Americans Elect, Part III: Who’s Behind The Astroturf Organization?
As we’ve written in previous posts, Americans Elect is gathering signatures in Oregon in an attempt to qualify as a minor party. Their goal is to hold an internet-only primary election to nominate a candidate for President of the United States.
The group describes itself in grassroots terms, but in reality, they’re anything but grassroots. Their “Leadership” team and Board of Directors is largely composed of hedge fund operators and wealth managers, and there’s strong evidence that most of their funding has come from leaders in the financial industry.
We’ve previously explored their funding and their alarmingly undemocratic bylaws. Today, we’ll look more closely at some of the people who are behind this effort. (Huge credit goes to Jim Cook at Irregular Times for pulling all of this evidence together).
Americans Elect was founded by Peter Ackerman, apparently as a continuation of the Unity ’08 campaign. Ackerman is the chief of Rockport Capital Inc., an investment firm. According to official documents, he gave at least $1.55 million of his own money to start Americans Elect. He began the group as a 527 in 2010, but has since reorganized the group as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit.
Among other things, Ackerman is the chairman of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. In 2001, he published a book called A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict, which has raised eyebrows over his philosophy of social movements.
In short, Ackerman believes that regime change (in totalitarian countries, for instance) is successful only because of political manipulation by political elites, not because of a groundswell of populist passion. To Ackerman, civil resistance is only successful when it’s controlled from the top down.
What does any of that have to do with Americans Elect? Remember that Americans Elect is being pitched as a grassroots organization run entirely by the public.
In the words of Jim Cook:
If Peter Ackerman follows through on his promise to run Americans Elect in the spirit of a civil resistance campaign as he understands it, then the gist of his 2001 book A Force More Powerful suggests a conceptual hierarchy of operation conducted from the top levels of leadership on down, with wise visionary leaders at the top, surrounded by capable experts in the middle, and followers at the bottom who are constrained to act within limits strategically set by the Chairman (Peter Ackerman himself). The events leading up to the nomination of an Americans Elect Presidential ticket should be expected to be carefully orchestrated so that followers of various sorts will play the parts set out for them. We’ll be playing the music of democracy, but it will all be laid out according to Peter Ackerman’s score.
Daniel Winslow is described as a senior leader of Americans Elect. He’s a former senior political aid for Mitt Romney and Scott Brown. He’s also a Republican state legislator in Massachusetts who earlier this year introduced a bill that would strip collective bargaining rights from public employees. He is considered to be a possible candidate for governor.
Recently, when he was called out on Twitter for the fact that Americans Elect refused to disclose the sources of its funds, Winslow responded with this tweet: “@dtfan579 How so? Why do you think the “Indians” wore facepaint when poking the British King in the eye? AE is fully complying with the law.”
The bylaws of Americans Elect require leaders to not advocate for or against any candidate for president until AE makes its nomination. But Winslow has repeatedly violated this rule by publicly supporting Romney, including public appearances on cable television.
McKinnon is a Republican political consultant, a former advisor to George W. Bush, and on the Leadership team of Americans Elect. On September 4, 2011, he used an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” to praise Americans Elect, but he never once mentioned that he’s a Senior Leader for the organization:
Mark McKinnon: But to your question to Tom, there’s something he’s written about, there’s going to be an effort on all 50 states that will be ballot accessed for an alternative nominating convention in all 50 states next year. So there’s going–there’s some things going on out there. It’s called Americans Elect, and they’re–so there will be an alternative nominating process. So there’s frustration out there, and they’re–people are tired with the system the way it is. They’re working within the system and No Labels, but there’s things happening outside the system as well.
That actually fits a pattern of behavior for leaders of Americans Elect…
Ostensibly a Democratic pollster, Douglas Schoen is probably most known as a political analyst for Fox News, where he’s espoused admiration for the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, and Andrew Brietbart.
Schoen has written multiple op-eds for national publications about Americans Elect, failing to mention that he’s a Senior Leader of the group. Americans Elect has then included those clips in their news roundups… also without mentioning his relationship to the party.
Here are just some of the investors and wealth managers who are on the Leadership team:
Melvin T. Andrews
President and Co-Founder of Lakeside Capital Partners
Gerald W. Blakeley Jr.
President, Blakeley Investment Company
President, Farmington Asset Management
John H. Burbank III
Managing Member and Chief Investment Officer, Passport Capital, LLC
Lynn Forester de Rothschild
CEO, E.L. Rothschild
W. David Lawson
Managing Director, JP Morgan Chase & Co.
Managing Director, Lionstone Capital Management
Ambassador Mark Palmer
President, Capital Development Company, LLC
Kirk T. Rostron
Managing Partner, The Mount Vernon Group
In addition to being a political advisor to Republican presidential candidates, Michael Arno runs Arno Political Consultants, a signature gathering company. His company appears to be running the signature gathering operation for Americans Elect in numerous states, notably California.
According to a document obtained by Irregular Times, Arno Political Consultants are charging Americans Elect $157,500 to gather 35,000 signatures in Oregon.
Come back tomorrow for more about Arno Political Consultants and their history in Oregon.