Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
The other day I saw this report posted at the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) Americans Elect becomes recognized political party in Arizona:
The Americans Elect Party doesn’t have a platform or philosophy, but it will be an officially recognized party on Arizona ballots in 2012.
The Washington, D.C.-based party submitted 27,288 valid signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office on Monday, enough to join the Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and Greens as a recognized party in Arizona. Americans Elect will be represented on an official party ballot in the 2012 primary and its candidates will be eligible for the general election ballot.
Americans Elect doesn’t actually have a political philosophy or platform. According to the party’s website, it is “the first-ever open nominating process” for a presidential race. The party’s goal is to secure ballot access in all 50 states and hold an online convention in 2012 in which registered voters of any party can become delegates to nominate presidential and vice presidential candidates that will compete with the Republican and Democratic tickets.
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“We are not a traditional third part of political party of any sort. We have no candidates, issues or ideology of our own.”
If all this sounds as hinky to you as it did to me, you probably have done a little research into who exaclty is behind this mystery political party with no issues, no philosophy, no platform and no candidates. Research our Arizona political media entirely failed to do in reporting on this new "political party."
Greg Lucas reports at Capitol Weekly: Americans Elect: A new political party that isn’t:
Americans Elect, which became a 501(c) 4 corporation in September, can be as secretive as it wishes. As a 501(c) 4 it is not required to report who its contributors are. However, prior to becoming a 501(c) 4, the group was required to divulge it's sources of income.
In the second and third quarters of 2010, Americans Elect’s more than $1.5 million in funding came from one person – Peter Ackerman, managing director of Rockport Capital, a former principal at Drexel Burnham during Michael Milken’s tenure there and the founder of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.
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Although Ackerman appears not to have one, Byrd’s Facebook page has links to the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, the Council on Foreign Relations and Americans Elect.
Previously, Ackerman was a member of the board of directors of a group called Unity08, an abortive effort to query voters as to the most important issues facing the country, have candidates respond to those issues and, a la Americans Elect, then nominate – via the Internet – a bipartisan alternative to the Democratic and Republican presidential tickets.
Unity08 collapsed because of lack of funding. Two of its founders attempted to launch a national effort to draft New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to run for president.
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Americans Elect denies being a “stalking horse” for any candidate.
Whether Americans Elect is a “stalking horse” or not, as a non-profit corporation the group can only engage in education. No politics.
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Those factors are likely reasons why Americans Elect does not have a platform nor does it endorse a particular candidate for president.
Nevertheless, the group is seeking ballot access as a “political party.”
As Americans Elect envisions the process, its candidates will be nominated only after they “completely answer” a “Platform of Questions,” formulated by “delegates” to Americans Elect’s convention.
Delegates at the convention can sign-up beginning in July 2011, the website says. The opportunity to be a delegate is open to any registered voter in the country regardless of party affiliation.
A statement by the group lists as contact person Kellen Arno, who can be reached at Arno Political Consultants.
I think Secretary of State Ken Bennett has to answer some questions. How is it that a 501(c)(4) which cannot engage in politics is a political party? How can a 501(c)(4) which cannot engage in politics place candidates on the ballot? How does a 501(c)(4) which is not required to disclose its contributors comply with Federal Election Commission disclosure rules and state of Arizona disclosure rules for campaign contributions in support of a candidate? And how does this not violate its 501(c)(4) tax status?
Jim Cook of Maine, who operates a website called Irregular Times which describes itself as a “cornucopia of irregular ideas and pictures scrawled across the page from a left-of-center perspective,” provides the most scrutiny of Americans Elect, posting their 2010 quarterly filings before the group became a 501(c) 4 and detailing the link between Ackerman and Unity08. [Lucas has a summary at Capitol Weekly: Americans Elect: A new political party that isn’t].
Irregular Times has posted a whole series of investigative reports on Americans Elect here. Americans Elect | Irregular Times. Some of the reports which may interest you:
Dave Weigel writing at Slate, buried in a post on another topic, has this to say about Americans Elect. Weigel:
[Thomas] Friedman swung his endorsement behind Americans Elect, the latest effort ("financed with some serious hedge-fund money") to use the Internet to create a centrist third party focused on problem-solving.
First, anyone interested in becoming a delegate goes to the Americans Elect Web site and registers. As part of that process, you will be asked to fill in a questionnaire about your political priorities: education, foreign policy, the economy, etc. This enables Americans Elect to put you in contact with others who share your views so you can discuss them and organize together. Then you will be invited to draft a candidate or support one who has already been drafted and to contribute to the list of questions that anyone running on the Americans Elect platform will have to answer on the site.
I wasn't surprised to read this from Friedman. At the Aspen Ideas Festival, I'd heard him muse, to an audience of the sort of people who wouldn't laugh at "Americans Elect," that Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles should consumate their partnership as a presidential ticket. But how can a sophisticated political analyst buy into this? How do you look at the way Washington is actually organized, with multiple legislative veto points that can cripple or kill legislation, and say "we could fix this if a third party won the presidency"?
John Avlon at The Daily Beast has more. Americans Elect: Will an Internet Presidential Race Become 2012’s Spoiler? "The ballot position[s] they’re securing isn’t for a specific platform, person, or ideology, but rather an entirely new way to elect a president. As Elliot Ackerman, the group’s chief operating officer, explains it, 'This isn’t a third party—it’s a second process.'"
What it is NOT is a political party. This 501(c)(4) is merely using an Internet poll of "delegates" who sign up at their web site to endorse candidates. Since a 501(c)(4) cannot engage in politics (endorse candidates) but only education, this would appear to violate its tax status.
Moreover, since Americans Elect is not running its own candidates but rather endorsing candidates of other political parties, having that candidate's name appear twice on the ballot under two different political parties unnecessarily creates ballot confusion. Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett has a lot of questions that he needs to answer about this.
I would encourage actual political parties to challenge Americans Elect designation as a political party. Let's get these legal issues aired out now.