The “Lost Liberty Hotel”

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Client: FreeStar Media, LLC, Canoga Park, CA
Category: Liberty-oriented media developer
Summary: Grassroots effort to fight back against Supreme Court-endorsed eminent domain abuse

Contents:

Summary >

Background >

Logan’s conception of the “Lost Liberty Hotel,” with an assist from me >

The critical first press release, June 28, 2005 – and the explosion of media attention and accolades for the “Lost Liberty Hotel” >

Press release 2, July 22, 2005: A call to the grassroots >

Development of the “Lost Liberty Hotel” logo >

Development of a simple site map >

Website redesign recommendations >

Additional work on the project >



Summary

Property rights advocates fondly remember the “Lost Liberty Hotel” sensation that burst onto the public scene in June 2005, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s infamous Kelo decision.  The project’s purpose was to test the Court’s new interpretation on eminent domain, by seeing if it also applied to the property owned by those justices who voted for it.  The “Lost Liberty Hotel” project sought to seize Justice David Souter’s 8-acre ranch in Weare, NH and turn it into a hotel by the same name, and a restaurant — the Just Desserts Cafe’.

As the developer of this project attests, I provided a variety of key creative and media services to it before and after it became public:

“The pro-liberty movement is fortunate to have Jon Sutz among its ranks.  Jon has helped Freestar Media and our ‘Lost Liberty Hotel’ project in a number of key areas:

  • He  edited our first press release – which led to national media exposure, thousands in donations and a lasting political impact – and  also a vital follow-up press release, and our first newsletter.
  • He worked tirelessly on research and coalition-building at a critical stage in the life of the project.
  • He designed and produced  a beautiful logo for the Lost Liberty Hotel, which drives our core message home to millions of Americans.

“Jon’s creativity, passion and strong work ethic were vital assets to us, and any serious liberty-oriented organization would benefit by enlisting him in its development and outreach efforts.”

Logan Darrow Clements, CEO, Freestar Media

This document describes and provides examples of some of the key work that I performed on the project.



Background

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads, in part:

“No private property shall be taken for public use without just compensation”

Since America’s founding, the eminent domain clause has been interpreted to mean that private property can only be taken by the government for purposes such as constructing a road, school, park or police station, etc., that all citizens would have the right to access and benefit from.

Freestar Media, LLC was founded by Logan Darrow Clements to produce a continuing series of documentary-style videos (“The Lexington League”), that expose outrageous government abuses, for syndication to television stations throughout the U.S.  One episode of the program, “Grand Theft Building,” details how in 2004 a California city council “partnered” with a private developer to seize – under the supposed power of eminent domain – the property & business of an immigrant entrepreneur, and give it to said developer, to transform it into a hotel.

On Thursday, June 23, 2005, by a 5-4 margin, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed this new definition of “eminent domain,” by ruling in Kelo v. City of New London that a city has the right under eminent domain to seize private property and transfer it to another private party, if the latter’s use would provide greater tax revenue or economic benefits to the community “as a whole.”  In her scathing dissenting opinion, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote:

“Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random… (N)othing is to prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory… (T)he beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result.  ‘(T)hat alone is a just government,’ wrote James Madison, ‘which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own’.”



Logan’s conception of the “Lost Liberty Hotel,” with an assist from me

Although Logan and I were acquaintances, regarding our shared views on limited government and individual rights, we had not yet had the opportunity to work together… until now.

In the days after the Kelo ruling, Logan and I chatted several times by phone on its implications, and on how they could fight back.  Logan was extremely cynical.  I urged him to maintain a positive attitude, explaining that as this interpretation of eminent domain was so faulty, and would be disproportionately affecting the most humble of property owners most, perhaps this could help inspire a very cross-cultural, concerted effort to fight back against government takings. Logan remained convinced that this was the end of property rights in America, that there was no way to undo this ruling, and that the American experiment in self-government was crushed by one ruling.

On Sunday, June 26, however, Logan called and asked me if I would help edit a press release regarding a “big idea” he had.

Upon reading it, I burst out laughing, and agreed to put my creative skills to work to polish it, and to help make sure it got attention.



The critical first press release, June 28, 2005 – and the explosion of media attention and accolades for the “Lost Liberty Hotel”

First press release: Below is the final version of this press release, which Logan submitted to PRWEB on June 28:

27June05 Press Release 1 by jonsutz

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Within 24 hours of the press release “hitting the wires” to the national news media, Rush Limbaugh spent nearly a half hour talking about it, read the entire press release verbatim, referred listeners to Logan’s website, and even posted the link at the top of his own site. Excerpt:

“THIS is hilarious.  FreestarMedia, LLC, it’s a website… ‘The Greatest Story Is The Battle Between Freedom And Force,’ (Rush reads excerpt from press release)… (laughs)… This… I love this… this is how you fight this stuff, folks… this is how you do it … you turn it right around on them, and now, it sounds like a parody, but I know that this Clements is serious about this… he’ll do everything he can to get that property and build a big hotel, the ‘Lost Liberty Hotel’… you just have to love this…”
(audio excerpt file link below)

In the weeks that followed,  Logan was a guest on top-rated national TV and radio talk shows, and was interviewed by newspapers throughout North America.  The following is a brief montage of these appearances:

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By July 8, 2005, nearly 20,000 news articles and editorials around the world discussed the “Lost Liberty Hotel” project, and almost 6,000 people contacted Mr. Clements to voice their support and offer financial contributions or their time as volunteer activists, to see his project turned into reality.

