The Big Takeover, Yeah Yeah


When Bob Barr and his campaign manager Russ Verney walked into reason's HQ yesterday, little did I know the building was becoming the epicenter of a conspiracy. That's the hot rumor on some hard-line libertarian sites at the moment.

The Libertarian Party is under attack. Its 2008 presidential nomination is the target of a "hostile takeover" bid by social conservatives, fronted by a former congressman of that persuasion and honchoed by two past practitioners of the art of the party raid, Richard Viguerie and Russ Verney.

Thomas Knapp's proof? E-mails asking Barr supporters to meet in Columbus for a Denver trip, and the creeping influence of Richard Viguerie.

I do know that one of its principals, Viguerie, was inserted as the convention's keynote speaker when Barr himself withdrew pursuant to setting up his presidential exploratory committee.

I do know that Viguerie bought the premier "third party news site" on the Internet over the weekend and the the new management immediately memory-holed an article (by me) casting Barr in a negative light vis a vis an article which appeared above the fold in Sunday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

First off, it's funny to think of Viguerie as a shadowy conspirator. The last time I saw him speak was… at a Libertarian Party meeting in Orlando last year, as an invited guest. It was no secret that Viguerie was dabbling with supporting at least Ron Paul and at most a full-on third party. In his (then-new) book Conservatives Betrayed, Vigurie wrote about third parties collaborating to get ballot access, although he preferred they could band together in a "third force" (rather than a spoiler party) once the right pressure was applied on Republicans.

But David Nolan piles on:

Clearly, Barr and Viguerie are attempting to gain control of the LP so that Barr can campaign on a conservative/libertarian hybrid platform and Viguerie can extend his fundraising empire into the libertarian quadrant of the political universe. If they succeed, the Libertarian Party will become just one more mouthpiece for malcontent Republicans.

The irony of all this? Nolan and Knapp both use the cover-up of this Atlanta Journal-Constitution article on Barr's PAC as Exhibit A. But when you read the article, you discover that Barr's run for the LP nomination is making his PAC less profitable.

"I thought it was going to benefit the Republican Party," said Edith Fogleman, 85, of Burlington, N.C. "I thought it was going for a good cause. I didn't know he was switching [to Libertarian]. I don't quite understand what he's doing."

Fogleman, who gave at least $145 since 2006, said she stopped after learning Barr might run as a Libertarian.

So Viguerie is engaging in actions that could hurt his fundraising empire in the service of a plan to get the Libertarian Party more money, attention, and votes. Yes, this is a terrible threat. Stacy McCain has more on why, even without the churning rumor mill, activist LP skepticism is keeping the race wide open with Barr as an underdog.

Headline explained here.