“None of our funding comes from special interests or lobbyists.” — Americans Elect, July 2011
Special Interest. Noun. an individual, group, or corporation having a special interest in usually a particular part of the economy and receiving or seeking through political pressure special advantages from the government often to the detriment of the general welfare — usually used in plural — Merriam Webster Third New International Dictionary
Americans Elect is a corporation that has already obtained a 2012 presidential ballot line in states across the country. Like it or not, the Americans Elect corporate candidate for president will play a role in the presidential election next year.
Americans Elect has gained its ballot access thanks to an army of paid signature gatherers. Americans Elect owes a debt of gratitude to its funders for making its presidential ballot access possible.
Who are those funders? We largely don’t know, because after funneling $1.55 million of his own fortune into Americans Elect, Chair Peter Ackerman reclassified the enterprise as a 501c4 corporation, making its contributions and expenditures a secret. Thanks to the Citizens United supreme court ruling, Americans Elect has no legal obligation to disclose its source of funds. Despite requests, Americans Elect has refused to publish a list of the names of all the people who are propping up the presidential bid.
However, this week information about the sources of Americans Elect’s cash opened up a bit. The corporation’s campaign contribution collector, Piryx, quietly posted an incomplete list of those people who have given money to Americans Elect and have agreed to share their identity on Piryx’s “giving stream.” It’s an incomplete list, missing the names of people who wish to remain anonymous, but it’s good enough to test Americans Elect’s “no special interest money” pledge. If we can find any special interests in the Piryx “giving stream,” then Americans Elect’s claim will be debunked.
We’ve already found two special interest sources of money to Americans Elect:
1. $1.55 million contribution by Peter Ackerman, who is not only Chairman of Americans Elect but also a private wealth investor, a corporate takeover player, part owner of grocery corporation Fresh Direct, and owner in control of the marketing firm Emak Worldwide.
2. An undisclosed amount contributed by hedge fund operator Kirk Rostron.
This morning, we add a third special interest contributor to Americans Elect.
3. Jim Holbrook, who as CEO of the marketing firms Emak Worldwide, Neighbor and Upshot has special interests in the advancement of the marketing industry. More than this, though, Jim Holbrook is Chairman of the Promotion Marketing Association, a trade organization for the $750 Billion industry. The website of the Promotion Marketing Association makes it clear that it has special interests and is dedicated to pursuing those special interests in the spheres of American law and government. It has an entire section devoted to “Legal and Governmental Affairs”, with a publication entitled “PMA Legal Watch,” a “PMA International Law Book,” and an annual Marketing Law Conference. The PMA Bylaws stipulate explicitly that it is an organization dedicating to pursuing the interests of the promotion marketing industry:
The corporation is organized and shall be operated exclusively as the premier trade association for the principal purpose of advancing the interests, addressing the needs, and serving as the preeminent knowledge source for those companies and individuals that have a professional interest in and/or utilize integrated and promotion marketing, and assisting them in better serving the interests of their customers and/or consumers, including by achieving specific, measurable, brand-building goals.
The key elements of this mission are… d. To promote and protect the interests of those who use integrated and promotion marketing techniques; e. To monitor, communicate and encourage an understanding of the laws and regulations that apply to the use of integrated and promotional marketing techniques; … g. To cooperate with federal, state and local government authorities for the good of the consumer, the community and the integrated marketing industry;
… Section 7 – No member shall engage in any conduct that is prejudicial to the best interest of this Association…
Jim Holbrook may be a very nice person, but his multiple positions as a corporate leader and advocate in the marketing industry mark him as a representative of a special interest. If his contribution doesn’t qualify as a special interest source, it’s hard to imagine what would.
Americans Elect says it welcomes citizens’ questions. I am sending a question regarding this contribution to Americans Elect through its online form and through the e-mail address email@example.com. The question reads:
“Jim Holbrook is the CEO of three marketing corporations: Emak Worldwide, Upshot and Neighbor. He is also the Chairman of the Promotion Marketing Association, which describes itself explicitly as an interest advocacy trade group. Americans Elect has pledged that ‘None of our funding comes from special interests.’ If Americans Elect agrees that Jim Holbrook’s contribution is a special interest source, when will it return the contribution? If Americans Elect disagrees that Jim Holbrook’s contribution is a special interest source, then what is Americans Elect’s definition of ‘special interest’?”
If I receive a reply, I will post it here in the comments section. If you do not see notice of a reply from Americans Elect, it means that Americans Elect has not replied to my question.