Politics

The Presidential Campaign Support Committee and the Decision to Change the Active Candidates List

“In summary, a National Co-Chair who had made a donation to Dario Hunter, sat at a table with Hunter’s soon-to-be Campaign Manager and offered a proposal that came from Hunter that would cut off the active candidates list and ask the PCSC to only publish a recognized candidates list shortly after Hunter would become the second candidate to achieve recognition.”

Disclaimer 1: I am the co-chair of the Maryland Green Party and a member of the Green Party of the United States Presidential Campaign Support Committee (PCSC). I am affiliated with no Presidential Campaign, I have spoken with candidates and supporters of campaigns of most of the Active Green Party presidential campaigns in the process of preparing this. Some of those conversations are private and some are in public

Disclaimer 2: The PCSC like all the State, Local, and National Committees of the Green Party is made up of hard working volunteers often stretched in too many directions. I apologize in advance if members feel that this denigrates their work. The issues raised here are important for a broader green party audience and after nearly a month of trying to get them resolved internally I have decided to share.

Introduction

I joined the Presidential Campaign Support Committee in August. The Maryland Green Party had decided at that point to link it’s 2020 presidential nomination process to the PCSC process and I wanted to make sure I understood the ins and outs so what we were doing in Maryland could be aligned with what I thought at the time was a well defined set of best practices.

As of yesterday, I have proposed that the Maryland Green Party de-link its process from the PCSC process and I encourage every other state to do so as well, until the PCSC can demonstrate that it is capable of fulfilling its role . I believe that the PCSC is susceptible to three major problems that are inconsistent with its mission as approved by the National Committee:

  • The most important issue is that the committee is susceptible to the poor judgement of its Steering Committee Liaison-National Co-Chair, Justin Beth.
  • The Committee lacks the administrative and communication capacity to achieve its National Committee mandated support and recognition functions.
  • There is a tendency on the committee to play a gatekeeping role that is at odds with the National Committee vote in May of this year that authorized an expanded role in recognizing candidates.

The best way to understand this problem is to discuss how the Presidential Campaign Support Committee came to the decision to modify who appears on the “active candidates list”

In Section 10–3.1 of the Green Party of the United States Rules and Procedures as approved by the National Committee of the Green Party in May of 2019 it is stated that :

10–3.1 Public Access: As part of its publicly-available information pages the PCSC shall include, as a minimum, the assessment metrics identified in Section 10–1 above for all candidates which the PCSC determines are actively seeking official recognition or which have already achieved official recognition. The PCSC shall also provide public access to the PCSC questionnaire submitted by each candidate.

It is important to note that this clause “which the PCSC determines are actively seeking official recognition” gives the PCSC the sole ability to determine who is actively seeking official recognition (Though notably it does not provide any guidance on how they should do so).

Proposal 1

Invoking that power, PCSC Co-Chair John Andrews suggested on August 9th, that the PCSC tighten the criteria for appearing on the active candidates list. His additional suggested criteria included:

Have a campaign website as specified in Article 10.

Have returned the PCSC questionnaire.

Have a recognized campaign committee with a treasurer and bank account.

Then on August 12th, Andrews made a proposal that would empower the PCSC to set additional criteria for candidates to be included on the Active Candidates list. This proposal would have taken effect on August 22nd. The provisions of this proposal included the following:

a) The candidate must have returned a completed Letter of Interest form to the PCSC.

b) The candidate must have filed a Form 2 Statement of Organization with the Federal Elections Commission to establish an active campaign committee with a designated treasurer.

c) The candidate must have returned a completed PCSC questionnaire to the PCSC

d) The PCSC reserves the right to remove any candidate from the Active Candidate’s List if their campaign is determined to be the source of communications that are damaging the reputation of the Party or having unacceptable impacts upon Green Party volunteers and voters.

e) New candidates may be placed on the Active Candidate’s List only after
1) the co-chairs determine that they meet criteria (a) through ( c )above
and
2) their name has been presented to the PCSC telecon for consideration as to whether they should be blocked under provision (d) above

f) As the presidential campaign evolves, the PCSC may further revise
criteria for appearing on the Active Candidate’s List to ensure that it
serves the interests of the Green Party in having a constructive and
productive presidential primary phase.

As a personal note, I was new to the committee at this point. Though I had read through the documents sent in the PCSC reading packet, I was not aware of the background provided to the GPUS National Committee when the current version of the recognition processes were adopted, Notably this includes the following justifications :

The primary purpose of the revisions is to make the recognition criteria clearer, to make administration of the process more straightforward, and to provide more useful measures of the state of each campaign.

Nine metrics which track the progress of a candidate’s campaign are defined. All will be tracked and made available to GP members for inspection. Official recognition requires meeting specified minimum criteria for the first seven metrics. The emphasis on a metrics-based approach ensures that the PCSC will provide meaningful, constantly updated information to GP members which allows voter insights that go deeper than any simple pass/fail recognition test applied at only one point in the campaign.

