philosophy at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She co-authored “Is indeterminism the source of the statistical character of evolutionary theory?” in the Philosophy of Science and wrote “Transgressive traditions and art definitions” for the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism.   

But in college, Leslie married another “Johnnie,” as St. John’s students are called, Steve Key, and had a daughter, Sara Key.  The marriage dissolved amicably while Sara was an infant, and Leslie moved for a year to Washington, D.C., where she worked with the Ed Crane wing of the libertarian movement that was running Ed Clark’s 1980 Presidential campaign (for which David Koch served as an angel donor and the Vice Presidential candidate).  In 1980, Leslie and Sara became roommates with a libertarian gay couple working for the Clark campaign and the Libertarian Party in the Glover Park neighborhood near the Libertarian Party national headquarters (at that time on Wisconsin Avenue just above Georgetown, over what is now, of course, a Starbucks.)  Leslie was tasked with working as a representative to the Coalition Against Registration and the Draft‘s national board, popularly referred to as the CARD Board.  The anti-draft movement of the time was contentious, as for the first time marxists and socialist front groups, along with honestly socialist parties, had to contend with multiple libertarian groups, including the Libertarian Party, the Young Libertarian Alliance, the Association of Libertarian Feminists, and the Society for Individual Liberty, all finding a Washington, D.C. member and appointing them to represent them and vote for them on the CARD Board.  Leslie was also the state chair for a time of the Wisconsin Libertarian Party,

While in D.C., Leslie met another mid-Westerner, Eric O’Keefe, a handsome Detroit factory worker who had saved money and invested shrewdly in the stock market, and then quit his auto industry job to take the position of Executive Director of the Libertarian Party.  Eric O’Keefe  has since gone on to work for a number of tax and term limitation groups, is on the board of directors of the Cato Institute, and has worked in support of the campaigns of governor Scott Walker.  They married and remain married today, and have had several children who are now adults working in the liberty movement.  In March of 2015 the O’Keefes attended the 35th anniversary of the Ed Clark for President campaign in New Orleans (Eric O’Keefe, pictured right foreground, with David Boaz, Howie Rich, and Andrea Millen Rich; photo credit: F.M. Strandfeldt).  Leslie and Eric were both part of the group of libertarians who ran the Clark campaign and who sought, unsuccessfully, to have Georgetown University international relations professor Earl Ravenal nominated as the 1984 Libertarian Party presidential candidate.  Leslie was dubbed the “Madame LaFarge” of the libertarian movement by Murray Rothbard, then somewhat cranky in his dotage. Amusingly, Rothbard was at best 5’8″ while Graves was, as she liked to minimize, “5’11 and a half.” (One of Graves’s sisters is an Olympic rower, and in the late 90s the four Graves’s sisters competed in a Nike sponsored rowing event.) Unhappy that his advice about campaigns and elections was often not heeded, Murray exiled Leslie to the Rothbard list of people to be banned from the libertarian movement, for being nefariously associated with the Koch brothers and/or Ed Crane (leftovers are truly second handers – even Koch derangement syndrome was started by a libertarian!)  Like most of the others in this group, Leslie left Libertarian Party activism for good for other political activities, and the Libertarian Party shrank, not matching the Ed Clark/David Koch vote total until the 2012 race of Governor Gary Johnson.

Today, Leslie is the publisher of Balletopedia, which covers elections and campaigns as a specialized wikipedia, as a project of the Lucy Burns Institute, which says its mission is “to connect people and politics,” which she founded in 2006 and until recently served as president.  The Institute also has three other projects, a WikiFOIA, Policypedia, and Judgepedia, which attempt to provide more transparency in government machinations.  In 2012, Graves authored a guidebook titled Local Ballot Initiatives: How citizens change laws with clipboards, conversations, and campaigns.

Graves’ political analysis has been included in the Wall Street JournalReutersBloomberg NewsCampaigns and Elections, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Libertarian-leaning super PAC raising big money; will they support Sarvis for Governor?

21 Oct
A super PAC quietly formed this spring by a prominent libertarian has rushed to a quick fundraising start thanks to a small network of wealthy, like-minded donors.

Purple PAC, a super PAC led by former Federal Election Commission Chairman Brad Smith and Cato Institute founder and Ed a Clark for President campaign manager Ed Crane, raised $575,000 from the time the group launched in early May through the end of June, new FEC filings show.
Only four donors had contributed by their first FEC filing date, but they provided significant cash. The group received two $250,000 contributions — one from Richard Masson, a Kentucky horse breeder, and another from Pennsylvania-based options trader Jeffrey Yass, who also sits on the board of the Cato Institute.

Washington, D.C., entrepreneur Philip Harvey donated an additional $50,000 to Purple PAC, while New York real estate developer Howard Rich chipped in $25,000, according to FEC records.

