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The Independence Party and the Future of Third-Party Politics

About the Author

William McGaughey may be suffering from ideological schizophrenia. One one hand, he is the author of several important books supporting liberal positions on trade and labor questions. He wrote one of the first anti-NAFTA books, termed "a valuable study" by Noam Chomsky (The Nation, 3/29/93) With former U.S. Senator and Presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy, he coauthored Nonfinancial Economics: The Case for Shorter Hours of Work, published by Praeger Publishers in 1989. He was a friend of the late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone. On the other hand, after he returned home from the third prepcom of the 1995 UN Social Summit in New York City, McGaughey threw himself into activities of a right-wing landlord organization when Minneapolis city officials and a neighborhood group accused him of coddling criminals in his nine-unit apartment building in a poor part of town and tried to run him out of business. During six years of guerilla warfare against the city's political culture, this "pariah group" managed to persuade the public that the police, not landlords, were the community's main crime fighters. These efforts culiminated in the ouster of the incumbent liberal mayor and seven of thirteen City Council members in the 2001 city election - all Democrats.


  McGaughey was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, and a suburb, the oldest of four children. He graduated from Cranbrook School in 1958. He entered Yale University, dropped out for two years to study and work in Germany, and then returned to receive a B.A. degree in 1964. He majored in philosophy and English.   

     McGaughey moved to Minnesota in 1965 to pursue a career in accounting. He passed the CPA examination in 1971. He has worked for a state agency, a public-accounting firm, a construction-equipment manufacturer, a paper-products manufacturer, and a public-transit agency in the course of 25 years. In the latter capacity, he developed a method of costing bus service by route and served on the agency's "transit redesign" task force.   

      In late 1993, McGaughey purchased a small apartment building near downtown Minneapolis which had drug problems at the time of purchase. He was branded a slumlord by neighborhood activists and city officials for not evicting tenants suspected of drug activity fast enough. In February 1995, two sets of city inspectors condemned his building and issued an extensive set of work orders whose satisfaction was a condition of lifting the condemnation. His building reopened in August.  

     In April 1995, McGaughey joined forces with a group of landlords from south Minneapolis likewise aggrieved by policies of city government. He became the group's chief writer and publicist and architect of many of its protest activities. The group has picketed City Hall, a police precinct station, and a Minneapolis City Council meeting, briefly shutting it down. This group has its own cable-television show and an affiliated newspaper. Backed by these landlords, McGaughey announced his candidacy for mayor of Minneapolis in 1997 but withdrew in favor of a better-known candidate.

     Earlier in the decade, McGaughey was involved in activities in opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement. A co-founder of Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition, he traveled to Mexico City in June 1991 to be a human-rights observer at a union election at an automobile factory where violence had occurred. His book, A U.S.-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement: Do We Just Say No?", published in March 1992, was one of the first available on this subject. It focused on positive alternatives to free trade.   

     Some of McGaughey's earlier writings considered proposals for shorter work hours from an economic perspective. His A Shorter Workweek in the 1980s was written in connection with a legislative campaign to reduce work hours led by Rep. John Conyers in 1979. Conyers wrote a foreword to this book. McGaughey also published shorter works on this topic and on men's issues.   

     While he took history courses in college, McGaughey became interested in world history primarily as a result of reading books by Arnold Toynbee. The present book grew out of a comparison between rhythm and form as philosophical concepts. McGaughey has traveled to China six times and participated in a singing group with Robert Bly which has embraced elements of Moslem, Hindu, Mayan, and West African cultures.

   McGaughey has twice run for political office in Minnesota. He was a candidate for Mayor of Minneapolis in 2001, finishing in the middle of the pack in the primary election held on September 11, 2001. In 2002, he was a candidate for U.S. Senate in the Independence Party primary. He has written a book about this experience, The Independence Party and the Future of Third-Party Politics, which was published in 2003.

William McGaughey married his current wife, Lian, in Beijing, China in January 2000. Their daughter Celia attends college.

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