YAL Spring Summit 2018 and my first AirBnB – St. Louis, MO

Upwards of a hundred libertarian activists in a chow line.Upwards of a hundred libertarian activists in a chow line.

Four months before the Summit

It was January and the big topic among my political circles was the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).  For those unaware, CPAC is considered the largest meeting and gathering of people who are politically right-of-center.  It’s also the annual opportunity for many activists and people who are trying to get their name out in conservative circles.

I was reading a Facebook thread with the speaker list when one commenter, Kristin, threw a plug for LibertyCon.  It sounded far more interesting than what CPAC was turning out to be.  Their mission:

Originally ISFLC, LibertyCon is the new and improved event of the year! SFL’s LibertyCon is the place for liberty-lovers of all ages to meet, plan, learn, and have fun! With a faster-paced schedule, we have a little something for everyone, from speakers and panels to workshops and socials – there are many ways to “be free” at LibertyCon.

LibertyCon is a worldwide gathering of libertarian minds.  I perused the speaker list for it – there were some names that made me grimace, but overall, a far more palatable list.  I also recognized some names from the YAL Spring Summit in Boston that I attended last year.

After connecting with Kristin over Facebook, she filled me in on LibertyCon and the upcoming Spring Summits.  When I learned that she and a mutual friend of ours was going, I contemplated attending.  I’d also begun further looking into the YAL Legacy Society, which in short summary is for former YAL members are no longer eligible for membership in their university chapter.  Considering I’d joined the chapter at my alma mater, UWM, helped with some activism events, and attended a few conferences, it was time to make the commitment.

Once I joined and I had booked my flight, I asked Kristin to register me for the St. Louis Summit.  She also added me into a Facebook group where lodging and transportation would be triaged.

Lodging would come down to either booking with AirBnB for the first time or finding something inexpensive.  As I Googled the address of the conference and started going into travel agent mode, I discovered that no matter where I stayed, it was either going to be a long drive from the airport to the accommodation, or from the accommodation to the conference.  The conference location was showing close to $200/night, La Quinta was pushing around $89/night, and the Holiday Inn was showing a little over $120.

I took to AirBnB and did a search near STL.

There were a number of accommodations for the timeframe and naturally, the prices were far cheaper.  My comfort zone of hotels was making this decisions harder, but ultimately, knowing my personal travel goals, I would need to take a chance.  I reached out to two potential hosts and only one returned my messages within a reasonable timeframe, thus making them my first stay.

This trip would sweetened with YAL pushing out an email confirming that Judge Andrew Napolitano, senior judicial analyst at FOX News, would be the keynote speaker at the St. Louis summit.

Judge Andrew Napolitano confirms being the keynote speaker at the YAL Spring Summit in St. Louis.

Judge Andrew Napolitano confirms being the keynote speaker at the YAL Spring Summit in St. Louis.

While many are familiar with the Judge from his time at FOX, his brand also encompasses libertarian speeches given in libertarian forums where he’s provided historical overviews of where our freedoms come from, how the Constitution has served to keep us a free republic, and the reason for us having a separation of powers.  He hosted a segment on FOX Business called “Freedom Watch,” which unlike other talk segments combined libertarian talking points with some historical context.  While I’ve developed a sour taste for punditry, when he’s brought on to discuss a political or legal issue, he’ll always give the libertarian angle, but will explain the legal precedent behind it.

I checked in with Kristin to ask about transportation at the beginning of March, and I had been monitoring the carpool forum.  Not only was there a lack of activity with transportation, but people were barely speaking of where they’d be staying.  While it was only March and the convention was at least two weeks away, it’s still prudent to be proactive.  There also existed the possibility that many of the attendees were local and advanced planning wasn’t necessary.

Not too far ahead of that came an announcement that Austin Petersen, a young libertarian running for the Missouri Senate had been confirmed.

 

April 5th rolled around and through a Facebook post, I learned that the Judge wouldn’t be making it to St. Louis to make the keynote presentation.  That was followed by up a confirmation email that he would speak at the National Convention (which I won’t be attending due to lack of PTO at my day job).  It turned out that former Congressman Ron Paul would be speaking in his place.

While it would be unfortunate that Judge Napolitano would not make it, the staple for the summit had confirmed.

While it would be unfortunate that Judge Napolitano would not make it, the staple for the summit had confirmed.

