Americans Elect Corporate Data
Americans Elect Financial Disclosures
Unity08 to Americans Elect line of continuity
- The corporate address reported by Unity08 in the first half of 2009: 1775 Pennsylvania Avenue Suite 1212, Washington DC 20006
- The corporate address reported by the Unity12 Task Force in the second quarter of 2010: 1775 Pennsylvania Avenue Suite 1212, Washington DC 20006
- The corporate address reported by the renamed Americans Elect in the third quarter of 2010: 1775 Pennsylvania Avenue Suite 1212, Washington DC 20006
- Americans Elect is the intentional extension of Unity08, as Americans Elect Chair and Unity08 Director Peter Ackerman made clear when sitting for a deposition in a lawsuit filed by Unity08: "If Unity08 is successful in this litigation, Unity08 has a clear and definite intent to resume its activities -- renamed 'Unity12' -- for the 2012 presidential election. The 'Unity' mission remains as critical today for the 2012 presidential election as it was in 2006 for the 2008 presidential election." The only matter Ackerman didn't anticipate was the name change from 'Unity12' to 'Americans Elect.'
To understand Americans Elect, and to understand why it is important to ask Americans Elect questions, understand Unity08. Read a series of articles on the history and ethics of Unity08, and visit Unity08 Watch.
Unity08 v. FEC Lawsuit Documentation
Americans Elect: A Corporation and a Political Party
Americans Elect is a registered 501c4 corporation with plans to nominate its own candidates for President and Vice President of the United States in the nation's first national online convention in the spring of 2012. Click here to learn more about 501c4 corporations and their standing in relations to ethics and ethics law in the wake of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.
In the spring of 2011, Americans Elect publicly insisted that it is not a political party: "Here is what Americans Elect is not. We are not a third party. We are not a political party of any sort." In July of 2011, Americans Elect Chief Operating Officer Elliot Ackerman declared, "The key delineation to make is that we're not a party." These unequivocal claims are contradicted by Americans Elect's observable behavior; Americans Elect has registered as a political party in a number of states:
Why does it matter whether Americans Elect is or is not a political party? As a registered 501c4 corporation, Americans Elect can hide the sources of unlimited funding from the American people. If it declared itself to be a political party, it would have to follow the rules for political parties, which include significant limitations to how much money they may take from individuals and mandate disclosure of them. Americans Elect is simultaneously using party status to get on the ballot for 2012 and sloughing off party status to avoid contribution requirements.
- Alaska, July 2011: State Division of Elections lists 'Americans Elect Party' as the state's one and only 'limited political party,' a party that may run candidates for President and Vice President of the United States but no other office.
- Arizona, July 2011: Secretary of State announces that "the Americans Elect Party recently joined the Republican, Democratic, Libertarian and Green parties as recognized political parties in Arizona."
- California, March 2011: Secretary of State announces "that on March 21, 2011, the Secretary of State received formal notification from 'Americans Elect' of their intent to qualify as a political party."
- Florida, July 2011: Secretary of State recognizes Americans Elect as a political party executive commmittee, and lists Americans Elect as a "minor political party." Americans Elect lawyer Daniel Winslow insists in a July 19 letter to the state of Florida that it has qualified as a "national party" in the state of Florida.
- Kansas, July 2011: Secretary of State announces that it "has certified Americans Elect Party as a new recognized political party in the state of Kansas." see here for official Kansas voter registration form with Americans Elect listed as a political party.
- Michigan, May 2011: Documents indicate Americans Elect is seeking ballot access as the "Americans Elect Party," with Kahlil Byrd listed as "Party Coordinator."
- Nevada, July 2011: Secretary of State recognizes the "Americans Elect Party" as ballot-access qualified with Kellen Arno as party Secretary.
How many elections will Americans Elect hold? What will these elections decide?
There are three elections envisioned by the Americans Elect bylaws, two of them taking place online. The first election is to select an Americans Elect presidential nominee, and only registered Americans Elect Delegates (see below) will be able to participate. The second election is the presidential election on Election Day 2012, one in which the Americans Elect nominee will be on the ballot in all 50 states and in which every registered voter in America will be able to participate as usual. The third election will take place after the November presidential election if no candidate wins a majority of electoral votes. In that circumstance, Americans Elect will hold another online vote of its Delegates to decide whether the Democratic or Republican presidential candidate will be given the electoral votes won by Americans Elect's candidate. This third election would allow Americans Elect to throw the presidency to either party, a powerful position to hold. Americans Elect needs to win just one state in order to occupy that powerful position and trigger a third election.
