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Americans Elect Leadership: Patron, Paid, Silent Partner

Shortly after the Labor Day break in the first weekend of September, I expect the group Americans Elect (which plans to elect its own President of the United States in a mysterious but well-funded fashion) to announce itself publicly. If the experience of predecessor Unity08 is any indication, it will be a strong public relations effort, backed by a number of carefully-chosen, high-profile editorials centered around the findings of an Ipsos-Reid poll the group commissioned in May of this year when it called itself Unity12.

Only three figures in the Americans Elect corporate structure are publicly known as of today. They have given themselves a number of titles of corporate leadership but apart from those names have three distinct positions in Americans Elect. The declarations they make in public should be considered in the context of those positions.

1. Peter Ackerman, Chairman, President and Director of Americans Elect: Patron. Ackerman, a private investment firm executive, is (as of the most recently released IRS disclosure) the sole and total funder of Americans Elect. Ackerman’s gift of $400,000.00 to Americans Elect in the 2nd quarter of 2010 has made the corporation entirely dependent upon Ackerman in carrying out its political activity, which includes polling, corporate registration in all 50 states, ballot access work, multiple consulting relationships and apparently unsuccessful fundraising efforts. When the Americans Elect public relations wave hits you, ask yourself whether its content is affected by the dependent nature of this relationship.

2. Kahlil Byrd, Chief Operating Officer, Secretary, Treasurer, Custodian of Records, Consultant and Director: Payee. Kahlil Byrd is a political consultant who worked for Democratic Governor Deval Patrick before jumping ship to work for Massachusetts Republicans running for Governor and the U.S. Senate. Byrd is also the founder and chief and reportedly sole employee of Sung Media Ventures, a political consultancy shop. In addition to paying Kahlil Byrd for his airfare and other travel expenses, Americans Elect is paying Sung Media Ventures $12,500.00 a month (an annual rate of $150,000.00 a year) for “Management Consulting” services. When you see Kahlil Byrd’s face this fall on television, in newspapers and on YouTube, ask yourself about the relationship between the words he says and the check he receives.

3. Thomas Richardson, Director: Silent Partner. Other than a brief biography at lobbyist and law firm Arnold Porter LLP, Thomas Richardson maintains no public presence. Ask yourself what stake Richardson has in Americans Elect, and whether you will see Richardson’s face at all.

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