Turmoil in the Arizona LP

In early 1995, the Libertarian Party of Arizona was plunged into turmoil when members of a county affiliate formed their own state party and attempted to be recognized as such.

Members of the Pima County affiliate of the Libertarian Party of Arizona took advantage of obscure provisions of the Arizona election code. The code states that only elected precinct committeemen can run or vote for party office. This rule is routinely ignored by all parties in Arizona, partly because similar laws regulating internal party structure have been found unconstitutional.

The breakaway group elected 13 precinct committeemen, and five of those drove to Phoenix to hold a "convention" according to state law. Those five presumed to form a state party, elected officers and adopted bylaws, calling themselves the Arizona affiliate of the Libertarian Party. Their bylaws gave the state chair authority to appoint acting county chairs, thus giving their small group complete control over party leadership.

The "new" Arizona Libertarian Party then told the Arizona Secretary of State and the bank which held the state party's bank account that they were the official party. The "existing" Arizona Libertarian Party appealed to the Libertarian Party National Committee for a decision and reasserted control over its bank account. The National Committee sided with the existing affiliate and sent a letter to the "new" party to cease and desist using the Libertarian Party name.

The letter signed by National Committee Chair Steve Dasbach read in part:

The political entity recognized by the Libertarian National Committee as our affiliate party in Arizona is the "Arizona Libertarian Party", currently chaired by Rick Tompkins.

Also according to our Bylaws, "No person, group or organization may use the name 'Libertarian Party' or any confusingly similar designation except an organization to which the [National Libertarian] Party grants affiliate party status." [Article 8, Section 1.] The Libertarian National Committee remains fully committed to enforcing this provision.

One of the "new party" officers, Secretary Arthur Kerschen posted a "May 1995 status report" to LiberNet, saying:

On January 28, 1995 new officers were elected to leadership positions in the Arizona Libertarian party pursuant to Libertarian bylaws and Arizona law. Elected were Dan Detaranto as Chairman, Arthur Kerschen as Secretary and Robert Bushkin as Treasurer. The controversy arose when former Chairman Rick Tompkins and other former state officers refused to acknowledge their removal from office.

... Tompkins called a "convention" for April 29 and 30 in Phoenix in conjunction with the Natcom meeting scheduled that same weekend ... The state officers and John Zajac, a Pima County Libertarian activist, went to Phoenix on March 21 to discuss the situation with Tompkins ...

... 321 Libertarians in Pima, Maricopa, Cochise and Yavapai Counties contributed money to the Arizona Libertarian Party (to become Members of Record under the bylaws) and authorized in writing before two witnesses that John Zajac was instructed to vote on their behalf at this "convention". Proxy voting is authorized by the bylaws only for Members of Record.

... the proxies were refused ... Police were called in to forcibly remove Zajac and other Libertarians.

In actuality, the breakaway Libertarians attended the Libertarian convention apparently to cause such a disturbance. The 321 proxies, each of whom donated $1 to become a member of record, were refused because the deadline had passed for becoming a proxy in time for voting at the convention. The breakaways disrupted the convention with frequent objections and outbursts until they were ejected.

The May 1995 Libertarian Party News, in "New Entry for '96?," reported Rick Tompkins' April 10 announcement to form an exploratory committee to seek the Libertarian nomination for president. The article introduced Tompkins as "long-time Libertarian activist and Arizona state party chairman."