The One Percenters are looking for a better class of candidates. True, the 2012 presidential race looks to be between a millionaire and a quarter-billionaire, but the Democrat is a known traitor to his class and the presumptive Repub candidate is just embarrassing. So our financial betters have decided to pay some of their more deserving courtiers to gin up publicity for adding more horses’ arses to the horserace. And, for irony, they call themselves: American Select — I mean, Americans Elect!
From Dan Froomkin at Huffington Post:
Americans Elect, a group trying to launch a third-party presidential ticket, was accused by a prominent campaign watchdog Wednesday of violating tax and campaign finance disclosure laws.
Fred Wertheimer, head of Democracy 21, said in a statement that the group is posing as a “social welfare group” rather than a political organization in order “to keep secret from the American people the donors supporting its political activities.”
Social welfare groups don’t have to disclose who underwrites them — but they’re also supposed to stay out of elections.
Meanwhile, at a kickoff event for Americans Elect at the National Press Club on Tuesday, the group’s leaders described how they intend to put a “nonpartisan presidential ticket” — chosen through an online, open nominating convention — on the ballot in all 50 states. The goal, they said, it to give voters an alternative to the limited choice the two-party system provides.
Kahlil Byrd, the group’s CEO, said it is operating “completely within the bounds” of the law. He noted that unlike a traditional political group, “Americans Elect has no candidate and has no issue.”
As for the donors, he said, the reason they want to remain secret is to avoid political payback. “This is a very tough political environment,” he said. “Retribution is real.”
Byrd also, perhaps contradictorily, described donating to the campaign as “a small act of courage.”…
Very small, indeed. Let’s play these brave souls a tribute on the world’s tiniest violin. Alex MacGinnis at TNR adds a money shot:
… [Americans Elect] announced today that they have secured ballot access in Ohio, after having already secured it in Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, Kansas, Florida and Michigan. They have collected 1.9 million petition signatures in all, more than halfway to the needed goal of 2.9 million. They are also nearing their $30 million fundraising goal — the bulk of it in chunks of more than $100,000 from about 50 well-heeled backers — and have close to 150 paid staff.
There have been previous efforts by “radical centrists” who take a pox-on-both-houses approach to dysfunction in Washington — last time around, there was Unity ’08, which also sought to nominate a bipartisan ticket online, and then there’s No Labels, which was created recently by a group of Beltway poo-bahs to encourage bipartisan behavior in Washington. But Americans Elect could cause much more of a stir than either of these. Unity ’08 foundered because it could raise money only in $2,500 increments, like any other presidential campaign; but it challenged that limit, and a court ruling last year determined that a ballot-access effort that wasn’t actually promoting a specific candidate does not have to abide by the $2,500 cap. So Americans Elect has been able to raise the pile of money needed to fund a serious ballot-access campaign. Most third-party candidates struggle because they have a hard time getting on ballots after they announce, typically fairly late in the process. But Americans Elect will in all likelihood be on every state’s ballot, or close to it…
Dave Weigel at Slate casts a cold eye on the chances that “Americans Elect Will Save Our Democracy With Secret Money, Probably From Hedge Funds“:
… The group has $22 million. We only know where $1.58 million is coming from. Our only clue about the source of the funding comes, helpfully, from Tom Friedman’s dippy
press releasecolumn about the group: We know it’s “financed with some serious hedge-fund money.” Which hedge funds? What have they donated to in the past? Which candidates have the people donating to the group donated to in the past? AE is effectively a Super PAC for either 1) bupkis and total failure or 2) a wealthy candidate who can take over all the ballot lines painstakingly bought by AE. (The men featured in a hypothetical candidate round-up at this launch event: sputtering GOP candidate Jon Huntsman, scandalized former Democratic candidate Bill Richardson, conservative Democrat Joe Manchin, and Democrat-turned-barely visible Republican John Hoeven.)
In the meantime, good news: A secretive group funded by hedge funds has secured a ballot line in Ohio. Do you feel better about democracy yet?
The closer from Froomkin, again:
… The group is clearly positioning itself to harness and channel the intense dissatisfaction voters currently have with the candidates the political parties have been offering them. But the goal seems to be more a centrist mash-up of the two parties than a dramatic alternative. The group’s bylaws, for instance, appear to allow its leaders to veto any ticket they don’t consider “balanced.”
And while the group used pictures from the Occupy protests in its presentation on Tuesday, its chief strategist is Douglas Schoen, a pollster and Fox News political analyst who just a few weeks ago penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in which he asserted that the Occupy Wall Street protesters supported “radical left-wing policies” that “are dangerously out of touch with the broad mass of the American people.”
As I have said before, these guys are Goo-goos, the farcical inheritors of yet another unlamented historical oddity from the original Gilded Age. The Very Serious People who pursed up their thin lips against the horrors of Tammany Hall were a mixture of robber barons out to destroy all competition, struggling small-town bidnizmin resentful of the post-Civil-War immigrants and industrialists stealing their captive markets and luring the smartest of their serfs and offspring away from the virtuous Heartland(tm) to the glamorous big cities, pious worthies fearful that technological progress would breed corruption of their sacred values, and the sharpies, grifters and conmen ever ready to part deep-pocketed fools from their money. Today’s Zombie Goo-Goos are no different, just more pathetic — imagine the contempt with which Jay Gould and Martin Lomasney would greet Donald Trump and Douglas Schoen!