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Americans Elect Form 990 Shows Peter Ackerman in Firm Control from the Start

There are many interesting details to note in Americans Elect‘s Form 990 for 2010, a form which after six months of delay has finally been made available. You can read it here.

The detail I’d like to note this morning is the distribution of power among the three Directors of Americans Elect in 2010, the year that Peter Ackerman resurrected Americans Elect from the ashes of Unity08 and placed it in his private top-floor suite of offices on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC.

Of those three directors, only Americans Elect Chairman Peter Ackerman is a known monetary contributor to Americans Elect. In fact, until Americans Elect converted itself from a Section 527 organization into a 501c4 corporation so that it could hide the identity of its contributors, Peter Ackerman was the Alpha and the Omega of Americans Elect’s budget, its sole funder.

One of the other two directors is Kahlil Byrd. In 2010, Kahlil Byrd was an employee of Americans Elect, receiving money in two forms. Byrd was paid $141,125 directly, and $132,500 through Sung Media Ventures, a political consulting shop of which Kahlil Byrd is the owner. Officially, Kahlil Byrd received that all money from Americans Elect itself. Practically speaking, Kahlil Byrd got his money from Peter Ackerman. This makes Kahlil Byrd a dependent of Peter Ackerman, not an independent actor.

The other director, Thomas Richardson, is a lawyer with no record of political interest. Form 990 reports that “Peter Ackerman and Thomas Richardson have a business relationship.” Richardson is listed as putting only 5 hours of work a week into Americans Elect; Ackerman is listed as putting in 45 hours a week, and Byrd 50 hours a week.

In 2010, Peter Ackerman, Kahlil Byrd and Thomas Richardson formed the leadership of Americans Elect, this corporation that wants to elect a President. Thomas Richardson was a business associate and lawyer. Kahlil Byrd was an employee. Peter Ackerman held the money and was the sole independent player behind this unique political effort for all of 2010.

To learn more about Peter Ackerman, read this thread of articles.

7 comments to Americans Elect Form 990 Shows Peter Ackerman in Firm Control from the Start

  • Bill

    Although Americans Elect Corporation has significantly expanded its Board of Directors since the period the 2010 Form 990 filing reports on, it remains the case that Ackerman remains firmly in control today, having stacked the Board with a majority of individuals who are in subservient business and financial relationships with him. According to Americans Elect Corporation’s “Who We Are” web page, the current Board comprises nine individuals (including Ackerman), four of whom are directly or indirectly dependent upon Ackerman for their jobs, including Kahlil Byrd (CEO of Americans Elect Corporation), Joshua Levine (CTO of Americans Elect Corporation), Wendy Drake (Chief Leadership Officer of Americans Elect Corporation), and Stephen W. Bosworth (Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University — subservient to Ackerman because Ackerman serves on The Fletcher School’s Board of Overseers, where it would not be unreasonable to guess that he is also a major donor).

    So, on the nine-member AE Board of Directors, Ackerman has 4 fellow Directors whose rice bowls are in his hands. Americans Elect remains Peter Ackerman Inc.

  • Bill

    Ooh, no wait, I’ve got it: Ackerman Elects!

  • Lee Mortimer

    This is not to take issue with the details you are reporting, but one or two additional details might give the readers a more complete picture. Americans Elect is conducting a “nominating process” to select candidates who will compete in the November 2012 presidential election. Those candidates will be governed by the same regulations as all other candidates in the election.

    Once a ticket is nominated, Americans Elect will have no further role in the campaign and will effectively cease to exist. The AE-nominated candidates will be on their own and can receive no funding or anything of material value from the Americans Elect organization. Peter Ackerman, as an individual, will not be able to contribute any more to his preferred candidates than anyone else can contribute to theirs.

    Not even Ackerman has any expectation that the AE-nominated ticket will win the election. But it will be an additional choice on the ballot, and the voters will be able to make their choice accordingly.