Arriving the night of the Summit

The next day began the travel, but only after working a half-day at my day job.  Aside of encountering a flurry as I crossed the MA/RI line, the drive in was smooth.  Those that haven’t met me, or haven’t read much of my writing don’t know that I am habitually early to just about everything I do.  In keeping with that tradition, I arrived at T.F. Green Airport (PVD) around 12:30PM with five hours to kill.  Likely because I’m an amateur traveler (I’ve flown many times, but not yet seasoned), I’ve always factored at least thirty minutes going through security (I do have PreCheck, but I don’t like to assume I’ll get it).

We travel in a time where kiosks allow you to skip the airline agent unless needed, and all airlines have an app that let you check in to secure your ePass.  If you do ePasses, and you input your PreCheck number, verify its placement before you go through security.  In my case, I had to check with a gate agent to have it added to my ticket.

Security was painless and I was immediately greeted by a Starbucks.  Since I’ve discovered the Double Chocolate Frappuccino and it’s become the one drink from them that I like, I placed an order.  After looking around their stand, I didn’t see a mobile pickup station, so I inquired, and their location isn’t one of the options.  Since the app finds the closest location to you, and I was in Warwick, I naturally assumed it was the location.  (Side note:  I did call their customer service line and they did refund me my purchase)

I had some time to kill, and it looked like the only place that seemed decent to grab a meal was Wolfgang Puck.

After arriving at the gate, I broke open the laptop and began this article.  Much like other travels that I write about, I make my notes over time and I add information as I can.

The inbound layover

Once I arrived in Charlotte, two things were immediately noticeable:  The accent of the locals and people dressing like it was summer.  Weather in the south is typically warmer than the north, so it didn’t surprise me, but coming from a cold-weather region, I was clearly overdressed.

Dinner was Chick-Fil-A and I had a two-hour layover, so I began exploring this airport.

The only thing that caught my eye was that this airport had a chapel.  When I texted a picture of the entryway to my dad, his only reply was that it’s becoming more common for airports to have them.  Furthermore, I’m not religious, so it’s not something I actively seek out, but I was within the Bible belt.

I approached the gate with an hour and change and resumed writing.

Being observant as I tend to be, I noticed that it was down to thirty-minutes and the terminal hadn’t filled up, prompting me to confirm details with the gate agent.

Turns out, my gate had changed without a notification from the app – something I relayed to the kind folks that run their Twitter account.

A ten-minute power walk later and I was at the crowded, alternate terminal.  During this process, I had also received a message from the host of my AirBnb giving me details for check-in.

Arriving in St. Louis

It was approximately 11:30PM when I landed in St. Louis.  I do recall seeing on Apple Maps that an Enterprise booth had been setup, but after deplaning and running by baggage claim, I found that it wasn’t staffed.  It turns out that there’s a shuttle that picks people up from the airport and brings them to their affiliate, National, after hours lot for check-in.

While it was after midnight, it was painfully obvious that none of the clerks wanted to be here.  I’ve rented with Enterprise enough times to know that there’s a check-in process and inspection of the vehicle.  Had it not been so late, I would have complained to her manager.  For me, the check-in inspection is more of a check and balance on the rental location ensuring that they’re giving me a vehicle in good shape and to indicate any issues that might be present on paper.

Albeit in the dark, I walked around the car using my phone as a flashlight to see if I noticed anything obvious.  They gave me a 2017 Toyota Corolla with Illinois tags.  Being used to my Santa Fe, it felt low to the ground.  After driving an SUV for almost two years, a sedan feels smaller and awkward, but for two days, I adapt nicely.  Fortunately, my AirBnb was a five minute drive from the rental facility.

The morning of the conference

I was up around 6:30AM and I’d probably achieved 4 1/2 hours of sleep.  Knowing that this was a student-organized conference, I wasn’t expecting my peers to be in any better shape.  I had a few minutes so I walked around the house – it was a single-family house; two bedrooms, one bathroom, small kitchen, and living room.  For a single guy with no kids, it would be the perfect size.  Spare bedroom had a small bureau with a small TV and and Wii, full-size bed, and night stand with some magazines.

Arriving at the Summit

Given my propensity for being early, I arrived and checked in around 8AM.  There might have been fifty students in the entryway networking and making small talk.  Everyone was in their Sunday best, and I couldn’t help but notice most of the men were sporting sixties hairdos.  Judging by the number of name tags and the continued flow of students after I arrived, this looked to not only be well-attended, but a full-house.

