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Americans Elect Responds to Delegate Revolt with Rules violation and a Lawsuit Threat

On May 17, the 501c4 corporation Americans Elect announced that it would cancel its planned privatized presidential nomination. Why? Because too few registered voters showed an interest in participating in a system that gave ultimate candidate selection authority to a self-selected corporate board.

Two days later, on May 19, a grassroots-organized and inclusive new group called Americans of Americans Elect was trying to organize on the Internet. This new group petitioned Americans Elect to either re-open its presidential nomination process or, failing that, to let the delegates take over the organization and ready it for future elections:

Andrew Evans describes the Americans of Americans Elect effort on May 19 2012

Americans of Americans Elect formally submitted a petition on May 20 to reverse the decision of the Americans Elect board to shut down. This petition is in accordance with Rule 12.2, and requires a response by Americans Elect:

“any Delegate who wishes to reverse any decision of any Committee or Board may do so by sending a statement of 500 words or less by email to the Board within 72 hours after notice of any decision is posted on the Website. The Board shall then post the statement on the Website with instructions that any Delegate who agrees with reversal shall ‘Support Click’ the statement…. This process of Reversal Votes shall be the sole and exclusive remedy for any Delegate aggrieved by any action, conduct, or failure to act of Americans Elect.”

As you can see here, Americans Elect failed to follow its own rules. It neglected to post the group’s statement petitioning for reversal. It violated its own rules by failing to hold the required Reversal Vote. This is the latest in a long list of anti-democratic actions by Americans Elect.

What did Americans Elect do instead? After the delegate group voiced its interest in taking over the Americans Elect process and using it for grassroots democracy in future elections, Americans Elect sent a letter to the Florida Division of Elections, which you can search for here (see date 5/24/2012), or which you can read for yourself here. In this letter, Americans Elect notifies the Florida Division of Elections that it has a trademark for the name “Americans Elect” and threatens to sue any group attempting to use Americans Elect ballot lines in any movement for political office not authorized by the corporate board:

“any state-based chapter or committee must be authorized by the Americans Elect Board… any nominations for offices other than President and vice President would not be authorized or sanctioned by Americans Elect according to its Bylaws. Finally, please note that Americans Elect is the owner of a federal trademark for the AMERICANS ELECT mark. Any non-authorized use of the mark is likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception in violation of state and federal trademark law, including 15 U.S.C. 1125(a), entitling Americans Elect to immediate and permanent injuctive relief, an accounting of profits, and attorneys’ fees.”

To the last, Americans Elect is a corporate entity, using corporate privilege and corporate threats, determined to control the actions of the annoying little people who might have something else in mind.

20 comments to Americans Elect Responds to Delegate Revolt with Rules violation and a Lawsuit Threat

  • Jeff Kelly

    Thanks again, Jim Cook, for holding AE to the principles of our democratic constitutional republic!

  • On one level, this is completely predictable: Unless and until the Americans Elect corporation formally self-dissolves — i.e., for as long as there remains any chance of candidates running on Americans Elect-branded ballot lines in 2014, 2016 and beyond — the corporation is going to be very jealous about how “its” brand name is used.

    But — although I completely agree that the Board’s response here is yet another example of its showing its true control-freak colors — I would offer the following:

    As you rightly point out, Rule 12.2 provides that (emphasis mine)

    any Delegate who wishes to reverse any decision of any Committee or Board may do so by sending a statement of 500 words or less by email to the Board within 72 hours after notice of any decision is posted on the Website.

    Based on this thread on the Facebook group page of Americans of Americans Elect, William Cerf’s email conveying the original reversal motion was not sent until 10:32 PM EDT on 20 May.

    Based on my own observation, the decision to which the reversal motion was responding was on the Americans Elect Web site — in the form of the statement pulling the plug on its 2012 primary — at least by 5 PM EDT on 17 May.

    Assuming that William Cerf’s email was, in fact, the original reversal motion…

    My guess is that the Board is using this technicality — the fact that, at least as it appears, the reversal motion was not filed within the 72-hour window — as an excuse to ignore the motion.