What is the Americans Elect budget? Where does Americans Elect's money come from? Does Americans Elect take money from special interests?
As a 501c4 corporation Americans Elect is not required to (and does not) share the size of its budget, the nature or extent of its expenditures, the identity of its contractors or the names of its funders. As such, Americans Elect largely operates in secret. But in a prior incarnation as a Section 527 organization through September 30 2010, Americans Elect filed six months' worth of financial disclosures, in which Americans Elect Chairman and Director Peter Ackerman is the only listed contributor (with $1.55 million in all). For a short time, Americans Elect allowed a small number of donors interested in identifying themselves to post their names as funders of Americans Elect on a Piryx "giving stream." Identified donors include private capital investment and "hedge fund" managers Kirk Rostron, Melvin Andrews and Peter Ackerman, along with Jim Holbrook, Chairman of the Promotion Marketing Association. Americans Elect insists that "None of our funding comes from special interests or lobbyists," but each of these funders qualifies as a "special interest" source: a person or organization engaged in specific economic activity, standing to gain or lose depending on the shape of action taken by the government, and acting to change the way government works.
What is the role of the American citizen in Americans Elect?
The role of Americans citizens in Americans Elect is laid out in the Americans Elect corporate bylaws of July 1 2011, a sourced copy of which you can read here. The bylaws lay out five stratified tiers of participation:
- At the bottom are citizens who aren't registered to vote. They cannot participate in the Americans Elect selection process.
- At the next lowest rung of power are appointed Electors and hired Employees of Americans Elect, who are subject to the absolute direction of the Americans Elect Board of Directors. If Electors and Employees do not follow orders from the Board of Directors, they not only can be dismissed but are also liable for significant financial penalties -- up to a half a million dollars.
- In the middle of the power structure are Delegates, Americans who have signed up with Americans Elect and verified their status as citizens and registered voters. In the spring of 2011, Americans Elect declared that "The Delegates -- and the rest of the American people -- Are the true boss of Americans Elect," but Delegates' rights and responsibilities do not match the tenor of this claim. Americans Elect corporate leadership reserves the right to strip any Delegate of his/her voting rights if he or she is not sufficently "supportive" of Americans Elect, does not offer sufficient "respect," or "disparages" Americans Elect leadership; according to bylaws Delegates must sign a "Standard of Conduct" that is in effect a loyalty oath. Delegates have democratic choices to make in how the Americans Elect process runs, at least nominally speaking. But practically speaking, the outcome of those democratic choices is preordained by the voting standard for "ratification." Unless two-thirds of all people who signed up to be Delegates vote to overturn a decision by the Board of Directors, the Board's decision -- regarding officers, rules for the convention, amendments to the bylaws and elimination of certain candidates from the roster -- will automatically be considered "ratified" by Delegates. Because most people who sign up for any account online never use it, the possibility of a two-thirds vote of all Delegates on any matter stands somewhere between slim and nil. Unless the two-thirds "ratification" rule is changed, Americans Elect Delegates will appear to ratify everything the Board of Directors sends their way, even if a majority of active Delegates stand in opposition.
- Higher than the Delegates are the Officers, who have independent power to make decisions and act in the name of Americans Elect. Officers are protected from any liability and expense associated with their positions. But if Officers defy the Board of Directors, they can be dismissed without cause or appeal, creating a powerful incentive for Officers to closely follow the dictates of the Board.
- In the top tier of Americans Elect is the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors and only the Board of Directors appoints its own members and corporate officers. The Board of Directors and its appointed designates write the rules for the Americans Elect elections and may overrule all actions of Employees. The Board of Directors may overrule nearly all actions of Delegates and writes the rules within which Delegates "independently" make a presidential nomination, constraining Delegates' choices. The Board of Directors is the only body in the entire Americans Elect system to make procedural decisions by democratic majority vote, making it the swiftest means for Americans Elect to take political action.
What does Americans Elect plan for next? Is Americans Elect only interested in the Presidential Election?
If we take Americans Elect's word for it, congressional campaigns may be in the future. On July 25 2011, Mike Cook posted this comment on Americans Elect's Facebook page: "I would actually prefer to see some viable legislative candidates put forward. There's only so much a President can do." Americans Elect responded: "we would also like to extend the platform to do that too, after we work on this nominating convention."
Why insist that Americans Elect share information about itself? Why keep asking questions? Why not simply give Americans Elect the benefit of the doubt?
