2000 Campaign Report
5a. Liberty's Coverage of the Presidential Campaign & the LP
by Harry Browne
January 12, 2002
Liberty and Reason are the only two avowedly libertarian magazines in general circulation. While most of the time Reason acts as though there's no such thing as a Libertarian Party, Liberty attempts to report the activities of the party and discuss them in some detail.
Unfortunately, most of the coverage of the LP is written by the magazine's publisher, R.W. Bradford (Bill Bradford), who is a very sloppy reporter. Consequently, many people have gained an erroneous impression of the Libertarian Party and the last two presidential campaigns from reading Liberty.
In addition, anyone who wants to make the LP look bad or who wants to attack me can cite Liberty as an "authoritative" source that apparently documents wrongdoing by me or by the leaders of the LP.
For example, on November 1, 2000, on National Review Online (the website of National Review magazine), writer David Kopel said in part:
I wrote to Mr. Kopel, asking him to tell me who my "consultants" are, what "patently absurd promises of imminent electoral success" I had made, and so on. I suggested that if he had no hard evidence to support these accusations, he should quit spreading rumors.
So I wrote to R.W. Bradford, publisher of Liberty, to point out that his reporting on the Libertarian Party was creating erroneous impressions outside the party.
Bradford replied, "All I did was report the facts. I have no control over the conclusions that people draw from the facts." He also referred to specific allegations in his articles as having been based on what he called "unimpeachable sources" and "very reliable sources," but of course he didn't mention who those sources are.
Bradford has also said on his website, "Our editors 'fact-check' every article we publish."
This article will examine the "facts" about the LP that Liberty has gleaned from its anonymous "reliable sources," has "fact-checked," and has presented to the public.
Liberty has published many articles about the LP, virtually all of which involved very careless reporting. But most of this report will examine only two Liberty articles, published in 2000. Even so, those two articles contain so many falsehoods that this report will be much too long. I hope you'll bear with me, though, as I believe it's important to understand that something that appears in a libertarian magazine isn't necessarily true. And it's important as well to understand the harm that is being done to the Libertarian Party.
I wrote most of these notes after Bradford published those two articles in 2000. He has written much more since then. I don't have the time necessary to rebut the dozens of pages of allegations he's published, so I offer these notes as examples of Liberty's erroneous reporting. At the end, I'll update this with some comments on Bradford's 2001 articles.
THE CONVENTION ARTICLES
The September 2000 issue of Liberty contained two articles by Bradford about the LP national convention "Libertarian Party Agonistes" and "Behind the Scenes in Anaheim." These two articles contain numerous factual errors and overwrought conclusions that are typical of Bradford's reporting.
In fact, anyone reading these articles would have trouble coming to conclusions other than those David Kopel reached as many people did.
Perhaps we can best establish the context in which R.W. Bradford wrote these (and other) articles by my quoting a simple exchange between us that took place after his September articles appeared.
On page 31 Bradford refers to David Bergland as "Browne's hand-picked candidate for National Chair." (In 1998 Bergland had been elected by the national convention to be the Chair for the next two years.)
I sent an email to Bradford telling him that I had nothing to do with picking David Bergland to be the National Chair, that I hadn't even known he was running until he announced it.
In a November 13, 2000, email reply to me, R.W. Bradford said, "Of course, I did not mean the term 'hand-picked' to be taken literally." Then what did he mean? Did he really expect people to interpret the phrase "Browne's hand-picked candidate" to mean that I had nothing to do with picking him?
He also said, "I had one unimpeachable source on the Bergland claim." So he had an unimpeachable source tell him that I had hand-picked David Bergland, but he didn't mean literally that I "hand-picked" him?
I realize that this doesn't make any sense, but that's how he writes and how he explains away his numerous reporting errors.
In other circumstances, when it's pointed out that something he said wasn't true, he replies that he didn't mean his words to be taken the way any reasonably intelligent person would take them. In other words, he didn't mean to be taken literally despite his "unimpeachable sources" and his "fact-checking."
Let's examine now the charges he made.
Browne & His Cronies Rip Off Libertarian Donors
The articles are shot through with implied references to my being a crook or very close to it.
On the bottom of page 40, Bradford says:
. . . whatever Browne's ethical shortcomings, he's really the only plausible candidate.
Since Bill Bradford doesn't mean to be taken literally, I guess we don't need to wonder how someone with "ethical shortcomings" could be "the only plausible candidate." But it should indicate something about Bradford's own ethical standards that he could consider someone with "ethical shortcomings" to be "the only plausible candidate."
But what are the ethical shortcomings? Bradford doesn't say. Have I lied to anyone? Have I corrupted people? Have I shaded the truth?
