There are times I think that Americans Elect, the first-ever privatized online presidential nomination, is really just somebody’s idea of a funny inside joke, that it must be, because it couldn’t possibly be serious. Tonight is one of those times.
I’ve just read one of Americans Elect’s latest news releases; let me share it with you as a screen capture in case Americans Elect ever tries to take it down out of sheer embarrassment:
December 19, 2011
NY Times: How Lobbying “Corrupts” our Government
When politicians leave office they don’t return to their old lives. Instead, “they head straight to the lucrative world of K Street.” The New York Times reports:
The Center for Responsive Politics has found that 370 former members are in the influence-peddling business, including at least 285 who are now registered as federal lobbyists . . . Without attracting the attention of the general public, the career path of retired legislators has transformed the thinking of those still in Congress, Democrat and Republican alike . . . [M]ost incumbent members, as they go about their daily routine of casting votes and attending committee meetings, must have in the back of their minds an awareness that they are likely to go into the influence-peddling business in the future. This knowledge inevitably influences—and arguably corrupts—their votes on legislation crucial to the interests most likely to hire them after they leave the halls of Congress.
Americans Elect takes no money from lobbyists, special interests, corporations, political parties, or candidates. So it’s no surprise that the political establishment considers us a threat.
Have you got that? Americans Elect is citing a newspaper article to complain that politicians are corrupted by the knowledge that after they leave government they’ll be able to become industry lobbyists. Because lobbyists and the special interests they are hired by are part of a corrupt system, Americans Elect won’t take their filthy money.
We already know the special interest part of it is a fib: from private capital and grocery delivery magnate Peter Ackerman to hedge fund investor Kirk Rostron to Jim Holbrook, Chairman of the Promotion Marketing Association, Americans Elect has been taking money from inside players with special interests right from the beginning. And these are just the names that have leaked out; Americans Elect is keeping the names of most of its big-money funders a tight secret.
But what about the lobbyist part? Well, since the source of Americans Elect’s funding is a secret I can’t tell you for sure whether Americans Elect is taking lobbyists’ money. But what I can tell you is that Americans Elect has gone one step further than that: Americans Elect has brought lobbyists right into the ranks of its leadership.
Take Christine Todd Whitman, for instance. She’s on the Board of Directors of Americans Elect, the most powerful body in the entire Americans Elect structure. Whitman’s already had ethical troubles, promoting Jon Huntsman for President at least 7 times in the national media despite a clear neutrality policy prohibiting such communications. Whitman also has a history as a lobbyist — precisely the kind of government-to-industry lobbyist that Americans Elect criticizes as “corrupt.” Whitman retired as the head of George W. Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency in mid-2003. By early 2004 Whitman was a lobbyist for the corporate law firm Norris McLaughlin and Marcus. By 2005, Whitman had set up her own lobbying business with the Whitman Group, where she acted as a lobbyist for the pesticide manufacturer FMC Corporation. FMC Corporation has created a polluted Superfund site in the village of Middleport NY, and Whitman represented FMC’s interests in getting the best cleanup deal possible. Whitman’s not done with her lobbying work, either. She continues to this day to act as President of the Whitman Group, which specializes in “government relations” for corporations on environmental issues — playing up the usefulness of Whitman’s governmental contacts, the very sort of thing that Americans Elect calls “corrupt”:
Governmental Relations – Navigate through the maze of governmental red-tape, bureaucracy and confusion. Whitman Strategy Group partners are known and respected by regulators, lawmakers and officials at every level and continue to strengthen those relationships through the work we do. Our EPA leadership experience makes us the natural choice for engaging that and other federal agencies, as well as the regional federal offices where so many policies are carried out. And our combined state and federal experience gives us special insight for resolving issues across jurisdictions.
And then there’s the Co-Chair of the Americans Elect Rules Committee, Tom Sansonetti. In his position as Rules Committee Co-Chair, Sansonetti is in charge of deciding who gets to run for President, who they have to satisfy in order to make it onto the Americans Elect ballot, and how the preferences of rank-and-file Americans Elect delegates might be overruled. In the last election cycle Sansonetti was a lobbyist for Peabody Energy Corporation, the largest private coal corporation in the world, and for various casino interests.
Americans Elect says that lobbyists are corrupt and that good organizations should eschew contact with lobbyists. Americans Elect has lobbyists in its leadership. What are we to think of Americans Elect?