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Former VP Hopeful Judd Weiss Spills Stories From The Campaign Trail, Prompts More Tales From Behind The Scenes

By Avens O’Brien

In a recent interview at Anarchapulco with Josh Sigurdson of World Alternative Media, Judd Weiss, former running mate of John McAfee spilled some stories from his experiences with the Gary Johnson campaign in 2016.

Weiss clarified near the beginning that he’d been a donor, fundraiser and voted for Johnson in the 2012 election cycle – he even threw two fundraisers for him that year – and had opted to support McAfee and eventually run with McAfee in 2016 in a desire to see the Libertarian Party present a “cool” or “interesting” option in the general election. However, during the race (Weiss ran with McAfee from early April until the National Convention at the end of May), they encountered a lot of what he described as “vicious” pushback from Johnson supporters and the campaign itself.

At Weiss’ Fundraiser for Johnson, 2011

Weiss did not necessarily attribute these actions to Johnson himself (“Gary’s such a nice guy”) but to his campaign itself and his campaign manager Ron Nielson, and cited various examples of trolling, campaign sabotage and corruption.

Weiss clarified in a message regarding this interview: “This isn’t necessarily a discussion of criminal behavior. This is about a problem of scamming libertarians, preying on those who want to help the cause, squandering valuable resources and opportunities.”

In one of the most interesting points Weiss made in the video, he claims Johnson’s campaign manager received over $4 million from the campaign. He corrected this record in comments on Facebook:

“One point of correction, I said the wrong number for how much Ron Nielson’s management entity pocketed from the campaign. I looked it up again on the FEC site and the monthly payments total to $1,850,800. A staggering salary that is more than 10 times higher than what campaign managers earn on large mainstream presidential campaigns from household names.”

Regarding average campaign manager salaries, this article from Politico describes Marco Rubio’s campaign manager as the highest paid at an annualized salary of $198,000, compared to a total campaign budget of $51.7 million. Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager’s pay annualizes to $121,000, with a total campaign budget of $585.6 million. In comparison, the Johnson campaign raised $11.9 million. A staggering 15% of the campaign budget went to Nielson’s management entity.

For sourcing regarding Johnson’s campaign numbers, one can find links to August, September and October’s payees (and other months) from the FEC.

Weiss also provided a PDF of the disbursements made (accessible here: Gary_Johnson-Disbursements), including notes and highlights, to source additional claims, including the Johnson campaign paying off Chris Thrasher, McAfee’s former campaign manager, and J Wilson (a journalist at A Libertarian Future).

Many of Weiss’ other claims include that the Johnson/Weld ticket paid convention expenses for attendees, who showed up exclusively for the Presidential nominating process and didn’t bother voting on other convention business. Though that sort of thing is difficult to trace directly, this is a common rumor among several party members in numerous states, that they’d been offered their expenses paid or other financial favors to their state parties to attend the convention and vote for Johnson/Weld.

If the campaign did not pay for these expenses transparently in a way that can be observed in FEC filings, another possible source of those funds and their dispersal could have been through the payments made to Nielson’s management company. Campaign staff and advertising were, according to the FEC records, paid directly by the campaign, so it puts a solid question mark as to why Nielson was paid so much compared to other campaign managers, and what that money went towards. 

Prompted by the claim that Weiss made about the Johnson campaign effectively “buying” the votes of delegates, an Ohio delegate by the name of Lisa Bennett shared an email (a screenshot of which is below) received between the first and second Vice Presidential vote, where Johnson’s campaign pledged $20,000 to the LPO for “ballot access”, citing Johnson’s victory for the presidential nomination and their hopes for Weld’s win on the second ballot. The email specified that the money was not contingent on Weld’s win, nor did it obligate the delegates to vote for him. It did however reiterate how this was a demonstration of the commitment of the Johnson-Weld campaign.

Bennett (and another delegate who wishes to remain anonymous) confirms there was a conversation had among the Ohio delegation on the voting floor, regarding the content of this email. Records show that Weld actually lost votes from Ohio in the second ballot (from 17 to 11), and interestingly enough, the Johnson-Weld campaign never followed through on donating the money to the LPO, though Neilson himself shook hands with LPO Vice Chair Scott Pettigrew. Members of the state party even followed up with members of the Johnson campaign asking for the pledged money and never received a response.

The email is below:

For more detailed information regarding vote totals in each stage of the voting process, an analysis can be found here

Additional information continues to surface about the realities of the Johnson-Weld campaign, as people come forward to discuss their experiences. As Weiss mentioned in the video, he wasn’t interested in bringing this up during the general election, and he did vote for Johnson over either Clinton or Trump.

Does this mean the Libertarian Party isn’t a valuable asset to the Libertarian movement? Weiss believes the Libertarian Party is “worse than useless” the way it’s set up right now, referring to the LP as a “cage match arena where Libertarians fight with each other over positions of no power”. Weiss sees positive action and progress being made in the greater libertarian sphere, but not in the LP, not with campaigns like Johnson-Weld, wasting money and resources with insufficient results for the greater cause: the movement toward liberty.