I also rewrote and edited a vital follow-up press release, and has provided Logan and Freestar Media with ongoing creative consulting, research, graphic design, copy writing, editing and support services.

In the following weeks:

  • Logan was featured on or interviewed by most top-rated TV and radio news programs and talk shows, including “Nightline,” which dedicated half a show to the “Lost Liberty Hotel.”
  • Almost 6,000 people contacted Logan to voice their support and offer financial contributions or their time as volunteer activists, to see the “Lost Liberty Hotel” turned into reality.
  • Logan’s website traffic went from approximately 400 hits per day to nearly 400,000.
  • Almost every major U.S. newspaper and newsmagazine ran a story on the “Lost Liberty Hotel” project, including the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Washington Times, Los Angeles Times, National Review, Weekly Standard, and hundreds of smaller papers.
  • Newspapers from as far away as Taiwan (Taipei Times) ran stories on the “Lost Liberty Hotel” project


Press release 2, July 22, 2005: A call to the grassroots

Mid-afternoon EST on July 22, 2005, Logan called and asked me to help him edit a press release for distribution by the end of the day.  The purpose of this document would be:

  1. To provide a powerful response to the Weare, NH government’s ruling that morning, claiming that they would not permit him to make a proposal regarding the “Lost Liberty Hotel”
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  2. To urge local residents to begin the process of (a) voting these local government officials out of office, and (b) circumventing these officials altogether, by petitioning to put the issue to a referendum vote in early 2006

Logan was understandably angry, and emailed Jon an inflammatory-sounding press release (available upon request).  On a rush basis, Jon rewrote it into the following form, which was completed and distributed via PRWEB by day’s end:
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22July05 Press Release 2 by jonsutz



Development of the “Lost Liberty Hotel” logo

In early July 2005, I offered his services create an initial graphical identity for the “Lost Liberty Hotel.”  Logan believed a logo would be extremely helpful, particularly in terms of:

  • Maintaining the momentum that was building behind the project.
  • Rapidly developing “Lost Liberty Hotel” merchandise (e.g. T-shirts).

The key to the logo, we agreed, was that it had to instantaneously convey the depth of the betrayal that we believed the Supreme Court had committed against the American people.  Logan was concerned, however, that a quality graphic identity depicting this could not be created on such short notice.

I created this (preliminary) logo in less than three days:

LostLibertyHotellarge

Ultimately, my intention was to design and direct the production of a Flash animation that would show my full idea realized.  As I explained in a now-defunct liberty magazine:

“The animation would open to just the graphic of the Statue of Liberty and the text ‘Liberty Hotel’ atop the blue background banner.  Then, five caricaturized Supreme Court Justices would enter the frame and cluster right in front of the logo, blocking the viewer’s ability to see it, and engage in ‘animated’ discussion and debate, with their backs to the viewer.  Finally, the Justices would walk out of frame, revealing for the viewer that they’ve hung on the Statue’s raised arm a piece of driftwood, with the word ‘LOST’ stenciled on it.”

Although deemed by some as unnecessarily inflammatory and disrespectful to the U.S. Supreme Court, I believe my logo is a fair representation of its decision in Kelo.  Continuing from the same interview:

“The ‘Lost Liberty Hotel’ is a rational response to a violently irrational decision by the highest court in the U.S., that threatens every private property in America – particularly those owned by people of modest means, who don’t have the resources to wage a full-bore legal battle against government and well-funded developers.  I was determined to rapidly craft an image that would help propel this project forward, create a professional aura around it, and if possible, to do so in a humorous, lighthearted way – yet with very serious undertones.  I’m delighted that Freestar Media chose my logo to be the ‘face’ of this exciting project to advance liberty, and a rational interpretation of property rights.”



Development of a simple site map

Another aspect of my work was to find out exactly what Justice Souter’s property and ranch looked like and consisted of, to help Logan and his prospective financial backers to determine how to proceed.  This involved extensive phone calls, Internet research, analysis and image processing of source media as diverse as satellite photographs to Google Maps of the area.

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Ultimately, my mission was to sift through, analyze and distill all this information down into simple photos and graphics that would identify the property as it is now, and what it looks like “naked,” as a blank canvas from which the “Lost Liberty Hotel,” restaurant and museum could be constructed.  The following is the graphic I developed, which became the centerpiece of these discussions:



Website redesign recommendations

Another design task that I worked on was developing a more dynamic, consolidated and user-friendly “front end” for the Freestar Media website.  At the time, the main screen of the website appeared as is shown below:

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The screen below is the concept that I developed:



Additional work on the project

I continued to work periodically on the project through 2006, on tasks including:

  • Editing press releases and newsletters
  • Researching and interviewing New Hampshire land-use attorneys.
    To identify those who might be interested in working on the Project, and if so, under what circumstances, what they would charge, what experience they have, etc.
  • Contacting top candidates for volunteers located in or near Weare, NH
    To validate, as near as possible, any specific skill-sets or activist experience they may have, and forward this information to Logan so that he can have at least two or three responsible “on-the-ground” people in/near Weare.
  • Researching the Town of Weare
    To determine if there were any special facts or historical references that might be of value in mounting a campaign to see the Project through, such as linkages to America’s Founding Fathers, notable figures, land-use issues, etc.
  • Identifying key contacts in and resources from the New Hampshire Film & Television Office
    As Logan anticipated bringing a film crew to Weare to document the evolution of the project (which he ended up doing, on several occasions), he needed to know as much as possible about the local “players” in government and support services.

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