Smith, who currently serves as the chairman of the anti-campaign finance regulation group Center for Competitive Politics, said Purple PAC plans to make independent expenditures promoting “freedom-oriented” candidates who are fiscally conservative and socially moderate.
These are viewpoints Smith says a large number of voters hold, although they have little influence in Washington.
“Swing voters don’t feel that either of the major parties is representing them,” Smith said, adding the group intends to focus much of its resources on battleground states, as its name suggests.
While the group has yet to formally back any politicians, Smith said it’s open to supporting federal office-seekers of either party. But candidates that generally agree with the super PAC’s ideology “tend to be in the Republican Party at this point in time.”  Supporters of Robert  Sarvis, the Libertarian gubernatorial candidate currently polling at 10% in Virginia, are hoping Sarvis will receive some last minute support from Purple PAC.
Smith also said he was pleased with Purple PAC’s initial fundraising haul, adding, “we think we can raise a significant amount of money.”
Three of the group’s four donors — Yass, Masson and Rich — gave federal-level Republican candidates tens of thousands of dollars during the 2012 election cycle. Rich was the only one of the three to give money to an outside group, contributing $25,000 to the libertarian-leaning Liberty for All Super PAC.
Rich is also the founder of the advocacy group Americans for Limited Government and has helped fund a number of other conservative-leaning nonprofit organizations in recent elections.
Harvey, meanwhile, gave $10,000 to the Campaign for Primary Accountability, an anti-incumbent super PAC that’s ramping up its operations again after a year’s worth of inactivityHe also gave $8,000 to the Libertarian National Committee in 2012 and contributed $2,500 apiece to two Democrats: Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., and Roger Goodman, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in Washington state.

The Washingtonian on the Cato vs. Koch Conflict

17 Jun

The Washingtonian just published a detailed article on the Koch brothers lawsuit seeking to take control of the Cato Institute:

Since its founding in 1977, Cato has evolved from a band of roguish scholars to a first-tier Washington think tank that cuts across party lines to further its libertarian agenda….
its work has helped make once-heretical libertarian positions such as legalizing gay marriage and decriminalizing marijuana more credible.
“Cato has made the case that libertarians aren’t just a bunch of pot-smoking weirdos,” says Martin Wooster, an expert on foundations and a senior fellow at the Capital Research Center. “It has helped make libertarianism a respectable public-policy position….”
Cato staffers were terrified that Koch would turn their beloved think tank into a factory for GOP talking points. “We fear that a Koch takeover would change our mission from one of winning hearts and minds for the libertarian cause over the long run to one of winning elections and legislative battles for the conservative movement in the short run,” says Jerry Taylor, a Cato senior fellow.
Crane issued a statement shortly after the lawsuit was filed: “We view Mr. Koch’s actions as an attempt at a hostile takeover and intend to fight it vehemently.”
The outbreak of civil war at Cato stunned Washington. Libertarian bloggers expressed outrage; Cato staffers pledged to resign…..
Behind the scenes …. the relationship between [Cato President Ed] Crane and Koch had been souring for years. Personal acrimony—over Koch’s management philosophy and Crane’s handling of a conference in Moscow—led in the early 1990s to the breakup of their friendship.

My own view of this dispute is the same as it was at the very beginning:

I completely agree with co-blogger Jonathan Adler’s comments on the Koch brothers’ lawsuit against the Cato Institute. I don’t know whether the Kochs’ legal rights have been violated or not. If they have, I can understand their frustration. But, for the reasons Jonathan explains, this lawsuit – even if meritorious – can only do damage to the Cato Institute and the broader libertarian cause which the Kochs have supported for many years.
Cato is the nation’s most prominent libertarian think tank. For both public relations and substantive reasons, it is unwise for it to be controlled by members of one family, whether the Kochs or any other. The public relations problem is obvious. The substantive problem is that such a setup increases the chance that the organization will develop blindspots that might have been avoided with more diverse leadership….
Most likely, the Kochs genuinely believe they have been wronged and that they could run the Institute better than its current leaders. But not every well-intentioned action is wise, and this one isn’t.

In later posts, I explained why it is not inconsistent for libertarians to adopt a position like mine on this dispute, and also suggested a possible way to reduce the damage caused by the conflict.
The information in the Washingtonian article largely confirms my view that the Koch lawsuit is likely to do far more harm than good, regardless of its legal merits. If the Kochs prevail, they will acquire an asset that has lost much of its reputation, as well as many of its best scholars. That is unlikely to benefit either Cato or the Kochs. And it certainly doesn’t do anything for the cause of libertarianism.
The legal issues in the case are complex and disputable. It’s possible the Kochs are in the right. But there are times when when we should refrain from asserting even a genuine legal right, and this is one such case.
I don’t agree with everything the Washingtonian article says. For example, I’m not convinced that Charles Koch has become a “conservative activist” as opposed to merely believing that current political realities require an alliance between libertarians and conservatives. Libertarians who favor the opposite course of action – a “liberaltarian” alliance with liberals – do not thereby become liberals themselves. The same point applies to Charles Koch’s efforts to build coalitions with conservatives. The Kochs have long supported many causes that most conservatives oppose, and continue to do so.
But even if the Kochs are no less libertarian than Cato’s current leadership, their lawsuit is likely to cause more harm than good. I regret that the dispute has dragged on for so long, and hope that it will end soon. It is not too late for the Kochs to drop their lawsuit or accept some sort of compromise that leaves Cato intact.
NOTE: I described my ties to the two sides in the Cato vs. Koch conflict here.

