2000 Campaign Report
5b. The Hornberger Chronicles
by Harry Browne
January 12, 2002
It may seem that Jacob Hornberger's false accusations against me concern only me. They don't. They have done extensive damage to the Libertarian Party.
I regret having to write this report on his actions. I would prefer that the whole affair be forgotten, but that isn't possible. Although he goes through periods in which he keeps quiet, eventually Mr. Hornberger comes back again with new allegations that go a long way to split the Libertarian Party.
As I will show, what he's done has spread far and wide — causing irreparable damage to the cause that brought us all into the LP in the first place.
I regret also the length of this report. But a tremendous amount of mud has been thrown. And you might not understand just how malicious the mud-slinging has been if I don't deal with a large number of examples.
HORNBERGER'S CHANGE OF HEART
In November 1996, Jacob Hornberger wrote to me, praising the campaign I ran as the Libertarian presidential candidate. Among other things, he said, "You helped raise the positive image of the LP and helped bring it to the attention of thousands of new people."
Three months later he discovered that I was considering running for President again in 2000. He immediately began publishing articles alleging that I ran a shameful campaign in 1996 — a campaign of "compromise and concealment" that violated Libertarian principles. He did this without consulting me privately about his apparent concerns — even though we had known each other since 1987.
Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I assumed that someone had misinformed him about what I had done in the campaign. I replied to his public allegations by writing a private letter to him — covering each point he had made and showing that the facts were other than the way he had presented them.
He replied with a 7-page letter in which he didn't attempt to justify or explain a single one of the charges he had made against me. In fact, he pretty well ignored everything I had said in my letter.
Instead, he went on and on and on that I shouldn't consider myself above criticism and that I was too sensitive — even though nothing in my letter had suggested that my ideas or campaign strategy shouldn't be criticized; I had simply pointed out that the claims he'd made were erroneous.
He implied that I shouldn't take his charges so seriously — that I should think of the two of us as being just like lawyers who tear each other to pieces in the courtroom and "then go out and have a few brews together." As though his publicly spreading falsehoods about my campaign was comparable to an attorney defending a client. Through all this, he kept reiterating that we could continue to be friends if I just wouldn't be so sensitive.
At this point it became clear that there was nothing to be gained by trying to show Jacob Hornberger the truth about anything.
As most Libertarians had been exposed to my speeches, articles, broadcast interviews, or campaign book, they knew first-hand that I hadn't compromised Libertarian principles. So after a while, Mr. Hornberger abandoned that line of attack and began accusing me of having obtained the 1996 party nomination by bribing people in the LP hierarchy.
He continued to make the bribery accusations through 2000, changing the form of them from time to time. And in 1998 he apparently decided to make these the centerpiece of his looming 2000 campaign for the Libertarian presidential nomination. He accused me of "lining the pockets" of LP employees and gaining the 1996 nomination by subverting people in the LP leadership.
He demanded that all members of the LNC sign a statement telling whether they had received any money from me during the 1996 campaign. Of course, the only LNC member who had received money from the 1996 campaign was Sharon Ayres, my campaign manager; that was public knowledge and she was no longer on the LNC. So most LNC members simply ignored Jacob Hornberger's badgering. This caused him to accuse them of engaging in a "cover-up."
Occasionally he reintroduced the idea that my campaigns have been non-Libertarian — the latest time just after the 2000 election. And in general, he attempts to convince people that I have controlled the Libertarian Party by having bought the allegiance of all the members of the Libertarian National Committee.
All Mr. Hornberger's accusations and insinuations have been false. In fact, it was self-evident that they were false.
In the dozens of articles Mr. Hornberger has written impugning the motives of the LP leadership, me, and my associates, he has conducted himself in a way unbefitting a member of "the party of principle." He has invented stories, he has twisted actual events, and he has used the low language of an ambulance-chasing lawyer.
Perhaps even more telling, some of his assertions and tactics have been patently ludicrous. Here are some of them.
The Bylaw Proposal
In 1998 Jacob Hornberger began a crusade to pass a new LP bylaw that supposedly would eliminate financial conflicts of interest. He used that crusade as a vehicle for repeating over and over his accusations against me, against the people I have dealt with, and against officials of the LP (whom he accused of being in collusion with me because they hadn't taken his side).
