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AE Transparency’s Asymmetric Warfare Letter to Americans Elect (and why I disagree)

Yesterday, AE Transparency sent off a letter to Americans Elect executives Peter Ackerman, Elliot Ackerman and Kahlil Byrd. AE Transparency sent me a copy and has given me permission to reprint that letter here:


In case you’re wondering, we know what comes next…and we’re already prepared to have a field-day with it.

Gentlemen, there is only one honorable move left to you at this point, and it is the one we have been demanding for over a year now: the Board of Directors must resign, in favor of new Directors to be freely, fairly, and democratically elected by AE’s delegates.

Your cost, so far, for this slow-motion train-wreck you are leading — what, something like $30 million? Our cost, so far, to foil you at your every nefarious turn: exactly zero. Asymmetric warfare at its finest. We can keep this up literally forever.

For once, exercise your unlimited power to take or compel any action for good, not evil: quit now, and hand over the keys to people who actually have American democracy’s best interests at heart.


I don’t agree with this letter because I don’t agree with the goals articulated by its writer: 1) to engage in warfare with Americans Elect leaders, and 2) to get hands on the power held by Americans Elect leaders.

Back when Americans Elect was Unity08, I figured out that its inside-the-beltway leaders were going to do what they wanted to do, no matter what us little people said. Unity08 and Americans Elect have been such closed-off organizations that they won’t even talk to us little people. Since the Unity08 days, I’ve given up trying to change the minds of Americans Elect’s leaders or to make them do anything. I certainly don’t want “the keys” of the vehicle they’re driving, either. My goal is different: to obtain and share information about Americans Elect that Americans Elect itself won’t share.

Americans Elect doesn’t have to be “foiled at every turn” or made the target of “asymmetrical warfare.” Aggressive actions against Americans Elect are entirely unnecessary. If Americans Elect had been a better organization living up to its own hype, then sharing information about it would have propelled it forward. But sharing information has instead played a role in stopping Americans Elect, mostly because the information about Americans Elect’s activities has been so embarrassing.

Tomorrow, the second primary round for the nomination of an Americans Elect presidential candidate will have to be cancelled because not one declared or draft candidate has convinced enough people to participate in the Americans Elect process. It seems like a reasonable time to assess why people might be making the choice to stay away, despite all the newspaper and TV and radio appearances Americans Elect has wrangled over the last year. Read this series of over 300 posts for the nitty-gritty documentation. It’s time to take a look at the forest, not the trees.

Is the basic idea trumpeted by Americans Elect a sound one?
That basic idea is that we can get bipartisanship in America by naming a Democrat and a Republican to a joint presidential ticket in which one will be the President and the other will be the Vice President. It’s a basically flawed idea. In the White House, the President has all the power, and the Vice President can’t do anything on his or her own except wait for the President to die. It doesn’t matter who the Vice President is unless the president dies. What matters in an Americans Elect ticket is the President. An Americans Elect presidency would be as partisan as its president.

Americans Elect could have done better by dropping the charade of bipartisanship and letting people pick the candidates they want, representing the policy ideas they favor. But Americans Elect didn’t do that, and people stayed away.

Is Americans Elect transparent?
No. Americans Elect hides the names of its big money donors. Americans Elect won’t publish the minutes of its board meetings. Americans Elect won’t even share its current expenditures. Americans Elect refused to answer questions asked by the public. Frequently, Americans Elect even refused to answer the questions submitted by reporters. In all these ways, Americans Elect does worse than the political parties it says it wants to replace.

Americans Elect could have done better by being honest with the American people about who was funding its operations and where its money was going. It could have communicated with Americans outside the beltway who asked questions. But Americans Elect didn’t do that, and people stayed away.

Does Americans Elect let the people decide?
No. Americans Elect selected its own corporate leadership, and the American people have no right to review or reject that selection. Americans Elect’s corporate board reserves the right to decide which candidates are insiders and which candidates are outsiders, and declared by fiat that outsiders would have to get five times as many signatures to qualify for the ballot as insiders. The American people didn’t get the power to review or reject these decisions. Americans Elect’s corporate board reserves the right to kick a presidential candidate, even a popular one, off the ballot. Americans Elect’s corporate board wrote its own rules in which a few of these decisions can hypothetically be overturned by a majority of all people who’ve ever signed up on its website, but in the two instances where a delegate actually tried to mount just such a protest vote, Americans Elect refused to notify its delegates that the vote existed. Americans Elect does not let the people decide. It is a top-down corporate operation dedicated to enforcing the will of its board of directors.

Americans Elect could have done better by being inclusive and democratic. But Americans Elect didn’t do that, and people stayed away.