The Koch brothers and the Liberty movement

11 Feb
I have a long history of brief brushes with Charles and David Koch.

In 1980 I was kind of a college intern for the Ed Clark for President Campaign.  David Koch was the Libertarian Party vice presidential candidate, allowing the LP to finance itself despite the Federal Election Commission and campaign finance rules meant to crush new parties and challenges to incumbents (the only people who can give big donations to a campaign are the candidates themselves).  I actually ran into David Koch at an Americans for Prosperity event in DC a year ago and told him that I had worked on his campaign in 1980 and he said “That was my baptism by fire!”

After the Clark campaign, I was attacked by Murray Rothbard (who had never spoken to me, though when I was 20 and he was 60+ we had from time to time been in the same room).  I am at the very end of his long list of “Craniacs” (agents of Ed Crane) and members of the “Kochtopus” (people who work on projects funded by the Kochs) in one of his many screeds, this one published in his newsletter Libertarian Forum (now archived by the Ludwig von Mises institute at ).  Rothbard famously in his dotage became a cranky old man who attacked anyone who did not worship him, as the South Park kids would say, an A-U-T-H-O-R-O-Y-T-A-Y. (In this Rothbard was repeating a libertarian cycle of abuse, himself in the 50s having been abused by Ayn Rand, who disapproved of his Catholic wife Joey.  I am tempted to begin my own version of the Ron Paul Newsletters, covering the libertarian movement, to be entitled Cranky Old Jews.)  Except for working for 11 months for the Clark campaign, I have never been paid by anything funded by the Koch brothers, though I once wrote Charles Koch a letter for some reason (in the 80s) and got a letter back from him.

Ed Crane

Fast forward to the 90s.  Among my real estate clients was a Yugoslavian defector, a female Olympic athlete, who had lived in Manhattan for a decade or two — and dated David Koch.  It’s always funny to run into people, especially through real estate, who are connected to people you know in some other aspect of life.  My client was rather wistful.  It was clear that David Koch was the one, or at least the wallet, that got away.

And apparently the libertarian movement is now in the same position as my client.

The Kochs fund a number of libertarian think tanks and groups, like the CATO Institute.  In the past decade or so they have also given maximum amounts of money to Republican candidates and PACS, and famously organize retreats for multi-millionaire donors which Soros and Podesta funded brothels like the Center for American Regress constantly write about and attempt to infiltrate.  They have also given a lot of money to various tea party groups, including Americans for Prosperity.

Curiously, when Rand Paul ran for Senate, the Kochs gave money to the conventional Republican he was running against in the primary (I am told — I have not checked this at, but you can go there as I have in the past and see the donations to Republicans, and no LP candidates, in general).  Only after Rand was the nominee did the Kochs donate to him.

Now I am extremely grateful to the Kochs for their funding of all aspects of the tea party and liberty movements, including libertarian groups.  According to multiple off the record sources, the Kochs do plan to use their donor status to effect a “vertical integration” of the libertarian movement organizations they fund into the tea party movement.  This is in part occasioned by the recent death of CATO board member William Niskanen.  Niskanen, Ed Crane, and Charles and David Koch are the board.  The board is now down from 4 to 3, and so the Kochs, if in agreement, control what will happen.  (Probably coincidentally next week there is a CATO lunch forum for a tea party book.)  According to my sources, this integration will include the Reason Foundation and other groups that the Kochs help to fund.  It might include many firings or resignations by CATO and other staffers and scholars who concentrate on civil liberty or foreign policy issues.

I am not sure that strategically this is a mistake.  Perhaps the idea is that libertarians are well established enough in academia in spots that egg heady think tanks are no longer a priority.  But the Kochs’ friendship with Herman Cain does make one pause and wonder if the new orientation will include shunning foreign policy and civil liberty issues.  We will have to keep a watch.

Tea Party Patriots: The Second American Revolution
(Henry Holt, 2012)

Thursday, February 16, 2012
Noon (Luncheon to Follow)
Featuring the authors Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin, Cofounders, Tea Party Patriots; with comments by John FundAmerican Spectator; moderated by Edward H. Crane, President, Cato Institute.
Mount Vernon Place, Undercroft Auditorium, 900 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001
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In 2009, an unemployed mother of two and a politically inexperienced northern California attorney met on a conference call that would end up launching one of the largest grassroots political movements in American history. Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin have since become the faces behind the Tea Party Patriots. By promoting the basic principles of free markets, limited government, and fiscal responsibility, the Patriots have capitalized on the recent groundswell of discontent around the country, inspiring a much-needed resurgence in the importance of constitutional constraints. In their new book, Meckler and Martin explain the genesis of this movement, what the Tea Party is and is not, and what its plans are for the future. Join us for the launch of this book by two emerging leaders, with comments by John Fund, a senior editor at the American Spectator and former political columnist for the Wall Street Journal.

Cato events, unless otherwise noted, are free of charge. To register for this event, please fill out the form below and click submit or email, fax (202) 371-0841, or call (202) 789-5229 by noon, Wednesday, February 15, 2012. News media inquiries only (no registrations), please call (202) 789-5200.