Perhaps, as Kopel indicated, I've been raising money and spending it on myself and my "consultants." On page 30, discussing the 1996 campaign, Bradford refers to . . .
The actual figure for advertising was $211,226. But I suppose the figure of $9,000 is close enough for government work or for Liberty. The $9,000 figure didn't come from the FEC reports; they came from a rumor that's been floating around the LP for several years.
The amount spent on advertising was 15% of the $1,448,195 raised probably a much greater percentage than any other third party spent on advertising (possibly excepting the Perot campaign).
(In 2000, $650,092 was spent on advertising for the presidential campaign out of $2,621,802 raised. This means 25% was spent for advertising which undoubtedly was a far greater percentage than any other third-party campaign devoted to advertising in 2000.)
Did we spend a lot of money on advertising in 1996? No, we didn't have a lot of money (nor did we in 2000). I wish we had spent millions of dollars on advertising, but such sums weren't available. In any event, we spent about 21 times as much as Liberty reported.
On page 32 Bradford compounds the problem by creating a false comparison:
This, too, is untrue. The term "consultants" was used by the campaign in one or two contexts to refer to independent contractors, since no one on the 1996 campaign staff was treated as an employee prior to the nominating convention. After that, we did put some of the staff on a payroll.
The total amount paid to the staff over a 27-month period was $374,287. This is 26% of the total money raised an amazingly low figure for a small political campaign. The money went to staff members who worked at below-market wages, relocated to Washington from various parts of the country, and were out of work the moment the campaign was over. They have been rewarded for their efforts, sacrifice, and dedication by being immortalized as the get-rich cronies of Harry Browne.
At the end of the 1996 campaign, the campaign produced an exhaustive report of over 500 pages detailing the campaign's activities and finances, along with its successes and failures. Apparently, neither R.W. Bradford nor anyone else spending so much time criticizing the 1996 campaign had the time to read it.
Instead, critics refer to our vendors (such as printers, direct-mail houses, independent contractors) as "consultants," to lead a reader to infer that we paid a bunch of people enormous sums just for sitting around offering advice, while the campaign had to go without money for advertising.
Liberty repeated these rumors in its articles without doing any "fact-checking" to determine whether they were true. Obviously, they were far from true.
On page 31 of the September 2000 Liberty, Bradford said:
Bradford obviously got the $130,000 figure from Jacob Hornberger, who has used that figure over and over in his published diatribes trying to demonstrate that I had bribed a member of the Libertarian National Committee to help my campaign. In my single defense against Mr. Hornberger's attacks (released in February 2000), I pointed out that the $130,000 amount was misleading because the money was paid to Sharon over a period of two years and it included reimbursement for enormous expenses she incurred on behalf of the campaign.
And, of course, she was paid because she was the full-time Manager of the 1996 presidential campaign a fact well known to anyone paying any attention at all to the campaign.
Mr. Hornberger then replied by saying that the specific amount wasn't the issue. After claiming the amount wasn't important, he continued to repeat the $130,000 figure over and over.
There can be little doubt that R.W. Bradford was just echoing Hornberger who must be one of his "reliable sources." And so the false statements proceed from Jacob Hornberger to R.W. Bradford to David Kopel to the rest of the world.
Project Archimedes & Fraud
In 1997 the Libertarian Party began Project Archimedes a membership recruitment program. In his articles, R.W. Bradford makes some astounding statements about the program. Anyone who believed what he said would have to think the LP is beyond redemption hopelessly in the grip of a bunch of rip-off artists.
In a box on page 36, he writes:
The implication is that the money raised for Archimedes wasn't spent on recruitment, and conjures up images of such things as vacations in the Bahamas or some other irrelevant activity.
Bradford also invents a story about the origins of Archimedes. At the end of page 30, he says:
Archimedes was Perry Willis' idea while he was National Director of the party. I became aware of it only when other Libertarians did. Perry didn't consult me about it, and he obviously would have implemented it no matter what I might think of it.
At the top of page 31 Bradford writes:
There is no support for these statements, and there is no way the statements could be supported, since they aren't even half-truths.
On page 32, Bradford refers to an earlier Liberty article that was loaded with similarly astounding conclusions without benefit of evidence:
I had nothing to do with the conception of Archimedes, but I know Perry Willis well enough to know how false this statement is. He talked to me frequently in the late stages of the 1996 campaign and thereafter about the importance of the size of the party membership and about his hope that the LP could build a party of 200,000 members by 2000. He was unable to succeed in reaching that goal, but that doesn't mean he "misrepresented" the project. And there is no evidence that he did. This, too, is pure invention on the part of R.W. Bradford (or his "unimpeachable sources").
Also, Bradford didn't mention that Archimedes, in addition to bringing in 15,000 new members, also brought in more money than was spent. Thus the program made a profit for the LP while increasing its membership. This is what R.W. Bradford calls a "fraudulent" program.
