Wednesday, May 9, 2012

With Failures Rapidly Mounting, What Is Americans Elect's End-Game?

Having now been forced to cancel two primary ballots in a row due to the American electorate's utter failure to respond to its spiel, Americans Elect may now be judged by any rational observer of the political scene to be an abject failure, and dead in the water. So what happens now?

When Americans Elect's predecessor, Unity08, failed similarly in 2008 (albeit much earlier in its existence, before a single 'vote' had been cast), that organization simply silently evaporated. That was really the only option available to Unity08's leadership, because it was a worthless property: it was merely a thin web site, with no money behind it, and its founders had scattered to the four winds (many to their next failure, a 'Draft Bloomberg' initiative). So its operators simply abandoned it. Like a rusty old Buick up on cinder blocks in a weed-choked vacant lot, its twisted carcass had no significant scrap value.

But Americans Elect is, today, a new and very different kind of failure. Sure, it is now widely disparaged...even openly laughed at...not only here at AE Transparency, but more recently throughout the media. And, equally surely, it is a painful public embarrassment not only to its founder, Wall Street tycoon Peter Ackerman, but also to its star-studded cast of Directors, Board of Advisers members, and other fellow-travelers, including such luminaries as:
  • ex-Governor Christine Todd Whitman
  • Harvard law professor Lawrence "Thank God For Tenure" Lessig
  • Tufts University Dean Stephen "I'm With Peter" Bosworth
  • past futurist Esther Dyson
  • former Disney CEO Michael Eisner
  • royalist zillionaire Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild
  • former FBI and CIA chief William Webster 
  • former Comptroller General David Walker
But the similarity to Unity08's disaster ends there, because -- unlike Unity08 -- Americans Elect's corpse still has significant monetary value. This is so because, even in death, Americans Elect still has a tangible (albeit, distressed) asset: third-party ballot access for the November presidential election in 25 states (with the promise of achieving 50-state access before November).

That's something you can take to the bank -- some incredibly valuable real estate.  By comparison, the much more mature Green Party has ballot access in just 21 states. So now that Americans Elect is clearly on the ropes, unable to mount a primary ballot and thus to select a nominee, what does it do next? Does it just turn off the servers and go home? Pretend the whole thing never happened, just like in 2008? Write to the 25 states in which it has bought ballot access (at very considerable expense to Peter Ackerman and his clubhouse buddies) saying "Never mind"?

Your guess is as good as ours, but our guess is: no way. Peter Ackerman is a businessman, and businesspersons don't just walk away leaving money on the table. We estimate that Ackerman and Americans Elect have paid out at least $20 million, to date, to acquire ballot access in 25 states. And because that is now a bird in the hand, the market value of that distressed asset probably now greatly exceeds its cost basis. Recall that Ackerman made his vast fortune in the 1980s selling junk bonds, and still today has business interests in firms such as Crown Capital Group, which describes itself as “a boutique investment firm dedicated to the investment, acquisition, management and dispositions of opportunistic and distressed assets.” Turning distressed assets into gold, and pocketing that gold, is what Ackerman does for a living. Thus, we believe there is simply no way Ackerman can resist the temptation to sell Americans Elect, and its ballot access, to the highest bidder.

"Wait a minute," we hear you say, "you can't sell a political party." And that is true enough, as far as it goes, but recall that according to its own repeated protestations Americans Elect is not a political party. It is a corporation, chartered and headquartered in the District of Columbia. And corporations certainly can be bought and sold. And, because Americans Elect isn't a political party, its buyer could simply declare himself its nominee for President...without all that bothersome primary voting nonsense...and thereby place himself on the November ballot just by writing a check.

But who might be willing to buy Americans Elect? After all, an asset has monetary value and is fungible only if there's a market for it. We have no doubt that Ackerman's minions are now scouring the political landscape in order to answer just that question. It seems to us that the most likely prospects would be (i) folks who are on record as coveting a spot on the November ballot (and that's a lot of people); (ii) but who don't have an ice cube's chance in hell of getting there the old-fashioned way (i.e., everyone except Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, and perhaps a handful of minor-party candidates); (iii) and finally, folks meeting the preceding criteria who are nonetheless still bankrolled by fabulously wealthy puppet-masters. That last criterion dramatically limits the market, probably to just two prospects:
  1. Ron Paul (bankrolled by PayPal and Facebook billionaire Peter Thiel), and
  2. Little-known peek-a-boo candidate-in-waiting David Walker (bankrolled by Wall Street billionaire Peter G. Peterson).
Crazy? Certainly. But what about Americans Elect Corporation isn't crazy?

Now that we are freed of the tiresome hassle of closely monitoring and analyzing Americans Elect voting activity, we are turning our full attention to monitoring its likely effort to sell itself in the coming weeks.

If you have a tip for us to look into, drop us a line at aetransparency(at)gmail(dot)com.

And stay tuned! This story is likely to get much more interesting before it's over.


  1. I haven't been able to find a copy of AE's articles of incorporation, but isn't it a nonprofit corporation? If so, I don't think it could be "sold" as such, or at least that would be very unusual.

    I can imagine the functional equivalent, in which the selection of a presidential candidate is delegated to a committee if no candidate qualifies for the primary, and that committee happens to be chaired by a new major donor. But that's not exactly the same as a sale of the corporation even if the effect is the same.

    1. Your points are well taken as always, Joshua. There are no corporate law specialists among us here, high atop AE Transparency's palatial penthouse tower, so we can't say for a certainty whether or not a non-profit corporation can be sold (although we don't see why not). Certainly it couldn't be sold for a profit, unless it re-organized as a for-profit immediately prior to the sale. Recall that AECorp has already re-organized once; it could certainly do it again.

      What we do know, for certain, is that if you have enough high-powered attorneys plus enough money in your pocket, pretty much anything is possible.

  2. A reader who wishes to remain anonymous points out that our tinfoil hat conspiracy theory overlooks a third highly-motivated and well-endowed prospective acquirer: Mitt Romney, who might be interested in taking AECorp's ballot access off the market, if only to prevent Ron Paul or another potential spoiler from acquiring it.

    Could be a brutal bidding war shaping up here?

  3. My tinfoil hat works better than yours:

    George Soros (or someone with a similar outlook and bank balance) for spoiler Virgil Goode. He's already the nominee of the Constitution Party, but why not put him on the ballot for every state?

    1. That's an idea...if I was a party w/access in fewer states, I might be interested in buying the ballot line.

      But unless Ackerman has a fire sale...
      or a deep pocketed gentleman makes a large donation...
      probably not.

      "It's f***ing golden, I tell you!"


Join the debate. What's your take on this?