After a few weeks of this crusade, he acknowledged that he had never read the existing LP bylaws, and so he had no way of knowing whether his proposed bylaw would in any way change the existing LP policy. Thus it became apparent that his bylaw campaign had no purpose other than as a vehicle with which to attack me and others publicly.
In early 2001 he renewed his call for the Libertarian National Committee (LNC) to adopt what he now calls an "Ethics Amendment." This amendment (as of January 12, 2002) states in part:
Of course, if such a bylaw were enacted, no LNC member could work as a volunteer or contribute any money to his own campaign for reelection to the LNC, or campaign for himself to be elected to another LP office, or campaign for his own nomination to be the Libertarian candidate for any public office.
Mr. Hornberger prides himself on having a keen legal mind. But one has to wonder whether he stops to apply that legal mind to any of his allegations or great ideas.
Fortunately, the LNC hasn't taken his amendment seriously. So he's announced that he will fight to have such an amendment adopted at the 2002 Libertarian national convention. His speech justifying the need for such an amendment is bound to make us look good on C-SPAN.
In 1998 he announced that he was considering a presidential run, and he formed an exploratory committee in 1999. But unlike many Libertarian activists, he was unwilling to forgo any of his regular income to concentrate on the task of building a real campaign. So two months later he withdrew from the race — apparently because he couldn't continue the campaign and maintain his job at the Future of Freedom Foundation.
Instead he spent the next year attacking anyone who might have a chance to win the presidential nomination and then (surprise!) he re-entered the presidential race the week before the LP nominating convention. Even at the LP convention, he apparently spent no time discussing campaign issues, laying out a campaign plan, or showing people what kind of candidate he would be. His campaigning consisted entirely of trying to show that the LP and the Browne campaign were corrupt.
Had he somehow won the nomination, what would he have won? He had created no campaign organization, had made no national appearances on radio or television, had developed no campaign contacts in the broadcast media, had raised no money to speak of, and had no systematic strategy in place to get the libertarian message before the American people.
All he had achieved in the previous three years was to cast doubt among LP members, other libertarians, and non-libertarians about the integrity of the LP's leadership and its candidates for the presidential nomination (not just me).
How does this help advance the LP or the libertarian cause?
Archimedes Membership Campaign
In March 2000, he claimed the LP's Project Archimedes (a membership recruitment program) was undertaken to please me (which wasn't true, it had nothing to do with me), and he claimed the program was a scam. He said that "an estimated $1,000,000 of donor money spent on the campaign has gone down the drain."
A little later, he had to acknowledge that he'd neglected to mention that Archimedes had brought in well over $1 million in dues and donations from new members — so that the program not only recruited 15,000 new members, it showed a profit as well.
And even though not a single dollar went "down the drain," he didn't apologize to those he had accused of bilking LP members.
The "$1,000,000 Subsidy"
Project Archimedes consisted of a series of letters recruiting non-Libertarians to the LP, mailed to a number of different lists that were tested.
One of the letters pointed out that Libertarians have real solutions to the problems for which Republicans and Democrats can only suggest more government. One example given was a plan to liquidate the Social Security system by selling federal assets (lands, power companies, pipelines, and so on), using the proceeds to purchase lifetime annuities for everyone now dependent on Social Security and everyone within ten years of retirement, and freeing everyone else immediately from the oppressive Social Security tax. This was a plan I created and introduced in my book, Why Government Doesn't Work.
In his March 9, 2000, diatribe, "The Libertarian Party Needs a Divorce," Hornberger said:
In other words, because a plan of mine was mentioned in one letter out of many Archimedes letters, sent to people who are not LP members, without mentioning my name, I received a subsidy "equivalent to possibly more than $1 million" to further my race for the LP nomination in 2000.
Should we take this seriously?
Comparison with Ron Paul
Mr. Hornberger calls my campaigns "Republicanesque" — in other words, pushing the kind of issues a Republican would advance. However, he has never produced the name of a single Republican who's called for the total repeal of all drug laws, gun laws, Social Security, and the income tax — proposals I've made over and over. So how are my proposals "Republicanesque"?