It didn’t take long for me to run into Kristin; we started chatting about some details relating to the conference’s schedule as other YAL members from previous summits found us and we started catching up.  It was then that I also learned that she had a hand in helping set up the chapter at Quinsigamond Community College, one of my alma maters (class of 2003).  Having also worked for them prior to my move to Wisconsin to attend UWM, I can say for certainty that libertarian values are scarce on their grounds.  Even though I’m not a student anywhere anymore, I offered to help their chapter if they needed. 

Forty-five minutes prior to the opening speech, we were moved into another hallway to keep the entryway clear for hotel guests.  Having attended the Boston summit the previous year, this was a networking session where people from other YAL chapters congregate and chat about everything under the sun.  Many were excited about seeing Austin Petersen and his discussion of something Second Amendment-oriented, where others were getting giddy over seeing Ron Paul at the end.  I was still bummed about not seeing Judge Napolitano – his libertarian-oriented legal insights are a staple for these settings.

We were all eventually welcomed to the third floor to fill into the main room for the opening ceremonies.

To say that the main room was packed is an understatement.  Rumor had it that more than 500 people, including same-day registrations, had showed up for this event.  Sitting at the table in the middle row, right side, felt like I was sitting on the plane coming in.  At each seat was a bag containing a Drury Inn pen, a program, the Pocket Guide to Objectivism by the Atlas Society, and a handout from the Charles Koch Institute.  Oddly enough, no pocket constitution.

YAL President Cliff Maloney, Jr.

The opening speech was from the president of the organization, Cliff Maloney, Jr.  Topics included:

  • YAL’s recent door-knocking campaign
  • The continued growth of the organization while playing up Ron Paul’s upcoming appearance.
  • A theme that has been part of the libertarian platform for years, supported by Ron Paul, and by the Libertarian Party is the emphasis of bringing our troops home.  While I agree in part with the mission as we tend to be involved in many conflicts without congressional involvement or planning, I also disagree considering we can’t be isolationist.
  • Even though I receive the YAL emails, I was impressed to learn that activists were making strides in reaching out to libertarian candidates for office.
  • A point that has been lost in most conservative circles since the election of Trump:  People of all stripes have taken to simply bashing progressives, versus standing for something and pushing a message of liberty.
  • A dig at the government’s spying on American’s data, personal devices, messages, and the erosion of the Fourth Amendment.  I was surprised he didn’t laud Edward Snowden even though his stunt is years old.
  • Declaring that through legal action and through activism, YAL has managed to overturned 31 unconstitutional speech codes and “free speech zones.”
  • Revisiting the Second Amendment as an individual right without discussing campus carry.

Mayor of Aberdeen, MD, Patrick McGrady

Up after him was a politician whose tagline should be “never clap for a politician,” the mayor of Aberdeen, MD, Patrick McGrady.  Most of his speech dealt with how to engage politicians and how to establish your relationship with them.  It was predominately death-by-PowerPoint combined with humorous memes.

A key takeaway was that when lobbying or meeting with a lawmaker, you want establish a position of power to establish serious intentions.  It was an interesting takeaway given the theme of “government corruption” that permeates libertarian circles.  In this context, power should be construed to mean “make sure your lawmaker knows that they need to earn your vote.”

Citizens have the power to influence their government as much as lobbyists do, but for obvious reasons, lobbyists have more access.

While the citizen has the power to influence the lawmaker in the same way that lobbyists do, lobbyists seem to get more traction because they’re hired specifically for that influence and have the time and resources to be constantly present at the state house or in Congress.

Lobbyists also have a few advantages over the average citizen:

  • They’re trained in the art of the sale and know how to speak the language of lawmakers and have in-depth knowledge of how those lawmakers vote and align.
  • They get access to lawmakers in private, closed-door sessions that allow them to have candid conversations away from reporters.
  • Since lobbyists work for special interest and lawmakers work for constituents, there’s a power struggle to be observed.  Lobbyists also come with the power of the purse, especially if the lawmaker is up for election; constituents have the power of the ballot box, but not all take advantage.

When you join an organization and/or donate to their mission, you’re adding to the voice of the lobbyists who are advocating for that position.  The average donor doesn’t have the time or money to get involved in the fight, so they contribute financially, or they volunteer their time for the cause.

On the same heading, many citizens will meet with lawmakers to present an an agenda, recommend changes to policy, or discuss terms of support.

Treat lawmakers with the same respect you’d treat your parents; their blood is as red as yours, and first impressions are everything.

Firmly disagree when appropriate, but never attack them as people; if anything, attack the ideas.

