March 2, 2006 4:48 PM PST

Pioneering Net politico dies at 72

Harry Browne, the two-time presidential candidate who was a pioneer in using the Internet for political outreach, died on Wednesday, according to reports. He was 72.

Browne was the Libertarian Party's nominee for president in 1996 and 2000 and co-founded DownsizeDC.org, a Web-based network of activists who campaigned for a smaller government. He also served as a director of the Free-Market News Network and hosted a weekly video Webcast for the organization, and contributed to the LewRockwell.com blog.

Harry Browne Harry Browne

Though Browne eventually turned to the Internet for libertarian activism, he first became known for his books. He wrote "How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World," which was well-received among free-market aficionados, but Browne's "You Can Profit from a Monetary Crisis" was what reached No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list.

Lew Rockwell, president of the free-market Ludwig von Mises Institute, wrote in an essay on Thursday that after Sept. 11, 2001, Browne painstakingly "defended personal liberty against the surveillance state, less government against the homeland-security state and peace against the war on terror." An Internet-distributed essay that Browne wrote a day after those attacks said "it was only a matter of time until Americans would have to suffer personally" for their government's foreign policy missteps.

Browne's associates said he died after a long battle with Lou Gehrig's disease. DownsizeDC.org, the group he co-founded, said Browne is survived by his wife Pamela and his daughter Autumn. It has also posted its own obituary.

Browne's history as a presidential candidate was controversial. One contender for the 2004 nomination called Browne a "disgrace to the Libertarian Party," according to Liberty Magazine, because Browne pledged to spend the money he raised during the campaign on advertising--and instead spent it on personal travel, generous staff salaries and building a fund-raising base for future use.

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