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AE Transparency Starts Petition to Reform Americans Elect’s Anti-Democratic Process

There are approximately 276 ways in which Americans Elect has degraded the standard for transparency, accuracy and democracy in presidential politics, from suppressing votes to less-than-factual representations to the media and on and on, Americans Elect is playing a lords’ game with the vote.

That’s why AE Transparency has created a petition to “Make Americans Elect A Model of the Reform It Seeks”:

Americans Elect Corporation claims to seek to provide American voters with the first exclusively online political convention to select and nominate a centrist, non-partisan, third-party ticket for the 2012 Presidential election, and to win that ticket a place on all 50 states’ ballots.

Excited by the potential for what non-partisan, internet-enabled democracy might be able to do to repair America’s increasingly dysfunctional two-party political system, over 400,000 “members” have joined Americans Elect. A smaller (but not publicly known) number have further attained “delegate” status qualifying them to vote in the online primary later this summer.

Sadly, despite its purported goal of promoting democracy, the Americans Elect’s corporate organization is, itself, surprisingly (and discouragingly) undemocratic. The corporation’s Board of Directors, which possesses enormous power to determine the conduct and outcome of the online primary, is unelected. The Board’s members appointed themselves at the founding of the corporation, and new Board members are appointed only by existing Board members, without a vote of or even consultation with Americans Elect delegates.

The Board’s unelected, self-appointed status is particularly worrisome because it is an all-powerful body: the corporation’s Bylaws reserve for the Board “extraordinary power and authority to take or compel any action,” including arbitrarily disqualifying candidates whom the Board does not favor, and even including rejecting the primary-winning ticket and crowning a ticket of the Board’s own choice, instead.

Further insuring that the primary convention will go strictly in accordance with Board members’ wishes, members of the important Rules and Candidate Certification committees are appointed by the Board (not elected by the delegates) and “serve at the pleasure of the Board.”

Such inattention to democratic principles in its own governance might be less troubling if all Board members were independent-minded paragons of life-long moral rectitude…but that may not be uniformly the case. Americans Elect’s founder, multi-million dollar donor, and self-appointed Board chairman, Peter Ackerman, is widely alledged to have been convicted felon Michael Milken’s right-hand-man at Wall Street investment firm Drexel Burnham Lambert during its insider-trading and junk bond scandal. Four other members of the Board are in what appear to many to be positions of financial dependence upon Ackerman’s continuing goodwill, either as Americans Elect employees or otherwise, giving chairman Ackerman an apparent 5-4 majority control of the corporation’s Board. The enormous power of this self-appointed Board, rigidly controlled by Ackerman, has led some doubters to disparagingly refer to Americans Elect itself as “Ackerman Elects”.

According to information provided by Americans Elect corporation itself, a large fraction of the organization’s founding “Leadership” are current or former executives of Wall Street hedge fund, private equity, or wealth management firms, tending to cast further doubt on the corporation’s true intentions. Americans Elect refuses to identify its major donors, and has claimed 501(c)(4) status with the IRS, enabling it to accept unlimited donations while keeping its donors’ identities a secret.

We, this petition’s sponsors — Americans Elect delegates committed to advancing the organization’s avowed goal of promoting American democracy through the application of non-partisan internet technology — believe that all of these unresolved issues of undemocratic governance and lack of transparency are harming Americans Elect and impeding its mission. For the sake of its self-proclaimed noble goals we and other signers of this petition demand:

1. That the Americans Elect Board of Directors resign in favor of a Board to be elected by a democratic vote of the delegates.

2. That the current members of the Rules and Candidate Certification committees resign in favor of members elected by a democratic vote of the delegates.

3. That Americans Elect’s corporate Bylaws be amended (and ratified by a democratic vote of its delegates) to permit the above two changes, as well as to rescind the Board’s “extraordinary power and authority to take or compel any action.”

4. That Americans Elect promptly reveal the names of all donors of $10,000 or more, and the amounts they have lent or donated.

And, further, that all four of these actions be completed before an online primary convention is conducted.

You are NOT required to be a member or a delegate of Americans Elect to sign this petition; all are welcome!

Are you inclined to sign the petition today? I just did.

14 comments to AE Transparency Starts Petition to Reform Americans Elect’s Anti-Democratic Process

  • Thanks for this.

    May I suggest a couple of things:

    1>

    The petition seems to set out the mission and goals of Americans Elect, in the first paragragh (emphasis mine):

    Americans Elect Corporation claims to seek to provide American voters with the first exclusively online political convention to select and nominate a centrist, non-partisan, third-party ticket for the 2012 Presidential election, and to win that ticket a place on all 50 states’ ballots.

    The (hopefully unintended) implication is that (1) “centrist” is connected to “non-partisan,” and that (2) “centrist” is part of the “mission” and “noble goals” (referenced in the paragraph preceding the enumerated list) that the petition seeks to rescue.

    For many reasons — including those that I detail in my essay — neither (1) nor (2) is true.

    The petition would be much stronger, in my view, if the word “centrist” was taken out.

    2

    I would add, to the second point in the enumerated list, the current members of the Platform of Questions Committee.

    As Section 8.0 (“Balanced Ticket Obligation”) of the Rules makes clear, it is candidates’ responses to the Platform of Questions that the Candidate Certification Committee will use to determine what qualifies as “balance.”

    And it is the Platform of Questions Committee that will determine exactly which questions are to be included in the Platform — and exactly how those questions are to be framed.

    This Committee’s opportunity for ideological mischief-making should not be underestimated.

    In fact, I would say that it is in this Committee that the various litmus tests corresponding to the ideological agenda of the current leadership most likely are to be written.

