The Quiet Americans Elect

There is one word that seems to pop up in virtually every discussion of the new political organization Americans Elect, which is seeking to obtain ballot access for an alternative to the candidates of the Democratic and Republican parties in the 2012 presidential election.  That word is 'quiet'.  Nearly two months ago, I wrote at CAIVN:
In recent months, Americans Elect has quietly begun an ambitious campaign to gain ballot access in all 50 states ahead of next year’s presidential election.  The party has already submitted petitions in Nevada, Arizona, Michigan, Alaska, and Florida, according to reports at Ballot Access News. [Emphasis added.]
Over the weekend a pair of new articles on the group appeared in the New York Times and The Daily Beast.  From Thomas Friedman:
Thanks to a quiet political start-up that is now ready to show its hand, a viable, centrist, third presidential ticket, elected by an Internet convention, is going to emerge in 2012.  [Emphasis added.]
From John Avlon:
Imagine what our election system might look like if it were designed today . . . That’s the idealist vision driving a new group, Americans Elect, which has quietly collected enough signatures to secure a 2012 ballot line in eight states, including Arizona, Michigan, and Missouri. They will soon submit an unprecedented 1.6 million signatures in California. [Emphasis added.]
From Micah Sifry at Tech President:
Since last year, Americans Elect, a non-profit 501c4 organization led by investor and activist Peter Ackerman, has been quietly laying the foundation for a 2012 Internet-based political convention to pick a "centrist" ticket that will, if all goes to plan, get on all fifty state ballots and compete in a serious way with Barack Obama and whomever the GOP nominates next year.  [Emphasis added.]
This quietude has apparently been facilitated in no small part by columnists like Avlon and Friedman who have been closely following the group's progress for months, but have uttered few words in public about it, in respect for its media strategy, which Sifry confirms.  Sifry writes: "Until now, I've honored their request to abide by a press embargo and not write about Americans Elect until it was ready to go public."  Critics of the secretive organization, on the other hand, are less prone to play along with its media strategy.  From yesterday's column at CAIVN:
While commentators for mainstream, corporate news outlets such as Friedman and Avlon have been quietly following the development of this organization for months, with both coincidentally releasing their positive assessments of the group in recent days, others have been investigating it openly and with a critical eye.  Chief among them is Jim Cook of Irregular Times.

After analyzing an incomplete list of donors to Americans Elect that was recently published by its campaign contribution collector, Cook concludes that the group has already violated its pledge to avoid accepting any “special interest money.” One donor, Jim Holbrooke, for instance, is the CEO of a marketing firm and the chairman of the Promotion Marketing Association, which is dedicated to pursuing the interests of the promotion marketing industry, reports Cook.

In a separate analysis, Cook takes a close look at American Elect’s corporate bylaws, which are not made freely available by the organization, but have been published by states where it has already qualified for ballot access.  He finds that they do not provide for a grassroots political structure, but rather a four-tiered “political caste system” that runs from the board of directors, to officers and employees, and finally to members and delegates.  One provision in the bylaws indicates that “the Board of Directors may act in a manner that overrules any other provision of the bylaws,” writes Cook, essentially providing them with the power to effectively overrule any act by the organization’s actual delegates.
Read the rest.  For another critical view, and a more detailed look at the structure and organization of Americans Elect, be sure to read Sifry's article in its entirety.  He writes:
Unfortunately, I have severe doubts about the prospects of Americans Elect being that party. Why? First, because it isn't being transparent about its funding. Second, because control of the party isn't genuinely vested in its members. Third, because it's not being truthful with the public about its political agenda. Instead, I think Americans Elect could actually be a devilishly brilliant leveraged buyout of our broken electoral system that could have the perverse effect of reinforcing the same brain-dead politics we already have.

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