- 3/31/12: "Voter participation continued to disappoint as Americans elected to ignore this..."
- 4/07/12: "...no candidate can qualify for the second round...."
- 4/14/12: "Voter turnout...was anemic again this week...."
- 4/21/12: "...disinterested voters continue to fail to vote...."
- 4/27/12: "...we project the winner will be (...drum-roll...): no one"
What was surprising was the aftermath of this slow-motion train wreck, which we chronicled in another article this week. Initially we felt sure that AECorp's owner/operator, Peter Ackerman, must have a disaster recovery plan ready, and would move quickly to get it out in front of this story. To paraphrase AECorp draft candidate, former Senator, and bit-part actor Fred Thompson: "Wall Street tycoons don't take a dump without a plan, son." Surely, we thought, Ackerman would eat a little crow and move the goalposts, reducing the vote tally required to advance to the next round (in which case the interesting story would be precisely where he planted the new goalposts...which candidates he would invite into the next round, and which he would permit past the velvet rope, like the beefy doorman at the hot new club in town).
But nine hours of radio silence from AECorp's Washington penthouse headquarters -- no press release, no email to delegates, no notice on the web site -- left us realizing that Ackerman & Co., even at this late hour, had no clue how to spin this story. When we reached AE's press secretary, Ileana Wachtel, for comment she was understandably jumpy -- a talking head without a polished script to read. "Since no candidate earned enough support clicks to qualify for the First Primary ballot on May 8," Wachtel told us, "we are cancelling that ballot and will move on to the Second Primary ballot on May 15."
It was a stunning concept: they cancelled a political primary. In the bricks-and-mortar world, a real political party cancelling its primary without so much as a public explanation would certainly lead to screaming headlines, street protests, legal actions, maybe even riots. But in the fantasy world which is Americans Elect, its shadowy denizens seemed hopeful that no one would notice.
We were reminded of the snarky news feature with which Americans Elect inaugurated its web site back in April of 2011: "At least six states are considering delaying or canceling their presidential primary elections, according to Reuters....If so, this could mean fewer voices will be heard in the vitally important process of determining Americans’ choices for president." A year ago, the shocking notion of cancelling primaries seemed to Americans Elect a threat to the very foundations of democracy itself. But a year later, when the party doing the canceling was AECorp itself? Mmm...not so much.
We broke this fascinating story late in the morning of May 1st here on the AE Transparency blog, and minutes later via Twitter. Rick Hasen's Election Law Blog and Jim Cook's Irregular Times were, as always, the first to take note. But as the hours ticked by (and our pageviews shot through the roof) AECorp remained officially silent. It was not until 4:30 that afternoon -- after 16 hours of official silence on the matter -- that AECorp finally published a single tiny notice, "Caucus Schedule Updated," craftily spinning the cancellation of the May 8 primary ballot with seeming nonchalance as a mere schedule conflict: "the first caucus scheduled for May 8th will now take place on May 15th." [UPDATE: AE has recently deleted this notice item from its web site, but it is still available from Bing's cache] With the appearance of this official confirmation more cautious news outlets began picking up the story, culminating in an Associated Press bulletin, and by the next morning the word "fail" was irreversibly welded on to the Americans Elect story:
- Americans Elect: They Built It, And Nobody Came (Tech President)
- Americans Elect: The Broccoli Party Is Born (The American Interest)
- Buddy Roemer Comes Up Short in Americans Elect Online Vote (The Times-Picayune)
- Americans Elect Independent White House Bid Hits Obstacle (Huffington Post)
- Americans Elect Is No Solution (Huffington Post)
- Americans Elect Has Troubles With First-Round Draft Picks (Politico)
- Americans Elect Canceling Caucuses, Has No Candidates (Salon)
- Americans Elect Hits A Roadblock (The Weekly Standard)
- Group Struggles to Find Candidate for US Poll (Financial Times)
- Group Aiming to Bypass Party Politics Hits Bumps (National Public Radio)
- Americans Elect Fizzling Out (Outside The Beltway)
- Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera....
In its official notice it stated "According to our rules, since fewer than seven candidates have received enough support to qualify for the AE nomination, the first caucus scheduled for May 8th will now take place on May 15th." The casual reader can be forgiven for concluding from this that AECorp has a rule prescribing what happens if fewer than seven candidates receive enough support prior to the first primary ballot. But no such rule exists. Not in its 2012 Pre-election Convention Rules of Americans Elect® (17 pages enshrining 87 rules), nor its 2012 Post-election Convention Rules of Americans Elect (4 pages, containing 21 rules), nor its AMENDED AND RESTATED BYLAWS OF AMERICANS ELECT®, or, as it is known by its closest friends, simply The Bylaws (22 ponderous pages of legalese comprising 78 separate rules). AECorp has a rule for every eventuality except the very one we saw coming more than two months ago: abject failure.
But never fear. What AECorp does have is what we here at AE Transparency like to call "The One Rule" -- the only rule it really needs. That would be Rule 4.1 of its Bylaws, which states: "the Board [of Directors of Americans Elect] shall reserve extraordinary authority and power to take or compel any action necessary to assure that the purpose of Americans Elect is not defeated by the acts or omissions of any persons or parties."
The power to take or compel any action. In other words, AECorp's shadowy, unelected, self-appointed-for-life Board of Directors, headed by Wall Street tycoon Peter Ackerman, is, by design, literally omnipotent: it can do whatever it wants, whenever it wants to. AECorp's other 185 rules are merely mumbo-jumbo, stage-dressing...the only rule that really matters is Rule 4.1: AECorp's Board can do whatever it wants, whenever it wants. This was the legal basis for AECorp's cancellation of its first primary.
We and other AECorp critics have bemoaned Rule 4.1 since the corporation's founding, pointing out that an unelected board which jealously reserves to itself literally unlimited power is a tyranny, not a democratic institution. To which concern AE apologists have repeatedly replied, "well, you know, they'd never actually use that power....because they'd lose all credibility if they did." Well, they did. And they did.
Elsewhere we have proposed that AECorp's unelected Board could use this unlimited power to, for instance, appoint its own choice of nominee irrespective of the outcome of primary voting, or could even use this power to throw the November election to whichever conventional Party it wishes.
We are often asked why we are so doggedly critical of Americans Elect when it is only trying to help clean up the mess of modern American politics. Our answer is this: if the only alternative to our current dysfunctional political system is a monarchy -- and particularly a monarchy controlled by an ethically-challenged Wall Street billionaire -- then we'll take the current mess any day of the week, thanks anyway.
MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE VOTING BOOTH...
With the current round of support voting now 105% complete, the chart below summarizes where the candidates stand (click the chart to view a larger version):
his good old-fashioned big-money spending spree (though he still has less than a quarter of the total he needed four days ago to advance to the next round). When AECorp coyly stated that "fewer than seven candidates have received enough support to qualify"what it really meant was "no candidate is anywhere near qualifying."
To our minds, the most puzzling aspect of the ongoing debacle which is Americans Elect is this: as the chart above illustrates, the rates at which the candidates are accumulating support votes are so slow that even if this current round of voting was extended indefinitely no candidate could hope to qualify prior to the November election -- so what was AECorp owner/operator Peter Ackerman thinking when he impotently extended the voting period for merely another week? More on that topic next week.