Americans Elect, which until this week told America it would run the country’s first-ever privatized all-online presidential nomination, is a corporation organized under Section 501(c)(4) of the IRS code. The federal government requires corporations organized under Section 501(c) to make the following forms available the same day upon an in-person request, or within 30 days upon a written or e-mailed request:
* Form 990, the organization’s annual report to the IRS
* Form 1024, the organization’s application for tax-exempt status
* Any letter or other documentation accompanying the organization’s application for tax-exempt status
Tonight, I am writing to Americans Elect leaders Peter Ackerman, Elliot Ackerman, Kahlil Byrd, Joshua Levine, Ileana Wachtel, Brian Findlay, the Rules Committee (at firstname.lastname@example.org) and the general query account (at email@example.com) to request Form 990 and Form 1024 from them. Here is the text of my e-mail correspondence to them.
May 19, 2012
To the leadership of Americans Elect,
As Americans Elect publicly acknowledges at the web page http://www.americanselect.org/news/8-2011/what-501c4-corporation, it is a corporation organized under Section 501(c)(4) of the IRS code. In its prior Form 990 for the year 2010 -- see http://irregulartimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/AmericansElect2010Form990.pdf for a permanent copy -- Americans Elect revealed that it files according to calendar years. As the IRS specifies here -- http://www.irs.gov/charities/political/article/0,,id=163101,00.html -- your corporation must file Form 990 for the year 2011 by May 15 of 2012. That date has passed.
I am writing to formally, specifically request that Form 990 for the year 2011 and the latest available Form 1024 for Americans Elect be sent to me at the address below. This is my legal right, as specified by the IRS here:
I reserve my full rights under law and expect your response to respect those rights. If Americans Elect has chosen for some reason to use any other alternatively publicly-requestable form to register itself as a 501c4 corporation or any other entity, I also formally request that those forms be supplied to me by Americans Elect. If Americans Elect has chosen for some reason not to file Form 990 or Form 1024 with the IRS, I also formally request that you supply to me a complete written notice indicating why Americans Elect has neglected to file these forms. The IRS requires that you supply these forms to me within 30 days from today.
I will be happy to receive these disclosures in electronic form or paper form. If you prefer to send these forms in paper form, I will of course promptly pay all costs associated with these forms' reproduction and postage. The IRS requires that if you will charge me any money for the transmission of these documents, that you inform me of such charges and the manner in which I may pay them within 7 days from today.
My contact information for receiving this information is:
52 Conway Road
Camden, ME 04843
I look forward to receiving these documents at your earliest convenience within the 30-day window available to you.
I will let you know if and when I receive these disclosures. If you see no indication in this post that I’ve received a disclosure, you can assume that Americans Elect has not complied.
UPDATE: In an unsigned letter dated May 25 2012, Americans Elect denied that it has ever filed a Form 1024, and explained that it has obtained a three-month extension of the deadline to file Form 990. In three months, I will ask again.
Postscript: Why Bother Asking?
Why bother asking for these forms now that Americans Elect has announced its intention to cancel its privatized presidential primary? The answer’s simple: Americans Elect has declared its intention to keep going in some manner in the future: “We are continuing the Americans Elect mission…”
When Unity08 cancelled its 2008 run in the face of an utter disinterest on the part of the American people, it promised to keep going:
But we’re not closing our doors. We believe it is important to see our case against the FEC through (both for Unity08 and any similar movement in the future) and be ready to gear up if (when) we win our case and political circumstances warrant…
And Unity08 did keep going. It shared office space and leadership as it transitioned to Americans Elect, and then it tried again, learning exactly the wrong lessons from its failure by becoming even more elitist, anti-democratic and control-freakish in its behavior.
The people who funded Americans Elect are millionaires many times over. Some of them have wealth in the billion-dollar range. They can afford to do this again. The special interests backing them — hedge funds, private wealth investment, and Wall Street finance — have many reasons to do this again. Under the name Americans Elect, under the name Unity16, or under some new name, we can expect the same constellation of special interests to try this again.
That’s why we should keep watching, and that’s why we should keep documenting every piece of public information that becomes available. Elite moneyed efforts to influence elections from the top-down can get away with a lot if no one pays attention. But Americans Elect could not — and cannot in the future — get away with squelching democracy while using the words of democracy when people point out the inconsistencies and pointedly, repeatedly, insist on a public reckoning. Many people during Americans Elect’s run this time around — from John Lumea to AE Transparency to Rick Hasen to Scott Moore to Dave Weigel to Jonathan Tilove — pointed out those consistencies. When this operation resurfaces in some future election cycle, it is crucial that watchful eyes be prepared. Perhaps the next time around, those in charge will recognize their error and commit sensible acts of disclosure and democratic empowerment. If they don’t, that must be noted for the record, not just whispered about behind the napkins at some DC beltway dinner party.