And

In summary, the revised Article 10 takes a new approach by defining metrics that are public and continuously available for public inspection rather than defining criteria for internal decision-making by a committee at a single point in time in order to issue a pass/fail declaration. This is intended to allow the official recognition process to promote the Green Party commitment to democracy by strengthening voter awareness and reducing reliance on decision-making by internal party committees.

It is arguable that any changes to make the Active Candidates list more restrictive are not in line with the spirit of the revisions to Article X which were intended to provide more transparency about candidates seeking the nomination and not less. Knowing which National Committee-approved metrics a candidate has and has not met helps State Parties and Green Party members to make their own assessment of the seriousness of a candidacy.

It is further arguable that any changes that would include some candidates or exclude others at a given point in time are indeed a “pass/fail recognition test applied at only one point in the campaign.”

The purpose of this writing is not to fully deliberate whether the PCSC has the authority to modify the Active Candidates list (they do) nor is to argue whether they should, but it is worth noting as a general trend that the leadership of the committee has sought, when possible, to centralize inclusion and exclusion decisions within the committee.

Proposal 2

In response to the Andrews proposal Justin Beth, a National Co-Chair and the current Steering Committee Liaison to the PCSC offered a counter proposal for the management of the Active Candidates list.

That proposal is included here:

The PCSC approves the following procedures for managing the PCSC Active

Candidate’s List.

Until November 4, 2019 the criteria for appearing on the Active Candidate’s List shall be

a) The candidate has returned a completed Letter of Interest form to the PCSC.

b) There has been no determination by the PCSC that a candidate should be blocked from the Active Candidate’s List because their campaign is insincere, is damaging the reputation of the Party, or is having unacceptable impacts upon Green Party volunteers and voters.

c) New candidates may be placed on the Active Candidate’s List only after

1)the co-chairs determine that they meet criteria (a) above and

2)their name has been presented to the PCSC telecon for consideration as to whether they should be blocked under provision (b) above.

d) After November 4, 2019 the Active Candidate’s List shall be terminated and the PCSC will thereafter only maintain a list of officially recognized candidates.

I do believe that the intent of section D of this proposal is in fact a violation of the National Committee approved role of the active candidates list. Section 10–3.1 requires “…the assessment metrics identified in Section 10–1 above for all candidates which the PCSC determines are actively seeking official recognition or which have already achieved official recognition”

However, that is not the most troubling aspect of this proposal brought by Justin Beth, National Co-Chair of the Green Party.

The most troubling aspect of this proposal came during the PCSC Teleconference on August 15th.

I have provided a screenshot of the transcript of that call here

In this excerpt Justin makes a few things very clear.

1)He shared the proposal that John Andrews made on August 12th with Dario Hunter, a candidate seeking official recognition by the PCSC.

2)He submitted his proposal to PCSC on behalf of Hunter and based on Hunter’s recommendations.

A couple of other things worth noting

1) Violet Rose Zitola, resigned from the PCSC on August 20th (Five days after this teleconference) to become Dario Hunter’s Campaign Manager. During this call Violet was sitting at the table with Justin.

2) Justin Beth had at this point made a donation (July 31) to the Hunter campaign, that donation was not yet reported on the FEC website, and was not to my knowledge disclosed to the committee before bringing a proposal on behalf of Hunter.

3) Hunter was in the process of seeking recognition, and would certainly be likely to have it by November, as reported by Justin Beth during this call.

In summary, a National Co-Chair who had made a donation to Dario Hunter, sat at a table with Hunter’s soon-to-be Campaign Manager and offered a proposal that came from Hunter that would cut off the active candidates list and ask the PCSC to only publish a recognized candidates list shortly after Hunter would become the second candidate to achieve recognition.

The Follow-up

Proposal 2-To terminate the Active Candidates List on November 4th- (which was offered based on its three month lead time) was not voted on in August. There was an online poll in September that had the participation of 6 of the 33 members of the PCSC and then Proposal 2 was approved by consensus of the 10 PCSC members on the September 12th Call. While this meets the quorum requirement of half of the voting members from one third of the states and caucuses, it is a demonstration of the problem of making weighty decisions on a call that is poorly attended.

I should note, it was my second meeting of the PCSC and I was part of the consensus AND I BELIEVE I WAS WRONG.

It was agreed at the time that John would get a draft of the notification of this change to the PCSC for approval and then to the Candidates by September 20th.

There was nothing shared with the PCSC about this and there was no further communication until October 6th when candidates were notified via email and The PCSC was forwarded a copy of that email.