The Weiss interview can be viewed in full here:

 

There’s a lot to learn from the experiences of 2016, both in mainstream politics and in the libertarian movement, and hopefully the hard-working volunteers, donors and committed activists of the Libertarian Party will not be played this way again. By identifying corruption in party ranks and rooting it out, we can prove libertarian concepts of self-regulation and self-policing, and illustrate how true freedom is not synonymous with exploitation or fraud.


Correction: The original article mentioned Chris Thrasher was a party contacted to attempt to procure the $20,000 for LP Ohio. Though according to sources, he was contacted, he had no authorization to disperse funds and there is no evidence he is responsible in any way for withholding said funds from LP Ohio. We have removed his name from that paragraph to remove the implication he was involved in any meaningful way.
Editor’s Note: The views expressed are those of the author, they are not representative of The Libertarian Republic, its owners, other writers, or its sponsors.
Author’s Note: The author of this piece was a volunteer on the McAfee/Weiss campaign from March to May of 2016. She has a very close personal relationship with Judd Weiss. In summer of 2016, she was contracted to work on the Johnson-Weld campaign. After a short time assisting with the campaign’s YouTube presence in August into September, she opted not to invoice the campaign and to discontinue working with them due to personal time constraints. She considers her time with the campaign as a volunteer, and has no interest in speaking negatively about her personal experience with the campaign. The campaign does not owe her any money and there are no bad terms between them. She voted for Johnson-Weld in the general election, and wrote a piece of support for them here before Election Day.

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About The Author

Avens O'Brien is a 2nd-generation libertarian residing in Los Angeles, where she works as an operations & marketing consultant for start-ups in the tech & cannabis industries. Prior to that, she worked for Thoughtful Media, & Peter Schiff at Euro Pacific Capital. She's been active in anti-war protests since 2003, & volunteered on Badnarik's LP campaign in 2004 as well as Ron Paul's primary campaign in 2008. She was Vice Chair of the LPNH from 2006-2008. She's the LA Chapter Leader for LOLA. She thinks civil & economic liberty are equally essential to the human spirit. Her goal is through her experience in advertising to assist the libertarian movement in messaging & increasing awareness. She's a Facebook agitator turned writer, dissident feminist, contributor to Thoughts on Liberty as well as TLR, & articulates life experiences & their inspired philosophical thoughts on her personal blog: Taste it Twice. You can meet her at Freedom Fest in Las Vegas every year, or at Burning Man if you're that wild. Find all her writing, interviews and other work at Avens.me.

19 Responses

    • Camus1

      How? by choosing an openly supporter of Hillary as his running mate?

    • henrybowmanaz

      He did an especially awesome job of derailing potential Libertarian voters. As a former subject of Governor Weld, with the stab marks in my back to prove it, I couldn’t hold my nose hard enough to vote for him, or for the guy who insisted on no one else as his running mate. First election in three decades where I did NOT vote Libertarian.

      • RussL

        Starting in the late 90’s, the libertarian movement began to be co-opted by back-stabbing phonys.

      • henrybowmanaz

        Governments are fundamentally established to lead constituencies, make necessary rules, and in the last resort, initiate violent sanctions. To express surprise that the LP, founded by philosophers of liberty, would eventually succumb to the same power-hungry sociopathic types that dominate every other political channel is like being surprised that the Olympics would become dominated by toned athletes instead of, say, physicians and economists. Or, likewise, being surprised that the federal Constitution would be eventually “interpreted” into powerlessness by those it was designed to constrain. Hope may spring eternal, but wisdom comes from history and experience.

  1. Robert Bilicki

    Great article. People have no idea of how bloody back room politics really are

  2. Ken Moellman

    The following sentence contains inaccuracies: “Members of the state party even followed up with members of the Johnson campaign (including Chris Thrasher) asking for the pledged money and never received a response.” I know because I was involved with getting Johnson on the ballot in Ohio in 2016 and had constant interaction between the campaign and LPO throughout that task.

    • Judd Weiss

      Actually it’s accurate, except that Chris Thrasher is not at fault for Gary Johnson’s campaign betraying its promise to Ohio. Chris was thrown under the Gary Johnson Campaign bus here. Correct?

      • Ken Moellman

        LP Ohio’s chair has said he will explain the situation to LPO members.

  3. Knut Scott Lindsley

    I did not go to the Convention last year. But I heard of a few shady things going on from ALL of the top candidates. It is absolutely true that we are fighting over positions of non-power. The ideal candidate, eloquent, knowledgeable, and well funded, will be able to unite the clans and move us forward. The problem is that the infighting often keeps the better candidates (and therefore voters) from warming up to us.

  4. IceTrey

    Hillary only paid her manager 100 grand? No wonder she lost.

