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Updated Fact Check on Donors to Americans Elect

Last month, I considered the claim made by Americans Elect that “None of our funding comes from corporate, labor, special interest, foreign, or lobbyist sources.” This matters, not least because Americans Elect explicitly makes the claim on its own website. The claim also matters because Americans Elect wants to be the first 501c4 corporation in American history to elect a President and Vice President of the United States. That makes the question of who’s behind Americans Elect the public’s business.

To recap last month’s findings, it turns out that Americans Elect President, Chairman and Director Peter Ackerman is the only donor to Americans Elect whose identity the corporation has revealed (to the tune of $1.55 million, and possibly more in unrevealed amounts). According to public records, Ackerman has significant ownership stakes and leadership positions in food retail, distribution, marketing, and private investment corporations. These are special interests, and they are also corporate interests. Ackerman’s donations and his leadership of Americans Elect are tied to corporate special interests. No further information is available on Americans Elect’s donors and their possible ties to corporations and special interests, since Americans Elect stopped disclosing the identity of its donors in October 2010. Only Americans Elect knows who its further donors are.

It’s time to update that information. Yesterday, Americans Elect rolled out a new website, at which it solicits further monetary donations with a checkbox to be clicked:

I want to publish my name to the Americans Elect — Make Your Vote Count giving stream! (Note: your contribution amount will not be shown)

This donations form reveals two pieces of information. Unless Americans Elect repudiates its new campaign finance system, Americans Elect will only reveal the names of its funders who want to have their names revealed. Funders who want to keep their identities a secret from the public will be able to do so. In addition, contribution amounts will not be shown, even though a $10 million investment from Wall Street is quite different than a $10 donation from Waukegon.

In short, unless Americans Elect changes its ways, there will be no way for you, the American public, to check the facts of the funding for this White House bid. There will be no way for you to verify that Americans Elect’s claims about its independence are true.

You can rail all you like about the evils of the Republican and Democratic Parties, and that railing may be justified. But the simple fact is that you can find out exactly who is funding the Republicans and the Democrats. On transparency, Americans Elect is not a step forward — it is a step backward.

Update, July 26 2011: A check of the Americans Elect website reveals that it has revamped its donations page, on which it no longer even asks if people would like to have their donation be publicly disclosed on Piryx. There is no longer any mention of disclosure at all.

4 comments to Updated Fact Check on Donors to Americans Elect

  • Theodore F Vides

    I read Tom Friedman’s column today and got me to look around about these folks. The idea is great but, besides who’s behind it, we should know how the elector data collected will be used, and the proper oversight of activities. All perfectly transparent. We don’t want to jump from the pan to the fire, do we?

    Thanks for your effort

  • Graham Paul

    I did the same as Mr. Vides reports in his comment: Heard about American Elect first in Friedman’s column, thought is sounded intriguing (in spite of the unfortunate name, which seems to me to connote “the elect” rather than the act of voting), wondered who was funding this effort, and ended up here (for now). Deeply skeptical. Disappointed.

  • Geoffrey Withington

    I also read Friedman’s NYT’s article and I thought with him reporting this put the seal of approval on the organization. I, therefore, went and tried to sign up and they asked for a new password and it wouldn’t accept any of my attempts. I love the idea, however, with a couple of things I have read since failing to sign in I am questioning its authenticity. Conceivably, it could be the enemy writing these comments, however, I’d like some kind of comments of respectability.

  • I treat everything Friedman writes skeptically so it was no difference with this. Finding this article makes that instinct stronger.

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