When discussing policy points, don’t parrot someone else’s talking points; create your own and use verified information to support your claims.  Whenever possible, give the lawmaker a hard copy of something to bring back to their office, and even into committee.

“Don’t clap for politicians”

An overtone of his speech which became a constant quote was “Don’t clap for politicians.”  Libertarians tend to view politicians as evil bureaucrats whose goal it is to make our lives complicated via regulation.  I tend to agree with the general point, but even I agree with some regulations that have been enacted.  Combining this point with the door-knocking campaign and the later-on “Liberty in the Legislature” panel, there is a movement to put libertarians in key places to overturn the excessive regulations.

Clapping is seen as a sign of approval or endorsement of something.  It can also be seen as a sign of respect when introducing someone.  Personally, I don’t have an issue clapping for a politician because they do deserve a civil level of respect.  You don’t have to agree with everything they say, but if you choose to be in the same forum as that politician, you likely agree with something they say or do.

After the introductory speech

After his speech ran ended, attendees had ten minutes to scramble to one of three sessions:

Conservation isn’t typically a conservative or libertarian topic, so I decided to experience something different.

“Don’t Fall for Government Mandates”

“Don’t Fall for Government Mandates” was presented by Matthew Mailloux of the ACC.  The whole time I was listening to his presentation, I couldn’t help but wonder if the only libertarian aspect of conservation was promoting local policy.  He made reference to preserving and maintaining federal funding of public lands, which surprised me.  Surprisingly, nobody in the Q&A challenged that position (I would have, but I have no dog in the fight).

I also didn’t hear any position statement on President Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement which surprised me because I figured a Google search would turn that up fairly quickly.

It was an interesting presentation, but I had a hard time understanding the libertarian angle of their organization; support of free markets is libertarian, but I didn’t hear much denouncing of federal involvement with conservation.  I don’t entirely disagree with the idea of conservation:

  • I support the idea of voluntary recycling as a means to lower productions costs by reusing material.  There are two things that could further encourage recycling:
    • Public recycling bins deployed in public walkways and commercial zones and paying people for what they contribute.
    • With eCommerce, especially Amazon, becoming the dominant way people shop, businesses that ship goods to people in cardboard boxes should offer a credit toward future purchases with the return of those boxes in-store.
  • I support the idea of bringing your own reusable bags when going grocery shopping, but strongly oppose a government mandate banning business from offering a plastic bag.
    • Everyone has their reasons for wanting a bag when they buy something and they should be entitled to ask for that bag.
    • Those who hold the argument of “ban the bag” because it “creates litter and creates a trashy look” should volunteer their time picking up that trash.
    • Forcing a business to stop carrying one type of bag increases costs to their customers because they have to buy an alternative bag that likely costs more.  Fortunately, I’m seeing those reusable bags becoming raffle fodder during corporate giveaways.
  • I like the idea of electric vehicles and there are more electric vehicle charging stations being built by the day.  I envision a time when whole parking spots at businesses become wireless charging stations.  I give it another ten years and auto manufacturers will phase out production of gasoline vehicles and entirely produce electric vehicles.
  • I support maintaining our public lands, but it needs to be done by non-profit foundations, versus taxation.  Constitutionally, it belongs to the states or local government, but part of the goal of driving down unnecessary taxation is transferring line items away from state control.  While some will argue that privatizing the ownership of the land can lead to greed and putting profits over environment, I offer some other points:
    • Under a private foundations, those that are adamant about its preservation can donate as much as they want to ensure that funding exists to staff the park and maintain it.  Volunteers are always encouraged to help out where they can.
    • This removes public lands as political fodder should someone feel like playing games.
    • User fees are a libertarian concept to encourage “pay to use.”  For frequent patrons, passes could be purchased.
    • Those worried about corruption could consider becoming involved in the affairs of the foundation and the park itself.

It was interesting to learn just how many companies have voluntarily moved toward cleaner and more alternative forms of energy.  Part of me wonders if environmental groups pressured them to do it, they did it for the tax credits and breaks that come with it, or if it was entirely their decision.

After the libertarian message on conservation

Following that was a networking break and the second block:

If you follow ADF, you’re aware that their mission is more with defending religious freedom, but they still deal with First Amendment issues, of which free speech on campus falls into.  Most of the issues of free speech on campuses is taken up by the Foundation on Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), but ADF partners with them when they can.

Having attained Level 1 with GLA, I’ve heard their message.  For what it’s worth, I’d like to attain levels 2 and 3 when they offer workshops near me.  I would encourage anyone who is interested in economic freedom to check out the work by Americans for Prosperity (AFP).