Here is what candidates were told:

*2. Management of Active Candidate’s List after the One-year-to-go Point-In four more weeks we will be at the one-year-to-go point ahead of the 2020 presidential election. At their last telecon, the PCSC made the following decisions regarding how the PCSC’s Active Candidate’s List will be managedas we reach this point:

• Until November 4, 2019 the criteria for appearing on the 2020 Candidates Page shall be unchanged, namely that a candidate is placed on the PCSC’s Active Candidate’s List by virtue of meeting the following two criteria:
1) The candidate has returned a completed Letter of Interest form to the PCSC.
2) There has been no determination by the PCSC that a candidate should be excluded from the Active Candidate’s List because their campaign is not a genuine effort within the context of the Green Party primary process, involves a significant deception of Green Party voters, or is placing unacceptable burdens upon Green Party volunteers or voters.

• After November 4, 2019 the PCSC Active Candidate’s List will include only those candidates that have achieved official recognition. The PCSC will continue to monitor the campaigns of non-recognized candidates but will not necessarily include those campaigns in all its initiatives.

A policy that was proposed to give candidates three months lead time instead of one week, ended up giving candidates four weeks of notice. I have checked with several National Committee members and several Steering Committee members and none of them recall receiving any notification by the PCSC that the Active Candidates list was being terminated.

As of today there is no guidance on any of the PCSC websites that explains the change or the decision was made, as far as I can tell there has been no effort to inform state parties of the change. This may indeed be coming, but at this point we Three months from when the policy was proposed, two months from when it was approved and one month from when candidates were alerted.

Worth Noting

October 9th: John Andrews shared a draft letter with the PCSC. This letter was sent to candidates to ask them to improve the tone of the primary process and to refrain from criticism of the hardworking volunteers PCSC.

It did not mention the change to the Active Candidates List.

October 10th: There was another PCSC telecom (the minutes, decisions, and action items of this meeting were not shared with the PCSC until November 8th). It is notable that on this call Justin Beth again suggested that the intent of his proposal is to only list the recognized candidates (which at this point include only Hawkins and Hunter).

“If we just had the one list of recognized candidates it would only be the two, not Dennis or Roland. Maybe that’s a more appropriate way to handle this. If they can get the support through donations/signatures, then they get in. The active candidates list is helpful for PCSC but maybe shouldn’t be public.”

October 16th: The 5 candidates who were going to be removed from the active candidates list issued a joint statement citing, among other things, the October 6th email notifying them that they would no longer be listed as actively seeking the nomination.

October 18th: National Co-Chair, Justin Beth engaged in Twitter conversation with several of those candidates and made no effort to explain that he had proposed the policy they were upset about or that he had done so on behalf of Dario Hunter

October 21– John Andrews let the PCSC know that he will be working on a response to the Claims of the five candidates (so far no such letter has come out regarding the changes to the Active Candidates list).

October 22– Justin Beth, the National Co-Chair who is the liason to the Presidential Campaign Support Committee and who is the author of the proposal causing one of the main controversies at the heart of the five candidate letter, proclaimed his desire to address problems internally instead of airing them out in public, and even references the damage control he must do. The fact that he did not take accountability for the fallout from his own proposal should give serious pause to anyone who views him as a leader.

Conclusion

Since this controversy has arisen, the committee has had difficulty communicating effectively internally, with the candidates, or externally, and other administrative functions of the committee have fallen by the wayside.

We will be taking up this issue on our next teleconference and I intend to bring up these issues there as well.

Regardless of the material changes that are or are not made to the Active Candidates list at this point, the process and communication of those changes have furthered an adversarial environment between the candidates and the committee, and has undermined the faith in a fair process that will be essential to a good presidential campaign.

In the short-term, I recommend a few steps in order to restore the process and ensure that it is run in a way that works “…to promote the Green Party commitment to democracy by strengthening voter awareness and reducing reliance on decision-making by internal party committees.”

  1. Justin Beth should no longer be the Steering Committee liaison to the Presidential Campaign Support Committee. He has demonstrated bad judgement, a lack of leadership and a lack of transparency.
  2. The steering committee of the GPUS and the National Committee of the GPUS should be notified of any changes to the criteria for the “Active Candidates List” within a year of the Presidential Nominating Convention and furthermore that they have a mechanism to approve or disapprove.
  3. The PCSC should adopt some sort of formal online decision making platform so that larger numbers of members can participate in the decision-making.
  4. No changes should be made to the criteria of the Active Candidates list that excludes candidates on a pathway to achieving recognition.
  5. The PCSC should include a disclaimer in each of its communications that the recognition process should not serve as a stand-in for State Parties having a process of deciding what qualifies someone to appear on their ballot.
  6. The Steering Committee should assign at least a ¼ staff time allocation to the PCSC as needed in order to comply with maintaining the metrics, communication with candidates, and verification and distribution of signatures mandated in National Committee Proposal 955

The Presidential Nomination is an essential function of the Green Party and the primary function bestowed upon the Presidential Campaign Support Committee. If we are to effectively use this process to build grassroots political power in line with Green Values, we must have a process that has the faith of everyone involved. I hope that in the next several months we can correct the problems I outlined here so that we can begin the vital decade of the 2020’s with a truly democratic process to pick our party’s nominee.


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