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Interview: Matt Heath, Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of California

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It all started as a "typo" on one of my political blogs, which quickly stirred up my inquisitive nature and led to an interaction that brought about a pondering of my own personal beliefs and stance as it relates to “liberty”. This past month, I had the privilege of interviewing the folks from the Republican Liberty Caucus of California (RLCCA), exclusively for Blogcritics.

Because of our very own Blogcritics writer and editor, Dave Nalle, I am somewhat familiar with the Republican Liberty Caucus (RLC), but I wanted to get acquainted with the pulse of the RLC in my home state of California. And no better way than from those leading this grassroots organization –– Chairman of the RLCCA, Matt Heath with the assistance of RLC Secretary Parke Bostrom. My thanks!


Matt Heath with Ron Paul, September 2008 at the Rally for the Republic in Minneapolis

In summary, the RLCCA is the officially chartered California chapter of the RLC (founded in 1991). They work to advance the ideals of individual liberty, limited government, and free enterprise within the State of California and the Republican Party.

Considering the 2010 elections are a hot topic in the political arena these days, let’s first talk about the California primary coming up next month. So far the RLCCA has endorsed three Congressional candidates: Gary Clift, Clayton Thibodeau, and John Dennis, who is in the high-profile race against Nancy Pelosi. Do you have any inside information on how this race is going and what are your predictions for the outcome?

Given the size of the Bay Area media market and the fact that Nancy Pelosi is a polarizing figure nationally, a tough, hard-hitting campaign by John Dennis will help every Republican candidate in our region. John is already generating interest and enthusiasm in San Francisco with his small government, pro-liberty message. His race will likely be a key factor in boosting Republican campaigns throughout Northern California. His campaign is going very well, and I predict that John Dennis will do better than any Republican congressional candidate has done in San Francisco in recent memory.

Additionally, for us in the RLC it is very exciting to see Dennis receive the pre-primary endorsement of many establishment Republicans in San Francisco. It shows us that we should be trying to find and recruit strong candidates rather than engaging in political debates with other Republican activists.

As you know, I had mistakenly reported that the RLC had endorsed one of the three California Senate candidates and your very astute Secretary Parke Bostrom corrected my blog. Is there a reason that the RLCCA has not endorsed Chuck DeVore, Carly Fiorina, or Tom Campbell? And do you have a personal favorite?

We work to recruit and support candidates who will reduce the size of the federal government, and also the size of state and local governments. Specifically, we try to recruit and support candidates who are fundamentally motivated by a sincere and profound respect and appreciation for the concept of human liberty –– the idea that if you are an adult, so long as you are not harming someone else, you should be able to do whatever you want. We focus on this one core issue of liberty because we believe that candidates motivated by respect for liberty will be the most effective at reducing the size and scope of government interference in our private and economic lives.

Granted, that is a somewhat subjective criterion, and each member of our board of directors has to make her or his own subjective determination as to whether a given candidate meets that standard. We do not try to endorse candidates in every contested primary. With respect to the Senate race, it appears that the RLCCA board has yet to be convinced that any of three candidates you mentioned shares our appreciation for human liberty.

Are there candidates on your radar, that others may not be aware of, who the RLCCA thinks have a lot of promise?

The RLCCA has endorsed Gary Clift (CD10), Clayton Thibodeau (CD45), Linda "Ellie" Black (AD27), and Bill Hunt for Orange County Sheriff, as well as John Dennis in San Francisco.

I feel it would be inappropriate for me to mention specific candidates that have not yet been endorsed.

Seemingly, the “Boxer match” is receiving a lot of attention –– even from President Obama, who lent his support for her last month. Do you expect that Obama will help or hinder Boxer’s campaign?

President Obama is a popular politician in California and with many Democrats. I suspect he will bring his "bully pulpit" to California in support of Barbara Boxer as often as needed in her reelection bid.

Boxer has held the California Senate seat for three terms, and California is primarily a liberal state. What are the odds that California could pull off another “Scott Brown” type victory –– marking us “red?” Or is that just hopeful thinking for us conservatives?

