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Democracy Managed: Sponheim campaign recording of Americans Elect reveals new strategy for Not Releasing Donor Names

Self-proclaimed “centrist” presidential candidate David Jon Sponheim and an associate have been live-streaming the proceedings of an Americans Elect “conference” being held in California. I put the word “conference” in quotes because there’s not much “co” to the proceedings. Facilitator Jake Brewer (a corporate communications professional) has been using phrases like “co-creation” and “all about you” and “this is your movement” all morning and into the afternoon, with promises to the 30 or so attendees that they are in charge. But the big pad of paper he’s brought to write on is already filled-in with insights to be shared — insights like the importance of a “rapid response” team to scour the internet and respond to negative remarks. The agenda was already set before the conference, and the proceedings for hours now has consisted of Jake Brewer standing in charge up front, asking directed questions, with everyone else responding and Brewer eventually moving on to a new point. So far, the individuals invited to attend haven’t actually been allowed to make any decisions for themselves.

Americans Elect communications consultant Jake Brewer leading an Americans Elect  pep session in California, January 28 2012, complete with goodie bags and butcher paper.

There have been two moments when attendees tried to break away from the script. In one of these moments, Sarah Hart (Sponheim’s campaign manager) spoke up after about an hour of Brewer’s pep talk, challenging him to change the structure of the meeting so that he would no longer be in charge. Rather, attendees would break into groups on the basis of their interests and decide for themselves what they wanted Americans Elect to do.

Sarah Hart at an Americans Elect conference in California, challenging communications consultant Jake Brewer to let attendees direct themselves

Initially, Brewer responded to Hart in a positive manner, suggesting that in the afternoon there’d be plenty of time for just that sort of self-directed democratic action. But then, during a short break, Brewer approached Hart to suggest that if she wanted to do that sort of thing, she’d need to take it outside into the hall so the rest of the program could proceed. We’re well into the afternoon, and Jake Brewer is still up front, massaging the rank-and-file into form.

At another point, attendees started asking Brewer pointed questions about the financing of Americans Elect, wanting to know who the donors were. Brewer’s spoken response was nearly verbatim what you can read in his written thoughts here: that 1) he knew who some of the donors were and that they were good-hearted concerned people, that 2) none of the candidates would know who was behind Americans Elect, so they couldn’t try to return any favors, and that 3) Americans Elect would eventually reveal its spending, which is good, right? But those questions persisted, culminating in a question by someone identifying himself as “Bruce”:

Question: “Bruce here. How about something like a range of…[live stream cuts out]…some kind of an anonymous representation of the broadness of the grassroots effort, or absence thereof, in funding. Something without giving any names that would give us an idea of where the financing is coming from?

Jake Brewer: “So the idea of an audit board, typically of trusted Americans, potentially big names in addition to grassroots supporters, is something that we’ve talked about a lot. I think that is actually going to happen…. The idea to get Colin Powell and, you know, some other people who generally Americans trust to look at the actual donors and say: ‘there’s no corporations, there’s no PACs, there’s no political parties donating here, this is just individuals who want to change this country,’ is an idea that’s moving up because of people like you speaking up and saying this. So thank you. And know that, ha ha, yeah, thank you.”

Did you notice the difference between what Bruce asked for (a representation of what kind of people were giving to Americans Elect) and what Brewer characterized (an endorsed reiteration that Americans Elect doesn’t take money from corporations, parties or PACS)? If Brewer is right, we can expect to see such a blanket statement issued soon, accompanied by the names of one or two famous people, and stamped with the label “disclosure.”

P.S. After the debacle of 2003, who trusts Colin Powell?

11 thoughts on “Democracy Managed: Sponheim campaign recording of Americans Elect reveals new strategy for Not Releasing Donor Names”

  1. Jim Cook says:

    For a couple of hours now, Brewer has been leading a weird kind of group therapy, asking person after person to share a little bit of their own life story, then reacting to it by connecting that story to the solution that is Americans Elect, then encouraging attendees to use their life stories to sell the idea of Americans Elect to newcomers they will meet.

