Behind Americans Elect’s “Level the Playing Field” Donation to “Charity”
(Tip of the pen to Richard Winger for getting me started down this path.)
Earlier this year Americans Elect leaders popped up with a new organization, a new name (“Level the Playing Field”), and two mysterious payments from that group. The first mysterious payment was made out to “Imaginary Friend.” It turns out “Imaginary Friend” is a group connected to a web-design firm that has in turn created a web group with yet a third name, “Change the Rule.” All these name changes take place against a history of other name changes. Unity08, the original group funded by hedge fund money to mount a private corporate candidate for President of the United States, changed its name to the Unity12 Task Force, which in turn changed its name to Americans Elect when the Unity name became tainted.
The second mysterious payment from Americans Elect’s “Level the Playing Field” comes in the form of a “charitable contribution” to a group called “The Chamberlain Project” operating out of a post office box in South Portland, Maine.
What is a Section 527 political corporation doing making payments to a Maine charity named “The Chamberlain Project?” To answer that question, we’ll need to search Maine corporate records (there is no record of “The Chamberlain Project” at the federal level). It turns out that the Chamberlain Project registered as a corporation in Maine on August 28, 2014. That’s just 11 days before Americans Elect’s “Level the Playing Field” incorporated itself into existence, and just 18 days after the blank domain smartcampaigns.info registered itself with Cara McCormick as its listed individual registrant and “The Chamberlain Trust” as its listed organizational entity).
What is “The Chamberlain Project?” The project appears to have no website to call its own, and I can find no record of public statements by the Project either. The only document on file with the Maine Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions are its Articles of Incorporation. This document indicates just two novel pieces of information:
1. The sole incorporator of the corporation is Cara McCormick…
… the same Cara McCormick who is the listed registrant for “The Chamberlain Trust,”
… the same Cara McCormick who is listed on the Board of Advisors for Americans Elect,
… the same Cara McCormick who co-wrote a Mission Report sent to Americans Elect investors after the 2012 elections, explaining what Americans Elect had done and what it planned to do next, and
… the same Cara McCormick listed as Secretary of “Level the Playing Field.”
2. The Chamberlain Project is registered as a 501(c)(4) corporation. 501c4 corporations like The Chamberlain Project and Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS have become one of the major conduits through which large donors influence American politics.
If the Chamberlain Project is a political corporation, has it engaged in any political activity? There is no record of such activity by “The Chamberlain Project” registered with the Federal Election Commission or the IRS’ disclosure site for federal political corporations. But the Maine Ethics Commission‘s campaign contribution database does report activity by The Chamberlain Project in 2014 and 2015. Records indicate that the Chamberlain Project officially registered as a PAC (Political Action Committee) with the state of Maine in November of 2014.
There are just two sources of funding listed for The Chamberlain Project. One is Level the Playing Field. The other is “Smart Enterprises Inc.” The registered agent of Smart Enterprises, Inc? Cara McCormick.