Boxer can be beaten, but the race will be much more clearly defined after the Republican primary election in June. And as I mentioned earlier, it appears that the RLCCA's board has yet to be convinced that any of the three Republican candidates shares our appreciation for human liberty.

So Matt, on a personal note, what drew you to the RLC and how did you become Chairman of the California chapter?

After becoming actively involved locally in the Sonoma County Republican Party, I looked for a larger Republican organization that promotes libertarian philosophy. I discovered the RLC and was inspired by their Statement of Principles and Positions.

Several other Sonoma Republicans joined me and we organized under the banner of the Republican Liberty Caucus to do political activism in our neighborhoods, on the street, and within the county Republican Party. Subsequently, in February 2009, I attended the state convention of the California Republican Party. I connected with RLC'ers from other parts of California, and was elected chairman. It has been an exciting year!

I noticed that the RLC welcomes constitutionalists, libertarians, classical liberals, and free market advocates. Will you expand on that?

All of the groups you mentioned agree that the government, and specifically the federal government, is too big. Constitutionalists believe the federal government is too big because it is doing more than is authorized by the Constitution. Classical liberals believe that people can best improve their lives without government "help" (or interference) and without the temptation and danger of becoming dependent on government welfare programs. Free market advocates believe that the government should not try to regulate, "stimulate", "bail-out" or otherwise interfere our economy. (Yet strangely some self-proclaimed "free market advocates" support macro-level government interference in the economy via the Federal Reserve and the banking cartels controlling national lending policies and the supply of fiat currency.)

So all of the above groups believe that the federal government should be significantly smaller than it is today. That is a huge piece of common ground. The RLC comes into the picture because we take that common ground and work to turn it into a specific political strategy: we work as a caucus within the Republican Party to promote candidates that support these ideals.

Since I consider myself a conservative, what caught my attention was that the RLC welcomes "tolerant conservatives." How would you describe a “tolerant conservative”?

We welcome all who support the RLC Statement of Principles and Positions. And, to answer your question, I would describe a “tolerant conservative” as a fiscal conservative who believes the government should not attempt to regulate the private lives of citizens. By “regulate” I mean things like: restricting freedom of speech, compelling military service, interfering in relationships between consenting adults, outlawing adult consumption of recreational drugs, and requiring the use of a national ID card.

I’m glad you brought up the topic of “government regulation” –– two areas in particular. I have heard that the RLC gets a certain amount of flak in the GOP in other states as being against the war on drugs and relatively pro-gay. Do you have less of a problem with that in California?

Perhaps California is more tolerant on those issues. I am not aware of our positions on those issues causing any official strife with the California Republican Party (CRP). However, there may be individuals or other caucuses within the CRP that disagree with some of our positions. This is only to be expected and is not unusual in any way.

Related to the specific issues you mentioned:

I suspect most RLC'ers believe the federal war on drugs is unconstitutional. Back in the 1930s we as a country understood the Constitution well enough to know that attempted federal regulation of alcohol required a Constitutional amendment. Unfortunately, it seems that America today does not understand her Constitution as well as she used to.

As for the claim that the RLC is "relatively pro-gay," I suspect most RLC'ers believe that the purpose of government is to secure the natural rights of each individual in these 50 states, so that we as individuals may enjoy life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.

We take our inspiration from the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men."

Expanding on the RLC and the GOP’s rapport, I hear that the RLC in some states, most notably Florida, has had conflicts with the state GOP. How is your relationship with the state GOP?

Here in California the RLCCA has a growing relationship with the California Republican Party. Many RLCCA members work closely with their respective county Republican parties; so it is only natural that the RLCCA works closely within the California Republican Party.

At the September 2009 convention of the California Republican Party, a resolution supporting Ron Paul's "Audit the Fed" bill (HR 1207) and the companion bill in the Senate (SB 604) passed with overwhelming support. Many RLCCA members worked hard to bring that resolution to the CRP and to get it passed. (I should again thank Assemblyman Chuck DeVore for his support in that effort.) It was very gratifying to work with the CRP to call for an audit of the Federal Reserve, as an audit is the first step towards developing an honest currency and restoring economic confidence in America.

Speaking of “parties,” what are you thoughts about the Tea Party movement, its relevance and impact on the political scene?