  2. Jim Cook says:

    Finally, the Americans Elect California meetings have broken up into small groups having discussions in circles.

  3. Tom says:

    It’s always about “selling it” isn’t it? If their plan had merit on its own, it would “sell” itself, but since it’s a con job, they need these little group “therapy” or “re-education” sessions to “convince” the voters that they’re the answer. They’re a corporate crock of shit and people should be able to see that. It really helps to have you at IT exploring and exposing their “game.” Thanks.

  4. Bill says:

    For quite some time earlier this year I felt like something of a lone voice in the wilderness, posting as many shaming comments regarding AECorp in as many places as I could possibly find the time to. And Jim, of course, really was a lone voice calling Americans Elect Corporation to task for months and months before that. And now, today, there are more and more of these sensible voices every day. So it’s really heartening (to me, at least) to see the Dark Lords of Americans Elect needled enough by this real grassroots movement to suddenly be worrying about ’emergency management’ and ‘rapid response’ and strategies to continue to hide their donors. The more time, effort, and money the Dark Lords spend worrying about how to cover their *sses, the less time, effort, and money they have to devote to derailing American democracy. I’m lovin’ this.

    1. Bill says:

      I meant, of course, “earlier last year”…. Doh!

  5. Brad M. says:

    Thankfully the corporate dominated and uber-friendly Republicans and Democrats aren’t involved with selling any crocks of shit…oops, spoke too soon. Scratch that.

    I am an Americans Elect delegate and support AE, but I still reserve my right to press for change in donor transparency or donor audits or release in some fashion of donor information…which I do. AE is not perfect. In fact, far from perfect, but it provides a unique opportunity to help break the duopoly. And that is worthy.

    1. Joe Firestone says:

      The issue is not whether it’s perfect; but whether it’s really democratic or just another 1% front? All the evidence thus far is that it’s a “front” group for the globalizing elite. Have you any contrary evidence?

      1. Jim Cook says:

        What I think’s interesting, Joe, is the extent to which Americans Elect could fall outside the planned control of the people who’ve set it up. What happens if 20,000 people surge onto the site in support of Bernie Sanders, for instance? (Keep in mind that Sanders wouldn’t be able to refuse his spot on the ballot until after May 8 — see page 24 of the Briefing Book). According to Americans Elect’s own rules, because Bernie Sanders is a Senator, they couldn’t kick him off the ballot. Could he be a draft nominee? How would Americans Elect react to that? How would America react to Americans Elect finding some way to exclude Bernie Sanders, whose approach to politics infuriates the centrists who run that corporation? Oh, I think that would be a very interesting experiment.

    2. BJ says:

      The problem with this approach is that it’s a one-shot deal and it doesn’t even begin to address what’s really wrong – a lack of choices at the ballot box.
      Americans Elect looked at the symptoms of the problem (a monopoly of only 2 parties) and made an assumption that the problem was caused by the “process” of how those monopolies choose their nominee. That’s pure bunk — anybody who wants to participate in chooosing a party’s nominee for the general election can – there is no legal way to prevent participation.
      The problem is the ballot access laws of the various states. It’s those laws that are the problem — those laws are designed to prevent any new or minor party from overtaking either of the 2 major parties — they force alternative parties to spend all their money and expend all their energy in getting their party on the ballot.
      It’s those same anti-democratic ballot access laws the prevent any minor party from fielding viable candidates. A viable candidate won’t declare for a party’s nomination if the party can’t put the candidate on the ballot.

  6. José says:

    A recent column in New York Magazine said AE has only raised $24 million. But remember that Byrd said that about $19 million of that was “loans” that they intend to pay back by year’s end? Something tells me that’s not happening.

  7. Stephen Kent Gray says:

    David Jon Sponheim’s website!

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