Browne's "Chokehold" on the Libertarian Party
In his National Review Online article, David Kopel said that I have a "chokehold" on the LP. He arrived at that conclusion by reading Liberty. (He now writes for Liberty.) Here are a few examples from Bill Bradford's two September articles that could easily have given Kopel that impression.
On page 31:
And near the end of page 31:
There is no explanation as to who the "many of those" might be, nor anything to back up the idea that I had or have "control of the party."
I've never controlled the party in any way, shape, or form. I've had no control over picking its officers, its employees, its goals, its projects, its candidates, or its operations. I barely know the employees at the national headquarters, and there are people on the Libertarian National Committee I don't believe I've ever even met. Why in the world would these people (whom I just barely know and with whom I've had no business or personal relationship) have allowed themselves to be controlled by me? It makes no sense.
As I've already quoted, on page 31 Bradford says,
Regardless of Bradford's "reliable sources," the idea that David Bergland was my "hand-picked candidate" is pure invention. I had nothing to do with his decision to run for National Chair; I knew nothing about it until he announced his candidacy. Because I preferred him to the alternative, I supported his campaign (as did many others) and I was one of those who gave a speech on his behalf at the convention. That hardly makes him my "hand-picked candidate" (or the hand-picked candidate of any of the several hundred delegates who voted for him).
As mentioned earlier, Bradford defended his astounding assertion by saying, "Of course, I did not mean the term 'hand-picked' to be taken literally."
I guess you are supposed to understand as well that Bradford didn't mean it "literally" when he said I "control" the Libertarian Party, or that the LP "misrepresented" Project Archimedes, or that the 1996 "campaign spent less than $9,000 to purchase advertising," or when Bradford made any other of the charges yet to come in this review.
What did he mean about any of these things? Well, he meant . . . actually, we have no idea what he did mean until he's confronted with the fact that what he said isn't true. Apparently, you're supposed to take everything he says as "facts" that have been carefully "checked" until he's asked to prove something, and then you're told that you aren't supposed to take anything he says literally and wait while he explains what he really meant by the reputation-destroying remarks he carelessly threw around.
The real question is whether we should take anything he says seriously.
Browne's "Series of Attacks" on Hornberger
In the two articles Bradford continually speaks of my attacking Jacob Hornberger as though I were engaged in a constant war to discredit him.
For example, near the end of page 31:
This makes it seem as though there was a continuing back-and-forth battle between Hornberger and Browne. There wasn't merely a one-sided series of diatribes by Hornberger, trying to discredit me. If "Hornberger was taking a shellacking," it was because his attacks on me were making Libertarians more angry at him than at me.
At the time the Liberty articles appeared, Hornberger had published at least the following email articles attacking me:
That's 17 installments that I know of plus a feature article in Liberty plus numerous letters to LP News and Liberty plus endless diatribes in LPUS (a Libertarian Party Internet forum) during 1999, all alleging that I was corrupt and "Republicanesque."
I wrote a single article defending myself against his attacks. Otherwise, I never referred to him. And I carefully avoided discussing him when someone tried to bring up the subject. I was doing everything I could to avoid splitting the LP down the middle. But Liberty's "facts" suggest that I was attacking Hornberger throughout the campaign.
In a boxed article on page 36, Bradford asks why Gorman didn't "challenge the legitimacy of the Browne campaign" in the presidential debate at the nominating convention. He answers his own question:
What "vitriol" was focused on Hornberger?
And how in the world would anyone come to the conclusion that I had "shamelessly flattered Gorman during much of the campaign"? Although I like Don Gorman, I never referred to him in any of my campaign literature or fund-raising letters. I never spoke of him at campaign events. Saying I "shamelessly flattered" him is just one more fantasy of Bradford's fertile mind.
Not only is all this untrue, it is quite insulting to Don Gorman who is an adult human being capable of knowing if he had been "snookered" or "shamelessly flattered." It seems obvious to me that Don Gorman can more easily resist being snookered by me than R.W. Bradford can resist being snookered by his "unimpeachable sources."
On page 39, Bradford refers to a short speech I gave immediately following the voting for the presidential nomination, in which I thanked Don Gorman and Barry Hess for being above negative attacks. He says: "Presumably, I suppose he's talking about Hornberger's attacks on his campaign, not his and Bergland's attacks on Hornberger." Again, the impression is given that I spent the campaign attacking Hornberger.
On page 34 in a boxed article:
Again, "Browne's attacks" as though there were a long series of them.
