Secrets: I don't like them. I favor Open Government

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Martin Cowen

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Jun 22, 2022, 9:45:02 AMJun 22
to lnc-business
On a subject related to, but different from, the Non-Disclosure Agreement:

(Side note: I am now of the opinion that the NDA as drafted is intended to keep everything, literally everything, secret unless exempted in the Exceptions provision of paragraph 4, basically information already public as on this email list.)

My research has revealed to me that there are two areas of secrecy which the NDA is designed to protect:

One, and most important, is the CRM, Customer Relationship Management software. I have no problem protecting our membership information. and its proper use by those privy to it.

Two, and less important, are discussions by the Executive Committee of the LNC in executive session. I have no problem protecting information communicated in secret meetings. Though secret meetings should be as rare as budget cuts by the federal government.

My research has revealed to me a bias toward secrecy in the former LNC. I am totally opposed to this bias and the bias of the new LNC should be towards Open Government.

Should anyone like to participate in this thread, a list of secrets that you would like to keep would be useful so that we can discuss whether your secret is a good secret or a bad secret.

Among the items that should not be secret (and I do not know whether they are or not) are executed contracts by the LNC and salaries and contracts with our employees and contractors. We do, after all, know the salaries of the Justices of the Supreme Court of the United State.

Let us discuss whether we shall be biased towards secrecy or Open Government.

Thank you.

Martin Cowen
LNC 2 ALT

Donavan Pantke

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Jun 22, 2022, 10:53:46 AMJun 22
to lnc-bu...@lp.org
First, the requirement for near absolute transparency ( and the the moniker "Open Government" ) comes from the fact that governments use coercion to force us to do things, and so the discussions about what they force us to do should be as transparent as possible.

We are not a coercive entity. We are instead a private organization whose mission is to:

The Party is organized to implement and give voice to the principles embodied in the Statement of
Principles by:
1. functioning as a libertarian political entity separate and distinct from all other political parties or
movements;
2. electing Libertarians to public office to move public policy in a libertarian direction;
3. chartering affiliate parties throughout the United States and promoting their growth and activities;
4. nominating candidates for President and Vice-President of the United States, and supporting
Party and affiliate party candidates for political office; and
5. entering into public information activities


 While there are lots of functional ways to interpret " functioning as a libertarian political entity separate and distinct from all other political parties or
movements" , one of the key things to note is that we actively compete with other political parties. While economic competition is not a zero-sum game, political competition is: for every election we win, some other party or an independent loses. So for us to succeed at electing Libertarians, we make other political parties fail.

While our highest-level strategy may be public, our lower-level strategy or tactical decisions should not. You don't publish Coke's plan to crush Pepsi's market share to the public where Pepsi can see and react.

That being said, being transparent to our members is also important, as much as is practical. This is a fine line that is navigated in the boardrooms of companies all the time. How much transparency our members will demand is usually driven by how much trust membership has in leadership: if the members trust leadership, then transparency is not as important. Obviously, this organization still has a LOT of work to do to restore trust from the membership ( be that by rebuilding relationships with existing members or recruiting new members ).

I'd also like to point out that increasing transparency has a diminishing returns problem. If LNC members cannot have confidential communications in LP-provided channels, they will have them in other channels. The use of these alternate channels may exclude ( intentionally or not ) certain LNC members from the discussion, causing LNC members to be isolated from the body at large, and that has the net effect of further centralizing control of the party to those "in the know".

This is incredibly similar to the incentives and behavior I've been talking to local party members in Texas about, especially when it comes to City Councils and meetings: City Councils usually have incredibly strict open meetings laws, but what that means effectively is that nearly all decisions are made before the meeting even starts. If there are rules about coordination between council members, the job of coordination simply falls to proxies, such as a police chief , fire marshall, or city manager. The backroom simply gets bigger.

As far as where the LP should take transparency my take is:
  • Political strategy should be confidential
  • This board needs to be able to talk political strategy in a confidential forum;
  • The decision on what is political strategy is up to this board using the mechanic of executive session;
  • We should have a bylaw added at the next convention that requires disclosure of all confidential communication that does not involve an employee, individual volunteer, or individual members after a set period of time ( whereby the political value of the confidential information is minimal ). This needs to be a bylaw because the time periods involved almost certainly will span between conventions, so this rule should apply to all LNC's going forward. We can start with a policy but it needs to move into our bylaws.

Donavan Pantke
Region 7 Alternate

Martin Cowen

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Jun 22, 2022, 11:12:46 AMJun 22
to lnc-business, Donavan Pantke
Thank you for this response.

While this "feels" like a retort or an objection to me, upon study, I take it as complete agreement with my post.

You and I agree that secret meetings should be allowed and should remain secret. (You would favor more secret meetings, I gather. I would prefer fewer secret meetings.)

You object to the phrase "Open Government" because it is used in statist government parlance. On the other hand, you agree that " being transparent to our members is also important, as much as is practical." No need to split this hair.

Martin Cowen
Region 2 ALT

Donavan Pantke

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Jun 22, 2022, 11:25:06 AMJun 22
to Martin Cowen, lnc-business
I also think that the use those types of phrases are very open to interpretation to our membership, and I'm a big fan of laying out the context of what I mean than rely on terms that, while simpler to write, generate vastly different responses from people depending on their contextual interpretation of that term.

I honestly don't know how many "secret" communications we should have; your assertion that I probably want more confidential communication than you do seems fair, but the more important point on this topic that I want to make is that I assert that the reduction of "secret" communication in the LP's official channels doesn't actually get rid of the "secret" communication: it simply moves it to alternate channels potentially with other actors involved selectively. I'm more of a fan that the LNC members be able to be absolutely transparent with each other , and have that communication be disclosed to our membership after the value of this information has sufficiently waned. That way there is never a "secret room", there are just rooms with lag. The only truly secret information should be revolving the treatment of specific individuals, and that's out of respect for those individuals.

Donavan Pantke
Region 7 Alternate

Martin Cowen

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Jun 22, 2022, 11:30:04 AMJun 22
to Donavan Pantke, lnc-business
I love your point about the use of language in the first sentence. 100% agree.

Martin Cowen
Region 2 ALT
--
Martin Cowen
LNC Region Two Alternate

Secretary LNC

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Jun 22, 2022, 12:32:49 PMJun 22
to lnc-business, Donavan Pantke
Our bylaws give very very reasons for Secret Session, and I interpret them very narrowly.  I believe I am in pretty complete agreement with you Mr. Cowen.  I went through the Secret List fiasco last term, and the bias towards secrecy was very real, and that bias starts off very innocently.  It is why I will refuse any invites to ongoing off-list chats, be they on FB, Signal, or wherever.  They start out as social chit chat and inevitably business is planned there out of sight of the members.  Off-list planning should be rare and limited and taken to the list as soon as possible if business is going to come out of it.

I agree with you on the employment contracts and salaries.  This is something that Starchild and I tried to have happen in the past, and were unsuccessful.   The answer always has been:  anyone who wants to know can go figure it out through FEC filings.  If that is the case, then that should favour the argument that it should be easily public rather than forcing our members to play Blue's Clues.
___________________________________________________
In Liberty, Caryn Ann Harlos
LNC Secretary and LP Historical Preservation Committee Chair ~ 561.523.2250

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