    • michealene Risley

      Just to clarify, their were earlier requests to the AE board that William’s letter. I do love how you have asked some tough questions about AE and their board. As a very early delegate, I found the whole process has been riddled with unanswered questions. Even if the board was using this technicality, don’t you think they should respond to the delegates?

  • I salute the spunk of the Americans of Americans Elect (AoAE) group, although their inability to let go and move on bewilders me. It seems rather like a group of Jews wishing to take over the Nazi Party…I mean, why?

    As far as injunctive relief of trademark infringement goes, AECorp doesn’t have a leg to stand on. It’s a principle of trademark law that if you don’t actively defend your trademark when you know it is being infringed then you are likely to be deemed to have abandoned it. AoAE is infringing AECorp’s trademark, but hasn’t been socked with a suit. The independent Americans Elect Forum infringed, but was never socked with a suit. Unless AECorp starts suing these and others very soon it is likely to lose its trademark. It would be kind-of amusing to watch AECorp start suing its own delegates after locking them out.

    • I’m not a trademark lawyer. I don’t even play one on teevee. But I do happen to be married to someone who owned a small ($150K annual revenues) artisanal chocolate company — was filed with a “cease and desist” for trademark infringement by the behemoth Mars Corporation, based on a similar name that Mars had trademarked after my wife’s company had trademarked theirs — pushed back against Mars — and won.

      The issue in trademark is not whether you’re using a trademarked (or similar) name at all.

      It’s whether you’re trying to use a trademarked (or similar) name to do the same thing for which the existing trademark holder already has trademarked the name.

      In my wife’s case, Mars was trying to use a similar name to make specific health claims. My wife’s company — which, in any case, had its name first — never claimed that its chocolate was “healthy,” only that it was awesome.

      So she won.

      • True dat, John. But it is the case that if you own a trademark and use it and knowingly allow others to use it without actively pursuing them with cease and desist demands (backed up by lawsuits if necessary) then you risk being judged by a court of law to have abandoned the trademark, and your rights in it. I’m not an attorney either, but in my professional activities I’ve been involved in suits on both sides of this issue before.
        This is why Hasbro so insistently threatens and sues folks who use “Scrabble” in their product names (such as Scrabble® dictionaries, etc) unless they carefully cite “Scrabble® Brand Crossword Puzzle” as a registered trademark of Hasbro. It’s not necessarily because they’re meanies; it’s because the law requires them to actively defend their trademark against infringers, or else lose it.

    • Jerry

      In the interest of transparency, you are a member of A of AE, so stop posting comments as if it is them instead of us. Also, let us know who you are!!!!

  • Tom

    i had a feeling this thing would fall apart and i’m pleased that it did. It’s no improvement over the crappy system we have now. Jim Kelly still thinks he lives in a democratic constitutional republic, but i guess, like a lot of other citizens, he’s been asleep for the past 8 years. i don’t know what’s going to change things so that the corporations and ridiculously wealthy people are no longer in charge, ruining our lives with austerity, forming a police state and making us all serfs in their fiefdom, but it won’t come from a corporate-owned, clandestine election-rigging scam operation. Similarly, it isn’t being corrected from within the corrupted faux-democratic system we’re stuck with now either. Until elections are publicly run, lobbyists are banned in DC and our monetary system goes back to something other than the scrip we’re living on now – nothing is going to make it any better for us or bring back the Constitution, Bill of Rights and rule of law. Right now we live in a third-world banana republic according to definition.

  • Roger

    This only works in states where they did not have to declare themselves as a political party. If they could stay as a corporation then they can use the legal position in the letter they sent but in states that require Americans Elect to declare it self a party and not a corporation it has always been the state chapter of that party who has the real say. Those states would be put in a rock and hard place if it came down to it and I bet states rights would win, which would side with the state chapter of the party From the election commissions I talk to this is new ground. No “national” party has gotten a ballot line through petitions of state residents by the state party efforts and not used it. We at Americans of Americans Elect are going to find states we can test this in.

