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).

Peter Ackerman

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

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.

Mark McKinnon

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…

Douglas Schoen

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

Arturo Brillembourg
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.

Lee Lowenstein
Managing Director, Lionstone Capital Management
Ambassador Mark Palmer
President, Capital Development Company, LLC

Kirk T. Rostron
Managing Partner, The Mount Vernon Group

Michael Arno

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.


I wouldn't be so worried about People in america Elect railroading the presidential, if there was a strategy to verify that their selection process is fully above water. The method would be akin to get out of polling, except in such cases the People in america Elect repository of nominating voters/votes would have to be opened to self-employed scrutiny. The repository could possibly be signed with community important cryptography to prevent tampering after the truth. Then random votes would be examined and candidate selected could possibly be verified via statistical sampling.

With Americans Elect, it isn't who you vote for that counts,
its who counts the votes.

And AE "counts" the votes.

Anonymous, the only change that comes 'from the top down" is the top gets richer and the down get poorer. If your expecting the 1%' to make life better for the 99% not only have you been watching to much fox and listening to too much lumbum on the radio, you live in an Alice In Wonderland world. Tens of millions of American families are facing fraudclosure, are without jobs, can't afford to send there kids to college and do not know what the future holds for them. Who the hell do you thing is responsible for the mess this country is in. Who do you think has sent millions of jobs overseas, who do you think has destroyed our manufacturing base and who do you think has trillions of dollars stacked away in offshore bank accounts. American Elect is nothing more than an attempt by the same people that have screwed the American middle class for over 30 years, tol keep on screwing us. The Occupy Movement may be the last chance to take back the America we believed in and have lost to the so called top down oligarchs.

"Start up fund"? They control who is on the ballot. They decide who is "acceptable"? The by-laws give the board complete discretion. Bunch of BS

Why would anyone imagine that Americans Elect would run their selection process honestly, when they have been nothing but dishonest about how they are organized, and when their leadership shills for them again and again without disclosing their association with them?

If telling the truth about Americans Elect is "trying to tear down Americans Elect" then it's pretty clear to me that Americans Elect is a shady organization and is not to be trusted.

What's needed to set our government aright is three things:

1) A Constitutional Amendment making it clear that money is money and speech is speech and they are not the same, permitting states and/or the Federal government to regulate election financing however we choose,

2) Another Constitutional amendment making it clear that anywhre the word "person" appears in the Constitution, it means "natural person born of a human mother", and

3) The abolition of first-past-the-post plurality voting systems in favor of instant-runoff-voting. This would allow people to vote both offensively for the person they really want, while still having the opportunity to vote defensively, instead of only defensively for the least evil of the two apparently strongest evils running.

I agree with your 3 things to set our governement straight. Do you hear any of the current Republican candidates talking about these things? Do yo hear Obama talking about these things? NO!

That is why we need something like Americans Elect. It provides the opportunity for the general population to help frame the issues and hopefully find a candidate that is willing to fight for them. We will not get that from the current two partys.

If Americans Elect is not the answer, than we need something very similar.

So basically, this is just another bunch of political big-money insiders trying to pretend like they are a grass roots movement. Thank you for making it clear who we are really dealing with.

And just how would a party funded and controlled by wall st vultures and political operatives bring about change? This post simply exposes who runs this "grassroots" org, and seeing this info it isn't much of a leap to draw conclusions about their goals anyway. If you dont see that, i've got some steel from China you can build a bridge with tosell ya...

AE appears to be the next incarnation of the Tea Party. Nothing in the resumes of it's leaders suggest anything more than trying to con people into believing they are not establishment Republicans.

I wouldn't be so worried about Americans Elect railroading the presidential, if there was a method to verify that their selection process is fully above water. The method would be akin to exit polling, except in this case the Americans Elect database of nominating voters/votes would have to be opened to independent scrutiny. The database could be signed with public key cryptography to prevent tampering after the fact. Then random votes would be examined and candidate selected could be verified via statistical sampling.

It irks me that this otherwise very useful article doesn't make the point that we wouldn't need an Americans Elect if the USA's ballot access laws weren't so authoritarian. If we had ballot access laws like the rest of the democratic nations of the world, whatever new party or independent presidential candidates wanted to run, would do so. Only in the U.S. does it take millions of dollars to comply with the repressive ballot access laws. Not every state has bad laws. The worst 6, North Carolina, California, Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Indiana, together comprise 60% of the entire national burden. Why doesn't this article mention that?

Are you saying that you have the money to make this campaign work? When people like you are trying to tear down Americans Elect before you even see the end result, no wonder they needed a start up fund from some rich guys. There's no guarantee that voters will remain with the AE candidate if it's not their choice so what're you complaining about? Of course change happens top-down. Unless you're suggestting we all go buy guns and rise up for revolt? I don't see any other way you'll convince enough people to put up money for change.

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