Because I believe Americans Elect is made up of a few wealthy Republicans, I’m not really surprised that they may be having trouble attracting small donors:
One of the most salient criticisms of Americans Elect —a group that bills itself as seeking to “open up the political process” and “change politics as usual” — is its dogged refusal, using the legal shield of its status as a 501c4 corporation, to disclose the names of its financial backers.
Americans Elect got off the ground with $20 million of seed money given by only 50-some anonymous donors. That’s 50 nameless investors ponying up an average of $400,000 apiece, although, in one rare case in which the name is known, Americans Elect founder and CEO Peter Ackerman has given at least $1.55 million and, according to Bloomberg — the news organization, not the draft Americans Elect presidential candidate — more than $5 million.
Americans Elect has sought to rationalize its financial secrecy, by assuring the public that all of its early high-dollar contributions are structured as loans that will be repaid, and that, when all is said and done, no single donor will have contributed more than $10,000.
Americans Elect says it “is funded by individual contributions, and intends to pay back the bulk of our initial financing as more delegates join, so that no single individual will have contributed more than $10K.”
Underscoring the point, Americans Elect last October published an open letter, signed by Americans Elect CEO Kahlil Byrd, saying that “every donation above $10,000 is structured as a loan. We aspire for these loans to be paid back by the time this organization completes its core mission in 2012. If the American people embrace the Americans Elect mission as their own, then no one will have given more than $10,000. Growing evidence suggests that this will happen.”
And, just last week (video above), Americans Elect COO Eliot Ackerman, appearing with Americans Elect Advisory Board member Mark McKinnon on MSNBC, told Chuck Todd — who had asked Ackerman (starting at 6:14) when and if Americans Elect was going to disclose its funders — that “all of [the funders’] donations have been given as loans.”
Ultimately, in other words, “the people” will be the ones to reimburse the hedge funders and private-equity types who seeded the initial $20 million. Thus will the role of Americans Elect as a catalyst of democratic renewal be authenticated in financial terms.
That’s been the story — and Americans Elect has been sticking to it.
SO IT WAS jarring to read the following new ruling of the Americans Elect Board of Directors, posted this morning to the Americans Elect Web site:
The Americans Elect Board unanimously voted to ensure that no supporter would cover more than 20% of AE’s budget. In the event that any one supporter exceeds that percentage, there are provisions created to expedite repayments to that supporter.
What this Board decision basically says is that as few as five people can fund the whole damned thing.It also strongly suggests that Americans Elect is not getting — and does not expect to get — significant financial support at the grassroots level of delegates, Web site registrants and Facebook “like”-ers. At least, not significant enough — and not quick enough — to make good on all of the promises that it may have made to all of the seed investors from whom Americans Elect has taken high-dollar loans.
Indeed, the counter-scenario that this new ruling opens up is that it will not be the grassroots, “the people,” who repay these seed investors in Americans Elect — but, rather, that wealthy donors who have not yet topped out the new 20% maximum (or maybe even some who have) are being asked to increase their donations by way of reimbursing investors who are having second thoughts.
Is Americans Elect like the Tea Party? Just a new label and new branding for a certain group of Republicans who no longer want to call themselves Republicans? A very select group, sure, but just Republicans by (yet) another name?