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Who’s to Blame for the useless Americans Elect website? Blame LBi (and an Imaginary Friend)

Remember Americans Elect, the first-ever corporate effort to run a privatized, top-down, board-run online presidential nomination? Well, John Lumea finds the agency and one of the people at that agency to blame for the broken-down, no-good, can’t-register, won’t-verify-my-identity, no-comments-allowed, no-discussion-permitted, won’t respond-to-contact, community-devoid, records-gapped, official-rules-violating, bizarre-candidate-ranking, internally-contradictory Americans Elect website. Lumea’s Facebook post:

Americans Elect paid the branding and tech firm LBi at least $9 million to design and build its Web site, as well as to create its entire public engagement toolkit — the brand; the messaging; social media; videos; advertising; promotions. All of it.

Kriston Rucker of LBi was the Creative Director for the Americans Elect campaign — and he now lists the credit on his own Web site.

Rucker’s site is aptly titled…Imaginary Friend.

Let’s add some detail to flesh out John Lumea’s choice find. With all the problems, hiccups, exclusions and downright malfunctions of the Americans Elect website, can you believe LBi won a Clio Award for its Americans Elect product? Well, as you can see here, it did win an award — only two weeks before the whole Americans Elect enterprise collapsed despite considerable news coverage when hardly anyone showed interest in participating and the few people who did want to participate couldn’t even register. That’s got to be embarrassing for the Clio Award Juries, which represent the center of the corporate public relations industry.

At its own website, LBi is repeating a claim that cannot possibly be true: that Americans Elect “has 400,000 delegates.” That’s got to be embarrassing, too.

It’s not as if LBi is running away from the association: in this pdf document LBi takes full responsibility for the construction of the Americans Elect website, from the bizarre matching system that told me Condoleezza Rice was my ideal politician to the the Platform of Questions procedure in which Americans Elect ignored delegates’ choices to the voting system that drove people crazy with its malfunctions. These are all the aspects of the Americans Elect website that shut down democracy or just plain didn’t work. LBi even brags about setting up an account for Americans Elect with GetSatisfaction, the “ask any question” website at which Americans Elect representatives failed to actually answer questions and even issued takedown demands when people talked about one another’s questions.

The full set of people at LBi responsible for the Americans Elect disaster is available here. Kriston Rucker has some company among employees with titles:

Executive Creative Director: Cedric Devitt, LBi, New York
Creative Director: Emil Lanne, LBi, New York
Creative Director: Kriston Rucker, LBi, New York
Creative Director: Richard Bloom, LBi, New York
Copywriter: Howard Hill, LBi, New York
Art Director: Steven Alvarez, LBi, New York
Agency Producer: Sarah Kapoor, LBi, New York
Agency Producer: Dexter Liu, LBi, New York
Account Executive: Jen Cameli, LBi, New York
Account Executive: Patrick Craig, LBi, New York
Other: Michael Doody, LBi, New York
Other: Jonathan Isaac, LBi, New York

Americans Elect spent a lot of time referring to itself as a “grassroots movement.” But as the above list and the new whittled-down single-page Americans Elect website reveal, it was an corporate outsourced, hired-consultant private enterprise. This is who built Americans Elect, on commission:

Akamai Technologies
Arent Fox LLP
Aristotle International
Arno Political Consultants
Arnold & Porter LLP
The Bach Group LLC
Be A Protagonist
Blink Reaction
Copilevitz & Canter LLC
CyberCoders, Inc.
Deloitte & Touche LLP
District Computers
Doyle Personnel
Global News Imaging
Goldin Solutions
Ikon Public Affairs
Ipsos-Reid Public Affairs Inc.
J. Howell Holdings LLC
Kita Capital Management LLC
Koch & Hoos, LLC
Kramer Editing Services
LBi
Likel Creative
McLean Insurance Agency
Meakin Armstrong
Meetup.org
New Beginnings Photography
Proskauer Rose LLP
Proverb Ltd
Public Strategies Inc.
Rackspace Hosting, Inc.
Realist Idealist Strategies
RSA
Smart Campaigns Inc.
SNR Denton US LLP
Steptoe & Johnson LLP
Webster Group
Whitman Insight Strategies
On The Issues
Prolexic

This list is thoroughly corporate. Most of the corporations that aren’t huddled in the financial district of Manhattan can be found inside the same DC Beltway that Americans Elect rhetorically lambasted (and yet itself called home).

Now that Americans Elect has failed due to lack of popular support, its corporate contractors are trying to make the most of the debacle. Failing that, at least they’ve got a lot of cash. The Washington Post verifies it: the Americans Elect website builders walked away with a cool $9 million.

7 comments to Who’s to Blame for the useless Americans Elect website? Blame LBi (and an Imaginary Friend)

  • Bill

    While I agree that LBi doesn’t deserve any glory from the AECorp debacle, still I’m not sure that it deserves much blame either. I suspect that LBi merely implemented the functionality (or dysfunctionality) that its client (AECorp) asked for, and put in place the messaging machinery to spin out the message that its client wished to send. I doubt that it had an executive role in determining what AECorp should be…it merely put the lipstick on the pig. That’s what PR agencies do. It tried its best to make a silk purse out of Peter Ackerman’s ear, that’s all, and it was wise enough to charge him handsomely for this impossible task.

    What category was that Clio awarded for? Maybe the “P*ss On Me And Tell Me Its Raining” division? Oh, wait a minute…there really isn’t any other division in the PR industry, is there?

    • Jim

      I respedtfully disagree with your conclusion, Bill. Of course LBi shouldn’t be judged for the quality of Americans Elect’s goals. But it should be judged for the quality of the execution of those goals, because it was paid $9 million to build a website that executed Americans Elect’s goals. Americans Elect’s website never worked in many ways that it should have. That’s on LBi’s shoulders.

  • Another priceless detail to pair with “Imaginary Friend”…

    Kriston Rucker and Cedric Devitt — another LBi “creative” that appears (as does Rucker) in this LBi-produced video about LBi’s Americans Elect campaign — are co-founders of U.S. Air Guitar, presenter of the U.S. Air Guitar Championships and “the official governing body of air guitar in the U.S.”

    “Air guitar” — an apt metaphor for Americans Elect itself, I’d say.

    By the way: Kriston Rucker? Cedric Devitt? Are those names even real?!!

      • Nice find John!
        I just saw this:
        July 9, 2012 Tweet from programmer at LBi* in NYC:
        ?@drnikki “Happy to be back at work after a week, but weird to not see any of the Americans Elect crew. It’s really over now.”
        Also, the LBi video for AE says Michael Doody was AE’s “Senior Strategy Director.” I’m not sure what that means exactly. Is he responsible for confusing the public about whether AE was a third party, or is he responsible for failing to satisfactorily answer questions about AE’s purposes, and honesty? If so, then LBi is responsible under the doctrine of Respondeat Superior – morally, if not legally.

        Bill Kelleher
        Twitter: wjkno1
        Author: Internet Voting Now

  • John

    Y’all need to stop being such whiny little bitches.

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