David Walker for President: The People, The Connections
Five names have emerged in the leadership of The Committee to Get Walker Running, an entity at draftwalker.com that yesterday morning was nothing but a splash page…
…but which by yesterday afternoon was being used to vigorously (and with non-disclosed funding) promote the candidacy of David Walker for President of the United States via Americans Elect. Americans Elect is the nation’s first-ever all-online, privatized presidential nomination system where a corporation counts the votes.
The five names associated with this Draft David Walker effort are:
1. Yoni Gruskin: Co-Chair
2. Ryan Schoenike: Co-Chair
3. Nick Troiano: taking on an unspecified leadership spot but a clear recruitment and promotional role
4. Solomon Kleinsmith: Website Owner, Social Media and Blog Outreach (as Kleinsmith informed me yesterday afternoon)
5. Lincoln Davidson: North Carolina State Coordinator
Reports in the media have mentioned an effort to draft me as a candidate for President through the Americans Elect (AE) process, and I want to clarify my position. I am aware of this recent independent movement to draft me, which is an initiative by people who evidently share my views regarding the need for fiscal, political and other major reforms to keep America great. Importantly, their effort is unrelated to the Comeback America Initiative (CAI), No Labels, and AE organizations.
While I appreciate and am humbled by their efforts, I am not a candidate and don’t expect to become one. Rather, I am focused on my many responsibilities, including serving as CEO of the non-partisan CAI, as a national co-founder of No Labels, and as a member of AE’s Board of Advisors.
… while dancing the dance of someone who plans to portray himself as being dragged up onto the stage, who-me-why-no-no-I’m-just-an-average-Joe-how-sweet-of-you-but-well-no-I’m-humbled-but-well-all-right-gosh-if-you-really-want-me style, to run for President:
I am not a candidate for public office but will seriously consider it if the Independent Draft Committee qualifies me for the AE ballot. DW
David Walker should not be fooling anyone with the aw-shucks-I-am-humbly-drafted act. This is the same guy who was asking people over and over to vote for him in an Politico online presidential preference poll in October 2011.
Dave Walker also should not be fooling anyone with the unsolicited insistence that the Draft Walker Committee is an “independent movement to draft me” or “unrelated to the Comeback America Initiative (CAI), No Labels, and AE organizations.” I was struck by this insistence, an especially odd insistence because the big-time media hadn’t made so much as a peep about those possibilities beforehand. Why deny something nobody’s talking about? It’s like when your kid marches into the room with her hands behind her back and says “I didn’t take anything from the cookie jar!” You just know you’ve got to look.
Here’s what I found.
Let’s spell out those connections below. Follow the links for sources:
According to his own Causes.com account, Nick Troiano joined the Get Walker Running effort 9 days ago:
That dating, matched by his commencement of Facebook posts positively referencing the David Walker campaign on April 9…
… is a quick about-face, considering that Troiano was speaking with KRUI staffers on the radio in his capacity as National Campus Director for Americans Elect this month too. Americans Elect has a neutrality policy that prohibits leaders, officers and paid staff from speaking or acting in favor of or in opposition to any presidential candidate — and Troiano has held various leadership and paid staff jobs at Americans Elect as perhaps its longest-running member besides Kahlil Byrd and Peter Ackerman. Nick Troiano lists himself now as the “former National Campus Director for Americans Elect,” confirming that he has formally left his job with the Americans Elect corporation, a way to maintain formal neutrality. In an advertisement for an upcoming interview, Michael Knowles referred to Nick Troiano as “National Chairman of the Draft Walker campaign.”
As Troiano formally steps away from Americans Elect, he brings something with him to David Walker headquarters: the contacts he made as part of his job. In a phone call today, Lincoln Davidson, listed as the Americans Elect representative for Davidson College until this week, strongly and repeatedly insisted that Nick Troiano had not recruited him to join the Draft Walker campaign, even though Nick Troiano’s Causes page says he did and even though Davidson hosted Troiano for a dinner event quite recently. Davidson told me repeatedly that an unnamed “personal friend” told him all about it.
