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.