As I noted yesterday, the political group Unity08 has reformed for the 2012 presidential election season as a Section 527 corporation named the Unity12 Task Force. The stated goal of this new corporation is to arrange for the nomination of its own presidential ticket. This ticket is to consist either of members of two parties together as President and Vice President, or with a presidential candidate who will (like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and Barack Obama already have) bring members of more than one political party into his or her cabinet.
Two features make the Unity12 Task Force different from Unity08.
1. Message and Money.
First, Unity08 was hampered by an early commitment to center its process around 10 million participants who would power the organization through small donations. Accompanying that commitment were firm statements by Unity08’s cofounders about the corrupting effect of big money in politics. When supporters of Unity08 failed to materialize in large numbers, Unity08 shifted strategy. The Unity08 corporation began soliciting large donations and loans from lobbyists, investment bankers and hedge fund managers, and filed a lawsuit trying to remove dollar limits from those donations and loans. But this shift opened the corporation up to charges of hypocrisy.
As a new corporation, the Unity12 Task Force will have no apparent history of criticizing large-dollar donations and loans. And since it won its lawsuit as Unity08 against the Federal Election Commission, the Unity12 Task Force will be free from FEC limits on the size of contributions and loans to it.
2. New Leadership.
Second, the Unity12 Task Force has apparently ditched the old leadership team that brought Unity08 so much of its grief. While Unity08 cofounders Douglas Bailey and Gerald Rafshoon had usefully extensive connections to print and broadcast media, they also made claims and promises for Unity08 at odds with its practices (see above). In its first filing with the IRS, the Unity12 Task Force kept Unity08’s old address one block away from the White House but declared new corporate leadership:
Chairman Peter Ackerman
Peter Ackerman, co-chair of the Unity08 Rules Committee that never got around to issuing a final set of rules, is the head of the new Unity12 Task Force. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations with a history of corporate leadership at wealth investment firm Rockport Capital and junk bond firm Drexel Burnham Lambert. According to BusinessWeek, Ackerman is currently managing director of the Crown Capital Group, another investment firm specializing in leveraged buyouts. Ackerman is a past member of the Board of Directors of the Cato Institute and a project advisor to the Cato Institute’s “Project on Social Security Choice,” an effort to privatize Social Security and turn management of Social Security funds over to Wall Street investment firm managers.
Chief Operating Officer Kahlil J. Byrd
Kahlil Byrd, a graduate of Morehouse College and Harvard University, is also a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. A past appointments director for Democratic Governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick, Byrd left that position to work on the campaign of Republican Senate candidate Jeff Beatty. He runs Sung Media Ventures, a Boston political consulting firm. He is also Senior Associate for Global Communications at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. In the past year, Byrd has contributed to the campaigns of Republican congressional candidate Michael Allegretti and Republican candidate for Massachusetts Governor Charles D. Baker. Byrd is the director for the Rhode Island gubernatorial campaign of Moderate Party leader (and past contributor to Republican Lincoln Chafee) Ken Block.
Director Thomas W. Richardson
Thomas W. Richardson is a partner at the Washington, DC law firm Arnold & Porter, LLP where he specializes in wealth-transfer strategies for the Americans with sizeable estates. Arnold & Porter LLP lobbied the federal government for 30 corporate clients in the year 2009.
In their work to get their candidate for President of the United States elected, whose interests will they represent?