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Americans Elect names new Leaders in Presidential effort, all Wealth Management Execs

In late July of 2011, a list of Americans Elect’s Board of Advisors was obtained by the Los Angeles Times (a searchable text copy of that list, annotated to include more biographical information, can be found here). On the last day of August 2011, Americans Elect posted a list of its leaders, most without specific titles, under the heading of “Leadership.”

Most of the newer Americans Elect Leadership list is the same as the older list of the Board of Advisors, but there are a few exceptions. Philip K. Howard, partner in a law firm specializing in corporate mergers and acquisitions, author of a book in favor of corporate deregulation, and New York City elite party circuit denizen, has disappeared from the Leader list. Five new people have taken Howard’s place on the list, and they are not a representative cross-section of American Society.

With one exception, I can’t tell you whether these people have given money to Americans Elect for the privilege of Americans Elect “Leadership” status; Americans Elect has refused to disclose the names of the people who are funding its political activities. But there is other rather relevant information about them that should be shared:

Melvin Andrews
Americans Elect donor
Founder and President of Lakeside Capital Partners

Gary Krisel
Former President, Walt Disney Animation
Executive of Lionel SDG Investments

Dale Mathias
Unity08 Advisory Council Member
Unity08 Donor through husband Edward J. Mathias (of the Carlyle Group, T. Rowe Price, Council on Foreign Relations and GOP Marketplace)
Founder and/or officer of four private equity funds
Member of Council on Foreign Relations
Appears in 6 articles of the DC Beltway social circle magazine Washington Life.

Mark Palmer
Unity08 Donor
Former Ambassador
Former Vice President of Enron for Public Relations
Member, Council on Foreign Relations
President, Capital Development Company LLC
Founder and Co-Owner, Central European Media Enterprises
Council Member, pro-military Center for a New American Security
Vice Chair of Freedom House organization under Chairman Peter Ackerman, the founder and Chairman of Americans Elect.

Peter Alan Rinfret
Chairman and CEO, Iris Wireless
President of Rinfret & Company and Rinfret Associates IPO, capital campaign and asset management corporation
Co-Chair, National Finance Committee for John McCain Campaign
Advisor to Republican members of Congress Orrin Hatch and Bill Archer

The backgrounds and interests of these people would not matter if Americans Elect took control over its presidential nomination from its own self-selected corporate leadership and handed it over to the American people in a democratic process. But according to Americans Elect bylaws, there are a number of ways in which Americans Elect leadership can intervene to filter out presidential candidates and steer the nominating process. Because Americans Elect leaders are in such strong control of the nomination, and because the outcome of that nomination affects us all, the identities and interests of those leaders are of central relevance.

11 comments to Americans Elect names new Leaders in Presidential effort, all Wealth Management Execs

  • Looking at the AE Conflict of Interest policy
    http://www.americanselect.org/official-documents
    If AE “is contemplating entering into a transaction or arrangement
    that might benefit the private interest of an officer or director of Americans Elect” that conflict will be disclosed only to the Board of directors, discussed only by the Board, and judged only by the Board. The potential conflict of interest and the Board’s decision will Not be disclosed to delegates (who are mentioned nowhere in the policy).

    • Why would Americans Elect purposefully write its bylaws so as to cover up conflicts of interest within its leadership?

      One explanation is that the very purpose of Americans Elect is to help its leaders exploit conflicts of interest.

      • Clarification: it’s a separate Conflict of Interest Policy — and it is just as empty as has been described above. According to the policy, it’s not even a conflict of interest unless the corporate board decides it is. Considering that the board is where the conflicts of interest are likely to show up, it’s… well, words actually fail me to describe how tooly that is.

        • Gordon

          As Conflict of Interest policies for 501(c)(4) corporations go, does this policy occur for you as atypical? How so, exactly?

        • As conflict of interest policies for efforts to arrange political elections in the United States of America go, this policy strikes me as unacceptable.

          As political elections in the United States of America go, I think expecting them to be run like corporations are is inconsistent with the idea of a transparent democracy.

  • Gordon

    Can you provide an example of a “conflict of interest policy for efforts to arrange political elections in the United States” which is acceptable to you.

    Alternatively, how would you modify the AE Conflict of Interest Policy to make it acceptable?

    • David Utzschneider

      i think it would be a mistake not to be maximally transparent about the private business arrangements of corporate officers. less than maximal transparency lessens the chance that this goes viral successfully imho.

    • 1. In a democracy, institutions that take on the mantle of running the democracy should be audited by an independent body for conflicts of interest. If they aren’t, it’s reasonable to ask whether we the people are really in charge.

      2. If the corporation running a democratic election wants to be taken seriously, there should be consequences for leaders, especially unelected and self-appointed leaders, who profit from the outcome of the decisions they make. These consequences should involve either recusal from decisions, reversal of decisions, or removal from the position.

      But enough about me. Let me turn your question back on you. How would you?

      • Gordon

        I agree. I believe “self-policing” has already been proven to be insufficient in terms of dealing with either the ocurrence of conflict of interest, or with resolving it when it occurs.

        So the important question for me vis a vis conflict of interest is, who is checking up on the Board?

        I would recommend that an independent auditor look at all the activities of the board (not restricted to conflict of interest issues), on a quarterly basis, and make a report to the Delegates.

  • William Busa

    In an effort to drive AE toward greater transparency and to ensure it does not fall under the power of special interests, several members of AE have just launched the AE Transparency & Conscience Caucus. Wish us luck!

  • Jack Goldman

    Kudos on the backgound disclosures for AE founders, all of them very rich and powerful. I don’t believe that their attempt to take elections out of the hands of political parties and give them to individuals will succeed for all the reasons cited in the articles they themselves allow to be published on their own website. Our current syustem is certainly flawed but the selection process being discussed by AE has potential for political chaos.

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