Document:Libertarian Party of Iowa History By Kevin Litten
From the former LPIA Secretary, Kevin Litten. Published in the LPIA Newsletter for the 35th aniversary of the LPIA.
The Libertarian Party of Iowa was founded in the spring of 1975, four years after the national party, by a small group of mostly young adults dissatisfied with the direction our country was heading. Bill Bockhoven was our first Chairman. Other members included Bill's wife Doris, John Ball – our first governor's candidate, Gary Roewe, Ben Olson and his mother, Dorothy, and two other people. These members worked tirelessly promoting Libertarian ideals by speaking to small groups though out the state and running for public office. They were extremely active in Ed Clark's presidential campaign of 1980 which saw the largest percentage vote totals ever for a Libertarian presidential candidate.
Despite the zeal and dedication of these early members the party dissolved in 1985 as several of the founding members began families or moved out of state. The party also faced financial problems.
Members of the National Libertarian Party living in Iowa came together to re-form the state party with a new charter in 1987. Before this time membership in the national and state party were separate. A new program called the United Membership Program (UMP) allowed members to join both parties for a single fee with the proceeds being split evenly with the national party handling the record keeping and renewal functions.
Over the next 15 plus years the party continued to slowly grow gaining members and winning several local elected offices. In 1996 the party had approximately 80 dues paying members.
The party's first official newsletter was named “Prairie Fire”. By the 1990s the name was changed to “Libertarians in Action” (aka LIA) because an Iowa socialist group had also began using the name “Prairie Fire” for their newsletter and to get the word Libertarian into the title. Though out the 90's and well into the first decade of the 21st century 500 printed copies of Libertarian's in Action were mailed out to members and interested people 4 to 6 times yearly. “LIA” is still published 6 times yearly with most members now receiving their copy electronically over the internet.
In 1997 the party began its internet presence with a web page at www.LPIA.org promoting party principles and events. This web page remains the official party page. Two other party web pages are active: www.ShrinkIowaGov.org and www.ILLF.org. Though the years Iowa Libertarians have continued to make use of the prevailing means of communications such as bulletin boards and list groups. It began its FaceBook presence in 2006.
2003 - 4 were pivotal years for the Iowa Libertarian Party when Clyde Cleveland of Fairfield became our first, and so far only full time candidate for governor. He gave up a year of his life to travel the state and raised nearly $70,000 dollars for his campaign. He recruited members to run for nearly every statewide office and authored a book, Restoring the Heart of America, to promote the ideals of his candidacy.
In addition to Cleveland, Hughie Tweedie of Montrose ran a very active campaign for state house. His actions and message were felt beyond his state house race, across Iowa and into the Southern tri-state area. Because of their efforts membership in the state party swelled to over 250 in 2004.
The national party decided to end their UMP policy in 2005. Members could no longer pay a single fee to become a member of both the state and national party. This confusion caused membership in the state party to fall to only 23 members in July of 2006. The party had no money coming in to run its functions. The bylaws were rewritten to include voting (dues paying) or supporting members. An effort was made to inform members of the change and recruit expired members. By the end of 2006 voting membership was back up to nearly 100. The party had to cease its 500+ newsletter mailings.
Yet during these dark days of the party's recent history it was suing the Secretary of States Office. After a 3 year campaign to establish official party status in the State of Iowa, the party finally prevailed in its law suit. The party, along with co-plaintiff Green Party and with the help of the Iowa Civil Liberties Union, settled with the State of Iowa. The state offered the Iowa LP Non-Political Party Status (NPPO) beginning in January 2008. By the end of 2008 the party had nearly 1100 voters who had switched their registration to LIB (Libertarian Party). Official party status gives the party access to critical voter registration information for political and organizational purposes and extends legitimacy to the party.
Today, the Iowa Libertarian Party is the third largest political party in Iowa. It continues to run candidates for both local and statewide offices, promote or deride pending legislation, and inform voters on the issues they face. It remains Iowa's only political party promoting a smaller government, greater freedoms, and lower taxes.