Legitimacy is integral to voters, political candidates and organizations identifying, advocating or pursuing independent solutions to the partisan deficiencies of our current political climate. Those outside the two-party system face incredible odds.
Americans Elect is a well-funded organization who’s goal is “to nominate a presidential ticket that answers directly to voters-not the political system”. They aim to host an online convention in June, where users will vote for a presidential ticket to appear on the November ballot in all 50 states.
They are also freaking a lot of people out. The Americans Elect platform is not attracting participants like many predicted. Nationally recognizable candidates who have agreed to be involved are limited. They claim to be above the common political influences, like lobbyists and corporations, yet their leadership is comprised of individuals from these entities. Then, there’s that weird Candidate Certification Committee.
But their website is nice.
Whether Americans Elect finds itself fading from relevancy or a giant crash-and-burn failure, it will hurt everyone: Americans Elect organizers, other organizations and groups advocating similar goals, and most importantly, the American electorate. A closer look at details concerning Americans Elect has revealed multiple troubling concerns.
“We are not a political party.”
Actually, Americans Elect is a political party. It’s a simple fact of election law.
“We will attract millions of registered voters.”
While there is still over 6 months before Election Day, Americans Elect hasn’t drawn as much interest as they will need in order to live up to their name–even if they did win SXSW’s “People’s Choice” Award. There are about 400,000 users on the site now, including one Slate reporter attempting to draft Joseph Kony and rapper Lil B.
“We will attract serious, qualified presidential candidates.”
The most well-supported candidates who have declared they would run on an Americans Elect ticket are not household names. Buddy Roemer, former Louisiana governor, is in the lead with 2,600 supporters. He’s followed by Rocky Anderson, former Mayor of Salt Lake City, with 1,140 supporters. Laurence Kotlikoff, a Boston University economics professor, is third with 748 supporters.
Dr. Ron Paul, who is running as a Republican and expressed zero interest joining Americans Elect, is the most popular candidate on the platform with over 6,900 supporters. Similarly uninterested former governor of Utah, John Huntsman, has 2,517 supporters.
What, according to Americans Elect, is a “serious” and “qualified” presidential candidate? Who decides? Not the American people, or the limited number of Americans Elect members, but the Candidate Certification Committee.
“The Candidate Certification Committee shall automatically certify as qualified any natural person who is eligible to serve as President and who has served in any of the following positions without removal from office of current criminal indictment or conviction: Vice President, United States Senator, Member of Congress, Presidential Cabinet Member, Head of a federal agency, Governor, Mayor of any of the largest 100 cities in the United States, Chairman or Chief Executive Officer or President of any corporation or nonprofit corporation or philanthropic organization with 1,000 or more employees, President of a national labor union with 100,000 or more members, military officer who has attained flag rank, Ambassador, and President of an American-based university with more than 4,000 members.”
“It is funded exclusively by individual contributions—and not from corporate, labor, special interest, foreign, or lobbyist sources.”
No one actually knows for sure where any of their funding comes from, because they don’t disclose that information. Further, a simple glance at their “Leadership” shows a list of wealth managers and former CEO’s at prominent US firms and corporations.
This year $40 million will be spent on gaining access to ballots in all 50 states and supporting their online platform. The group is privately funded while simultaneously soliciting donations from online supporters.
Then there is this gem, found under “Board Decisions” on their website:
“The Board of Directors voted unanimously on 20 February 2012 to ensure that no supporter would cover more than 20% of the Americans Elect budget. In the event that any one supporter exceeds that percentage, there are provisions created to expedite repayments to that supporter.”
As BuzzFeed reports, Americans Elect spokeswoman Illeana Wachtel confirmed funds would be used to repay people like Peter Ackerman, Americans Elect chairman and wealth manager himself, who has given the group over $5 million. John Avlon, co-founder of NoLabels.org wrote for The Daily Beast:
“He and some 50 other initial donors have loaned the organization $20 million, out of an eventual $30 million budgeted, to be repaid if small donors join on. (Their eventual goal: No single individual will give more than $10,000. The group does not accept donations from PACs, political parties, or industry associations.)”
There is also the curious connection to Unity08, as well as Republican campaigns and public relations firms. An interesting overlap of priorities which could manifest itself if the November election is close and an Americans Elect candidate wins even a few electoral votes.
“Our only goal is to put a directly-nominated ticket on the ballot in 2012.”
This is actually true, which is sad, since many people probably do not realize its significance.
Americans Elect purpose is solely ballot access, not actually electing whomever is chosen by their online convention. That will be entirely up to the candidate themselves. A fact probably not as big of a deal when there was a chance Michael Bloomberg would be drafted to run. But with no nationally recognizable names currently expressing interest in running on an Americans Elect ticket, whoever the eventual nominee is, they will face incredible challenges to organize, fund and run a viable national campaign.
