Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Did Jesse Benton Violate the Non-Aggression Principle?

A commenter asks at my post reporting on the Jesse Benton sentencing:
You have kept a close watch on this and related legal cases and written many posts. My sense is that you often describe legal defendants' alleged actions such as selling drugs or insider trading as "non-crimes", but I can't recall you ever describing these cases that way. Did Jesse Benton violate the NAP here?
The cases that involve nothing but the selling of drugs are easy. You have two willing participants in an exchange, there is no violation of NAP.

In the case of insider trading, it is much more complex. If a lawyer, say, representing a client who is about to make a takeover bid, buys the stock of the target, the purchase could very well break a confidentiality agreement and therefore is a violation of NAP.

If on the other hand a corporate executive of a non-public firm tips off friends that he is about to make a bid for a publicly traded firm, there is no insider violation, since there was no stipulation that the information not be acted upon, indeed the implication is probably the opposite: act on this.

In the case of Jesse Benton, he was operating in the employ of the Ron Paul 2012 presidential campaign. He was operating under the rules of the Federal Election Commission.

Now there is nothing that forced him into this position. He did not have to work for the campaign, but he did and thus he signaled to campaign contributors that he would abide by the rules set up by the FEC.

We do not know what rules would emerge in a free market but there are no free market presidential campaigns. The FEC sets the rules.

Campaign donors could fully expect campaign operators to abide by the regulations of the FEC, since the campaign was set up based on such rules and Benton never indicated he was not going to abide by them.

If Benton raised money and told donors, "I am not going to abide by FEC rules," it would be a different story, but he didn't.

Thus, when he was involved in payments to Kent Sorenson that were not reported as required by FEC rules, he broke a contract with those contributors who believed he was operating under FEC rules---of which there were probably many.

Indeed, there are many that look at FEC filings to understand what is going on in a campaign.

If Benton had disclosed on the FEC forms: "Bribe to Kent Sorenson to switch from Michelle Bachmann campaign," no doubt some contributors would have protested and stopped making further contributions.

Thus, Benton operated differently then the implied representation that he was operating under the FEC rules (regardless of what you think about the FEC rules---or whether they should exist in the first pace.)

It's somewhat edgy as a violation, given we are working with government rules, but I think the implication that a full filing would occur is strong, and that, since he willfully participated in it not occurring, he did violate NAP.



  1. Odd conclusion. In a statist world wouldn't everyone expect that you would comply with the state's illegitimate (by libertarian standards) rules, to avoid punishment? So an executive who has the company skimp on paying taxes, or who gets caught with pot and brings disrepute to the company, with adverse financial implications, would breach his implicit representation to shareholders or lenders that he would comply with the tax code or the narcotics legislation, even though under the NAP taxes are an act of robbery and the narcotics legislation is an illegitimate denial of self-ownership? Now we are obliged to follow illegitimate edicts or be guilty of violating the NAP? If a soldier refuses an order to kill "the enemy" who has not initiated any violence has the soldier breached the NAP because the state (or taxpayers) paid him under the implicit deal that he'd follow orders?

  2. I think the biggest violation is that I was naive and donated to Ron Paul for him to spread a good political message. Instead my donations paid for someone like Jesse Benton to corrupt the message. I'm not rich, never taken a welfare or unemployment check, a net tax contributor; but what he did didn't violate the NAP, so who cares.

  3. So based on that argument you also believe that Dennis Fusaro also broke the law and thus should go to jail. He chose to run a political campaign in MD and violated campaign disclosure laws, deceiving donors and the public of his actions. He is claiming its his first amendment right but MD law states otherwise. I hope you treat Mr Fusaro the same way you treat Mr Benton