Since I’m neither a student, nor am I interested in running for any level of political office, Mayor McGrady’s workshop didn’t interest me.  I can only imagine that with him being more libertarian-minded that more elected officials should attend a workshop like his.

I needed to get away from the crowded area as I was getting sensory overwhelmed, and I realized that I hadn’t visited any of the sponsor tables.  For the most part, I’m aware of all of their missions, but I still like to see what material they’re passing around and shake some hands.  While I didn’t have any cards on me at the time, it also functions as a chance to inform people about this website and its social pages.

The only organization I was surprised to see there was the NRA – I would have thought Students for Concealed Carry (SCC) would have made an appearance.  As their name implies, they’re an organization that supports the mission of allowing students with CCW licenses to carry concealed firearms on campuses.  I mentioned this oversight to at least three chapter presidents and after they stopped to think about it, their reply was, “You know, you have a point…”

Just before lunch was the group photo, of which I sat out, both out of enjoying the company of some other students as we camped out at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) table, and because I had no desire to be included.  Interestingly enough, there was no massive call for everyone to gather for the group picture.

After the group picture, the next block of presentations happened

Block three’s workshops featured:

  • Standing Firm for the Second Amendment, by Austin Petersen
  • Leadership Crisis Scenarios Workshop, by LI
  • Free Speech on Campus:  Know your Rights by FIRE

When Petersen was introduced, I listened to approximately ten minutes of what he had to say, but the speech began to resemble open mic night, so I ended up going back to the FEE table.  It also turned out that due to a scheduling change, he did his Second Amendment piece as part of his speech.  My curiosity for his workshop was thinking he’d make some connection to campus carry.

Having attended some LI workshops, I knew of the crisis workshops and their training with dealing with the media.  Any YAL member in a position of leadership should take some kind of crisis management and/or media training.  Dealing with the media is in a league of its own.  While good reporters make a source feel comfortable and develop good rapport, they’re ultimately after a story, and depending on the angle they’re pursuing, the angle they run may not be the angle you want.  It’s also important that if you’re conducting an event with the intention of attracting press to have a statement available.

If you want a great presentation on your legal rights as students, FIRE would be the organization to turn to.  When I attended an LI workshop a few years ago, their senior legal adviser came by to tell us not only what our rights were as students, but the various court cases that have come about from activists (YAL students) who have filed lawsuits.  None of it should be construed to imply that a student should get litigious, but to understand that students have rights and that once all administrative remedies have been exhausted, it may be time to fire up a lawsuit.  Sadly, it usually takes a letter from an organization such as FIRE to get a school to back down and change their unconstitutional rules.

Liberty in the Legislature

The next panel was “Liberty in the Legislature,” which consists of meeting and hearing from three libertarian Missouri lawmakers.  Even though this took place in a southern state, which stereotypically leans conservative, as YAL’s president mentioned, they take quite the shellacking because they aren’t aligned with either party.  Many libertarians will run as Republicans simply because the Libertarian Party doesn’t seem to grab the traction in the national media; the same thing happened to Bernie Sanders in 2016 – he’s an open socialist who ran as a Democrat because running under the Socialist Party banner wouldn’t market well.

The three legislators were Representative Phil Christofanelli (Washington University YAL Alum), Senator Bill Eigel, and Representative Paul Curtman.

After brief introductions, the questions came:

With Missouri being one of fifteen states with term limits (sixteen total, eight per chamber), how does this affect your ability to get the job done?  Is it a net positive or net negative?

Rep. Christonfanelli:

“I go back and forth on them.  In one sense, I wouldn’t be here without them.  I replaced a member who was being termed out, and he would still be there and I would not.  I’ve seen it work both ways… and we’re eventually going to lose [Rep.] Paul [Curtman].”

He also noted the proper function of the House of Representatives as being the closest to the people (hence why it’s formed by the population).  He sees it as a gain for the electorate because it brings in new ideas despite the exiting crowd being good for liberty.  “On the whole, I think they’ve been a net positive for our state,” while being open to making modifications to those terms; overall he does support them.

Senator Eigel:  “I’m generally supportive of term limits as well,” using the Illinois Speaker of the House as an example of what happens without them.  He claims it wasn’t a partisan comment, but one that speaks to what can happen when stagnation hits a political office and how turnover can breathe new life into a position.  It would be interesting to compare a non-term limited Republican Speaker to Speaker Madigan of Illinois.