  • Hey all you unruly rebels!

    If AE is going to sue somebody for infringing on their trademark, they have to have somebody – some “person” or entity – to name as the defendant. Since we at AEoA are just a bunch of folks with more spare time than money, who is AE going to sue? Who would a court enjoin? The guy who set up the FB page? The Face Book page itself, or FB itself? FB has tons of dough – way more than AE! They might fight back. So, AE might not take them on. Also, filing a lawsuit requires $1000s in lawyer fees just to gather the supporting facts and prepare the complaint. They can’t get compensated for that, so the offense has to be fairly substantial.

    For all the foregoing reasons, I say keep “Americans Elect” in any name we subversives decide to use. How about AMERICANS ELECT META GROUP?
    (See my Saturday post on the FB page)

    Bill

    PS
    Search “Americans Elect” on FB and you will see many FB pages using that name – after AE got the trademark. Maybe its already too late for them to claim the right.

  • Americans Elect no longer has a trademark? Excerpt…
    “Abandonment Notice! On Monday, June 4, 2012, a U.S. federal trademark for Americans Elect registration number 85113591 was abandoned having the name AMERICANS ELECT 2012. The Reason provided as ABANDONED – NO STATEMENT OF USE FILED. Apply Now for this name, Starts at $159!”
    …Found at http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache%3AnclbvZJsmw8J%3Awww.trademarkia.com%2Fcompany-americans-elect-3622050-page-1-2+Americans+Elect+trademark&cd=3&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

  • As noted in previous posting, from the online research I’ve done, it appears Americans Elect has lost its Trademarks because it failed to correctly complete the process. It, however, still has © Copyright and can claim infringement on that. A note from Rex Lawhorn here in Oklahoma: “They might win on that, but even if they do, we own this party now. It’s that simple. They may try to claim legal ownership of the party via party rules prior to the convention, BUT the law states they MUST call a convention and we must select state leadership. From what I’m hearing, they succeeded in decertifying the party in 11 states so far.” Americans Elect is still legally listed as a political party [not a corporation by the way] here in Oklahoma, as of this posting Friday 27 July 2012. We don’t want that choice, an actual third choice on the ballot, to be wasted here, and are attempting a revival, until AE has it decertified or takes any other successful legal action to stop us. It is bizarre that the national organization is attacking its own delegates and members at state levels. AE is basically attacking itself. AE has self-destructed, and apparently continues to destroy any survivors. Given that fact, how do they seriously and realistically expect to return in 2014, as posted at their website, and for what? They did the same thing before as Unity08. Now Americans Elect 2012. How many people do they expect to trick on a third try in 2014? 2014, not 2016? What do they have in mind? US Congress? Clearly, they will not get any support from all of us whom they have betrayed. So a third try by those scammers will have no chance at all. I beleive, based on their behavior, that they never intended to succeed in the way we had hoped for. Their real goals might be something quite different than what we believed, and all of us were simply used like pawns who could easily be tossed away when they ended their own game. The real damage I now see is how state election boards will respond to any new attempts by any other third parties to get on state ballots in the future. Based on the behavior of AE, they might conclude all third parties are crazy, and therefore can’t be allowed ballot access. The people who created AE are out of touch with reality. They fit one of the definitions of mental illness, being a threat to themselves and others.

    • Jim H.,

      Interesting. So what do you plan to do next?

      • I’ve been ignoring Americans Elect for the past 3 months, so I’m now playing catch-up on all of the relating news and events.

