What is discussed below is an assessment of the present controversy surrounding Young Americans for Liberty, and involves statements the veracity of which I cannot personally vouch for. In this writing, I intend to respectfully lay out the accusations as they currently stand.
All who read this publication regularly will, undoubtedly, be familiar with Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), but just in case: YAL is a campus political organization that aims to advance the conventional libertarian-lite stack of constitutionalism, fiscal responsibility, lower taxes, freedom of speech, and anti-socialism. They operate on dozens of college campuses, YAL volunteers and employees alike hand out political literature, door-knock on behalf of candidates deemed favourable to their philosophy, and act as a funnel with a litany of affiliated organizations.
YAL operates as a sort of conservative-libertarian fraternity, with regular conventions acting as a recruiting ground for the likes of the Koch Institute, the Cato Institute, Students For Liberty, and countless others. Senators and congressmen have spoken at these conventions, including Thomas Massie, Ron and Rand Paul, Justin Amash, and other elected officials with which YAL maintains a close friendship.
Young Americans for Liberty is both local and national. Volunteers and casual members congregate on their respective campuses, which are presided over by chapter presidents (who coordinate local events and engage in local-level recruitment), who are then presided over by state chairs (who assume responsibility for a number of campus chapters within a given state or interstate area), then regional directors (responsible for large geographic swaths and their respective chapters), who are then under the remit of the top leadership, the likes of Cliff Maloney Jr.
Cliff Maloney, President of YAL since May 2016, spends his life between speaking engagements, contributing to various media sources (Fox News among others), and coordinating his ambitious campus activism initiatives, according to his YAliberty.org “staff” section bio page. Cliff’s image, like the organization he leads, is carefully crafted to avoid controversy.
To his credit, very little public controversy surrounding YAL exists. What little there is tends to surrounds the invitation of ‘controversial’ figures like Milo Yiannopoulous or Nick Fuentes to speaking engagements. However, 2021 saw an end to this relatively good run, when former female employees of Young Americans for Liberty National made numerous accusations against YAL leadership, right up to the top – Cliff Maloney.
On 8 January, former state chair Addyson Garner posted a statement on Facebook alleging a culture of sexual harassment and abuse at YAL National. This post, which has been shared 366 times as of the writing of this piece, begins:
“Let’s talk about sexual abuse and lack of consequences in certain corners of the liberty movement. We can start with one of the more vocal groups, Young Americans for Liberty, headed up by Cliff Maloney Jr.
Ah, Cliff Maloney Jr. He fancies himself the godfather of the liberty movement, but instead of sending people to kneecap the goons who assaulted your daughter, he’ll promote the goons– and maybe help them run for office.
Consent is supposed to be a cornerstone of libertarianism, but consent has been violated by staffmembers [sic] of Young Americans for Liberty for years with little to no repercussion.”
The accusations detailed in the post are highly scandalous, and seem to indicate that YAL takes a light stance on issues of sexual climate within their office walls.
“1. Cliff Maloney asked my friend to bring him food after a long day at a conference, and once he got her alone, he tried to use his position at YAL to extort her for sex at the expense of her good standing within the organization.
2. Activists older than me have shared stories of being groped and harassed by a man who still hangs around YAL events. It’s an open secret he’s a creep, but he’s still a friend of the org.
3. A VP of YAL was seen trying to take a blackout drunk girl up to his hotel room at YALCON. Attendees had to physically stop him from dragging her up to assault her. He’s still a VP.
4. **concern 4 has been removed at the request of the woman involved, who has stated she views it as an issue with an individual rather than a coworker– removing out of respect for her** [This is how the text appears in the post, which remains up on Mrs. Garner’s Facebook.]
5. Development staff in the office were comfortable openly discussing what female state chairs (typically 18-21 year old student activists) they wanted to have sex with. The intern who complained about it was ridiculed and gaslit.
6. Girls I recruited were sexually harassed by YAL campaign coordinatiors [sic] on doorknocking [sic] deployments. The offender wasn’t fired– just moved to a different role.
7. I was groped by a fellow state chair. The offender was later endorsed for state office, and YAL sent students to doorknock [sic] for him. When I messaged Cliff Maloney to follow up on the situation, he blocked me. When my husband (another former activist) tweeted at the organization about it, he was also blocked.”
The post then goes on to discuss the lack of a proper HR infrastructure within YAL National’s office, something that Cliff had personally assured her was coming, and that Garner states openly never came. Garner alleges that a YAL staffer refused to take her personal complaints seriously, and that a regional director, in front of an office meeting, went on a tirade about women being “fucking sluts”, and that when she raised complaints, was told that she “wasn’t a libertarian” and “didn’t believe in free speech”. The post ends with a plea for others within or supporting the organization to speak out, and refuse to support it until substantive changes are made.