Does Americans Elect follow its own rules?
No. Americans Elect has a neutrality policy, but its staffers and its officers and members of its board of directors have not followed that neutrality policy. In the fall of 2011 Americans Elect said it would share information on all of its meetings but repeatedly refuses to publish minutes of meetings, or to publish summaries of decisions in meetings, or even to announce that meetings are scheduled. Americans Elect has changed the rules of its ballot-access vote while the vote has been in progress. Americans Elect has explicitly pledged that its Platform of Questions candidates must answer would be based on which questions were most popular in its “Shape the Debate” forum, but its actual Platform of Questions disregards the popular vote and instead selects a slate of less-popular questions.

Americans Elect could have done better by following its own rules. But Americans Elect didn’t do that, and people stayed away.

If Americans Elect had been transparent, consistent, democratic and accountable, then Americans Elect could have been a political effort worth joining. But Americans Elect was none of that, and people stayed away.

In the 2012 cycle, Americans Elect decided that its operations as Unity08 failed because they weren’t elitist and secretive enough. If it is determined to participate in the 2016 cycle, Americans Elect might want to try moving in the opposite direction.

8 thoughts on “AE Transparency’s Asymmetric Warfare Letter to Americans Elect (and why I disagree)”

  1. AETransparency says:

    Thanks for your take on this, Jim. As you know, we greatly respect your opinion on this subject, even when we may differ.

    The only correction we might offer regards your statement, “goals articulated by its writer:…to get Americans Elect’s power.” Just to make sure there’s no misunderstanding, that’s not what we said, nor what we meant. We don’t want to “get” Americans Elect’s power. We want to neutralize Peter Ackerman’s power. We would like to see some competent leadership elected by the delegates (and in the unlikely event that happens, we won’t be in the running for those positions. We have lives. And if we were to break this pledge you would be in a great position to blow the whistle on us.)

    Americans Elect is a pretty good idea, implemented badly, by even worse people. We would like to see the good idea survive, by ditching the bad implementation and the worse people.

    Thanks, yet again, for all you’ve done to help expose AECorp for what it is.

    1. Anonymous says:

      Fair enough! I also respect the work you’ve done over these months, bringing a lot to life.

    2. Jim says:

      The above comment is mine.

  2. barberb says:

    Americans elect isn’t doing anything that the other parties haven’t done before, and in many ways the other (major) parties have done much much worse things. And while this may seem important to you, it doesn’t seem important to anyone currently supporting their power. People on wall street and main street alike, will support someone who is a crook, as long as he is “our” crook and doesn’t bother us. In reality the problem is that there is nothing for people to do on americans elect, I remember when I signed up I answered all the questions and looked through candidates, and then there was nothing left for me to do on the site. Compare this with the popularity of or even “we the people” at, where people can hang out and actually do things (infotainment), it also provides them with the illusion of power even though they are powerless.

    Here is traffic vs alexa traffic.

  3. Ralph says:

    I’ve just got to say, there it is on the landing page and Candidates page again:
    “6 Days Left Until Caucus Round 1”

    Well, um, OK. Except, well, 6 days are actually left until caucus round 2. Caucus round 1 was cancelled because no candidates qualified in time. Oh but wait, no candidates have qualified in time for caucus round 2, which is now caucus round 1. So is caucus round 3 going to become caucus round 1, in which case caucus round 1 would not start in six days? And, um, how are the citizens who are part of this process supposed to understand how all this works?

    I think I know. The regular folks are supposed to come to Americans Elect as pilgrims to a shrine. They’re supposed to click a few boxes, give a little donation, and leave the details to the fat cats in the back room. And nobody wants to do that. Who knew?

    1. Jim Cook says:

      Right you are, Ralph. We’re now into the second day in which Round 2 of primary voting under Americans Elect must have been cancelled because no candidate qualified for the ballot… but the Americans Elect web page still trumpets the vote as if it’s going to happen.

      On this point, see and .

      Americans Elect is slowly creaking to a halt. The only thing that’ll push the machine back into motion is a massive reinfusion of cash and a sudden change in the rules to favor particular presidential candidates.

      1. Jim Cook says:

        Update: AE Transparency has extracted an admission that the second round of primary voting has been cancelled. Thanks for finagling this admission.

        1. Ralph says:

          And yet there it is, under the “caucus” tab at Americans Elect–a big flow chart of how the process will happen, starting with an event they have apparently admitted is not going to happen.

          And, OK, who cancels a vote by waiting for someone to call them?

          Dudes, don’t just walk away and let it die on the vine. Call a press conference and make a dignified announcement that it’s over–and be ready to say exactly what you are and are not going to actually do with the ballot access spots you bought.

          I wish I could be relieved that Unity 08/Americans Elect is finally grinding to a halt. But let’s face it, the whims of eccentric billionaires get fawning press coverage no matter how hare brained they are; these clowns may well be back in 2016, under a different name, saying they’re brand new.

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