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As Staffers Jump Ship, Americans Elect Delays Financial Disclosure Again

According to the IRS, members of the American public have the right to ask for the Form 990 annual financial disclosure from any Section 501(c) corporation. Those disclosures matter because they provide information the activities of corporations that most don’t disclose voluntarily. By looking at a Form 990, it’s possible to find out to some degree whether the public declarations of a corporation match private reality.

Anyone making a request in writing is supposed to receive the Form 990 within 30 days of a written request — but there’s a loophole: instead of filing its financial disclosures on time, a 501(c) corporation can request one automatic 3 month extension on financial disclosure deadlines. On top of that, such a corporation can get an additional 3 month extension on disclosure, as long as a representative of the corporation signs the request and supplies a reason for the delay.

Americans Elect is a 501(c)(4) corporation that planned to field a candidate for President of the United States and has declared the intention to nominate more candidates for public office through its own privatized election process:

Americans Elect CEO Kahlil Byrd: “We fully expect to continue to be on the ballot in 2013, 2014, and 2016. In ’13, we’ll go beyond the presidential campaign and focus on state level efforts. We hope this will yield candidates for governor, senator, congress, and below. This will be one of the most exciting phases of the next chapter of our work.”

The American people have the right to expect transparent disclosure from a corporation that plans to supplant public voting with its own proprietary and privatized voting system in elections across the country. But for years now, Americans Elect has refused to identify who is funding its multimillion-dollar operations. Last year, Americans Elect delayed its release of Form 990 financial disclosure by six months, explaining that although it had a budget in the millions of dollars and was in its second year of operations, it hadn’t hired anyone yet to check its bookkeeping.

Earlier this year, Kahlil Byrd made a public pledge that Americans Elect would release its 2011 financial disclosures “in June of 2012.” But when I filed a formal request for Americans Elect’s Form 990 disclosures after their due date in May 2012, Americans Elect replied that they’d decided to exercise a three-month extension. On August 16, a day after that three-month extension period had expired, I filed another written request for Americans Elect’s financial disclosure form.

Last night, I received the following reply:

Americans Elect replies to my formal Form 990 request with a delay

“Dear Mr. Cook:

Thank you for your recent inquiry.

Americans Elect has not yet filed its 2011 Form 990 with the Internal Revenue Service. Americans Elect has filed a second Form 8868 with the Internal Revenue Service for an additional three month extension of the deadline to file its Form 990 and, therefore, Americans Elect will file its 2011 Form 990 by November 15, 2012.

Despite Kahlil Byrd’s pledge, Americans Elect has exercised a six-month delay in financial disclosure for the second year in a row.

This is not ubiquitous behavior. In stark contrast to Americans Elect, a similarly centrist spinoff called The Common Sense Coalition has rather promptly provided IRS disclosures to me despite having a smaller staff and smaller budget. Groups like The Common Sense Coalition should be commended for their relative transparency — especially when they promise (like The Common Sense Coalition has done) to reveal the names of their donors. Americans Elect is not following standard practice; it’s making the choice to remain as opaque as possible.

Postscript: Inadvertently, however, Americans Elect has revealed some information in its communications. You see, on its web page Americans Elect doesn’t provide any kind of standard e-mail address to which one could send a request for information. When filing requests with Americans Elect, therefore, I’ve had to make do with the various e-mail addresses that have leaked out here and there over the months of Americans Elect’s activities. When sending my request to the following e-mail addresses, I received an automated reply indicating that the accounts no longer existed:

Ainsley Perrien – Press Secretary
Wendy Drake – Secretary, Fundraiser, Chief Leadership Officer
Elliot Ackerman – Chief Operating Officer
Jim Jonas – various titles, on the founding team
Kate Cantwell – Regional Director

As Americans Elect moves on to its next chapter, it appears to be doing so with diminished capacity.

7 thoughts on “As Staffers Jump Ship, Americans Elect Delays Financial Disclosure Again”

  1. Richard Winger says:

    Jim, you are the Bulldog Drummond of our time!

  2. Jim Harwood says:

    Is Americans Elect planning a comeback in 2013?

    Visit the home/front page of the Americans Elect website and scroll down to the bottom of that page. Excerpt…

    “SEE YOU IN 2013! We look forward to bringing greater choice and innovation to federal, state and local elections to come.”

    …So you see, apparently they are planning a comeback in 2013, and bigger than before. After all, not just national candidates for president and vice president in 2016, and US Congress in 2014, but also “state and local” candidates.

    In conflict with the apparent plan by Ackerman and his associates to come back in 2013, is their recent bizarre behavior to remove Americans Elect as a political party in all states, especially where Americans Elect gained ballot access! Read the following example, a PDF copy of the letter sent by Americans Elect just recently on August 6 to the Oklahoma State Election Board. I got the copy from Rex Lawhorn, who got it from the Oklahoma State Election Board…

    Americans Elect Termination Letter

    …There’s no logic in the behavior of Ackerman and his associates running Americans Elect as a national political party. Why attempt to destroy their state parties, especially those that do have ballot access, if they are planning a comeback in 2013? After dumping their delegates, members, and state parties with ballot access, how can they realistically and seriously expect any former delegates and members, or anyone else, to ever again support them?