  5. Christopher S. Thrasher

    It is unfortunate that The Libertarian Republic continues to use my name in articles containing numerous falsehoods, untruths, lies and downright slanders. Not once have I been contacted by anyone at TLR for comment. This irresponsible and potentially defamatory reporting has not gone unnoticed.

  6. Christopher S. Thrasher

    To Whom It May Concern:

    In a recent video, several unfounded accusations and slanders were thrown towards me regarding the 2016 Libertarian Presidential campaign. At first, I dismissed these as nothing more than sour grapes.
    Unfortunately, these slanders have continued unabated, and I now have no choice but to respond.

    During the first quarter of 2016, I served as the campaign manager for John McAfee’s bid for the Libertarian Presidential nomination. When I came onboard after an aborted independent run, there was no campaign team, no infrastructure, nor was there much in the way of resources available. Even still, as a political professional, I knew that there was a narrow path to victory. I began to set the campaign on track for a legitimate chance to clench the nomination, crafting a new platform, and engineering several earned media narratives that dominated the national news cycle for a time. The campaign took off and began to succeed.

    In seeking supporters for McAfee, I approached Judd Weiss through mutual acquaintances with the idea of holding a fundraiser for the campaign. Weiss immediately inserted himself into the conversation for Vice Presidential running mate.

    I was vehemently opposed to Judd Weiss’ candidacy for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was his 2012 arrest for Felony Sexual Assault, which culminated in his pleading no contest to a felony.
    It was immediately clear that Weiss had no intention of engaging in any of the necessary legwork to actually win the nomination. In fact, were it not for my own (literally) last minute nomination at the California Libertarian Convention, Weiss would not have even been a delegate to the national convention.

    Instead of engaging in the immediate crucial and time sensitive task at hand – appealing to delegates and focusing on the internal Libertarian campaign – Weiss chose to focus on marketing to a “movement” using online videos with dubious copyright status. While such a marketing campaign may have been effective in the general election, it did nothing towards the task of winning the Libertarian Party nomination.

    Around this same time, I also began to notice that Mr. McAfee’s priorities had shifted. There are many factors that may have contributed to this. Mr. McAfee is an extremely intelligent man, and I believe he may have seen the writing on the wall. Now, Mr. McAfee is once again making money as the head of successful technology firm. I certainly hold no ill will towards him for possibly making a calculated decision that was arguably in his best interest.

    With Weiss’ constant interference, and the continued de-emphasis on campaigning to delegates, I came to the realization that there was no longer a reason for me to continue with the campaign.
    There was no doubt in my mind at that time that due to Weiss’ involvement, and to a lesser extent Mr. McAfee’s shift in priorities, the narrow path to victory had ceased to exist.

    I attempted to leave quietly and cordially. When Mr. McAfee contacted Austin Petersen about my departure, Petersen’s team posted articles about my departure. I did not make any public comment until after the story was published. My intention was to simply transition out, quietly and professionally.

    Weiss makes a claim of sabotage surrounding convention of the Libertarian Party of Louisiana. This was the week following my official departure, and yet I was still trying to assist the campaign during the transition. In fact, Mr. McAfee had committed to this convention quite early in the cycle, before other priorities came into view. I know where John was that weekend. John knows where he was that weekend. I am certain Weiss to this day has no idea. After getting no response from the supposed new campaign manager all week, I then contacted Weiss.

    Thus began a continual narrative from the new campaign; making me the scapegoat for practically anything and everything that went wrong after my departure.

    Weiss then goes on to make the ridiculous claim that I was “Paid Off” by the Johnson campaign.
    Let me be clear: the reason I left the McAfee campaign was due to the detrimental change in philosophy and lack of cohesive political strategy that accompanied Weiss’ inserting himself into the campaign.

    After sitting out several weeks, I was offered and accepted the position of Floor Director for the Johnson campaign’s convention efforts.

    Make no mistake, despite Weiss’ dubious and unsubstantiated claims of impropriety, what won the nominations was superior organization and convention floor work. A plan of action, successfully conceived and executed by Apollo Pazell, myself, and others, won the day for our candidates.

    Upon our successful convention victory, I chose to continue working on the campaign in a capacity where I would have a tangible goal, and be in the best position to further the Libertarian Party’s future.

    As the Director of Ballot Access for the Johnson/Weld campaign, I successfully coordinated the effort to achieve ballot access in all 50 states. It was the first successful 50 State + DC ballot access drive for an Independent or Third-Party candidate in more than two decades.

    Weiss makes the outrageous and untrue claim that the compensation I received for these efforts was a “Payoff” from the Johnson campaign. This is nothing more than a vicious slander from a failed candidate.

    As a political professional, I am no stranger to baseless attacks. However, my professional reputation in politics also relies on preserving my name and accomplishments. It is for these reasons I have written this response, in an attempt to end the nonsense and rumors that have been so irresponsibly disseminated. -CT

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