Americans Elect certainly is stirring up 2012 presidential politics as it seeks a path for a centrist alternative to challenge President Barack Obama and whoever the Republican nominee might be. The upstart organization has successfully obtained a place for an as-yet unnamed candidate on California’s 2012 presidential ballot. By year’s end, Americans Elect hopes to have gained access to ballots in 30 states, toward a goal of having ballot space in all 50 states.
To the extent that competition for the two-party system is good, this nonprofit group offers value. But there are serious questions about an organization whose logo includes a question mark. The biggest one: Who are all the funders of Americans Elect? To finance the ballot access drive, Americans Elect’s leaders say donors have given $30 million. The money pays for signature-gathering efforts in some states and legal fees to help meet requirements in other states.
But other than saying that its founder, investor Peter Ackerman, has donated $5.5 million, Americans Elect hasn’t identified its contributors. The reason, according Ackerman’s son and Americans Elect’s chief operating officer Elliot Ackerman, is that donors worry about consequences if they’re identified.
“This is not popular in the Democratic or Republican parties,” Ackerman told The Bee’s editorial board on Tuesday.
That’s a tired excuse used by all nonprofit organizations that are engaged in politics, and it undermines trust, especially for a group offering a novel approach to presidential politics. People who spend money to influence politics at the highest level need to be willing to come out from behind their curtains.
Americans Elect seeks to use the Internet to bypass the traditional nominating process, and tilt the American political process back to the middle.
It intends to hold a caucus-like nominating process between April and June. Any voter can become a delegate by visiting Americans Elect’s website and registering. Delegates will cast their votes over the organization’s website for the candidates of their choice.
The goal is to nominate a centrist ticket that includes a Democrat and a Republican who can be elected leader of the free world in 2012. Leaving aside how realistic its goal and methods are, Americans Elect should answer the basic question of funding.