There is nothing about Americans Elect, their stated purpose, their stated goals, or their organization, intended to elect someone as the President of the United States.
“We anticipate that our success in 2012 will spur further innovation at the local, state and national levels.”
Americans Elect has shown very little desire to spread their efforts on a state and local level. Where they are fundamentally failing the most is utterly disregarding the power of the grassroots. Their approach is DC-centric, top-down, and reeks of corporate influences. Elections, even the national ones, are inherently local.
Their involvement on a state level has consisted of gathering necessary signatures and filing paperwork in order to qualify for ballot access. Americans Elect has not partnered or worked with local or state organizations in a way one would expect a group who the New York Times claims to represent the “radical center”.
Whether misplaced strategy, or concerted effort, all signs at this moment point to Americans Elect actually strengthening the two-party duopoly they claim to oppose. Through failure, lack of transparency and ignorance of facilitating actual grassroots movement, their mark on the 2012 election could likely be the opposite of what many frustrated Americans would like to see happen.
Join the discussion Please be relevant and respectful.
Skepticism if fine, but if you have an idea that is better than Americans Elect, as a way out of the clearly unsatisfactory duopoly of Dems and Reps, then many of us would love to hear about it! There are certainly significant differences between the traditional methods and this new channel -- 1) the donors (whether wealthy folks or "little guys") are not telling the group who should be nominated; 2) those nominated don't have to already be anointed by the powerful; they can be "nobodies" who have good ideas and integrity (that actually appeals to a lot of us, are you surprised?) or just experienced public servants who "didn't make the cut" when the party leaders and big donors were deciding who could run; 3) the questions on which delegates will judge their candidates are actually being suggested by the delegates themselves, not by the media or some outside organization. Technically, AE has to register as a party, but if it doesn't walk like a duck, or sound like a duck, it isn't a duck (i.e. party).
Only thing I see here that is factually wrong is Americans Elect is not a party. It has ballot access and has been designated as a party in a few states that deem any line on the ballot as a political party, but the organization is very clearly not a political party. The designation in those few states is just a party on paper. They don't have any sort of party organizational footprint or apparatus. You debunk your own point near the end where you point out that they're just a ballot access effort. That is only a tiny fraction of what a party does, and all that Americans Elect is doing.
Their fundamental flaw is in messaging and lack of a measurable results focus. A few dozen of the most active volunteer leaders harped on them for several weeks, seeing that they don't seem to care that nobody is on track to get enough votes to be eligible for their primary... and they pushed back, banned some of us from their invite only group on Facebook, kept their heads in the sand and cried a river of excuses.
That being said, you also are twisting their words to mean something else entirely with your last point. If you did any sort of due diligence at all you'd know that what they mean by saying they'll spur innovation downticket (local and state) in the future is their ballot access efforts will enable people to run on their line across the country in 2014 and 2016 in most states, if not all (depends on how well their presidential candidate does, if they have one).
Americans Elect has had more
than 4,000 individuals donate to this revolutionary effort. The seed money came
from a group of about 50 individuals, and their contributions were made
in the form of loans, to be paid back through delegate contributions to
Americanselect.org. The goal is to have
no individual contribute more than 10,000 dollars to the effort. Those that have given large sums of money are
free to disclose themselves, but that is up to them. Many large donors have chosen not to disclose
because the hyper-partisan environment we live in would surely result in
political retribution. They also do not
want any candidates who have the courage to run for the Americans Elect ticket
to feel indebted in any way. The money
that these seed donors give to Americans Elect goes toward 50-state ballot
access and support of a process that gives all voters
I’m an Independent because both parties suck. I’ve commented many times on why America
needs a better system. Since we don’t
have “that better system” and we have to work with what we’ve got, I have this
observation to share. The Democrats had
control of the House and Senate from 2006 to 2010. How long will Democrats blame Bush? There has been no national budget for the
past too many years and the spending continues.
The two month tax avoidance bill is just another joke. Come on let’s admit our political
system is broken and our country is in trouble! The two political parties are so polarized
that Washington is paralyzed. Our
elected officials continue a vicious cycle of mindless partisanship, inaction
on crucial issues and unsustainable dysfunction.
Give yourself a break, this election, pick a
president, not a party! With Americans Elect, you define the issues, you choose
the candidates and you nominate your choice for president in 2012.
Check it out and let me know what you think… http://goo.gl/Wwe1e
Americans Elect is pioneering a new way to select candidates for public office, starting with the 2012 Presidential cycle. It is an outgrowth of Unity08 and earlier efforts to open up the electoral process and break the two party duopoly. As with any pioneering effort, there will be mistakes and miscalculations. That is part of the process. I believe that the Leadership Team at Americans Elect are sincere and want to see real change. It may take a few cycles.
