Americans Elect is a corporation that wants to run its very own U.S. Presidential nomination vote in 2012. Is the corporation that picked itself to run a nomination picking the winners and the losers already, or is Americans Elect neutral?
To look for an answer, we could go by the Americans Elect FAQ, posted 12-1-2011:
Does Americans Elect support any candidate?
No. Americans Elect, its directors, officers, and paid staff do not and will not support or oppose any particular candidate or particular draft effort for a candidate for the presidential or vice presidential nominations of Americans Elect—the organization simply provides the nominating process.
It’s not just an informal FAQ. The official corporate bylaws of Americans Elect declare that its leadership must maintain neutrality regarding presidential candidates. It’s not just that Americans Elect leaders can’t endorse a candidate; the bylaws stipulate that they are not supposed to act or communicate in support of or in opposition to any presidential candidate.
So what explains this declaration by Mark McKinnon (who is explicitly listed as part of the Americans Elect Leadership) on MSNBC’s Hardball show earlier this evening?
I think this is going to come down to who has the biggest cojones. And the American voters want strength and they want somebody bold. That’s the problem for Romney.
– Americans Elect Leader Mark McKinnon, December 1 2011
Some of McKinnon’s other remarks this evening on national TV:
[Ron] “Paul is at least ideologically consistent.”
“By far the most important attribute of all is the perception of the candidate being strong. And you stack up Gingrich against Romney on that asset? He blows it away!”
How is that consistent with Americans Elect’s neutrality policy?
There’s probably a trivial answer to that. I’m reasonably confident that despite placing Mark McKinnon in the ranks of its Leadership, Americans Elect will be able to pull out some kind of policy exception, that McKinnon (whose title in the ranks of Americans Elect has not been revealed) is a Special Liaison or Confetti Director or some other kind of special sort of leader within Americans Elect doesn’t qualify under their standards. I’m reasonably confident about that because Americans Elect’s legal chief Daniel Winslow has already played that card after getting caught promoting his favorite candidate.
Beyond the trivialities, there’s a more troubling answer. The Americans Elect neutrality policy isn’t a technical detail. It’s there for a substantive reason. Americans Elect is running an election to nominate a candidate for president, all online on the americanselect.org website, not verified by local boards of election. If this is going to be seen as a legitimate voting process, Americans Elect is going to have to demonstrate that it is worthy of trust, that it’s not putting its finger on the scales, that it’s pushing the process or counting the votes in a manner that favors one candidate or discourages another. When Americans Elect Leaders start breaking neutrality and picking winners on national television, it’s fair to ask why we should trust that these people won’t be acting within Americans Elect to pick winners in a more meaningful way.