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Americans Elect: Who Are the Wizards Behind the Curtain?

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I have watched the growth of Americans Elect, the online movement to become a third party and secure a place on all 50 state ballots for the Presidential candidate they will select. This week David Gregory, moderator of Meet the Press, gave them airtime on his other program Press Pass. CEO Kahlil Byrd and COO Elliott L. Ackerman (son of the initial funder), reported that more than 2 million people have signed on to petitions to get Americans Elect on ballots across the nation. They said that by the end of the year they hope to have a ballot position in California. What was interesting is that they continue to claim they aren't a political party and yet they are defined as such on most of the State ballots to which they have achieved access.

My concern with Americans Elect is more basic. In some ways they may be perpetrating a scam on the American public. Many people recently fought for a federal Consumer Protection Agency, which the Republicans don't want to fund, and did it because so many consumers don't read the small print when they buy something. I think this may be true of the more than two million people who have signed up to support Americans Elect. Most of them didn't read the small print or understand what they are supporting.

On the website you are welcomed by the bold statement "Ultimately, Americans Elect is the first nominating process that will be led directly by voters like YOU". At first glance this seems very exciting and clearly meant to appeal to so many who are frustrated with the gridlock in Washington and feel they don't have the chance to influence their government. They may be upset because the rich are getting richer while the poor and middle class are suffering. So the brains behind Americans Elect positioned themselves as a movement 'of the people, by the people and for the people'. They want to convince the average American that by supporting Americans Elect they will have a say in their government and will be given a chance to vote for and place a candidate, other than the ones that will be put forward by the Democratic and Republican Party, on ballots across the nation. It is pitched like many online efforts as a grassroots effort that just percolated up from the people.

However a closer look at Americans Elect tells a different story and one that can't be found on the website. There is no access to a complete list of who is funding the organization and during their appearance on Press Pass the two Board members of Americans Elect reconfirmed that their funders can remain anonymous.

To find out a little more about why that is I read Jim Cook's columns on the Irregular Times website. Americans Elect appears to be funded by a few very wealthy individuals who make up what the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) demonstrators would call the 1%.

The initial funding and idea for the organization apparently came from Peter Ackerman
(Rockport Capital Wealth Investment) who then installed his son Elliott as COO. He has put in well over $1 ½ million and to date we are told the group has raised over $20 million, mostly from a small group of very wealthy anonymous donors who the website says they hope to pay back some day. Americans Elect was first organized as a 527, a type of organization which would have had to report who their donors are. It has now been reorganized as a 501(c)4 where conveniently their donors are allowed to remain anonymous.

A look at the 'Leadership' of the organization which is posted on the website gives a clue to the kind of wealthy and influential people who are pushing this effort. They include Carla and Roderick Hills, Ambassador Mark Palmer, Arturo and Hilda Brillembourg, Doug Schoen, Mark McKinnon and Christie Todd Whitman among others. None of them your average man or woman on the street! They instead are a group of individuals with corporate interests and/or intimate involvement in politics and the political sphere who appear to have lost their influence in the Democratic and Republican Party and now think they can influence the political system and regain their clout through Americans Elect.

One thing people should know before signing up is who actually will control the nomination of the candidates they hope to put forth. A first step would be to read the bylaws which are not posted on the website. I had to go to the Irregular Times where Jim Cook painstakingly retyped the organization's bylaws from the package they submitted to the State of Florida when they filed to get on the ballot there. They are available on the Irregular Times website http://irregulartimes.com/index.php/full-text-of-americans-elect-bylaws-as-amended-november-18-2011/. The bylaws lean heavily to the organization being totally controlled by the Board of Directors and not by the average Americans who are signing onto the website.

The public perception they are cultivating is that the decisions as to who the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidate for this new party are will be made by the delegates that sign up. Cook points out where the group's bylaws appear to contradict that. He cites examples of how the group's Board of Directors will make all the decisions and how the 'delegates' that sign up at Americans Elect to choose the candidates will have to muster huge numbers to overturn any decision made by the corporation's Board of Directors. The Board, which appoints and controls the organizations committees, will have the right to kick out any nominated presidential candidate the corporation deems unsuited for nomination. Cook also points to general clauses that grant the organization the right to prevent the public (those average Americans signing up to support Americans Elect) from obtaining a result that the corporation finds inappropriate. Delegates are asked to sign a loyalty pledge saying they will support Americans Elect and not disparage any other delegate, which includes the corporate leaders, who all have delegate status. It appears that violation of this policy is punishable by expulsion and disenfranchisement. Not even our two major political parties, as bad as they may sometimes appear, would dare try to maintain such control over their delegates.

Americans Elect might be a good idea if it were operated in an open and transparent fashion. But this is not the case and I would suggest that people be very wary before lending their name to be used by this group of wealthy individuals in what looks like a grab for power.