by staff reports

Time will tell whether it is the beginning of a new era for the Libertarian Party, or the death-rattle of a quixotic effort. On Saturday, at its quarterly board meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, the Libertarian National Committee voted to end the party’s dues-based membership system, moving to a donation-and-pledging fundraising paradigm, beginning January 1, 2006. The vote was 8-7, with one abstention. In addition, the LNC will phase out the current Uniform Membership Program over the next 6-12 months. This was the “revenue sharing” process by which members paid dues to the national party, with a share of those proceeds passed back each month to that person’s state-affiliate party, throughout the membership year.

The vote reversed a previous LNC decision to raise basic member dues from $25 to $50. This move was taken in a secret ballot, passed narrowly and threatened to split the party, even between state affiliates. In response to that decision, Southwest Regional Representative George Squyres of Arizona, presented the “zero-dues” option at the last board meeting, where it was tabled until this one. A subsequent motion by Southeast Regional Alternate and Tennesseean Trevor Southerland, to reduce the $50 back to $25, was withdrawn after Squyres’ effort succeeded.

LP critics have held that as long as the party remained focused on this “members in good standing” funding model, it could never rise above the level of minor relevance. The party had stagnated financially around 2001, and nearly faced bankruptcy in 2002 before a major reorganization effort by the sitting LNC in 2003. It has been only holding steady, barely keeping its bills paid, over the last several years. Proponents of this measure hope to foster a new vitality based on a “bottom-up” grassroots approach. If they are successful, the Libertarian Party may find itself growing and strengthening its effect on political affairs, after all. If not, it could spell the beginning of the end for the LP. -ST

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