To show that it isn't necessary to compromise, he has several times cited the electoral success of Congressman Ron Paul, whom Mr. Hornberger says runs on "pure, uncompromising libertarian principles."
But Ron Paul has never (to my knowledge) proposed repealing all the drug laws, reducing the federal government to a $100 billion budget, getting the federal government completely out of health care, or freeing you from Social Security immediately and completely — which are just a few of the proposals I've made constantly in my campaigns. On the contrary, Ron Paul has introduced bills to reform the Social Security system, reform the income tax code, and reform the government health-care system — the very things that Mr. Hornberger accuses me (falsely) of doing.
Ron Paul also voted for the $40 billion emergency appropriation bill that passed Congress unanimously immediately after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — even though the primary purpose of the bill was to ram through a number of boondoggles that had failed to pass prior to September 11.
Either Mr. Hornberger knows that Ron Paul's campaigns stress libertarian themes much less than mine do and thus Mr. Hornberger is lying — or he is making an accusation without bothering to investigate the facts first. In either case, he demonstrates that it's a waste of time to listen to his allegations.
Please understand that I like Ron Paul and I have an immense respect for him. To the best of my knowledge, he's the only Congressman who has actually introduced bills that would reduce the size and intrusiveness of the federal government. If I lived in his district I would seriously consider voting for him. But the idea that he's campaigned in a more libertarian manner than I have is just one more of Jacob Hornberger's fantasies.
Chumming with the FEC
In early 2000 my campaign was considering the idea of mounting a legal challenge to the unconstitutional campaign finance laws by accepting donations above the $1,000 limit and by refusing to file financial reports. Although we specifically told people not to send over-limit donations, we solicited money to do legal research to explore the possibility.
Mr. Hornberger wrote a letter to the chairman of the Federal Elections Commission — asking whether I had "filed the required financial disclosure statements," what the civil and criminal penalties would be for my not filing on time, and whether legal action against me could be initiated by a citizen's complaint.
As a demonstration of how perceptive and sensitive to his audience he might be as a candidate, he actually circulated copies of his letter to Libertarians — thinking somehow that this would endear him to people who don't believe the Federal Election Commission should even exist. It reminded me of a cat I once had who used to drag half-dead lizards, birds, and snakes into the house and drop them at my feet — expecting me to praise him.
In March 2001, in one of his diatribes Mr. Hornberger alleged that the FEC "threatened Browne with an indictment" as a result of the campaign's consideration of the possibility of intentionally violating the campaign laws. The threat of indictment is supposed to have caused us to back off from our plan to defy the FEC.
This is not even a half-truth, a quarter-truth, or a tenth-truth. We have never heard a single word from the FEC about the matter. Perhaps Mr. Hornberger did, since he corresponds with them.
So let's see if we can understand this: We wanted to defy the FEC so the FEC would come after us, the matter would then go to court, and we hoped it would lead to the Supreme Court's striking down all the campaign finance laws — but then we abruptly changed our plans because the FEC came after us.
Does that make sense?
For years, Jacob Hornberger has been posing as the pure Libertarian who scolds those who supposedly don't live up to his standards. And yet, whenever he thinks it might help him, he gladly turns to the government — as in his attempt to use the FEC to harass the presidential campaign.
In early 2001 Perry Willis acknowledged that his moonlighting for the Browne campaign in 1995 continued beyond the time the LNC had asked him to stop. Mr. Hornberger jumped on this revelation and demanded apologies from anyone who had objected to the many falsehoods he has circulated.
In fact, Perry Willis' revelation didn't vindicate anything Jacob Hornberger had said. It was already public knowledge that Perry Willis had moonlighted for the campaign; Hornberger hadn't added anything to that knowledge. And the new revelation was completely independent of Jacob Hornberger's allegations.
But what was revealing was Jacob Hornberger's reaction to the revelation. He immediately joined forces with some long-time malcontents to demand that the LNC turn to the government to bring suit against his opponents, saying it was necessary to obtain "coerced, sworn testimony in the context of litigation."
He even maintained, in his "Open Letter to Steve Givot" of June 16, 2001, that government involvement was needed because that alone could compel people to testify.