Citing Missouri’s term limits, he articulated that it’s harder to build relationships in such a short timeframe.  Their assembly is currently working on a measure that would keep the current cap of sixteen years, but allow a lawmaker to serve them all in one chamber, versus spreading it out.

Rep. Kirkman:  He concurred with his colleagues, but does express that there are times when term limits don’t work.

He described a situation where he’s trying to get answers from a state agency, but because that agency knows he will be termed out at the end of the year, they’re going to stonewall that request.

As a chair on a committee to downsize state government, he proposed two bills to eliminate about two hundred boards and commissions.  The freshmen lawmakers working alongside him declined to support it because of a lack of administrative support (I.E. fearing the state versus the people).

He cited losing institutional knowledge as a downside of term limits.  His final comment resonated with me because of a piece I wrote on why I oppose term limits:

“I don’t think term limits would be an issue if there were more people engaged in the electoral process, working feverishly from one election cycle to the next, campaigning for local offices.  I think that would do a lot to eliminate the appeal of term limits.”

Pres. Maloney polled the audience via applause on their support for term limits and while it was a close call, the supporting applause was higher.

He also shifted to questions for specific lawmakers:

To Sen. Eigel:  You don’t shy away from the term “libertarian,” including indicating it on your Facebook page.  Has this landed you in any trouble?

He responded that it hadn’t landed him into any trouble, but notes that voting for bigger government will.  He hypothesized that if anyone in the audience were to ask the public at large whether they want bigger or smaller government, “the overwhelming majority would want less government.”

Maloney threw him a curveball with a question that floats around many libertarian social media circles, “So, you hate roads?”

He responded amid laughter from the audience, “No, I like roads.”

To Rep. Curtman:  You were an open and extremely enthusiastic supporter of Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign (throwing in a plug for his speech).  How has Ron Paul affected your ideology and shaped your time in the legislature?

He replied that he was first introduced to the doctor during his 2008 campaign, but he wasn’t sure if Dr. Paul was cut out for the race.  It was when DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano put out a memo targeting returning veterans as extremists, that he became enraged and started paying closer attention to his videos on YouTube.  He noted one consistent theme of liberty and the Fourth Amendment.  He felt that politicians during the 2012 campaign were articulating the same stagnant promises, but Ron Paul was echoing the same message throughout his campaign and being highly assertive about it.  He felt that endorsing Ron Paul would bring more attention to the campaign and convince more Missouri voters to consider his message.

To Rep. Christofanelli:  You are a YAL Alum and started a “Students for Paul” chapter back in the day.  How has YAL helped you and helped you stay principled?

He replied that he’s done a fair amount for YAL during and after college.  He began the chapter because he’d enrolled in the College Republicans, and though it was conservative, it was incredibly boring.  They would get together for socials, but without a purpose or agenda.  He was tuned into YAL at the national level and decide to start the university’s chapter that focused on those principles and ideas and in an environment where people generally enjoy freedom.

His chapter did events such as building a life-sized gulag in the middle of campus, complete with a sign stating “This is the end result of socialism.”  Many of their activities focused on getting students to question their beliefs and “whether the left-right paradigm made sense.”

After graduation, he paid attention to the group, including its social media messages, and attended some conferences.

After he ran for office, he reached out to Pres. Maloney and alerted him that he was a YAL Alum who’d been elected to office, earning him tickets to various conferences talking to young students about engaging in the political process.

To Rep. Curtman:  You have sponsored some worthy libertarian bills including eliminating corporate welfare and the Fourth Amendment Affirmation Act.  What has been your most “liberty bill” and how have your colleagues reacted to it?

Repeating what was mentioned, he brought up the Corporate Welfare Elimination Act, which could cut over $500M dollars in tax credits for businesses.  He referenced a business that had a $40M tax credit made specially for them.  A year later, he returned to the legislature and asked for an additional $50M by hiring seventeen lobbyists to secure it for him.  The vast majority of the $40M went to campaign checks and lobbyists who would vote for more welfare.

He happily cheered a bill to legalize industrialized hemp.  Four years ago, when it was first introduced, the social stigma drew massive opposition, but he predicted it will finally hit the governor’s desk.  This resulted in massive applause from the audience.

To Sen. Eigel and Rep. Christofanelli:  You’re coming to an end of your first terms in office.  After getting some experience under your belt, what is the most critical thing you know now that you wish you knew back then?