    According to Rex Lawhorn, State Chairman of Americans Elect Party of Oklahoma, “Basically, Americans Elect disbanded their national party with the intention of disbanding all of the state parties.” Notice was sent by Americans Elect to the Oklahoma State Election Board to terminate the state party of Americans Elect in Oklahoma, and to have Americans Elect removed from the Oklahoma ballot. “The national party can’t legally do that.” Even if the state party were to request removal from the ballot, then it could not be done at this time. States do not add and remove political parties from ballots immediately at the whim of people like Peter Ackerman, or anyone else. “Oklahoma Title 26, Section 10, is very clear about the nature of political parties, that they are controlled completely by the State Central Committee and state rules. The national party has no influence over the state party in Oklahoma.” The attempt by Peter Ackerman and his associates to shut down the political party in Oklahoma has failed. Americans Elect is still recognized as a political party in Oklahoma.

    Rex Lawhorn stated, “The biggest problem for the Oklahoma party is that the presidential candidate must be the candidate selected by the National Convention of the party. What this means is the state party cannot certify a candidate different than the candidate selected by the national party. Not having a national party or convention, the question is whether or not a state party can appoint a national candidate in the absence of a national party. This is currently under review by the Oklahoma Attorney General.”

    Why would Americans Elect want to do such an illogical thing as shutting down all state parties and giving up ballot access in those states? One of the possible reasons has to do with the controversy of Americans Elect refusing to identify its “secret donors” for Election 2012. Shutting down the national party might make that issue legally moot, or so Ackerman and his associates might believe or hope. However, if Americans Elect continues to exist at any level, including its state parties where it gained ballot access, then it might still be on the legal hook under state law as well as federal law requiring it to identify all of its donors. If so, then Ackerman and his associates want to shut down the state parties so that Americans Elect does not have to identify its donors. Maybe they believe they can do a reboot of Americans Elect in 2013, and then not have to identify former “secret donors” of 2012. They now know Americans Elect must be recognized as a political party in order to gain ballot access, and all political parties are by law required to identify all donors. So for the 2013 reboot of Americans Elect, all new donors are likely to be identified, and will not likely include the former “secret donors” of 2012.

    1. Jim Cook says:

      Thanks for this detail, Jim!

  3. Jim Harwood says:

    Other than the reasons Americans Elect has already given for why some donors do not want to be identified, might there be a very disturbing reason for keeping secret the identity of certain donors during 2012? What if those “secret donors” are not US citizens, not US voters, but instead are people of foreign big businesses and governments, seeking to influence the outcome of Election 2012? No doubt foreign powers have an interest in US elections. A Democrat president is likely to treat foreign businesses and governments different than a Republican president, or of any other political party that might win the White House. If influential US citizens in big business were to accept money from foreign businesses and/or governments, for the purpose of influencing a US election, then that might be a crime, such as treason against the United States of America. So of course any US citizens guilty of that would not want to identify the foreign donors, and those foreign donors would not want to be identified. The only way to eliminate this possibility is for full disclosure by Americans Elect for all of its donors. Even then, it might not be an accurate and complete list. If it were up to me, there would be a criminal investigation of Americans Elect and its unidentified donors.

    My opinion is Americans Elect did not simply fail. I consider failure to be comparable to a death that was caused by an accident, or maybe a person starving to death. Instead, Americans Elect self-destructed. It destroyed itself. Death by suicide. Ackerman and his associates did everything they could to sabotage their own creation. From its birth, Americans Elect followed the nearly same predictable path as that of its former incarnation that was known as Unity08. Compare Criticism of Americans Elect to Criticism of Unity08 Now it’s planning a resurrection in 2013. A born again political party. No one in their left or right mind will support “Americans Elect” or any variation created by the same people anytime in the future. Maybe it can come back as the Zombie Party, or The Walking Dead Party. After all, dead people have been known to vote in elections. Maybe the Zombie Apocalypse will begin in Boston. The only thing the “Americans Elect” name is good for now is to be on its own tombstone. R.I.P. If it does come back to haunt us in 2013, then someone will have to call Ghostbusters! Meantime, Ackerman and his associates have already crossed over into the Twilight Zone.

  4. John Lumea says:

    Thanks, Jim, for this unsurprising information.

    Speaking of ship-jumping former staffers…

    Wonder how Nick Troiano’s PAC for Dave Walker is doing?

  5. AE Transparency says:

    AECorp’s recent actions, including the shuttering of state parties and its reprise of reporting delays, speak volumes regarding its plans for 2013 and beyond.

    First, the Form 990 foot-dragging says clearly that they do intend a comebak. Otherwise, there would be no need to continue stonewalling in the hope that you’ll forget and leave them alone.

    More importantly, the jettisoning of its state party status and ballot access says that the re-emergent AECorp will not be a party. Why scrap $40MM and 2 years of effort only to start again next election cycle? No, the New AECorp will be a super-PAC, or something equally shifty, shelling out secret money to twist the electorate’s thinking, to co-opt, overrun, and zombiefy the major parties, and to support its hand-picked candidates in other parties. We must assume that even a slow learner like Pete Ackerman can be “twice burned, thrice shy”: building and running a political party really isn’t his forte. It is so unpleasantly public, and it requires the willing cooperation of people he can’t pay to do his bidding. Not Pete’s style at all. Remember, the remaining AECorp web page signs off with “(We’ll) See You In 2013”. But nowhere does it say that we, the public, will in turn see them.

    Pete Ackerman is crawling back under his rock, his rattle silenced but his fangs intact.

  6. Korky Day says:

    I’ve read that the Green Party is suing Americans Elect. Seeking further information.

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