The Liberty side of social media has been abuzz with shocking revelations surrounding the beloved liberty organization Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) over the recent removal of their Vice President of Communications, Reed Cooley, and questionable statements made by their new CEO Lauren Daugherty.
I sat down with Cooley surrounding the controversy, problematic changes in messaging, and what it spells for this well-respected organization in the liberty movement. Cooley began with YAL as one of their door-to-door canvassers in 2018, slowly moving up the ranks to his eventual Vice President role.
“In January of 2021, YAL had some changes in leadership due to some allegations against a now-former CEO. A few months later, the Board of Directors hired Lauren Daugherty to fill the vacant position. Lauren Daugherty previously served as the former interim executive director of the Libertarian Party, and from day one it seemed abundantly clear she had every intention of strong-arming YALs brand into some hideous admixture of wokeism and neo-conservatism.”
To provide some context to this, here are some examples that have been making their way around Twitter regarding YAL’s messaging:
The above thread shows a detailed memo sent out criticizing the now-famous Massie Christmas card. Let’s contrast this with the following other examples:
And here are some examples of the Neo-conservatism that had been mentioned:
The above-mentioned Steinhauser was appointed to YAL’s leadership team as Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) just hours after Cooley’s termination, which took place just weeks after a zoom call in which Cooley shared his concerns with the YAL Board of Directors over the direction Daugherty was carrying the organization.
“He (Steinhauser) not only served as Dan Crenshaw’s campaign manager, but in May 2018 he also wrote a glowing blog praising Dan Crenshaw for things like his ‘courage’ and his leadership… In August 2021 he came out against the United States’ withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. And in December he started posting numerous tweets in favor of military action against Russia over the continuing Ukraine crisis.”
Cooley refers to the blending of these ideas as the “Woke War Machine” or “Raytheon with Rainbows”. Cooley went on to explain that there was no internal attempt to present these conflicting stances as cohesive, or even to present them as being near the Ron Paul ideals that they were founded on. YAL was originally founded as “Students for Ron Paul” before generalizing their name and becoming the YAL we know today. He went on to attribute the departure from this, in part, to Daugherty’s support of Bill Weld in 2020. Weld, as many will remember, was criticized in the liberty movement, and by many in the LP, regarding his praise of Hillary Clinton during the election (despite running against her in a party that, in principle, stood against what she represented) and his Raytheon connection as well.
According to Cooley, further examples of differences in messaging include Daugherty pushing back against a major sponsored post between YAL and the Babylon Bee, claiming that it made YAL look like “a bunch of privileged white kids” before she even took the position. In December of 2021, the communications team received pushback against calling Biden a “liar” stating that that term shouldn’t be used. When talking about Politicians. Yes, you read that right.
Days later, YAL’s social media team also shared a picture of Independence-era patriots marching with instruments against Redcoats, with a caption above reading, “The way things are looking, we might have to get the band back together…” Daugherty then instructed them to remove the post, as it could be perceived as promoting “violent revolution”.
When asked what steps, if any, were taken to try and right the ship, Cooley explained that numerous attempts at course corrections were made one-on-one with Daugherty that seemingly fell on deaf ears. He went further to the Board of Directors and was told by the Founder, and current Chair, that Daugherty’s messaging was “under the Ron Paul tent.” Shortly after this exchange is when Cooley was summoned for the meeting that led to his termination from the organization.
Speaking of the Board of Directors, it is worth noting that a separate, but influential, change in their membership could be the domino that started this chain of events. According to Cooley, many people believe that Joel Trammell, a recent addition to the Board, was the individual that scouted Daugherty for the CEO role. It has since been brought to light that, in 2019, Trammell donated to Julie Oliver, a Bernie Sanders-endorsed Democrat running for Congress on a Medicare-for-All platform.
When I asked Cooley why he believes that YAL is taking this direction, he alluded to these moves effectively being no different than a takeover of the organization by LP influencers, particularly those similar in mindset to Nick Sawark or those adamantly opposed to the Mises Caucus. Cooley didn’t mince words:
“Young Americans for Liberty built itself into a great organization without an ounce of help from that dumpster-fire of a party, so if the LP leadership wants to achieve success getting people elected, maybe they could work on themselves before trying to infiltrate an institution that other people, smarter people, better people made great.”
Where this leaves YAL and what its future looks like remains to be seen, but many have already voiced their concerns.
Young Americans for Liberty is a $15 million organization with 174 state legislators in its coalition, meaning this shift in direction will have drastic consequences not only for the liberty movement as a whole, but on the laws and politics of the country at large.