On September 23, Americans Elect posted a new web page in which it declares itself to be a “nationwide grassroots movement” and promotes a video of Americans Elect activity in Portland, Oregon as a message that “explains Americans Elect clearly and simply.”
“Moderate,” meet “No Ideology.” “No Ideology,” meet “Moderate.”
The clear and simple message sent about Americans Elect in that video is sent in a voice-over by Patrick Preston as he declares, “Americans Elect would open up the selection process to anybody, the idea being to give political moderates a stronger voice.” If you don’t get the point, perhaps the on-screen title will drive it home for you:
That’s stating it pretty “Clearly and Simply”: Americans Elect “Wants a Moderate Candidate.” The funny thing is that elsewhere, Americans Elect says it has no ideology. If Americans Elect wants to nail down the consistency constituency, it’ll have to figure out whether it stands for an ideology-free vision of letting the people decide or an ideological allegiance to the moderate bloc.
A Nationwide Grassroots Movement of Paid Signature Gatherers?
In another odd aspect to its web page, Americans Elect calls that video “a small taste of the nationwide grassroots movement that’s currently underway.” What are the indications of an actual “grassroots movement that’s currently underway” in the state of Oregon?
We could look at Americans Elect’s own efforts to kick-start a “grassroots movement” in Oregon. Americans Elect has registered 94 Meetups across the country. To see them all, take the URL http://www.meetup.com/americans-elect-94/members/ and plug in any number from 1 to 94. You’ll notice that for the huge majority of meetups, there’s only one “citizen” signed up as a member, and that “citizen” is the Americans Elect corporation. That’s not grassroots. On some occasions, an Americans Elect Regional Director has signed up as an additional “citizen” member of meetups in each of the local meetups over a huge region of the country, such as the Southwest or New England. That’s not grassroots either. Very occasionally, an actual citizen or two who actually lives in the area has signed on to the meetup. That’s not a movement. In nearly all of the 94 meetups, no actual meetups that have occurred. That’s not a movement.
What about Oregon? Well, the video shows a very nice young woman advocating for Americans Elect in Portland Oregon, so you might forgivably conclude that there must be a “grassroots movement” for Americans Elect in Portland, Oregon. But there is no meetup at all for Americans Elect in Portland, Oregon’s largest city. Meetups for Americans Elect have been registered in the smaller Oregon cities of Eugene and Ashland, but there are no actual residents of Eugene who have signed up, and only one resident of Ashland who’s signed up. Looking at Americans Elect’s own means for organizing grassroots supporters, the “grassroots” part of the Oregon “movement” looks to be completely dead (with apologies to that one person in Ashland).
If there is no sign of an actual “grassroots movement” in Oregon, then what explains the “grassroots movement” video shot in Portland, Oregon? Well, it turns out that the only person involved in Americans Elect who is featured in the video is a signature gatherer.
Americans Elect has been paying its signature gatherers around the country. In a fundraising document Americans Elect kept away from the eyes of the general public, Americans Elect makes specific reference to paying for signature gatherers in Oregon:
The $4 per signature cost envisioned by Americans Elect for Oregon is the typical payout to Arno Political Consultants to wrangle subcontracted signature gatherers who are paid about $1 per signature, as the signature gatherer community has been noting. The Americans Elect money to pay Arno Political Consultants comes in turn from big contributions by hedge fund managers.
In short, it looks very much like the “grassroots” effort in that video is a corporate big money operation. There’s a word for faked “grassroots” backed up by big corporate money. That word is “Astroturf.” Americans Elect appears to be misrepresenting its corporate endeavor as a “grassroots movement.” Americans Elect appears to be astroturfing.