He went on,
About all he needs to know about the RICO statutes is this excerpt from the Libertarian Party's official platform, calling for:
Many conservatives say that government is too big, and then say we must enlarge the defense budget and expand the Drug War. A few libertarians like Jacob Hornberger say even more emphatically that government is immoral, but gladly turn to the government courts to get what they can't get otherwise. In my view, the hypocrisy is even greater for libertarians than for conservatives (whom we don't expect to be consistent).
Since Hornberger has no reluctance to call upon government whenever it's to his advantage, voicing no objection to using the coercion of government to investigate other people's private affairs, it's hard to know what he thinks "pure, uncompromising libertarian principles" are supposed to be.
For several years he pooh-poohed the efforts of Libertarians to attract attention, do well in elections, gain publicity for the party, and recruit new members. He said frequently that the party doesn't need more members or more money to succeed. Instead, he said we needed to engage in "guerrilla warfare," and he used phrases such as "hit 'em where they ain't." But he never elaborated on this strategy, no one really knew what he meant, and no one could actually accept it or reject it.
Finally, in February 2001 he sent out a message saying that Libertarians in Virginia had demonstrated the value of his "guerrilla warfare" strategy by winning a temporary victory in a state car-tax controversy. But the tactics he described are exactly those that many conscientious Libertarian activists have been pursuing for many years. There has always been Libertarian political activity at the local level — fighting local taxes, organizing demonstrations, writing letters to editors, calling into talk shows, and the like.
So after years of telling us he has a revolutionary strategy up his sleeve, we find that Jacob Hornberger has reinvented the wheel!
His tactics reveal the insincerity of his mission.
He tries to pose as the conscience of the LP. He says he wants the "party of principle" to become the "party of principle and integrity." In pursuit of this, he is willing to lie, to shade the truth, to destroy the reputations of innocent people. He takes statements out of contest. He makes up whole statements, puts them in quotes, and attributes them to his opponents.
His list of "unethical" Libertarians continually grows larger, because anyone who doesn't join in his accusations is added to the list. Some of those Libertarians initially supported him because he seemed to be making sense. Then they noticed he was saying things that were obviously untrue, so they quit supporting him — and in some cases they became included in his attacks. Anyone who questions anything said by Mr. Hornberger becomes part of the "Browne-Willis-Cloud crowd" of moral degenerates.
To paraphrase Shakespeare's Marc Anthony, integrity should be made of sterner stuff.
He continually demands "full and complete" disclosure of all financial details from the LP and from my campaign. And anyone who refuses to drop what he's doing and answer Hornberger's allegations immediately is accused of "stonewalling." But Hornberger has never offered to reveal the details of his own financial affairs — how much he's paid to speak at LP state conventions, who contributed to his on-again-off-again-on-again campaign, and such.
In fact, none of that information is anyone's business but Jacob Hornberger's. Those who have given him money aren't concerned with how he has spent it — only with the results he obtains. The same is true for those who donate to the LP or a presidential campaign — both of which without Mr. Hornberger's prodding have provided far more financial information than you would expect from non-profit organizations.
But if Mr. Hornberger is going to demand that everyone else "come clean," why is it that he doesn't do so? Why is it that he ignores anyone who phones or emails him wanting to discuss his accusations?
In plain, old-fashioned terms, Hornberger is a hypocrite. Like the avid Drug Warriors who want leniency for their own children who get into drug trouble, Jacob Hornberger would never think of applying to himself the standards he demands of others.
One of his favorite themes is to accuse his opponents of being just like the Republicans and Democrats (a false charge).
But it was he — and he alone among the candidates for the 2000 presidential nomination — who campaigned like a Republican or Democrat, smearing his opponents and offering no positive reason to vote for him. He made no attempt to demonstrate that he could do good things for the LP. Virtually his entire campaign consisted of attacking his opponents.
Seeking the Truth or Using Loaded Language?
He sometimes claims to be just seeking the truth — asking questions, looking for answers, wanting full disclosure.
But he betrays his own motives by using loaded words and phrases. If someone makes a statement, he says the person "was forced to admit" the statement. If someone pays people for services rendered, he refers to it as "lining their pockets." If he wants particular information, he asks that someone "come clean" or "stop the veil of secrecy." If someone doesn't drop what he's doing and respond to his charges immediately, Mr. Hornberger says the person is "stonewalling."