    • Bill

      Lee, the only exception I might make here is that all of what you’re saying are what in business we would call “forward-looking statements”…what might happen, or has been stated to be what is intended to happen. At present we have no factual basis upon which to be certain that (1) “Americans Elect will have no further role in the campaign,” or that AE (2) “will effectively cease to exist” or that the nominated candidate (3) “can receive no funding or anything of material value from the Americans Elect organization”, or that (4) “Peter Ackerman, as an individual, will not be able to contribute any more to his preferred candidates than anyone else can contribute to theirs.” I will grant you that most of these are things which AE, or AE personnel, have either stated or intimated at one time or another, but AE is always, of course, free to change its mind (by a vote of the Ackerman-controlled bloc of AE Directors) at any time. For example, re: point 1, AE has already switched from a 527 to a 501(c)(4); after the nomination it might perfectly well decide to switch back to a 527, in which case it could directly or indirectly financially support its candidates. Re: point 2, AE may or may not elect to cease to exist as a corporate entity, and even if it does the past history of Unity08 morphing into Unity12 morphing into Ackerman Elects makes this something of a distinction without a difference. Re point 3, again, if AE elects to change status again and become a 527, or some other type of entity (for example, a political party) it could certainly support its candidate. Re point 4, Peter Ackerman as an individual is perfectly capable of starting another 527 to which he could donate unlimited sums to indirectly support AE’s candidate. Ackerman has a lot of smart attorneys, and he has down through the years demonstrated considerable agility at creating whatever sort of legal entity he needs in order to advance his personal goals. My point is just that we have no factual basis to believe he wouldn’t do it again in order to promote his choice of candidate.

  • Lee Mortimer

    Bill, The reasons I say AE will have no further role in the campaign and will “effectively” cease to exist and that the nominees could receive nothing of material value from AE are all due to the limitations imposed by AE’s 501(c)4 status. I concede your point that if AE converted to either a 527 or a political party, it would have a freer hand to do all those things.

    And AE may well convert to a 527 after a ticket is nominated. And that would allow Peter Ackerman to contribute a lot of money to support “his choice of candidates” and “advance his personal goals.” But my question is — What’s the benefit to him? How does Ackerman gain from putting a ticket on the ballot that goes up against the Republican and the Democratic tickets?

    The AE ticket is certainly not going to win and is not even likely to gain the electoral votes needed to broker an Electoral College outcome. It seems to me that all Ackerman accomplishes is to antagonize the hyper-parties that monopolize political power and influence in this country. If Ackerman hopes to gain any political favors from all his efforts, he sure is going about it in a strange way.

    But in the process, the two-party stranglehold over elections could be dealt a severe blow. If the AE ticket gained even 15 percent of the nationwide vote, it could be the basis for a viable third party to emerge, putting the country on the road to a multiparty system. A permanent and viable third party has to come, initially, from the middle and draw from both Republicans and Democrats.

    A third party, either on the left or on the right, only splits the vote with its respective major party and throws the election to the other major party. And the system stays intact. A third party that emerges from the center would break open the system and give Greens, Libertarians, a Labor party, etc. some political space in which to play a meaningful role.

    So, my bottom line is that while AE is far from an ideal political model, it can be the vehicle to put us on the road to where we need to go.

    • I can’t take anyone seriously who talks of “hyper-partisanship” as if both established parties hold equally and opposite ideological positions.

      Take health care: The GOP position ranges from private vouchers and tax credits (IOW coupons) to purchase insurance on the individual market to the Ron Paul “let them die” no subsidies of any kind stance. On the Democratic side, while there is support for a universal single payer system among many progressive members of Congress, the official upper echelon position is that single payer is far too radical to embrace and that maintaining the current private market system with subsidies and mandates represents the height of what is palatable. And even that was too much for more than a few Blue Dogs.

      What we have to choose from in the Presidential election is a centrist Dem and a right wing Republican, with outfits like Unity No Labels offering false equivalences and their own ideological agenda which just so happens to align very closely with the interests of the 1% .

      • Lee Mortimer

        Donna — My reference was to “hyper-parties,” not “hyper-partisanship.” You’re right if you’re saying “hyper-partisanship” is a misnomer for describing the ideological difference between Democrats and Republican. My use of “hyper-parties” refers to the near total domination of the political process by the two major political parties to the exclusion of all others.

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