INDEPENDENTS ATTACK AN OPPORTUNITY
Here’s an idea: lets sabotage an opportunity to break the grip of the two-party system on our election process. Then we Independents can remain outsiders and continue to have something to whine about. Otherwise, if we seized this opportunity, we could build a reform momentum that could liberate us from the oppressive mold and empower us as never before.
The Candidate Certification Committee is just a paragraph in the by-laws. Think about it – these guys are not going to spend $30M to get on the ballots in 50 states, and destroy their whole project of reform by doing something dictatorial, like over-ridding the membership’s majority vote for a candidate.
The AE process itself is fully transparent. So what if the rich guys who are paying all the bills want to remain anonymous? They are NOT controlling who the AE voters can vote for.
“Their approach is DC-centric, top-down, and reeks of corporate influences.” OMFG! This is a completely baseless unethical smear on an opportunity for the liberation and empowerment of Independents.
Kymberly, confess – you must have been paid by DNC/RNC funds to plant this shamelessly self-destructive article in IVN.
William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.Email: [email protected]
Author of Internet Voting Now!
This article overlooks the point that in many states, any voter is free to run in the Americans Elect primary for any partisan office. So in some states, Americans Elect is a vehicle to put independent-minded non-partisan people on the ballot in November, for any partisan office, not just president. Just because the people who founded Americans Elect are only interested in the organization running for President doesn't mean that they can stop individuals from running as Americans Elect candidates for other office.
Buddy Roemer is clearly the best public speaker of any candidate. I was a solid supporter and donor until he switched to Americans Elect. Then I became suspicious and did my homework to learn more about him.
In the first place, Americans elect is exactly the big money donors that Buddy rants against. They have set up a system that would allow them, secretly, from behind the curtain, not only to influence the president, but to pick him. They will not pick him unless he will do their bidding. To learn about it, go to irregulartimes.com and search for Americans Elect articles.
Buddy has a history of attacking corruption and big money influence and then grabbing it when he can. In 1991 he switched from Democrat to Republican because G. Bush and the Republicans offered to finance his re-election campaign as governor. See this website:
Buddy Roemer's talent as a speaker does not help him to accomplish anything once he has been elected. He was one of the worst governors in Louisiana history. He could not get along with people, put together a competent staff, or pass legislation. He loves campaigning but has no desire or ability to govern. To see Buddy's failing record look at this excellent history of LA's governors, pages 259-268:
Google: Louisiana Governors Cowan Buddy Roemer, often wrong
Then click on the first choice
That book states that Buddy went after the big donations of the Republican party in 1991 and then tried again to be re-elected in 1995 in a "lavishly-financed campaign."
As a congressman he was inept. He chaired no committees and did not author any significant legislation. His only accomplishment in Congress was that he won money at poker games. Yes, he was a convincing bluffer. See page 12 at http://www.hamiltonmixon.com/Ballad.pdf
When asked recently how he would open up communication in Washington as president, Roemer answered that he "would emphasize listening and working in a bipartisan way, through poker games." Incredible!!
A PPP poll of Louisiana voters, just released, shows that here in his own home state he has the worst rating of any candidate for president. Two out of three of the people who know him best have an unfavorable opinion of him. (28% favorable, 56% unfavorable). He is Louisiana's UNfavorite son. See http://race42012.com/2012/03/23/poll-watch-ppp-d-louisiana-2012-republican-primary-survey/
Most of the things Buddy says about his past are false. See this web page where he obtained a reputation in Louisiana for mendacity.
I do not think he would be a good president. I do not think he could be elected.
"if you build it, they will come" is not working as imagined for Americans Elect. Instead of seizing the opportunity to bypass the despised major party theatrics and democratically choose a bipartisan Presidential ticket via AE, voters have apparently decided that it is easier to suffer in the victim role, blaming one party or the other for their lack of representation. Registered voters have nothing to lose and everything to gain by joining and participating in the AE process.
I loved this typo:
" yet their leadership is compromised of individuals from these entities. " I think you meant comprised.
Please leave it in.
I am deeply suspicious of a party funded by hedge funds who want their their original contributions paid back to them. Perhaps it is more accurate to call such monies "investments" rather than contributions.
The Candidate Certification Committee appears as a paragraph in the
bylaws, therefor they are the rules of the organization. Take their
leadership's word that they "wouldn't do anything", or read the actual rules...they have every
right to override a popular vote. The process for overruling "Board
Decisions", also stipulated specifically in the by-laws, makes it nearly
impossible for Americans Elect participants to successfully appeal decisions.
Americans Elect is not fully transparent and the words on their website
are confusing. As a result, more people are becoming suspicious. I stand
behind what I wrote.