Obviously, Jacob Hornberger isn't investigating anything; he's engaging in wartime propaganda. He has missed his calling. He should be working for some government in its "Ministry of Truth," inventing stories of enemy atrocities.
If he truly were seeking the truth, he would first contact the people involved privately, find out what they have to say, and discover their response to his suspicions. No honest prosecutor would make a public accusation without first questioning the object of his inquiry to see whether there really is a problem or a crime. Even in civil cases, all the lawyers and participants meet privately before airing the charges in court.
To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Hornberger has never privately contacted anyone who has been the target of his many accusations. All his questions, suspicions, accusations, and imaginings are shouted from the housetops right from the start.
He will say that a healthy party needs free and open debate about ideas — which is true. But free and open lies circulated to Libertarians are something entirely different. They do nothing to enhance the party. In fact, they are helping to demean the LP in the eyes of Libertarians and non-Libertarians.
Whenever anyone offers to provide information that would refute his accusations, he pays no attention. In every case when clarifying information has been presented, either he has refused to acknowledge the information, he has changed the accusation to a new one, or he has simply continued to make the same accusation in spite of the evidence that refutes it. Talk about "stonewalling." Mr. Hornberger is a master at it.
Each time he recycles his old, discredited charges, he tries to make it appear that he's discovered something that malefactors have been hiding. In fact, he has never uncovered anything that was both (1) true and (2) not public knowledge already.
It's obvious that Mr. Hornberger isn't interested in the truth. He wants to destroy publicly the people he thinks stand in the way of his leading the Libertarian Party.
ALL THAT SMOKE
Undoubtedly, one part of the Hornberger strategy is to make so many accusations that there seems to be a "pattern of corruption." So even as one accusation after another turns out to be untrue, there still are many more allegations. Thus it would seem that some of them have to be true. In other words, under all that smoke, there must be some fire.
So what do we have here?
When you total up the scorecard, there is not a single accusation he's made that turns out to have any substance. But the perception persists that the sheer volume of allegations implies that at least some of them must be true.
However, under all that smoke, there isn't even a spark of fire. To use another metaphor, he's cried "Wolf!" over and over and over, but it turns out that there isn't a single wolf — or even a coyote, or a Dachshund, a Siamese cat, or a hamster.
But no doubt he will continue inventing tales of rampant corruption — hoping you'll think of him as the conscience of the LP, as the gatekeeper who will pass judgment on who is clean and who is dirty in the LP.
In other words, he wants to control the Libertarian Party — to be the arbiter of what is acceptable behavior and what isn't, of who is clean and who is dirty. And he has no scruples concerning tactics, concerning whose reputation he destroys, concerning what will be left of the party he thinks he will control.
Mr. Hornberger wanted to be the LP's 2000 presidential candidate. But he had no interest in running a fair, principled, strategically creative campaign.
He had no campaign organization, he didn't raise any money to speak of, he did no outreach to the public on behalf of the LP to display his qualifications as a candidate, he didn't offer an intelligent strategy and then demonstrate that strategy in action. In short, he did nothing you would expect from a candidate wanting your support. Instead, he followed a plan of inventing accusations against anyone who might stand in his way.
I assume he'll try to be the LP's 2004 presidential candidate. And we can expect him to approach the task by trying to tear down those he thinks might provide competition or who might support his competition.
His tactics are entirely negative. He has demonstrated no ability to bring new people into the party, to appeal for votes to any segment of the public, to reach and persuade the general public through media appearances, speeches, organizational activities, or any other method.
To the best of my knowledge, he has never given a single speech or written a single article promoting the Libertarian Party or its candidates to non-libertarians. Yes, he gives rousing speeches to Libertarians reassuring them that we are morally right, but he has no history of persuading non-Libertarians. And none of the articles he writes for newspapers promotes the LP.
His foundation's website has links to 45 other organizations, many of whom promote non-Libertarian political ideas — but no link to the Libertarian Party. (You might think a tax-exempt organization can't link to a political party, but that isn't true. See the Advocates for Self-Government site as an example. Dozens of other sites of tax-exempt organizations link to political parties.)