Near the end of page 31:
"Criticisms"? "Series"? "Personal attacks"? Hornberger accuses me of dishonesty, crookedness, corruption, bribery, "lining the pockets" of people, compromise, moral cowardice, selling out, sleaze, stonewalling, and conscious deception and Bradford refers to these accusations as "criticisms." I defend myself once by pointing out the specific untruths in his claims and Bradford calls this "a series of personal attacks." (I suppose Bradford will refer to this review of Liberty as a "series of personal attacks" on him.)
If we had to wonder where Bradford's sympathies lie, that paragraph
alone is enough to tell us. As the Bible says, "By their loaded words
shall ye know the axes they grind."
The FEC Lawsuit
Jacob Hornberger made an enormous issue out of my consideration in the spring of 2000 that our presidential campaign might intentionally violate the FEC rules.
He said I had deliberately put donors at risk by understating the dangers. How could we do that? We didn't ask anyone to break the law. We asked only for funds to do further research before proceeding with the case. Yet Hornberger made it seem as though we were dishonestly encouraging people to take dangerous risks just barely skirting the legal definition of fraud.
R.W. Bradford bought Hornberger's attacks on this subject hook, line, and sinker. On page 32:
This is another astounding statement. We didn't ask a single person to break the law, so how could we have "misrepresented" the risk of of what? of doing nothing?
Bradford says, I "had failed in a technical sense to 'induce reliance' on the false information [I] promulgated." Should I say that Bradford "failed in a technical sense" to induce me to commit murder because he's never actually asked me to kill anyone?
No "false information" was "promulgated." Everything said in the one letter on the subject was true. We made no promises or guarantees of anything. The purpose of the letter was to raise the money needed to pursue the legal research to determine whether the proposed course of action was warranted, was safe enough, and had a reasonable chance for success. We asked for volunteers of people who would be willing to violate the campaign donation limits if research determined that this was a prudent course of action to follow. But we made it very clear that until the research was completed, we didn't want anyone to do anything except fund the research. (We even returned some over-limit donations from over-eager supporters.)
But somehow Mr. Bradford knows that we "knowingly misrepresented" the case. In this, as in many instances in these articles, Bradford has swallowed whole whatever Jacob Hornberger said.
We made only one solicitation on this matter, and you can read for yourself what we said in it by clicking here.
R.W. Bradford, the Mind-Reader
The amazing thing about Bradford's writing is that he seems to know everything in the world even what goes on inside people's minds. He even witnesses important events that no other human being sees. Actually, he doesn't seem to need any sources; his imagination allows him to conjure up whatever he needs to know to write an exciting article.
Referring again to the 2000 national convention, on page 39 he says:
Who knows where Bradford got the idea that I or anyone in my campaign supported a draft for Gorman? We had no part in it (I don't even know whether there was such a draft movement), no one asked us for our support or opinion, and we ventured none.
But that's one more "fact" about the control of the LP exercised by the "Browne people" one more fact manufactured out of Bradford's fertile imagination, or revealed to him by one of his "impeachable sources." Just don't take it "literally."
On page 37, he says
This conjures up images of parades in the aisles, a band playing, people chanting "Harry, Harry," and the other trappings of a demonstration at a political convention.
In truth, none of that happened. The nominating speeches concluded with a showing of our TV ads. These superbly produced ads caused the audience to cheer for 20-30 seconds. But there was no "demonstration," so we couldn't possibly have been the ones who organized the phantom demonstration.
It's entirely possible that Bradford wasn't even in the hall at the time, and he simply relied once again on one of his "unimpeachable sources."
On page 31, discussing the two years before 2000:
Are we to believe Liberty had a mole buried inside the Browne staff? How else could R.W. Bradford believe "the Browne forces were worried" or that "the Browne campaign heaved a collective sigh of relief"? Perhaps Liberty's intrepid reporter thinks of himself as the modern-day equivalent of Woodward & Bernstein with his own "Deep Throat" leaking information from deep within the bowels of the Browne Campaign.
Maybe, as with Hillary Clinton, Eleanor Roosevelt comes to R.W. Bradford in the night and reveals secrets to him.
Or who knows maybe he really did have a secret "reliable source" inside the Browne campaign. Maybe it was my dog Schnoodle. Once the Bradford articles appeared, Pamela and I stopped discussing campaign business in the presence of Schnoodle. He might have been listening carefully even if he appeared to be chewing on a bone or chasing his tail.
But I do think Mr. Bradford needs a more reliable mole.
Bradford knows as "fact" that we were worried Hornberger might win the nomination, that we breathed a sigh of relief when Hornberger dropped out, that we organized a demonstration, that we wanted a draft movement for Don Gorman. Neither I nor anyone on the campaign staff was aware of any of these "facts" but then, we don't have the "reliable sources" that R.W. Bradford has. So how could we possibly read our own minds and know what we wanted?
