The 29 articles written to date at Irregular Times on the resurrection of Unity08 as Americans Elect are not intended as criticism. Rather, the information provided and questions raised within them are intended to raise the profile of this private corporation cum political party as it quietly works behind the scenes to nominate and elect its own President and Vice President of the United States of America. If Americans Elect’s activities are nefarious, then raising awareness of those activities should have the effect of countering it. But if Americans Elect operates with integrity, then writing about its activities will have the effect of promoting it. In either case, Americans who have a stake in the political system have a right to know about this group.
What do we know about Americans Elect?
Here’s what we know about Americans Elect to date:
- Americans Elect was born out of the ashes of the old Unity08, a failed attempt to field a split-ticket candidate for President of the United States in 2008. Americans Elect, briefly named the Unity12 Task Force, shared headquarters with Unity08 in offices a block from the White House.
- The group, a Section 527 political corporation, has very briefly announced its intentions: “In order for Americans to enjoy the governance they deserve, Americans Elect will organize an Internet-based convention to nominate a presidential ticket in 2012.”
- Unlike the old Unity08, Americans Elect has won the right in court to accept financial contributions of unlimited size from small numbers of donors.
- To date, Americans Elect has been completely funded by Peter Ackerman, a private capital investment executive who is Chairman of the Board of Americans Elect.
- Americans Elect filed corporate registrations in all 50 states in the summer of 2010.
- Americans Elect is a registered political party in the state of Nevada.
- To date, Americans Elect has paid Arno Political Consultants a quarter of a million dollars to gather the signatures necessary to put Americans Elect on the ballot for the 2012 presidential elections. APC senior associate Kellen Arno has been named as Secretary of Americans Elect.
- According to Americans Elect Communications Manager Nick Troiano, Americans Elect will make an official public launch some time in early 2011.
What don’t we know about Americans Elect?
Here’s what we don’t yet know about Americans Elect:
- Americans Elect declares its intention “to empower Americans to choose a viable presidential ticket that is responsive to the vast majority of citizens” by creating a system in which “every registered voter can become a delegate and decide who will run for and who will win the Americans Elect nomination.” But Americans Elect is also a corporation, the bylaws of which specify that all rights and powers are held by a Board of Directors, including the powers of the Board to police and discipline itself. We don’t know how Americans Elect plans to reconcile its grassroots democratic declaration with its top-down corporate organization.
- Americans Elect asserts that “every registered voter can become a delegate and decide who will run for and who will win the Americans Elect nomination,” but Americans Elect also asserts that the aim of this process is “to nominate a presidential ticket in 2012 that will bridge the vital center of American public opinion.” We don’t know what Americans Elect plans to do if participating citizens desire the nomination of a ticket that doesn’t match Americans Elect’s idea of “the vital center.”
- Americans Elect declares that “Our mission is not to create a permanent third party,” but Americans Elect is in fact registered as a political party. We don’t know how Americans Elect plans to reconcile its statement with its political party status.
Twothree Americans Elect staffers have used Facebook to simultaneously “like” Americans Elect and No Labels, a new pro-business political corporation launching in December 2010 without disclosing its funders. We don’t know what kind of relationship exists between Americans Elect and No Labels.
- Americans Elect says it “will organize an Internet-based convention” to nominate its party’s ticket. We don’t know how this Internet-based convention will be carried out without fraud, violations of privacy or conflicts of interest.
How Americans Elect Could Work
At this point, there are many unknowns, but if Americans Elect…
- erects a verifiable and enforceable firewall between its corporate leadership and election decision-making,
- allows American citizens to fully deliberate and democratically decide — without corporate censorship or procedural meddling — which contenders will be included in the process and which nominees are selected,
- conducts its business with transparency to the public,
- has the technical capability needed to run an election on the internet without fraud, privacy violations or conflicts of interest, and
- dissolves itself as a corporate entity after the 2012 elections,
… then I believe Americans Elect could be just what the American political system needs in 2012. Under these conditions, Americans could select contenders and choose from among them in a manner unimpeded by the same old party machine politics. We would get exactly the candidate that we were looking for… exactly the candidate, for better or for worse, that we deserve.
Yes, Americans Elect is at this point a rich man’s bauble fully under his funding and fully under his control. Yes, American history is rife with stories of rich men trying to use their money to purchase political offices and political influence. But occasionally rich men have launched efforts that serve the greater good rather than their own personal financial interests. Think of the thousands of Carnegie libraries, for instance. It’s possible that Peter Ackerman actually has the best interests of American democracy at heart and intends to make Americans Elect a democratic process. If he uses his considerable wealth to put the Americans Elect political party on the ballot across the country, and if he cedes full control of that party and its activities to the American people in a transparent and verifiably democratic fashion, and if he and his people can somehow invent an internet election that actually works, then the American people could have a more democratic, less oligarchic presidential election than we’ve ever had before.
There are a lot of ifs in that statement. Watch Americans Elect as it rolls out to see whether these possibilities become actualities. Does Americans Elect have the ability to carry its plan to fruition, or is it the task too difficult to pull off? Does the Americans Elect corporation make its operations and its nominating election transparent and fully democratic, or does the corporation keep its workings hidden and stack the deck to maintain control? When we have the answers to these questions, we will know whether Americans Elect is an unprecedented opportunity for the American people or just another in a long line of corporate scams.