Sen. Eigel:  It was highly disturbing to see how many elected officials liked bigger government.  He claimed that there’s only two ways to objectively gauge the growth of government:  (A) The amount of taxation being taken, and (B) the amount of bureaucracy that a citizen must comply with.  It’s his opinion that all levels of government have grown traumatically in recent years.

He mentioned that Missouri’s state budget has grown by 30% despite supermajorities of Republicans in both Houses.  There’s a narrative in Jefferson City that budgets are tight; they won’t have enough money for public education, roads, or other priorities.  He added that they have record revenues coming in and a $28B budget – they’ve never had so much money to work with.  They’ve had record revenues for seven years in a row.  He felt that the “budget crunch” is a narrative spun by the media, whereas their government is fully funded.  He blamed it on excessive spending from both parties.

In addition, he discussed the “unending army of lobbyists that feel they can spend your money better than you can.”  He knew it was a problem, but to see it from the inside was troubling.

Pres. Maloney followed up by asking him about a bill to help cut back those taxes.

The senator replied discussing his bill and was optimistic about it reaching the governor’s desk.  The bill would cut back the personal income tax from 5.9% to just below 4.5% while streamlining the tax code.  He mentioned that some of his most strident opponents have been Republicans, which induced a reaction of sardonic shock from the audience.  He eventually came out in support of reducing it to zero, which drew massive support from the audience.

Rep. Christofanelli:  He started his reply by stating that politics and public office is a team sport.

“On TV, there are individuals that are really influential, and they go out to Washington, or they go to Jefferson City, and they get a lot of things done, and nothing could be further from the truth.  You need a team to get anything done.  You need allies in the legislature to help you in committee and even on the floor moving legislation.  It’s not just something that just sending one person to office can fix.  We need to send an army of people that can have each other’s backs.”

He concurred with Sen. Eigel that bringing ideas to the forefront that will shrink government results in massive resistance.  Without allies assisting with these bills, you’ll get steamrolled by your own party.  The theme of his answer was building a team around you with supporters that can help you get things done.

To all three:  What was the toughest vote you ever took and would you still stand by that vote today?

Rep. Curtman:  Proposition B by HSUS to ban “puppy mills,” and he would stand by that vote today.

Sen. Eigel:  He described a few votes that demonstrated how his liberty views are out of step with everyone else.

  • A bill to appropriate $70M to build a new dance studio in downtown Kansas City.  He affirmatively voted no on the grounds that folks outside of St. Louis shouldn’t be on the hook for a dance studio in Kansas City.  The final vote was 31-3 in favor.  He would do it again.
  • House Concurrent Bill HCB3 reforming an outdated tax credit program.  It’s an income tax exemption that can be claimed by renters.  It was intended to go to property owners sixty years ago.  The House had a bill that would reduce who was entitled to the exemption.  The Senate decided to pull a fast one and bring the credits from state accounts and “sweep it” into the general fund.  The Missouri Constitution requires that when there’s excess money in state accounts that it be returned to the people.  He was vehemently against such a “sweep” on the grounds that it was a horrible abuse of government operates.

Rep. Christofanelli:  Both the “dance studio” bill and Right to Work, standing by them both.

As someone who has spent much of his adult life in a progressive stronghold, it’s relieving to learn that there are lawmakers with libertarian values and principles, even if they are far and few in-between.

“Will More Welfare Help?”

Its successor would be a debate on “Will More Welfare Help?”  I’m normally a fan of hearing other perspectives on a topic for which I disagree, but I’m not sure my mind can be changed on this one.  I do applaud YAL for bringing a topic that would invoke such dissent that several students attempted to throw question at the pro-welfare debater, only to get an answer so nefarious that they stormed out the room in anger.

The rest of the sessions were geared toward student activists in growing their chapters, a speech I’d heard, and I was simply more interested in the group I was with.

“An Evening with Ron Paul”

The climactic part of the night came with Ron Paul’s signature speech, something I didn’t stay for at the Boston Summit, but decided to indulge this time.

Those that know me know that I like Ron Paul’s ideas, but some of his rhetoric is a turn-off for me.  As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, this session was supposed to be with Judge Napolitano, but something happened and the program changed.  Hearing this speech makes the second time around for me and I can tell you that little has changed in terms of content.  In my view, the amount of time he spent attacking both sides, ran afoul of Pres. Maloney’s rhetoric of “we need to stop attacking the left and articulate what he stand for.”  He fed the audience the lines they wanted to hear, but didn’t deliver much in the lines of inspiration for future activists.