Below the post are numerous attached images; one is her shaking hands with Cliff; the next is an undated communication (presumably from Garner) to an unnamed YAL representative outlining her feelings and the source of them; an email from Cliff promising changes in YAL’s handling of complaints of a sexual nature; a February 2019 communication between Garner and Stuart Hench (YAL’s current, acting Data Director and former Win at the Door election coordinator) discussing who is in charge of leading the reform project within YAL; an undated exchange between Garner and former VP Ty Hicks discussing the lack of progress or communication on the reform issue, with Hicks refusing to engage in the conversation; a June/July 2020 communication between Garner and an unnamed YAL representative, asking about reform progress, with the unnamed rep refusing or unable to answer; and finally, a heavily censored Facebook Messenger exchange between Mrs. Garner and Cliff asking about YAL’s endorsement of an alleged abuser from within its ranks to state office.
These accusations, if true, paint a horrible image of YAL’s higher-ups. Arguably the most shocking of these statements revolve around Cliff Maloney. The accuser, Taylor Hall, spoke about the incident publicly on her Facebook page. I will truncate the post for the purpose of brevity:
“At YALCon 2017, Cliff saw me leaving the conference hall to go get some food with a friend, and asked me to bring some back for him. We had been working together since the Rand Paul campaign in Iowa, and he was my boss. So yes, I would bring him food.
And while I can’t prove to you all what happened when I brought the food up to his room, I can tell you I wasn’t the first, nor the last person he did this to.
He lectured me about loyalty to him, and that people who aren’t loyal to him ‘don’t stick around long’ in the organization, before asking me to come get in bed with him. To be clear, I didn’t. I actually gave him a chance, in tears, to take back what he said and apologize. He used that opportunity to make sexually demeaning comments about me instead.
I left the room and immediately called my best friend sobbing, trying to figure out how to get home from D.C.
The next day I told my regional director and I told the VP of the organization at the time. I thought I had done what I was supposed to do.”
Hall then goes on to explain that, the following day at the same convention, Cliff went out of his way to introduce his fiancé to her, in order to, in her words, “… he wanted me to meet the woman whose life I would shatter”.
Further on, she claims that, at a YAL training function, a fellow state chair had informed her that a similar thing had happened to another girl in the YAL National circuit. In response, Hall states that she set up an appointment to speak with Jeff Frazee (Founder, YAL Board member), one of the few in YAL’s orbit with a position comparable or greater than that or Cliff Maloney. The Frazee conversation, in her words, went as follows:
[He asked what she wanted, and she said:] “I don’t want anything, other than him removed and for someone to tell his fiancé what is going on. I don’t want money, I don’t want a promotion, I don’t want this public, I don’t want the organization damaged because of him, I just want the right thing.”
This preceded what she states is a lengthy internal investigation ending in no action.
The posts and images circulating in liberty movement social media circles have resulted in shock. On 9 January, the aforementioned Jeff Frazee uploaded a formal response on YAL’s website, the link to which was posted on Cliff Maloney’s Twitter (@LibertyCliff), with the message:
“Allegations against me are 100% false.
Serious accusations and misconduct will always be addressed at YAL.
Character assassinations against a team of liberty advocates who work around the clock for our cause must stop.”
Frazee’s statement was brief, failing to consume an entire side of A4 or sport a signature:
“Recent social media posts attacking YAL, the organization I started, and love, have been brought to my attention. While I have great reluctance to address confidential HR matters publicly, I’d like to share that YAL takes any accusation of misconduct seriously. YAL prides itself on having an HR process that is easily accessible to our employees and student volunteers. Every concern that is brought to our attention regarding potential misconduct is investigated and appropriate steps are taken in response. We urge anyone to come to us directly regarding any evidence of bad actors, and I would expect YAL to do the right thing, as it always has, and under my leadership, always will. YAL continues to make an immeasurable impact for the cause of liberty, and I’m proud of the hundreds of thousands of individuals involved in our organization over the last dozen years. Unfortunately, social media often clouds the truth, so I encourage anyone with concerns to use appropriate channels to raise concerns, rather than attempt to malign the organization, its people, and principles. It’s important we respect the rights of all people and address serious matters appropriately.”
At present, this is where the publicly available information on this situation ends. Only time will tell what, if anything, YAL’s longer term response will be.
Editor’s Note: The author included various images of the mentioned and now well-known Facebook posts. These were not republished but are available on request. It is also noteworthy that the situation has since developed, with some YAL chapters calling for further action from the national leadership. Being Libertarian remains interested in further contributions on this topic.
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