Or is it that he didn't mean any of this "literally"?
Butchering my Remarks
Sometime ago, I decided I would no longer speak to R.W. Bradford. Anything I say to him might show up in Liberty, and it would undergo an enormous transformation on the way to print. The September articles contain several examples of this some of them implying that I reversed myself without explanation. The examples are tiresome, and I won't bore you with them since they don't reflect on the integrity of the Libertarian Party.
(I do hope, however, that you'll take with a grain of salt any statement Liberty claims is a quotation from me or from anyone else.)
One example is telling though, in that Bradford's reporting doesn't even match that of his own associate.
On page 46 of the September 2000 Liberty, in a separate article on the convention, Stephen Cox discusses an interview he and Bradford conducted with me the day after the nomination. Cox says:
That's a pretty accurate report of what I said. The exchange was very brief and to the point. But, as is often the case, Bradford was somewhere else mentally, dreaming up a typically melodramatic account for his readers. His recollection of the interview appears on page 40 of the same issue:
So Bradford makes it appear that I'm nervous about discussing Russell Means, and that I went on and on about Carla Howell. I did praise Carla (briefly) but as Stephen Cox pointed out I also praised other potential candidates (such as Art Olivier) for 2004.
This may seem like a trivial matter and by itself it is. But Bradford's articles are made up of dozens of trivial misstatements designed to evoke high melodrama. An enthusiastic audience becomes an "organized demonstration." He knows that people with whom he has no contact are "worried" or "breathe a sigh of relief." Treating someone with courtesy (a concept he may have difficulty recognizing) becomes "shameless flattering."
Ordinary life is too mundane for R.W. Bradford. So everything must be transformed into a breathless soap opera.
(In 2000, when Perry Willis acknowledged that as National Director he had violated a minor LP policy against moonlighting in 1995, the front cover of Liberty carried the headline, "Fraud in the Libertarian Party.")
But, then, he doesn't mean for you to take the words "quickly," "at great length," or "fraud" literally. He didn't mean them in a "technical" sense.
In his National Review Online article, David Kopel said that I had made "patently absurd promises of imminent electoral success." This sort of thing is said over and over by critics of my two presidential campaigns and critics of the LP itself that we continually raise money by promising that we're about to make an enormous breakthrough.
Actually, I never make promises, guarantees, or predictions. I didn't do that when I was an investment writer (I was one of a very small handful of investment writers who claimed no ability to forecast the future), and I have made no promises of success as a candidate.
I have set goals, I've told people what I hope to achieve, and I've told people what the benefits could be if we could achieve a particular goal. But I've never promised anyone anything. How could I? How do I know how much money will be raised? How do I know what other people will do? How could I possibly know the outcome of anything in advance? Whether or not you liked me as a candidate, at least recognize that I'm not stupid enough to predict results over which I have no control.
I have never seen any such promises made either by my campaign or by the LP. But it's such an easy thing for anyone who wants to attack us to say we over-promised even when no promises were made.
Because we Libertarians are continually trying new things to improve our outreach, we bring these ideas to the attention of people in advance in order to fund them. We point out how valuable it will be if the idea succeeds. But no one (in a position of authority) promises success. How could we when we don't even know whether we'll get the funding to carry out a particular plan?
In March 1999 a Liberty ad for the following issue contained the statement:
When I asked R.W. Bradford where I made such a promise, he said he heard me say it at a Liberty public conference in 1994.
When I insisted that I made no promise in that speech or any other, he argued that he knew for a fact I had said it. I suggested he listen to the audiotape of my speech, but that would have been too literal for him. Instead, he got out his dictionary and discovered that the word "promise" has an alternative meaning in the sense that the campaign "showed a lot of promise."
In other words, you, dear reader, should understand that Liberty's words don't mean what you think they mean; the editor has the right to change the intended meaning after the words have been published.
In addition to promising that I'd be in the White House by now, I supposedly promised that I wouldn't even run in 2000 if the LP didn't have 200,000 members by then.
On page 30 of the September 2000 Liberty:
And at the top of page 31:
Promised whom? For what purpose? When did I promise this? Who heard the promise? Why did I make it? What "reliable source" told Bradford this?
Actually, the source is obvious. Prior to Bradford's statements, only one person had ever claimed that I'd made such a promise, and that was Jacob Hornberger. With his particularly acute hearing, he had heard the promise during a speech I had given in a room with 100 other people none of whom had been blessed with the ability to hear me make the promise. Since Jacob Hornberger had been the only person ever to have heard the promise (and needed psychic powers in order to do so), it seems obvious who Bradford's "unimpeachable source" was.
You would think that, before publishing this claim, Bradford would ask himself a simple question: What would possess me to make such a promise? What would I have to gain by promising that I wouldn't run if the party were less than a certain size? Who would demand that I make such a promise as a condition of running?
