History of the Libertarian Party
The Libertarian Party was formed in the home of David Nolan on 11 December 1971, after several months of debate among members of the Committee to Form a Libertarian Party, founded July 17th. This group included John Hospers, Edward Crane, Manual Klausner, Murray Rothbard, R.A. Childs, Theodora Nathan, and Jim Dean. Prompted in part by price controls implemented by President Richard Nixon, the Libertarian Party viewed the dominant Republican and Democratic parties as having diverged from what they viewed as the libertarian principles of the American founding fathers.
Libertarian Presidential Tickets
1972: John Hospers and Theodora Nathan
2,691 popular votes (0.003%); 1 electoral vote;
1976: Roger MacBride and David Bergland
173,011 popular votes (0.21%)
1980: Ed Clark and David Koch
921,299 popular votes (1.1%)
1984: David Bergland and James Lewis
228,705 popular votes (0.25%)
1988: Ron Paul and Andre Marrou
432,179 popular votes (0.47%)
1992: Andre Marrou and Nancy Lord
291,627 popular votes (0.28%)
1996: Harry Browne and Jo Jorgensen
485,798 popular votes (0.50%)
2000: Harry Browne and Art Olivier
384,431 popular votes (0.36%)
2004: Michael Badnarik and Richard Campagna
397,367 popular votes (0.34%)
By the 1972 presidential election, the party had grown to over 80 members and had attained ballot access in two states. Their presidential ticket, John Hospers and Theodora Nathan, earned fewer than 3,000 votes, but received the first and only electoral college vote for a Libertarian ticket, from Roger MacBride of Virginia, who was pledged to Richard Nixon. His was the first vote ever cast for a woman in the United States Electoral College. MacBride became the party's presidential nominee in the 1976 presidential election.
In the 1980 presidential contest, the Libertarian Party gained ballot access in every state, the first time a third party accomplished this since the Socialist Party in 1916. The ticket of Ed Clark and David H. Koch spent several million dollars on this political campaign and earned over one percent of the popular vote, the most successful Libertarian presidential campaign to date.
On December 29, 1981, the first successful election in the continental United States of a Libertarian Party candidate in a partisan race occurred as Richard P. Siano, a Boeing 707 pilot for TWA, running against both a Republican and a Democrat, was elected to the office of Kingwood Township Committeeman in western Hunterdon County, New Jersey. He served a three year term of office.
In 1983, the party was divided by internal disputes; former party leaders Edward Crane and David Koch left, taking a number of their supporters with them.
In 1984, the party's presidential nominee, David Bergland, gained access to the ballot in 36 states and earned one-quarter of one percent of the popular vote.
For 1988, then-former Republican Congressman Ron Paul won the Libertarian nomination for president and was on the ballot in 46 states. Paul later ran for congress again as a Republican, and still serves in the U.S. House today.
In 1992, Andre Marrou, a Libertarian elected to the Alaska state legislature and Ron Paul's running mate in 1988, led the ticket, with attorney Nancy Lord as his Vice Presidential (VP) running mate. For the first time since the Clark campaign in 1980, the Libertarian Party made the ballot in all 50 states, District of Columbia (DC), and Guam.
In 1994, radio personality Howard Stern embarked on a political campaign for Governor of New York, formally announcing his candidacy under the Libertarian Party ticket. Although he legally qualified for the office and campaigned for a time after his nomination, many viewed the run for office as nothing more than a publicity stunt. He subsequently withdrew his candidacy because he did not want to comply with the financial disclosure requirements for candidates.
Investment adviser Harry Browne headed the 1996 and 2000 tickets. The VP candidate in 1996 was South Carolina entrepreneur Jo Jorgenson; in 2000, Art Olivier of California was Browne's running mate. Again the Party made the ballot in all 50 states, DC and Guam.
In all of these cases, the party's presidential nominee drew in between one third and one half of one percent of the popular vote. In 2000, a split between the Arizona chapter and the national party led to the placement of science-fiction author L. Neil Smith on the Presidential ballot in Arizona rather than Harry Browne.
The 2004 election cycle saw the Libertarian Party's closest presidential nomination race to date. Three candidates -- gun-rights activist and software engineer Michael Badnarik, talk radio host Gary Nolan, and Hollywood producer Aaron Russo -- all came within two percent of each other on the first two ballots at the 2004 national convention in Atlanta. Badnarik was chosen as the party's presidential nominee on the third ballot after Nolan was eliminated, a comeback many saw as surprising, as Badnarik had not been viewed as a frontrunner for the nomination — the majority of delegates were won over during the convention itself, due to Badnarik's perceived strength in the debates compared to Russo and Nolan.
The Badnarik campaign scored ballot status in 48 states (plus DC and Guam) and earned 397,367 votes. Despite less name recognition and a much smaller campaign checkbook, Badnarik did well compared to independent candidate Ralph Nader.
2004 marked more visible official support of the Libertarian Party for Instant-Runoff Voting. Some LP members felt the Executive Committee endorsed it without appropriate study of other voting methods or the effects the adoption of this method would have on election outcomes for LP candidates. This move created division and dissent among those LP members who viewed the Executive Committee's action as demonstrating a lack of deliberation. There are LP members who support Approval voting and other alternative methods. However, party leaders point out that many members were simply unclear on the respective actual functions of the Executive and National Committees, and in any event all alternative voting improvements were from 1972 implicitly supported, and are explicitly supported since the 2002 Platform. However, the local value of initiatives proposing different methods--IRV, Alternate Voting, Term Limits, Proportional Representation, etc--is up to local or state LP's to determine.
The Libertarian Party's national chair is Michael Dixon. Its most recent executive director was Joe Seehusen, who resigned on August 5, 2005. Communications Director Shane Cory is temporarily acting as Chief of Staff. (Political journalist Peter Orvetti served as the party's Deputy Director of Communications from 1999 until 2000.)
In mid-2005, the Libertarian National Committee voted to eliminate all dues for membership in the national Libertarian Party, a change slated to take effect on January 1, 2006. This changes significantly the financial relationship between the national and state Libertarian Party affiliates, as well as providing the opportunity for a change of strategic focus from building membership to increasing the number of party-affiliated elected officials.
Critics of the decision noted that the national committee shut off a substantial revenue stream with no plan to replace it with other fundraising and failed to take into account any evidence of possible negative side effects.