Your last sentence is the only "completely baseless unethical
smear" here. The intricacies of Americans Elect are under reported, which is
why IVN has run this story.
Excellent and important point, Richard. I don't think many folks know that opportunity exists.
AE should put that out. Can you mention a few states where folks can get their names on the AE ballot for other offices?
Dude, you are confused. Big donors are a problem in parties like the Dems (where Kym is a member) because they can influence policy and candidate selection. But in AE they CANNOT do that. Our political system will never get reformed as long our countrymen are so misinfoirmed as this article would do.
The rules of the process are spelled out. The AE process is having a hard enough time without having the donors break the rules willy nilly to pick the candidate (Roemer or anyone else). Roemer on his part will take $100 per donor. If the "big money" people behind AE choose to donate a $100 a person I am sure Roemer will accept it. I ask "so what?".
The biggest problem AE suffers from is the astonishing surrender of the American people in the arena of electoral democracy. No fire in the belly, too busy with Jersey Shores apparently.
Right on, Johnhain! We have got to wake up reform minded folks while the opportunity is still out there to do so.
"Death to the Two-Party System!" Support AE!
If the candidate selection system is fully transparent and democratic, why should anyone care who's picking up the $30M tab? Your suspicion is self-defeating and baseless.
If they thought they could be paid back their seed money they were dreaming, it is probably gone. For my part, hats off for trying. Too say otherwise is just too cynical.
"they have every right to override a popular vote" True, but not responsive to my point that it would be total suicide for them to do so - a complete waste of $30M. That's why they won't do it.
There is nothing "confusing" about signing up and clicking in support of the candidates. Nor is it confusing to see all the candidates are there FOR FREE. Yes, a primary election and all the candidates participate at no cost to themselves or to the AE members and voters.
You should be as transparent as AE's process, and tell your readers if you are a registered Dem (and, if so, make your bias against Independent interests known).
William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.Email: [email protected]
Author of Internet Voting Now!
"No fire in the belly" Come on AMERICA - throw off the yoke of the two-party system - lets live up to the American Love of Liberty through Self-government
Your if/then story doesn't apply here. Americans Elect is neither "fully transparent" nor democratic, and you're damn right we should care who's funding it.
Your belief in the sanctity and selflessness of hedge funds is touching and naive. Of course they want something in return.
And as the article pointed out, the AE Board of Directors can overrule choices made in their online elections. This is transparent?
This may sound like a joke, but it's actually true.
Americans Elect is sending out regular emails asking for donations from rank and file members... and the money is going to PAYING BACK MILLIONAIRES. Yet another stupid, and totally avoidable, mistake by AE staff.
No one outside of their organization has the authority to say what Americans Elect would or wouldn't do in that situation, what I wrote in the article is what they have the right to do.
It is confusing when you state on your website you are not a political party, and legally you are. It is confusing when you state on your website you are free from various interest groups, when your funding, Leadership and Board includes people from these same groups.
My IVN profile, clickable at the top of this page, clearly states I am a registered Democrat. In your original comment you accused me of having accepted payment for a story from a political party, which is a very serious ethical claim and which never occurred.
You really are one of the most dense people I've ever talked to.
AE is an ORGANIZATION, funded secretly, putting up an online primary. I hope their mission succeeds, but I also hope the organization is utterly destroyed and starts over from scratch as a fully transparent and actually focused organization with similar goals.
They're MUCH less transparent than a political party is.Their election is MUCH less transparent than a regular election is.Whether you want to take your head out of the sand or not, and whether you want to waste our time with your hot air, people don't trust organizations like this, and have every reason in the world to be reticent.If you think people shouldn't have a reason to worry about who is paying the bills, then you're either among the ridiculously out of touch fraction of the population that is stupid enough to believe that secret money in politics isn't a huge problem, or among the zealots who make exceptions for people they agree with - much like how democrats and republicans rally around their own when they get caught doing horrible things.
The AE PROCESS of selecting and nominating candidates is fully transparent. Its all done online. Candidates can self-select or be nominated by AE voters. Candidates appear before the voters FOR FREE. AE funders and leaders are not going to self-destruct by forcing in their own candidates. There is NO REASON to worry about who is paying the bills. If this opportunity for true democratic reform fails, it will be due to thoughtless paranoia.
It is not a political party with a ruling apparatus, just not that complex. It is the means to ballot access in all 50 states.
Come on over to hedge funds and Wall Streeters funding a deliberately opaque and utterly undemocratic "party" that pretends to be for the people but can override whatever they vote? Gosh no, I'll pass and look for a real grassroots party to support instead.
Do you think the two-party system will ever end 'too big to fail'? We who dispise Wall St have got to start somewhere, and AE is the best opportunity we have EVER had. Come over, bro!