As with so much Bill Bradford writes, it makes no sense whatsoever.
Bradford & Hornberger a Match Made in Heaven
His reliance on Jacob Hornberger provides a good example of R.W. Bradford's journalistic ethics.
In April 1997, while I was a senior editor for Liberty, Jacob Hornberger submitted an article for publication. It contained a number of Mr. Hornberger's usual allegations against me most notably that I had compromised Libertarian principles in my 1996 campaign.
Bradford didn't publish the article. He sent me a copy and told me he thought most of it was "idiotic." He even referred to it as "h*rsesh*t" (only he didn't use asterisks).
Then in April 1999, after I'd left Liberty, Bradford published an article by Jacob Hornberger under the title "Why Harry Browne Doesn't Work" containing most of the allegations that Bradford had earlier referred to as "h*rsesh*t" (only he didn't use asterisks).
Not only did Bradford apparently change his mind about Hornberger's competence, he apparently began treating him as a source of inside information about people's motives, secret plans, and even their thoughts.
This Bradford-Hornberger association has one amusing component. A typical sequence of events will include the following:
For example, Hornberger wrote this in a letter published January 29, 2001, in The Libertarian Enterprise:
It's obvious from so much of what Bradford has written that he didn't examine "thousands of pages of official FEC documents." He simply repeated verbatim the charges that Hornberger himself had made without any verification.
And incidentally, I wasn't associated with Liberty for "many years." It was exactly 13 months. But who's counting?
Although Hornberger and Bradford have been of great help to each other, they are quite different personalities.
Jacob Hornberger is a skilled character assassin. He chooses his words carefully to achieve the maximum emotional propaganda effect. He prides himself on using the kind of courtroom tactics that people attribute to sleazy lawyers.
Bill Bradford, however, isn't so talented. Far from a skilled character assassin, he's more like a 4-year-old kid who gets his hands on a loaded pistol. He shoots in all directions, oblivious to the damage he causes to reputations and the truth concerned only with satisfying his infantile whim of the moment. In other words, he's a careless and irresponsible writer.
What Liberty Wrought in the 2000 Campaign
On page 40, at the end of his September 2000 article Bradford says,
From the examples I've given, it appears that Liberty isn't succeeding in its function. Rather than verify what the truth is, R.W. Bradford simply assumes what he wants and reports it not labeling it as an opinion, a surmise, or an assumption, but as "facts."
Maybe now we can see how David Kopel (and other outsiders) could have gotten the idea from Liberty that I had made "patently absurd promises of imminent electoral success," or that I had "ripped off Libertarian party donors," or that I had a "chokehold" on the national party, or that "the LP [should] get rid of Harry Browne."
What I've cited here is from just two articles published in Liberty in 2000 about the LP and me. There have been more. In fact, Liberty published an equally sophomoric article about the LP's 1998 convention unfairly defaming two well-known members of the LP in the process. And virtually every issue these days contains "facts" about the LP that seem to be known only to R.W. Bradford.
Bradford's Ethical Standards
On April 26, 1997, R.W. Bradford sent me an email about the 1996 campaign in which he referred to "all the good that your campaign accomplished (in terms of bringing the libertarian message to millions of people)." But now he has a different agenda, and so history had to be rewritten and "all the good" was magically transformed into "Browne's 1996 debacle."
Even if he didn't change his mind, his judgment is pretty hard to understand. Despite trying to make me look like a person devoid of all ethics in his two articles covering the 2000 LP convention, on July 16, 2000 (just two weeks after the convention), he wrote in an email to me:
Either he didn't mean any of the accusations he's made against me or he has the lowest standards of anyone I've ever known. I leave it to you to decide which is the case.
LIBERTYREPORTS ON THE 2000 CAMPAIGN IN 2001
In 2001 Liberty published a series of articles (all written by Bill Bradford) about the 2000 presidential campaign.
Bradford makes his living attacking Libertarians. I don't make my living defending Libertarians. In fact, no one does. So don't be surprised that there isn't someone on hand to refute everything Bradford says as soon as he says it.
Because I'm determined not to be swayed from the task of building the American Liberty Foundation to broadcast libertarian TV ads to millions of Americans who have never heard our ideas, and because I desperately need to earn a living to repair my personal finances that were decimated by six years of campaigning, I don't have time to write an extensive report on Bradford's 2001 articles. But I will cover the basic charges here.
Those charges boil down to:
To support his claims of fraud in the campaign, Bradford has introduced a new technique: He writes an article that includes outrageous statements about the campaign's finances. He then faxes the article to someone who worked on the 2000 campaign, says that the article is going to press the next day, and invites the person to refute the charges before the article is printed.
Because no one still works for the campaign now, and because every ex-staffer is busily trying to make up a lot of personal financial ground, no one is in a position to drop everything and dig out the facts to refute Bradford's accusations within the allotted 24 hours.
So one of two things happens:
He has a nice racket going.
In claiming that we spent huge sums of money on ourselves and very little for advertising, he needs to claim that we raised a great deal of money overall. However, despite his demanding that we in the campaign provide explicit, consistent figures at a moment's notice, he doesn't even notice how many different versions he gives of the same "facts". For example:
In the September 2001 issue (page 31), Bradford mentions ". . . the total spending of the  Browne campaign plus LP spending on ad time [was] about $360,000 on advertising, or somewhere in the neighborhood of 7% of its election-year spending." If $360,000 was 7% of the total, the campaign must have raised and spent about $5 million altogether.
In the October 2001 issue (page 31), he says "The campaign had spent only a bit less than $360,000, or about 6% of their total funds, to purchase advertising." If $360,000 is 6% of the total, the campaign must have raised $6 million, rather than the $5 million he had implied in the prior month's issue.
In the very same October 2001 issue (page 34), he says, "But based on how Browne spent the $4 million he raised for his political campaign, . . ."
So here, within two issues, he claims the campaign raised $4 million, $5 million, and $6 million.
Since all these articles appeared nearly a year after the campaign ended and easily six months after all campaign information had been made public, the discrepancies can't be the result of new data coming to light. The discrepancies can be explained in only one way: Bradford says whatever he wants to say whenever he wants to say it, and he doesn't bother to verify anything he says. As a result, he often contradicts himself.
If you read any one of his statements in the context of its original article, it would be easy to assume that he was stating a simple fact, a matter of public record. But when you place the three statements side by side, it's obvious that at least two of them are false. Not just false, but false by an enormous magnitude. His biggest assertion of campaign spending is 50% larger than the smallest.
But, in fact, all three statements are wrong. The campaign actually raised only $2,621,802 (including $198,911 raised and spent for advertising through the LP), and spent $650,092 of that on advertising (including what the LP spent on advertising). Thats 25% spent on advertising probably a larger percentage than that for any other third party.
It's probably even a higher percentage than either the Republicans or Democrats spent on advertising out of the money they actually had to raise (as opposed to the taxpayer money given to them out of the U.S. Treasury).
One of the greatest disappointments of the campaign was that we were able to raise so little money given the size of the party. It's obvious that the drumbeat of false allegations made by Jacob Hornberger and Bill Bradford took their toll. They helped to demoralize the party, cast huge suspicions on the presidential campaign, and in general sap the energies of many hard-working Libertarians.
But given the small amount of money we raised, I'm proud of how efficiently it was spent for outreach.
Another astounding Bradford claim is that most of the money raised was spent on fund-raising.
For example, in the September 2001 issue (page 31) he refers to expenditures "for the fund-raisers that Browne held at airport hotels around the country," and he goes on to say:
I guess he believes that my 133 TV appearances, 465 radio interviews, 171 press interviews and articles, 82 Internet interviews and articles, the C-SPAN third-party debates, speeches such as those at the huge Rock-The-Vote Concert in Winston-Salem or the gigantic Cannabis rally in Boston, articles written for WorldNetDaily and other publications, answers to Internet candidate questionnaires, maintenance of our website, and all other campaign functions were simply fund-raising events.
The actual amount spent on fund-raising was $634,961 or 26% of the total amount raised, which is probably a smaller percentage than that incurred by any other third-party presidential campaign.
And, incidentally, other than one campaign event near the Seattle airport, I don't recall a single function fund-raising or otherwise that took place at an "airport hotel." But apparently Bill Bradford staged some Harry Browne appearances without me.
Bradford Takes Everything Personally
During 1997-1998, I served 13 months as a senior editor for Liberty. I had welcomed the opportunity, because I thought it would give me a forum in which to state my views on the future of the libertarian movement and political events in general, while providing a small income that helped enable me to continue doing libertarian outreach.
One important reason I finally resigned the position was that when I was aware firsthand of the truth of a situation, Bradford seemed to misreport it at least half the time.
Other reasons included Bradford's rewriting of my articles without my approval, his seeming compulsion to criticize anything the LP did officially, his greater sympathy for the Republican Party, the limitations he imposed on my use of the word "libertarian," and the shabby way he treated the magazine's writers in general. Another reason was a series of long, tedious telephone conversations I had with him, in which he demonstrated the same trait he exhibits in his reporting: once he's decided what the truth ought to be, facts have no bearing on the matter, making it impossible to reason with him and making such conversations very tiresome.