And neither does his personal website contain a link to the LP.
In short, he has done absolutely no outreach for the Libertarian Party. And he's never provided a single bit of evidence that he knows how to sell Libertarian candidates to the public.
His entire strategy within the LP appears to be to destroy anyone who might oppose his nomination. He apparently hopes to win the 2004 nomination by default — as the only person left standing in a decimated party that will have lost the majority of its most effective activists.
That may suit his purposes, but I don't see how it will advance the Libertarian cause.
DAMAGE TO THE LP
His mud-slinging has done incalculable harm to the Libertarian Party. He has caused many members to believe there must be at least some truth among all those mud-slinging allegations — and thus has dampened the support and enthusiasm of those members for a party that apparently tolerates rampant corruption.
Perhaps the worst consequence of Mr. Hornberger's activities has been that many good Libertarians who know he is wrong have simply given up and chosen not to participate in the LP any longer. They have come to believe that success is impossible for a party beset by such lying, bickering, and pettiness.
The sum total of Mr. Hornberger's efforts has been to slow down membership growth, reduce fund-raising, and suppress dedication to the national party.
And it goes beyond the party itself. His accusations have been repeated and published by non-libertarians, causing non-members to be less interested in joining us, helping us, or voting for us.
Those outside the party who hear his allegations, directly or second-hand, can't be expected to examine his charges and discover how baseless they are — or to know how many times before he has cried "Wolf!" when there was no wolf.
Despite the damage he's done to his opponents and to the LP, he hasn't enhanced his own stature, popularity, or chances to be the presidential nominee.
On the contrary, people who once respected him for his speaking ability have lost all affection for him because he is saying things they know first-hand to be untrue. He received only 14% of the vote at the 2000 presidential nominating convention — and his organization, the Future of Freedom Foundation, appears to have lost donor support and subscriptions to its publication since he began his attacks.
I can think of only two possible ways to explain why he continues to pursue this self-destructive course of action: (1) he believes he can win the 2004 nomination by eliminating all competition through character assassination, even though it will be a much smaller party that nominates him; and/or (2) his attacks have hurt his own reputation so badly that he now feels he can rehabilitate himself only by persuading everyone somehow that there really was some basis to his charges.
But he isn't succeeding in his own ambitions. He is succeeding only in destroying the reputation and respect the Libertarian Party once enjoyed from the public — even from its political opponents. People used to say things like, "I don't agree with some of what you folks believe, but I admire your party for sticking to its principles." Now nearby outsiders wonder when the party is going to clean up its mess — not knowing that the entire mess stems from one maladjusted crank.
Mr. Hornberger is a troubled soul — a deeply disturbed individual. I can't presume to know what his inner problems are. But I do feel sorry for anyone who follows such a path of self-destruction.
Obviously, however, my sympathy is of no help in turning him toward a more productive path. And, in the meantime, he can do enormous harm to the Libertarian Party, the libertarian movement, and to all the individuals whom he attacks without foundation.
Pardon Me for Not Dropping Everything to Attend to This
Prior to the 2000 convention, each time he began a new campaign of character assassination against me, he reached a few people who hadn't heard his diatribes before. These people sometimes asked me why I didn't respond if I had "nothing to hide." They weren't aware of how pointless it was to respond to Jacob Hornberger.
But perhaps now you can understand why, given all the above, I didn't immediately drop the outreach, the organizing, the fund-raising, and other libertarian activities in order to reply to his fantasies.
Nothing I could have said would satisfy him. And it's foolish to think that we should all bury the hatchet. He has done enormous harm to the Libertarian Party and to hard-working individuals. No accord can be reached with Jacob Hornberger that doesn't begin with his public acknowledgment, circulated far and wide, that the accusations he's made against so many different people were untrue, and that he has falsely damaged the reputations of dozens of dedicated Libertarians.
Whatever you have been led to think of me, please don't lessen your support for the Libertarian Party and the libertarian cause. There are talented people who have sacrificed enormous amounts of time and personal resources to the cause of reaching the public with our message. Don't let one malcontent divert you from the reason you joined this movement in the first place.