Sunday, June 15, 2008

An Open Letter to Mr. Allan B. Head, Executive Director of the North Carolina Bar Association

Dear Mr. Head,

Recently, my blog--Delaware Libertarian--carried the story of the NC Barr Association's decision to exclude Dr. Michael Munger from the gubernatorial debate it will be sponsoring this year. I wrote to you at the time to encourage you to reverse this decision, and also asked readers to communicate their views to you and your colleagues. While I regret that you did not respond to my email, you did have the courtesy to reply to one of my readers with the following:

Months ago before any third candidate was qualified to be on the ballot we planned our forum for those who were announced candidates. Since then we have scripted our morning to the minute and even if we wanted to add another candidate we just do not have time now to do so. We are sorry that we cannot accommodate Dr. Munger's desire to participate and we hope you can understand our situation.

Given that your debate is now one week off, I suppose that your contention that "we have scripted our morning to the minute and even if we wanted to add another candidate we just do not have time now to do so," is one that you believe will ring true.

Likewise, you portray the NC Bar Association as blissfully unaware that the Libertarian Party (which ran a candidate for governor in 2004) had been at work for months to complete a successful petition drive for ballot access that was completed only in May 2008, and before which no candidate could have been considered.

Neither of these contentions will stand the slightest scrutiny. Ms. Perdue did not publicly announce her commitment to appear in your debate until 11 June 2008; the same is true of Mr. McCrory. By that time, not only had the Libertarian Party of North Carolina achieved ballot access, but Dr. Munger was already polling at 4% in the gubernatorial race.

It is difficult to examine these facts and not reach the conclusion that the North Carolina Bar Association is more committed to maintaining barriers around the two-party system than to providing the public a full and free debate among all ballot-qualified candidates from North Carolina's three largest political parties.

I refer you to what was said, upon the instance of your installation as NABE President, to be one of your favorite quotations, from Elihu Root: “It is only through the power of association that those of any calling exercise due influence in their community.”

Your organization has denied that "power of association" to a qualified candidate with an important message for North Carolina voters.

I also refer you to your own statement upon accepting the NABE Presidency: "I try to live what I say is important.”

Here is what your own website suggests is important to the NC Bar Association:

While the public interest was not mentioned in the first draft of the constitution, the proposition was very soon recognized, and incorporated into the by-laws of this Association, so that programs and activities will include and acknowledge the public interest. It is my firm belief that this must always be foremost in our minds. Otherwise, we are but another trade group organized for self-centered and often selfish and provincial purposes.

How is the public interest served by the association representing more than 80% of the attorneys in North Carolina choosing to exclude one of the three ballot-qualified candidates for governor?

There remains time, Mr. Head, to do what is right rather than what is easy.

Please contact the Munger campaign and invite the Libertarian Party candidate for governor to participate in your debate next Saturday.


Steven H. Newton, PhD
Publisher, Delaware Libertarian

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