One reason Americans have the right to know about Americans Elect is that the stakes are so high. Americans Elect is trying to arrange the election of the next President of the United States of America, the most powerful single position on the planet. As citizens in a democratic republic, we have the right to make an informed decision, and that means transparent disclosure on the part of groups like Americans Elect that have appointed themselves to stage-manage the election. Indeed, Americans already have public access to contribution and expenditure for the Democratic and Republican parties. If Americans Elect will not share similar information about its funders, then it represents a step backward for democracy, not a step forward.
Another reason why Americans Elect needs to disclose information about its origins, funding and activities is its unfortunate history. It's not just that Americans Elect is currently making claims that don't match the observable facts; there's a history of misrepresentation, misdirection and malfunction in Americans Elect's previous effort under the name Unity08 (see column on the left for information about the Unity08/Americans Elect overlap in time and office space; see here for the names of four Unity08 leaders who are in the leadership of Americans Elect). As a series of articles on the history and ethics of Unity08 shows:
As the continuation of the factually-challenged Unity08, Americans Elect needs to take affirmative steps earn Americans' trust. Hiding information does not help in this regard.
- In its initial filing as a corporation, in its first six months' original IRS disclosures, and in its initial website registrations Unity08 claimed a primary business address identical to the business address of a political public relations firm working for Republican clients, Peak Creative Media, run by the former adviser to Roger Ailes of FOX News. That same individual is also the person who is the registered owner of the Americans Elect domain names.
- While Unity08 proclaimed its opposition to the influence of lobbyists in politics, it quietly brought former and current lobbyists into leadership positions; when confronted with this information, Unity08 responded that "You have to have been in it to know what's wrong with it."
- Unity08 declared that it would grow its "people's movement" using only small donations from "everyday Americans" of "people like you." Unity08 released a "Clean Money Pledge" in which it challenged members of the public to commit to the following plan of action: "I will only vote for a presidential candidate who has raised more than half of his/her funds through small contributions of $250 or less." It demanded that the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates abide by this "Clean Money Pledge." Yet at the same time it was quietly suing the Federal Election Commission to win the right to take contributions of unlimited size without public disclosure -- a right Americans Elect now exercises. And an analysis of Unity 08's 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Quarter 2006 IRS disclosures reveals that a full 82% of Unity08's 2006 donation money came from donors of more than $250. Unity08 appears to have violated its own Clean Money Pledge.
- While Unity08 leaders were insisting to the public that they weren't using their effort to promote any particular presidential candidate, they had already reserved the domain draftmichaelbloomberg.com in June of 2007. In January of 2008, multiple Unity08 executives and staffers put Unity08 on hiatus and immediately began working on a Draft Michael Bloomberg campaign, hosted at the very same draftmichaelbloomberg.com web address that Unity08 had reserved. Despite Unity08 leaders' declarations that the two campaigns were "completely separate," Unity08 gave money to the Draft Bloomberg campaign and shared an office with the Draft Bloomberg campaign.
Why doesn't Irregular Times sit down and talk with Americans Elect, engage in civil conversation and come to a mutual understanding?
We've tried. We've made phone calls, written e-mails, sent letters and even knocked on Americans Elect's door (a security guard wouldn't let us through), consistently expressing interest in having a discussion with Americans Elect, even a willingness to travel to meet with Americans Elect on their DC turf, on their schedule, at our expense. No dice. As of August 22 2011, we've been at it for nearly a year (see an accumulated list of questions) and will keep trying to initiate a conversation with Americans Elect, but it's been hard. Until August 12 2011, we did not receive any response whatsoever from Americans Elect when initiating contact. On August 12, we finally received a communication from Americans Elect Chief Technology Officer Joshua Levine. Since then, communication from him has been spotty and vague, except for a single commitment on Levine's part to make some disclosures (to an unclear extent) at the end of August 2011; we'll look out for this development. On August 22 2011, we received a note from Dimple Bhayani explaining that the tendency of feedback on Americans Elect to be erased from public view was some other group's problem. That's all the response from Americans Elect that we've received.
Despite this, we won't give up, and our difficulties don't mean that you shouldn't try. Please do write to Americans Elect at firstname.lastname@example.org. Make a phone call to Americans Elect headquarters at 541-933-5328. And if you do get a response, please let us know. Drop us a line at email@example.com.
Some other good sources of information on Americans Elect:
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The Latest Articles on Americans Elect from Irregular Times: