Beware: Americans Elect – We were just too optimistic

In July we posted about Americans Elect a new third party aimed directly at the center of politics as defined by Tom Friedman: Friedman predicts 2012 Presidential candidate via Estonia-like Internet voting system <read> Sadly we were just plain too optimistic when we said things such as:

This is  reminiscent of the article on Estonian voting we covered yesterday. No mention of any transparency in the development, testing, and operation of the actual system. Rather than quoting independent technical experts, we see the system pronounced safe by the architect. Did Ronald Reagan say “Trust Me”?  Of course not. Actually it sounds like something Bernard Madoff might have said. President Reagan actually said “Trust But Verify”…

Or maybe the process is not “hijacked” but the people create a party platform close to some of the results we have seen in some recent polls? A platform of banning guns, protecting Social Security, universal health care, and decriminalization of pot? (Remember when Obama asked his supporters to vote on initiatives after the election? Not much publicity after they voted pot decriminalization as the top priority). What is scary is the potential for insiders to actually hijack the process by disqualifying or discrediting such votes. Or outsiders successfully attacking the system undetected.

No mention here of the possibility of candidates being chosen such as Dennis Kucinich, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, or, Pat Roberson forbid, Michael Moore, Keith Olberman, or Ralph Nadar.

It does not sound transparent financially or electorally. Yet, I can see why almost everyone would want to sign-up to promote their favorite type of candidates and party platform.

We were just too optimistic, yet prophetic when we suggested the founders might not be happy with anything but their type of candidate. So now we have an article from Politico confirming our worst fears and them some. Democracy deficit at Americans Elect? <read>

Rather than gush about this group, I fear many aspects of it: its secrecy; the uncertain security for its Internet election and, most important, the lack of democracy in its system for electing a presidential nominee.

While it is providing voters a path to choose a presidential ticket through the democratizing force of the Internet, the process can, in fact, be overruled by a small board of directors, who organized the group. This board is to have unfettered discretion in picking a committee that can boot the presidential ticket chosen by voters if it is not sufficiently ?centrist and even dump the committee if it doesn’t like the direction it’s heading...

Campaign finance reformers have already condemned Americans Elect for switching its organizational status under the Tax Code from political organization to 501(c)(4) social welfare organization. This change allows an organization to shield its donors

Kahlil Byrd, the president of Americans Elect, told NPR that the group does not disclose donors because they fear retribution…Who is going to throw a Molotov cocktail through the window of a radical centrist?

Perhaps one reason Americans Elect is hiding the names of its donors is that people might draw conclusions about the group’s interests based on the contributors — especially given the rumor that most of its money comes from the hedge fund industry...

Despite the veneer of democracy created by having ?delegates? choose a presidential candidate through a series of Internet votes, the unelected, unaccountable board of Americans Elect, funded by secret money, will control the process for choosing a presidential and vice presidential candidate — who could well appear on the ballot in all 50 states.

Update: 05/01/2012 Yet another silent majority of almost none starts biting the dust. We are not surprised.

Americans Elect Cancels its First Primary Ballot — not enough Actual People want their Candidates <read>

Well, most Americans don’t agree. As the Pew Research Center documented in a poll last December, most Americans don’t buy centrist talk. Most Americans — three out of four of them — believe there is “too much power in the hands of a few rich people and large corporations”. Most Americans believe the “country’s economic system unfairly favors the wealthy.” Most Americans “believe Wall Street hurts the economy more than it helps.” These are not centrist positions. They’re not Americans Elect’s positions. The few financiers of Americans Elect whose names have been leaked out are Wall Street money managers and hedge fund operators. Americans Elect spokeswoman Ileana Wachtel last week declared of her organization: “No one at AE can dispute that Mr. Peterson’s message is the right one.” “Mr. Peterson” is billionaire Pete Peterson, who wants to cut social security, cut medicare, cut medicaid and make this country safer for big business.


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