Editor’s note: the “Unity12 Task Force” has renamed itself Americans Elect for the 2012 election season, but the remainder of this article remains factual and relevant.
The four websites associated with the Unity12 Task Force — unity12.com, unity12taskforce.com, americanselect.org and unityforamerica.com — are currently placed in standby mode with no content on them. Neither the Unity12 corporation nor its leaders — corporate takeover artist Peter Ackerman, political consultant Kahlil Byrd, wealth management lawyer Thomas W. Richardson — have made any public statements. And yet in private the Unity12 Task Force has declared its intentions: to arrange for the selection and then the election of its own candidates for President and Vice President in 2012. Acting in private, the Unity12 Task Force is already putting its plan into motion.
According to its 2nd quarter 2010 financial disclosure, the Unity12 Task Force corporation spent $45,000 (nearly an eighth of its budget) over three months on fees for Arno Political Consultants of California. The purpose of this spending: “Ballot Access Services.” Arno Political Consultants describes its capabilities:
Since our founding in 1979, APC has collected more than 120 million signatures to qualify nearly 500 ballot initiatives in twenty states. We’ve conducted nearly 100 successful grassroots campaigns and used the power of the pen to help nations gain their independence. And we’ve helped corporations and associations defend their economic interests in political and regulatory battles.
When it comes to gathering signatures, we’ve made the “record book” many times:
The fewest days to qualify a measure for the California ballot – 700,000 signatures in 17 days
The fewest days to qualify a constitutional amendment to the California ballot – 1.1 million signatures in 28 days
Collection of 1.2 million signatures on two measures in 19 days
Collecting 1,000,000 signatures in Florida in 70 days
Collecting 200,000 signatures in Washington in 50 days despite battling rain, sleet and snow for 49 of those days
Qualifying a measure in Alaska in under three weeks in the midst of minus 40-degree weather and an exploding volcano
Qualifying four measures in two different states on a single day
What Arno Political Consultants doesn’t tell you is that it has a history of scandal in hiring itself out to gambling and tobacco corporate interests, anti-immigrant and anti-gay ballot efforts and the Republican Party.
This effort marks a turnabout in strategy from the 2008 election cycle. By this point in the election cycle last time around, Unity08 had already made a series of big, public splashy announcements declaring the corporation’s formation as a way of fighting off big money influence and lobbyists and soliciting the participation of Americans in its effort. Later on, Unity08 brought lobbyists into management, sued for the right to take big money, and cut off the participation rights of dissenters as it slowly retreated back into private. During this election cycle, the newly incorporated Unity12 has avoided claims about avoiding big money or lobbyists, has refrained from asking the public to do anything, has collected all of its hundreds of thousands of dollars in seed money from just one donor, and is quietly going about the business of getting on the ballot before it utters one word to the American public.
Will the quiet-and-private-first approach work for the Unity12 Task Force this time around? Wait and see.