Brief Video History:
The Republican Liberty Caucus is one of many elements within the general libertarian movement, focused on the specific objective of bringing the Republican Party back to the principles of individual rights, limited government, and free enterprise. The Caucus embodies the unique strategic vision of working within a major party to achieve liberty. Although we share our basic principles with many other libertarian groups, we welcome constitutionalists, classical liberals, tolerant conservatives, and free market advocates who support our objectives.
The movement finds its roots in the ideals of the founding fathers, expressed in the Declaration of Independence, but also in the writings of many pre-revolutionary political thinkers. The Caucus is the result of the activities of several organizations that were active in the 1980s, but the concept of developing libertarian principles within the GOP could be traced back to the 1964 Presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater. Although he labeled his position as “conservative”, he espoused the “classical liberal” principles that we champion today.
Goldwater’s defeat discouraged his supporters, who tended to gather in the Young Americans for Freedom [YAF] in the late sixties. David Nolan, a Chairman of the Colorado Young Republicans, founded the Libertarian Party [LP] in 1972. Many libertarians abandoned other efforts to participate in the LP during the early years, while many prominent LP officers and candidates have left the party to join the RLC effort.
The earliest libertarian to gain standing within the Republican Party was Dana Rohrabacher. Historian Sam Konkin III says Rohrabacher was “the most successful and most beloved libertarian activist,” critical to the development of YAF, the Libertarian Alliance, and the Society for Individual Liberty [SIL] in the late 60s and early 70’s.
“There would not have been a libertarian movement without him,” says Konkin. With the financial support of David Koch (later an LP Vice Presidential candidate), Rohrabacher twice ran unsuccessfully for the GOP congressional nomination in Southern California. Later, he worked as a speechwriter for Ronald Reagan and was subsequently nominated by the GOP and elected to the 42nd Congressional District of California. His early years earned him ‘libertarian’ ratings in the RLC Liberty Index, but he has recently tended toward a more conservative philosophy.
Roger MacBride, heir to the Laura Ingalls Wilder estate (“Little House on the Prairie”), may have been the first candidate to explicitly describe himself as a “libertarian-Republican” while he served as a Vermont GOP Assemblyman and ran for Governor in 1964. As a GOP Presidential Elector for Nixon in 1972, MacBride cast a rebel ballot for the LP Presidential candidate, John Hospers. MacBride gained the LP Presidential nomination in 1976, but later returned to the Republican Party and was critical to the early formation of the RLC.
Dr. Ron Paul was strongly influenced by Austrian economists and advocated clearly libertarian positions after his election to Congress in 1976. He served as a Texas GOP Congressional Representative until 1984, when he was defeated in a race for U.S. Senate. He joined the LP as their Presidential candidate in 1988, then returned to Congress as the 14th District Republican Representative in 1997, where he continues to serve. Dr. Paul has served as Honorary Chairman of the RLC and has earned the highest lifetime rating of any federal representative in the history of the RLC’s Liberty Index of Congress.
There were at least three precursor organizations to the RLC, from which it derived most of its early membership: the Libertarian Republican Alliance [LRA], founded by Joe Gentili, Larry Penner and Gerry O’Brien in Brooklyn, New York in 1972 with Professor Clifford Thies of Virginia as a prominent member; the “Radical Caucus” of the LP, which included Murray Rothbard and Williamson ‘Bill’ Evers of California (who was active in the Bush Administration), which evolved into the Libertarian Republican Organizing Committee [LROC], founded in 1988 by Justin Raimondo, Eric Garris, and Colin Hunter.
The LRA disbanded in 1981, in light of the growing successes of the LP during that period. The “Radical Caucus” members split from the LP, but failed to develop a viable organization. The LROC group developed a large mailing list and supported several Republican federal campaigns in California. Efforts to expand the organization nationally were not successful.
The first use of the name “Republican Liberty Caucus” was by a group of libertarians supporting the election of Republican Art Pope (a former LP member) to the North Carolina State House in 1986, recalls Alan Turin. Organized by Stan Ayeres, the group included Bobby Eberle, Vernon Robinson (a successful State House candidate in 1988 and a recent GOP candidate for Congress, both with RLC support and endorsement), and a dozen others. According to Eric (Dondero) Rittberg, Ayeres credited Robinson with suggesting the name. For a time in the late 1980s, the North Carolina RLC was listed as a state chapter of the national LROC organization.
Although LROC was active for seven years, publishing “The Libertarian Republican” newsletter with Reason Magazine advertising, participation dwindled and the founders pursued other interests when Hunter withdrew his financial support. (Raimondo and Garris now operate the popular AntiWar.com website.)
Early in 1990, at a meeting of a group of Florida LROC members at a Young Republicans Convention, including Phil Blumel, Tom Walls, Eric Rittberg and Rex Curry, who agreed to develop a national RLC organization. Alan Turin and Curtis Dietrich joined the group shortly thereafter and it was initially listed, with North Carolina, as a state chapter of LROC. A few months later, Rittberg says he obtained the complete list of 450 LROC members and agreed with Ayeres to make the RLC an independent national organization.
Other LROC members, Fred Stein of New Jersey, Alan Lindsay in Texas, Earle Smith of Georgia, Norm Singleton (now Legislative Director for Congressman Ron Paul) of Pennsylvania and Gene Berkman of California were among the first RLC State Coordinators. Lindsay operated an RLC national office in Texas for several of the early years.