        Rex Lawhorn invited me to participate in Americans Elect of Oklahoma, and wants me to change my political affiliation from Independent to Americans Elect. Oklahoma previously had voter registration choices of Democrat, Republican, Independent [apparently for all other parties], or Unaffiliated. Now it includes Americans Elect, much to my surprise. But it is there. An actual third party choice. I feel it should be used, not abandoned. It gives me a choice other then the usual lesser of two evils. I’m sure the Oklahoma Election Board was not happy to add Americans Elect, and will be happy to remove it upon legal request from Americans Elect. If so, then all that work to get on the ballot here in this ultra-red Republican state of Oklahoma has been wasted. Such abuse of voters by Americans Elect should be a crime. It is so absurd. The people on the Board of Americans Elect should be prosecuted for fraud, convicted, and deported from the US. I’d like to change my affiliation to Americans Elect, partly for the choice and partly as a way to fight back against the Americans Elect Board for their bizarre behavior. Even so, I don’t want to end up in a political Twilight Zone if Americans Elect is then removed as a registered party here in Oklahoma. I’d have to then change back to Independent. So, really, it is a wait an see situation. In even-numbered years, political affiliation can’t be changed here between April 1 and August 31, so I have until Monday September 3 to decide. Maybe the decision will be made for me by that date, if AE is removed as a party here in Oklahoma.

        Most of what I’m doing right now is under the direction of State Party Chair Rex Lawhorn. I’ve just created a Journal http://oklahomaae.wordpress.com/ for news about Americans Elect in Oklahoma, a Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Oklahoma-Americans-Elect/495289813819029, and a Twitter account https://twitter.com/OklahomaAE. If all goes well, then Rex Lawhorn will have an official website professionally created and set up for Americans Elect of Oklahoma. Not the free easy simple kind I can do. You can read the first convention minutes just posted at the Journal blog website. If the AE Board shuts us down, and then dares to come back in any form or under any name in 2014 or 2016, and dares ask voters to support them again, then I will wage a legal holy war against them via the Internet.

        I first knew something to be wrong with AE early in February 2012, when a credit background check was done on me as part of the ID confirmation process, and then shut me out under the claim that I can’t prove my ID and location. I sent photocopies of my Oklahoma ID and voter registration card, and they rejected those. So it really wasn’t about ID. I beleive it was my low income. Maybe they didn’t want low income voters to participate because of their perception of the kind of candidates low income voters are likely to support. No doubt, AE wanted to control the results and bypass the delegates. What then did AE really want? I don’t know. None of their behavior makes any sense. No single theory is a perfect fit, except that they might all be insane. Some rich people do crazy things. They have money to burn.

      • One other thing I recall happening, but I don’t now recall the date it happened. It was a Saturday when a young man came to my apartment door with the petitions. One for Americans Elect, the other for the Libertarian Party, to get them on the ballot here in Oklahoma. Apparently he didn’t get enough signatures to get Libertarians on the ballot here. He did get enough signatures for Americans Elect as a political party. The thing is, he confirmed my ID, in person, at my door. Photo ID and voter registration card. My signature is on the petition. I noticed that one worker alone had already obtained at least 500 signatures, which surprised me. [I signed both petitions, by the way.] Even with that proof on record, AE still refused to accept my ID for participation via Internet as a member and delegate. So I was shut out. Something very seriously wrong with that. My signature and ID was good enough to help them get on the ballot here, but not good enough to participate as a delegate and member. Maybe it should have been named Ackerman Elect instead of Americans Elect. Anyway, the state party has accepted my ID, membership, and participation at the state level. So if Ackerman wants to shut me out now, then he’ll have to shut down the state party by getting AE removed from the Oklahoma ballot.

  • There is a 100% legal way anyone can use “Americans Elect” or “Americans Elect 2012″ without violating Copyright or Trademark. Create a parody. It’s protected by Freedom of Speech. For example, Twitter allows parody accounts. Americans Elect can’t take legal action to stop a parody of Americans Elect. Remember Pat Paulsen http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pat_Paulsen and his campaigns for US President, which started back in 1968. He died in 1997, but that’s no reason for him to not run again. After all, dead people have been known to vote, so why not have a dead candidate run for office. It would be amusing if a parody of Americans Elect were to succeed in getting a candidate elected, or even if a parody candidate were to get a number of actual votes like Paulsen did. Maybe there could be a movie deal in that. I’d like to see JibJab make a parody video about Americans Elect.

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