Earlier this week, the privately funded political group Americans Elect scored a spot on the California ballot in the 2012 presidential election by submitting the signatures of over one million registered voters.
California is the twelfth state--including crucial swing states like Ohio, Florida and Nevada--to give the organization a place on the ballot. The group expects to eventually have its candidate listed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
"It is clear that voters are receptive to more choices, more competition, and the reason is that the Democratic and Republican officeholders are not meeting their needs," Darry Sragow, a longtime California Democratic strategist now advising Americans Elect, told the Los Angeles Times.
The candidate for the new political party will be selected though a vote on its website sometime between April and June of next year; however, it's unclear from which side of the political spectrum he or she will be drawn.
Presently, only former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer (who also briefly flirted with seeking the Republican nomination until lackluster fundraising and virtually nonexistent name recognition ultimately did him in) is the sole candidate to have declared his intention to seek the Americans Elect nomination.
There is also some energy on the site going towards libertarian iconoclast Ron Paul, who is currently polling near the top of the race for the Republican nomination, as well as former GOP Utah governor John Huntsman. Reality TV star Donald Trump has also mused publicly about the possibility of throwing his has into Americans Elect's ring.
The organization ideally hopes to nominate a centrist, such as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who would be able to draw voters from both sides of the ideological divide.
The chairman and most public face of Americans Elect is wealthy financier Peter Ackerman, who was the number two for infamous junk-bond kingpin Michael Milken at Drexel Burnham Lambert in the 1980s and previously served on the board of directors for the influential conservative think tank The Cato Institute.
In addition to Ackerman, the organization's senior leadership is largely comprised of Washington insiders like former National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, former New Jersey Governor and Environmental Protection Agency head Christine Todd Whitman and George W. Bush strategist Mark McKinnon.
While Ackerman has given Americans Elect some $5.5 million, other donors to the organization have been kept secret. "This is not popular in the Democratic of Republican parties," Elliot Ackerman, Peter's son and the group's chief operating officer told the Sacramento Bee. Ackerman argued that Americans Elect's backers shouldn't be made public or else they would likely face recriminations from the political elites of both parties.
Americans Elect's secretive funding model isn't the only reason some political observers remain weary of the group. Time Magazine reports:
Skeptics are also wary of the powers the group has reserved for itself. The group's bylaws entrust an appointed group of advisers -- known as the "candidate certification committee" -- with deciding whether candidates who don't automatically qualify for inclusion on the ballot are eligible for nomination. The committee's decision can be vetoed by two-thirds of Americans Elect delegates, but the structure has sparked complaints that it's sinister -- "uberdemocracy meets back-room bosses," as Obama strategist David Axelrod put it to reporters on Dec. 13.
Americans Elect hopes to officially be on the ballot in 30 states by the end of the year.
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