It is exciting to see so many new people jumping into the political process through the Tea Party movement. There is a common theme with the individuals who attend Tea Party events: they believe government, especially at the federal level, is too big and encroaches too much on our private lives. While the Tea Party has a lot of new and exciting energy, it will be interesting to see how the many diverse groups of the Tea Party movement organize over the next few years, and what long term strategies they will rally around to achieve their goals.

What are the RLC and/or your personal thoughts about our current administration and its direction –– what many deem to be an intrusive expansion of government on many fronts?

The RLC is, of course, no fan of the Obama administration as they continue down a course of greater federal government power over individual American lives.

Personally, I believe the Obama administration is just a continuation of the Bush administration with regards to the scope of the federal government: continuing interventionist foreign policy, expanding executive powers, ongoing manipulation of the free market, continuing growth of federal health care programs (after all, it was President Bush who created Medicare Part D), to mention just a few examples of the similarities.

In closing, what can we expect from the RLCCA in the near future?

You can expect the RLCCA to continue to grow in numbers and influence among Californian Republicans. If any activists reading this are inspired by our work thus far, they should contact us via our website to become active in the RLC in their local counties. You can also join the RLCCA on Facebook and Twitter.

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About Christine Lakatos

  • Arch Conservative

    Hey Christine, do you wanna start a pool on how many seats the Demokrats are going to lose this fall?

    I wonder how siding with illegals over dead Arizona ranchers and high school students wearing the American flag will go over.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Hey Arch: I hope the Dems lose a lot of seats!

  • Arch Conservative

    I hope they lose a plethora of seats.

    Can’t say that I’m overly happy about those seats being taken over by a party that views John McCain and Sarah Palin as people to be taken seriously.

  • zingzing

    archie: “I wonder how siding with illegals over […] high school students wearing the American flag will go over.”

    who’s condemning the students? got any names? or just making shit up?

  • Doug Hunter

    “who’s condemning the students? got any names? or just making shit up?”

    No one. One school administrator made a poor decision and I believe his story that the concern was safety. I get the impression that the US flag wearers were intentionally being antagonistic towards immigrant students, something I don’t support; although it (antagonism, baiting) is a favorite tool of protesters everywhere and a protected right.

    As for the article, I like the ideas the Republican Liberty caucus is bringing forward, liberal social policy and classic liberal economic policy. We need to be slashing government and at the same time trying to find ways to increase tax revenue without killing the economy. This music’s going to stop on this game of debt musical chairs one day and we going to find out there’s alot more butts needing seats than there are seats to be found. The private debt debacle is chump change compared to the tinderbox we have with government debt.

  • Doug Hunter

    Note on above: total amounts of private debt are higher than public debt, but there is no backstop for public debt.

  • zingzing

    wow, doug and i actually agree on something. the world implodes in 3, 2…

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    The public debt has become “socialized,” Doug, a distinction without a difference.

    Read Les Slater’s comment (#1) on Kenn Jacobine’s article.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Good interview, although since there’s only one speaker, there’s no need to identify every time he speaks.

    I do wonder why he, like similar folk, only offers generalities about what his group wants to do but never specifics.

    “We work to recruit and support candidates who will reduce the size of the federal government, and also the size of state and local governments.”

    Sounds great in theory, but he offered nothing about how to accomplish it, so why should a voter think they will do anything once in power.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Ah, El, did I mess up the format?

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    EB, when the alternative is a candidate who has not the slightest interest in reducing the size of any element of government – and usually the exact opposite – you might want to roll the dice and see what solutions the person who at least has the right intentions will come up with.

    Dave

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. If someone is running for office, they should have solutions in mind before getting the job not afterward. The latter course signals they have no confidence they will get the job.

  • STM

    Republican liberty. Isn’t that an oxymoron?

    And is that a ponytail Matt appears to be wearing in the pic with Ron Paul???

    I could understand if it was white and powdered, tied with a ribbon, with rolls at the side and held in place by a three-cornered hat, but beyond that …

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    btw, if this was done “exclusively for Blogcritics Magazine”, why is it posted elsewhere online?