On April 6, 1991, Roger MacBride invited Turin, Alan Lindsay, Eric and Barbara Rittberg, Rex and Susan Curry, as well as Tim Condon, to his Naples, Florida estate to formally organize the national RLC and plan for a “coming out party” at the National YR Convention in July 1991. MacBride agreed to fund the RLC newsletter “Republican Liberty” and to head an RLC “Council of Trustees” with Clifford Thies and William Hunscher as members. Michael Holmes of Texas was recruited as Senior Editor of the newsletter and RLC Treasurer. At that July meeting, officers were elected, including Chairman Rittberg, Vice-Chairman Thies, Secretary Norm Singleton and Treasurer Mike Holmes. Other National Committee members were MacBride, Wainwright Dawson, and Richard Duprey.
Throughout the 1990s, Clifford Thies served as Chairman, Mike Holmes as Treasurer, and Rob Booth as Secretary.
Other RLC Chairs include Roger MacBride in 1992, Ron Paul in 1995, Chuck Muth in 2000, Douglas Lorenz in 2002, William Westmiller from 2004 to 2009 and Dave Nalle from 2009 to present. Many others have been long-term members and made major contributions to the RLC national and state-level organizations.
Republican Liberty Caucus National Conventions
|1998||Las Vegas, Nevada|
|2002||San Antonio, Texas|
Above: Original RLC members Rex Curry, Roger MacBride, Eric Rittberg, Alan Lindsay, and Alan Turin.
The Origin of the Republican Liberty Caucus
by Eric J. Rittberg
Publisher Note: This article was originally published in the September – October 1995 edition of the ‘Republican Liberty’ Newslettter. Every effort has been made to reproduce it accurately. –Steven Burden, Aug 1, 2008
For years I had been active in Libertarian Party politics, having first supported Ed Clark for president as a teenager in 1980 and then rising through the ranks of the LP from the local to state level all the way to the Libertarian National Committee. In 1987 I was hired as Ron Paul’s advance man/travel aide for his presidential campaign, which I still regard as the greatest experience of my life. But in ‘89, I, along with many others who were supporting Matt Monroe for LP national chair, were purged from the LP due to our “mainstream middle class” values. I immediately joined a tiny cadre that existed at the time called the Liberarian Republican Organizing Committee.
But the serious lack of organization, direction and assistance from the LROC leadership based in California led me to question their tactics. I contacted other LROC coordinators on the East Coast listed on the back of their sporadically published newsletter.
I discovered others who were just as disenchanted, including Fred Stein of New Jersey and Ron Courtney of Virginia. One individual in particular said that they had written off the group entirely and had started their own group which they called the Republican Liberty Caucus. His name was Stan Ayers of Cary, N.C. Stan, along with Rick Henderson, Vernon Robinson, Stacy Powers and Steve Stiglbauer had formed the group to help elect libertarian-leaning Republicans to local and state offices. Their first success was electing their friend Art Pope to the state house from Raleigh in 1988.
After numerous conversations with Stan and the others over the phone I formally requested their
Unfortunately, the North Carolina group became inactive. Stan became a born again Christian and dropped out of politics; Vernon Robinson made a couple failed tries for statewide office; Stiglbauer moved to another state and Henderson, who had given the organization its name, went on to become an associate editor at Reason magazine. Only Stacy Powers remains active in politics today.
Meanwhile here in Florida a few of us former Libertarian Party members had run into each other at the 1990 state GOP convention. We were in the middle of a hotly contested governor’s race. The incumbent Republican Bob Martinez was disliked across the state for his tax raising policies and for his strident social conservatism. Even within GOP ranks there was dissension. A number of moderate Republicans backed a maverick challenger to Martinez, pro-choice State Sen. Marlene Woodson-Howard.
Rex Curry, former LPF Vice-Chair, Philip Blumel, Tom Walls and I linked up with a few of these “fiscally conservative/socially tolerant” Republicans from the Woodson-Howard campaign and formed a Florida RLC. Soon after I was hired as the Woodson-Howard campaign’s chief fund-raiser. Other FL RLCers played key roles in her effort. But she was soundly defeated by Martinez, placing second in a five-way primary.
In early l990 published a couple issues of The Florida RLC Newsletter. On July 30, I sent out a letter to about 200 top libertarians around the nation announcing our intention of taking the RLC nationwide. In August I published the first edition of Republican Liberty. It featured the Woodson-Howard campaign and former LP member and Congressman Sam Steiger’s run for governor of Arizona as a Republican. Naturally, the LROC crowd were infuriated when it appeared. What followed was a year-long battle with them, which at times got rather nasty (a story in itself). Finally, they relented and closed up shop. We had simply out-organized them and had established more credibility.
Among those who soon came on board, mostly refugees from the Libertarian Party were Roger MacBride, Mike Holmes, Clifford Thies, Alan Lindsay, Alan Turin, Frank Gilbert and just about all the other LROC coordinators. We worked up by-laws, held a couple meetings and formalized a structure.
With such a cadre of talented and experienced individuals we had little difficulty in putting together an active and well-organized national group which within three to four years became an established and well-respected element of the Grand Old Party.
RLC Timeline, 1985 – 1995