    3

    In paragraph 6, there is no “d” in the word “alleged.”

    Thanks again.

    • Bill

      Thanks for the close read, John. The intent of the first paragraph was to state AE’s goals as it advertises them, not as we feel about them; note the operative word “claims”.

      I agree that the Questions Committee is equally problematic, but leaving it out of the demands was a judgement call. Most readers will at least vaguely understand what a Rules committee does, and what a Candidate Certification committee does, without explanation, but a Questions committee would probably require some explanation which would detract from the crispness of the demands. And if the Board is replaced all else follows thereafter. Like I say: a judgement call.

      “Alledged”: dang, there goes my Scrabble crown. Nice catch.

      Anyway, we welcome signatures. The odds of these demands being met are, of course, zero, but that isn’t the primary goal. Rather, it is to help quantify the level of opposition to AE’s shenanigans, and to remind Kahlil Byrd every time he looks at his Inbox (where all signed petitions are sent) that The Whole World Is Watching.

      Please consider signing the petition.

      • Bill

        And, of course, please also consider blogging, tweeting, posting and otherwise talking up on the intertubes regarding this petition (with a link to it), to let social media work its magic. We need traffic to the petition now. It’s an educational tool as much as anything.

        Supporters of our mission can follow @AETransparency on Twitter and AE Transparency on Facebook.

      • Thanks, Bill — fair points, all, and a worthy petition.

        Signed.

        • Bill

          You da person, John!

        • In other news…

          If, over the course of the next hour and a half or so, another half-dozen delegates were to support the current reversal motion with an “Oppose” click here, the 48-hour window would close with 26 clicks — double last week’s 13.

          At that rate, if the Board made an objectionable decision every week, and if that decision was challenged every week with a delegate reversal motion, delegates would, for the first time, clear the initial 10,000-click threshold sometime during the week of 20 May.

          Of course, that assumes that there are — or, by mid May, would be — 10,000 delegates….

  • Ned Flaherty

    Your SUPERB work on all of this runs the risk of dying in relative obscurity if you don’t get more big-time coverage. I recommend trying your petition with some of the many socially responsible on-line petition zites such as Change.org, Sign-on.org, Care2, Petition Site, etc. (there are many others). And try organizations such as Social Brite (http://www.socialbrite.org/2010/07/20/9-online-petition-tools-how-to-make-a-difference/). One good article by the excellent political writers at Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, etc. would guarantee that the rest of the media finally catches on. None of the recurring follies wrought by Republicans and Democrats alike comes anywhere near the enormous damage that AE proposes to wreak. Bravo!

    • Thanks for the compliments, Ned… but I don’t know about the obsurity bit, Ned. One of the nice things that’s happened over the past few months is that skeptical examination of Americans Elect has been taken up by a number of different people, including John Lumea and Bill Busa as well as Gail Collins in today’s New York Times. Skepticism has thereby become a significant part of the narrative about Americans Elect, which indicates there is some healthy tissue in the body of American democracy.

  • You forgot something very important. You forgot to address the use and misuse of personal information. Remember that they have in their possession and access to non-public information such as your Social Security Numbers and all data attached to that. Lets try to understand that they also use a 3rd party whom they buy that information from.

    Additionally, most of the information I have seen on my self is not very accurate. However, they have information that generally is seen in FBI or Secret Service files. They also have information on family.

    But if they are using your social security to verify you. You have not provided it to them. It is a violation and invasion of your privacy. It is a violation of Public Trust.

  • I agree with Dean that AE’s use of personal info is troublesome. Indeed, their whole “verification” process is a disaster. I think there may be tens of thousands of would-be AE supporters who couldn’t get “verified,” so quit trying. This has been the subject of heated debate between delegates and AE leadership.

    What I don’t get is why some folks worry so much that AE will be dominated by the rich guys whose names aren’t being revealed, and who are paying the bills for getting AE on the ballot. This cannot happen without AE committing suicide. If the elites don’t let the AE voters make all the decisions about who will be a candidate, and the elites pick their own guy, or drop someone they don’t like, AE membership will scream in protest, denounce the organization, leave it, and the world will know it is not democratic. But the elites are not dummies. They are not going to throw away $30M, spent on ballot access, by interfering with the candidate selection process.

    This is why it doesn’t matter to me who the rich guys are, as long is the PROCESS they are paying for is open and democratic in the way it operates. Everyone can see that candidates are either self-selected or drafted by AE members. The rich guys haven’t interfered with this (and surely won’t).

    Also, all the candidates in the AE primary will appear before the AE voters FOR FREE. Thus, the winner of the primary will have no political debts to pay, except to the AE voters. In the Repub circus we all have been witnessing, each candidate has contributors who have pitched in millions of dollars. They will expect something in return, if their guy ever gets into the White House.

    AE is a gift to lovers of democracy. It is a model of how a national online primary could be held in the future. This opportunity for true democratic reform is being lost just because you guys are suspicious of the rich guys who pay the bills – even though everyone can see the process is open.

    William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.
    Email: Internetvoting@gmail.com
    Blog: http://tinyurl.com/IV4All
    Twitter: wjkno1
    Author of Internet Voting Now!

    • William,

      Thanks for writing. People’s motivations can be inscrutable at times, especially when they’re close-to-the vest in their communications, which Americans Elect is. I wouldn’t place bets on what’s motivating Americans Elect leadership. I do notice what Americans Elect’s rules are, and wonder why they would spend so much time revising the rules for excluding candidates over and over again if they didn’t plan to do it. I have no idea, but think it’s wise to be careful.

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