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Through “Level the Playing Field,” Americans Elect Wades into Ranked Choice Voting

During its nine-year history, the privatized-presidential-election corporation called Americans Elect has taken on many names: Americans Elect, Change the Rule, Level the Playing Field, Unity08, Unity12 Task Force. In a post yesterday about the group’s resurrection for 2016, I noted how its recent activity featured a “charitable donation” to a mysterious 501c4 corporation called “The Chamberlain Project” that formed within a month of the formation of “Level the Playing Field” by Americans Elect executives.

Cara McCormick stands at the middle of these circles of activity, serving as a corporate officer for Americans Elect and “Level the Playing Field” and The Chamberlain Project. Cara McCormick’s business Smart Campaigns and “Level the Playing Field” are, according to campaign finance records, the sole monetary contributors to The Chamberlain Project.

According to those same campaign finance records, The Chamberlain Project has spent its money on just one enterprise in Maine — a political one. On November 6 2014, The Chamberlain Project sent $10,000 to Maine’s Committee for Ranked Choice Voting. On December 3 2014, The Chamberlain Project sent another $10,000 to the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting.

The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting did not exist as a registered political group in the Maine campaign finance system until October 28 2014, meaning that it formed just a week before The Chamberlain Project sent it its first infusion of cash. The Chamberlain Project was the single largest contributor to the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting in 2014.

Guess who chipped in an additional $4,000 contribution in cash and more than $1,600 in in-kind support to the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting in Maine on October 29, October 30, and November 1, 2014? Guess who filed the paperwork to establish the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting as a political committee in Maine? And guess who is the Treasurer for the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting? It’s just one person, and you already know the name: Cara McCormick.

“Level the Playing Field,” whose website only describes an interest in changing participation standards for the U.S. presidential debates, does not mention “ranked choice” once.

Why did “Level the Playing Field” send money to a group formed by its officer for the sole purpose of in turn sending money onward to a ranked choice voting advocacy group — a group that was founded on the money it and its officer sent? I don’t know, but I suspect the answer will be interesting. It’s time for me to look up some addresses and see if I can find out. I’ll be sending some letters tomorrow — but in the meantime, the fun of following this money trail has been its own reward.

5 thoughts on “Through “Level the Playing Field,” Americans Elect Wades into Ranked Choice Voting”

  1. Ella says:

    Did you notice that no contributions or investment receipts are recorded for the 4/10/15 filing? Only $90 in debts. Keep going champ! This is a pass the ‘buck’ that is interesting to find out who it ultimately benefits.

    1. Jim Cook says:

      Yep — it looks like the Ranked Choice Voting effort was started up quickly and wound down quickly as a “flash” effort. To its credit, eventually the Committee gathered a number of smaller contributions, but the big kickstart really happened from the McCormick-Americans Elect funding. In the expenditures, we see a lot of payments for signature gathering, indicating at least a semi-professional effort here.

      1. Bill says:

        Interesting, Jim. I’ve come to learn that wherever Pete Ackerman (Americans Elect’s Man Behind The Curtain) is involved, nothing is ever as it seems.

        So I wonder if maybe this whack-a-mole-web of inter-related organizations is maybe a bit of typical Ackerman sleight-of-hand. If he raised just one organization, then we’d all immediately know what he’s up to now. But if he raises a dozen of ’em (only one of which he’s really serious about), then he keeps us guessing, disorganized, and unfocused until he’s ready to really pull the trigger.

        Also interesting how well Ack-Ack has kept his name out of things this time around. I expect he was pretty shocked by the scorn and humiliation visited personally upon him during the Americans Elect days.

      2. Ella says:

        Do you know who the original $20,000 came from? Who were they sponsoring, what candidates or party?

        1. Jim Cook says:

          Good questions! I’ll look into it.

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