At the end of the speech, and as is usual for his appearances, he agreed to take pictures with the students.  Given the number of people, it would be two people posing with him at a time.  In my three decades alive, I’ve only taken pictures with one prominent political figure:  Governor Scott Walker.  He is also the one politician I have ever publicly declared support for.  I have aligned myself politically with former governor Rick Perry and former independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin, but have always stopped short of a public endorsement.

After the Summit

I took a few minutes after the speech had ended and did some cleanup around what was left of the FEE table and collected electronics that had been left behind.  I made attempted to locate people that I had been socializing with, but they’d all formed B-lines for the afterparty.  While on my way downstairs to the lobby, I ran into two of those people, shaking their hands and parting ways.

There was a social to be held after the event, but I ended up heading back to my BnB.  I could feel my body crashing and I had to be up early to catch my flight back northeast.  If the Facebook pictures I was seeing after returning were any indication, it was a wild night.  Some had changed their profile pictures to their picture with Ron Paul.

Upon returning from the event, I had the pleasure of meeting Amanda, the person who’d been hosting my first AirBnb experience.  She was both gregarious and approachable for conversation, especially for an introvert like myself.  I wanted to engage in at least one conversation with her before calling it a night that way if I ended up back in this area for tourism, or even to relocate for freelancing, I’d have good rapport established.

Traveling back to Massachusetts

I was up and out of the house by 7AM, and my first stop was Enterprise to return the car.  They employed a unique parking lot entrance design using car spikes that will damage the tires once you’ve driven over them.  It was a receiving line resembling one from an airport.  Besides wanting to pay with an alternate card, I wanted to inform them of the treatment I’d received when I came in.  They apologized for the experience and requested that I relay this information on a survey that the company would send out after my receipt was generated.

Their shuttle picked me up at the door and brought me back to STL.  When I arrived, I used the kiosk to print a set of boarding passes, double-checking to ensure I had received PreCheck.  It reminded me that when I book future flights that I will double-check to ensure that I have input my frequent traveler number so that I can do ePasses.

The TSA line was fairly short, though it was held up by a passenger who was transporting something that a screening agent couldn’t determine whether it was a pocket knife or a shaving razor.  Another lady encountered difficulty when she tried to bring through hair gel that was bigger than regulation size.  It’s just another reminder of how bad the restrictions are for something that has yet to stop a single terrorist.

On the other side, “breakfast” before the flight was at a small bar called Schafly’s, and I was served by a bartender who I was convinced hadn’t had her coffee.  She ended up getting my order wrong multiple times and as I asked for clarification on a few things, I just felt like the hamster hadn’t begun shift.

Upon arrival at my gate, I couldn’t help but notice that the gate across from me was playing a sermon over their loudspeaker.  I took a seat at a small charging table at the gate opposite them, broke out my laptop and started writing.  As I looked to the other side, I noticed a number of people had dropped to their knees in prayer.

My flight back to PVD was seamless even though I had a thirty-minute layover in CLT requiring me to power-walk across the airport that I originally connected with on the inbound.  When I arrived at my gate, they were at fifteen minutes until boarding.

Upon arrival at PVD, I grabbed my luggage, and headed for the garage to retrieve my car.  As I entered, I caught a glimpse at the pricing chart.  It would be under a hundred dollars, but I also know intuitively that parking at an airport isn’t cheap, and it’s one of the reasons many people opt to either use ride share, or public transportation.  I’m probably one of few travel geeks that doesn’t have an account with a ride sharing service.

Dinner was at the Applebees in Warwick, RI, and the drive home was approximately an hour.

There are a few things I wanted to mention before closing out this article:

  • YAL may stand for “Young Americans for Liberty,” but between the Boston Summit last year and St. Louis this year, there were a number of activists that were older than me and weren’t affiliated with other organizations.
  • I am a member of the Legacy Society to keep updated with campus activism and to watch the progression of liberty on college campuses.  Non-Political Science majors have reported running into administrators and professors that limit free speech, religious worship, and that still treat student organizations different on the grounds of viewpoint.
  • Organizations such as LI, ADF, and FIRE are dedicated to helping chapter presidents and their members work out the legal and logistical issues at their universities.  Make sure you shake hands with their representatives and get their information in case you need their help.
  • I could do a separate post on this, but if you decide to join a YAL chapter, develop an activist mindset.  If you table for an event, take pictures to show the activism.  Be sure to film any encounters with administrators and law enforcement, but be compliant to any orders or requests made.  Don’t aim to provoke confrontation, but don’t immediately acquiesce.