Let’s give Davidson the benefit of the doubt; he was a really nice guy on the phone. But there are a whole lot of other people who are on the official list of Americans Elect Campus Leaders, all across the country, who seem to have jumped all at once from being Americans Elect representatives to following the Draft David Walker campaign. As (former) Americans Elect National Campus Director, it was Nick Troiano’s job to recruit them on behalf of Americans Elect. Look at the long list of Americans Elect Campus Leaders (see the list here), then look at Nick Troiano’s Facebook posts promoting David Walker for President, and finally see who’s following the Draft David Walker Twitter stream. You can find literally dozens of Americans Elect Campus Leaders who are being brought over to the David Walker cause. This is for a “movement” that is a week old. That’s strange suddenness.
While Americans Elect National Campus Director Nick Troiano was developing a contact list of college students with his Americans Elect Campus Leaders program, Concord Coalition Youth Advisory Board member Nick Troiano was developing a second contact list:
Nick has organized campaigns on a local and national level, including Do We Have a Deal Yet?, a coalition of 150+ student body presidents that advocated for a bipartisan deal on deficit reduction.
Troiano’s claims about his central role in the group are backed up by this Press Packet for a Do We Have a Deal Yet? publicity event at the National Press Club. According to the packet, Troiano started the proceedings off, introducing participating college students to the press corps. Look again at Troiano’s Facebook posts promoting David Walker for President, and see who’s following the Draft David Walker Twitter stream. Compare these names to this map of the names and school affiliations of the students who signed up with Nick Troiano for Do We Have a Deal Yet? As with the other list, you can find a number of Do We Have a Deal Yet? student participants who are now, within a week of its launch and after only a day or two of publicity, fans of the Draft David Walker cause. The Committee to Get Walker Running explicitly acknowledges that “several of the organizers were deeply involved in the ‘Do We Have a Deal Yet?’ initiative of last summer.” This is another striking indication of the role of personal contact in the building of the Walker presidential committee.
In addition to his links to Americans Elect, Lincoln Davidson and Do We Have A Deal Yet?, Troiano is also connected to The Concord Coalition as a member of its Youth Advisory Board. Troiano manned the No Labels social media desk at No Labels’ public rollout in December 2010. Troiano was involved in Americans Elect’s predecessor Unity08 from high school through college.
Ryan Schoenike, Co-Chair of The Committee to Get Walker Running, is also a member of the Concord Coalition’s Youth Advisory Board, just like Nick Troiano. Just like Troiano, Schoenike is part of the team heading up Do We Have a Deal Yet?, promoting it within the structure of the Concord Coalition. Schoenike has repeatedly appeared with David Walker on panels and in forums peopled by officials in groups founded and funded (like the Concord Coalition is) by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.
Co-Chair of The Committee to Get Walker Running, Yoni Gruskin (sometimes also called by his formal name Jonathan Gruskin) is listed as a “founder” of Concerned Youth of America along with other alumni of the Phillips Andover private prep academy, but the group appears to have been funded by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. Concerned Youth of America lists David Walker and the Concord Coalition under “Supporters and Partners.” Gruskin has been an invited guest of the Peterson-funded Concord Coalition and has signed his name to Concord Coalition policy documents along with David Walker. Like Schoenike, Gruskin has been brought out for a forum to appear with David Walker. Gruskin is listed as a member of a joint Concord Coalition and Peter G. Peterson Foundation entity called the Philadelphia Fiscal Stewardship Committee. Gruskin was invited to speak at the Concord Coalition Economic Patriot Award Dinner in 2008.
Solomon Kleinsmith wrote to me yesterday to confirm that he is the owner of the DraftWalker.com website. As usual, he’s rather angry with what I’ve been writing:
I’ll tell you this though, and all of this is public information… the WaPo article is accurate, I am involved (Social Media and Blog Outreach) and I have owned the domain for some time but wasn’t getting anywhere with the idea until said AE employee left, contacted me and started to put this together.