Yet another dismaying fact I discovered about Bill Bradford was that he uses the magazine to settle personal grudges of no interest to anyone but himself. For example, in the January 1998 issue he devoted 2 pages (starting on page 14) to a refutation of remarks made about him in a libertarian newsletter in New Zealand remarks that not one Liberty reader in a thousand would have seen.
He seems to take everything personally, and feels Liberty is the place to settle all scores. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line he decided he had to settle a score with me and I've been the object of his wrath ever since. And it seems that almost anything I say or do is a personal affront to him.
For example, the Eris Society meets yearly in July in Aspen, Colorado. I have spoken there before and decided in May to contact Randy Smith, the 2001 program chairman, to see whether it was possible for me to speak there this year. I wanted to drum up support for the American Liberty Foundation. Randy agreed to have me speak and scheduled me as the final speaker of the conference.
Just prior to the conference, I heard that Bill Bradford was scheduled to speak. I hadn't known that he would even be at the conference, let alone that he'd be speaking.
His entire speech was on the failings of the Libertarian Party and he repeated many of the charges against the presidential campaign that he'd made in his magazine.
My speech happened to come right after his. Although I was tempted to refute Bradford's misstatements, I resisted the temptation and I gave exactly the speech I'd intended to give. I had come to the conference to generate support for the Foundation, not to prove Bill Bradford wrong.
I mentioned Bradford only twice. When covering some of what I had learned from the 2000 campaign, I prefaced two remarks with the phrase, "Contrary to what Bill Bradford said, the campaign . . ." because he had given incorrect figures in his speech. Otherwise, the speech was just what I had planned all along to give and it had nothing to do with R.W. Bradford or Liberty.
Apparently, Bradford took my appearance as a personal attack on him. So in the October 2001 issue of Liberty (page 30), he treated this event in his typically imaginative and vengeful fashion. He devoted 4 pages to the event saying I'd contacted the conference at the last moment in order to be given a chance to rebut his speech, that the LP did the same thing, that my speech should have been titled, "What Was Wrong With What Bill Bradford Said," and so on.
In truth, no one listening to my speech could possibly have taken it as a personal attack on him. But he considers any thought contrary to what he wants to believe to be a personal affront.
(Anyone wanting to verify that I was booked to speak well in advance of the conference can contact the program chairman, Randy Smith, at email@example.com.)
Again, I apologize for the length of this report. But even so, it is minuscule compared with the tens of thousands of words R.W. Bradford has written attacking the LP and the presidential campaigns over the past two years.
As you can see from the many examples I've given, it is dangerous to rely on anything he says in his magazine:
Whether he's referring to something trivial, such as an "organized demonstration" or flattering Don Gorman or something important, such as the control of the party, outright fraud, or the raising and spending of money Bill Bradford's statements are totally unreliable. With any given assertion, there's no way to tell whether he really knows what he's talking about, he's simply making something up out of his imagination, or he's relying on a tip from an "unimpeachable source" with an axe to grind.
Bill Bradford is a pioneer. He has developed an entirely new style of journalism or even jurisprudence. Call it the Bradford Defense: Make a startling, defamatory accusation against someone, implying that you have irrefutable evidence to support it and when someone proves that it can't possibly be true, claim that you didn't mean it "literally."
Hes also a devotee of the Hornberger Smoke & Fire School of Journalism: Make dozens and dozens of accusations, big and small so that even as many of them are refuted, there are simply too many to disprove them all, and people will assume that there has to be some fire under all that smoke.
Bill Bradford isn't really a journalist. He's more like a high school student who says, "Hey, let's start a newspaper think of all the fun we can have!" and gets carried away with it. Unfortunately, he doesn't have a faculty advisor to rein in his excesses. So once he gets a grand idea about how something works, he presents as "facts" whatever seems to fit the grand idea without any way of knowing, checking, or even caring whether the "facts" are really true.
His bad habits seem to have gotten worse through the years. He now seems to be trying to reinvent himself as the William Randolph Hearst of the libertarian movement, trying to turn any trivial incident inside the LP into large-scale controversy and perhaps even start a new Spanish-American War within the party.
His absurdities are repeated outside the LP. Thousands of people who could have helped the LP in 2000 were told that the LP is a hotbed of corruption that Harry Browne, Perry Willis, and others have ripped off the LP membership with bogus fund-raising appeals, with promises not kept, with bribes, and "ethical shortcomings."
This makes Libertarians look like a bunch of fools who are so stupid they can't even recognize obvious con men. It is an insult to the thousands of intelligent men and women who chose to work hard for the 2000 presidential campaign, and who continue to work so hard to build the Libertarian Party.
Ideas have consequences. So do statements and allegations and rumors.
But Bill Bradford doesn't care about all that. He has to put the next issue to bed before the big game.