Said AE employee is, as we’ve learned, Nick Troiano, making a connection between the two. As Kleinsmith’s LinkedIn account notes, he’s been acting as a No Labels volunteer and an Americans Elect “Delegate Leader” like Bill Kelleher, another visitor who gets angry when this website asks questions about Americans Elect.
Peter G. Peterson and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation
Known less formally as Pete Peterson, this billionaire founded and funded the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which in turn provides funding for the Concord Coalition, Concerned Youth of America and the Comeback America Initative. Peterson also made the maximum allowable donation to Unity08, the predecessor to Americans Elect. Until Peter G. Peterson created the Comeback America Initiative and appointed David Walker as its CEO, David Walker was President and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, and continues to sit on its advisory board.
As mentioned above, David Walker is in the leadership of No Labels, the Comeback America Initiative, and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, as well as coordinating closely with the Concord Coalition and Concerned Youth of America. David Walker is also notably on the Board of Advisors of Americans Elect.
Within the past two weeks, as David Walker has denied that his presidential bid has any relation to No Labels, No Labels has erased references to David Walker as one of its Co-Founders from its “Our People” page. It has wholly erased articles that feature “No Labels Co-Founder Dave Walker” from public view. A March 28 2012 Google cache of one such page looks like this:
Try to visit the page today and you’ll get this message:
No Labels has also erased reference to its frenetic effort to “Draft Dave Walker” in October 2011, with 6 posts in 7 days asking its followers to vote for Dave Walker on presidential preference polls. The adoring No Labels staffers even painted a watercolor in tribute. That page is utterly blank today, but we won’t let that page go down the memory hole. You can see the page as it was on April 8 as a Google cache, mirrored here on Irregular Times in perpetuity for historical reference.
A line of continuity exists between Unity08, the organization that sought to pick its own presidential candidate in 2008, and Americans Elect. 1775 Pennsylvania Avenue Suite 1212 in Washington DC has been reported as the office location of Unity08, the Unity12 Task Force, and the Unity12 Task Force renamed as Americans Elect.
Funding Links Between Americans Elect, No Labels and Other Groups
It should be noted that Americans Elect and No Labels refuse to identify their funders. It is therefore not possible for the American public to know whether No Labels or Americans Elect is funded by any of the organizations or people listed in the graph above. Barring some voluntary disclosure or leak of information in the future, we won’t know anything about whether such possible connections happen or do not happen in reality.
In his article of this morning on the same subject, however, John Lumea finds a curious tidbit: if you want to contact the Committee to Get Walker Running, the draftwalker.com webpage offers the e-mail address of firstname.lastname@example.org. Expect this slip to be erased soon — but fortunately, John Lumea has it screen captured.
That’s a lot of detail, but what it adds up to is pretty simple to absorb:
David Walker may be narrowly correct when he asserts that the Draft Walker “effort is unrelated to the Comeback America Initiative (CAI), No Labels, and AE organizations.” It all depends on what Walker means by “related.” Are officials in those organizations’ boardrooms sitting and plotting out tactics and media buys for the Draft Walker Campaign? Probably not. But David Walker is not even narrowly correct when he refers to an “independent movement to draft me.” The Committee to Get Walker Running is nothing like an independent movement to get David Walker on the presidential ballot. In the constitution of its leadership, it’s wholly dependent on already-existing inside connections created for purposes other than a David Walker presidential campaign. With or without the knowledge of the people and organizations involved, whether intentionally or out of laziness, the pre-existing connections between people and organizations have been converted into campaign resources. In an encompassing embrace, David Walker’s benefactor lies on one side, Americans Elect and No Labels lie on the other, and the Draft Walker organizers revel snugly in between.
Postscript and Acknowledgement:
As always, I appreciate the addition of new facts and the noting of needed corrections in the comments section below. In your correction, please cite a primary source that I can check out.