Saturday, October 13, 2012

When Did Angus King's Campaign Chairman Part Ways With Americans Elect? Pick a Date, Any Date....

AE Transparency has uncovered factual discrepancies between official Americans Elect (AE) documents which raise new questions in the growing controversy surrounding the organization's involvement in the the U.S. Senate campaign of Maine's ex-governor, independent Angus King.

King's campaign became entangled in controversy last week with the appearance of $1.75 million worth of advertising on Maine television promoting his senate bid, produced and paid for by the  tax-exempt "social welfare" organization, Americans Elect. The ads prompted Maine's Republican Party to file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, arguing that they reflected "illegal coordinated spending practices" between the King campaign and Americans Elect, because Eliot Cutler, King's campaign chairman, was  a member of Americans Elect's board of directors.

Last Friday, Americans Elect released a copy of Cutler's letter of resignation from Americans Elect's board, dated and "effective the close of business on June 26, 2012". But an Americans Elect filing submitted to and posted on the web site of South Dakota's Secretary of State includes an AE board resolution, executed June 23/24 2012, which states in part "the undersigned, being all of the members of the Board of Directors of Americans Elect," and does not include the name or signature of Eliot Cutler among those signatories.

In short, Cutler's resignation letter declares that he was a member of AE's board through June 26th, 2012, whereas AE's South Dakota filing declares that he was not. At least one of these two statements must therefore be false.

A three-day discrepancy in the date of Cutler's resignation from Americans Elect's board does not, in itself, contradict AE spokesperson Ileana Wachtel's claim that "Eliot Cutler...resigned...before any expenditure was made or before any funds were raised [in support of King's campaign]." But it is yet another in a growing list of inconsistencies in AE's story, casting more doubt on the veracity of its claimed timeline of events. As recently as October 5th of this year AE's one-page web site listed Cutler as a member of its board of directors (the page was modified on October 6th to declare Cutler a "former" member). Over the past two weeks AE has therefore asserted no fewer than three different dates as of which Cutler no longer served on its board: June 23, June 26, and October 5, 2012. Which -- if any -- of these assertions is true will be a central issue in determining the merit of the complaint now before the Federal Election Commission charging Angus King and Americans Elect with illegal coordinated spending practices.

Throughout its brief troubled life, Americans Elect has established a pattern of behavior (documented throughout this blog) of issuing statements which, most generously, might be declared to be half-truths, and in the extreme are provably false -- such as the assertion in its 2010 IRS Form 990 filing that "Americans Elect does not and will not support or oppose any candidate or candidate committee" [emphasis added]. We believe that this pattern of behavior makes it unwise to rely upon the truth of any statement made by Americans Elect which has not been verified by extensive forensic analysis.

We call upon Americans Elect's founder and chairman, Peter Ackerman, to submit Cutler's alleged  resignation letter to legal authorities for independent laboratory analysis to determine its actual creation date.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Profiles In Courage, Revisited: Meet Americans Elect's John H. Burbank III

With the reincarnation of Americans Elect Corporation as a de facto SuperPAC (reported by us and others), we are once again receiving emails echoing the Cassidian cry, "Who are those guys?" Among the rogues' gallery of players we previously chronicled in our series, Profiles In Courage: The Affiliations AECorp Insiders Don't Want To Talk About, only one, founder and sugar-daddy Peter Ackerman, is on record as staying with the morally sinking ship which is AECorp. But this month's AE filing with the Federal Election Commission introduces one new insider (New York mayor Michael Bloomberg) and one old insider we have not previously profiled: Passport Capital founder, John H Burbank III.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Americans Elect Declares War On Democracy; Maine's Angus King Smiles

[UPDATED - Maine voters curious to know what sort of company Angus King is keeping with his new friends at Americans Elect should read here: Profiles In Courage: The Affiliations AECorp Insiders Don't Want to Talk About]

On October 5th, Americans Elect filed Form 5 (Report of Independent Expenditures Made and Contributions Received) with the Federal Election Commission, bringing into sharp focus the new face of the old scam which once claimed to be a non-partisan (sic) online presidential nominating convention. We have more than once panned Americans Elect as "Ackerman Selects" on this blog, in honor of its founder and sugar-daddy, ethically-challenged Wall Street tycoon Peter Ackerman. While much has changed since AECorp summarily shut down its online nomination process and locked out its 'delegates' on May 17th of this year, one thing remains the same: Peter Ackerman still elects to throw the 2012 election in whatever direction he damn well wants to. But joining him now in this quixotic and vaguely sociopathic quest is an even more notable...and perhaps surprising...Wall Street tycoon, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. A synopsis of the events behind this latest twist in Americans Elect's Never-Ending Story follows below.

According to its October 5th FEC filing Ackerman, joined by hizzoner Bloomberg and fellow tycoon John Burbank (founder of Passport Capital), donated a total of $1.75 million to Americans Elect between August 8th and October 4th of this year (respectively $500K, $500K, and $750K). This bankroll was immediately turned around to survey, plan, and execute a massive partisan advertising campaign in support of the Senate bid of Maine's ex-governor, Angus King (independent), with expenses including:
  • $150,000 to notorious hired-gun pollster (and long-time AECorp insider) Douglas Schoen for "polling and research"
  • $50,000 to Schoen for "production planning/strategy"
  • $120,470 to SKD Knickerbocker LLC for "ad production" and "media consulting"
  • $412,250 to Maine television stations WABI, WAGM - CBS, WAGM - FOX, WCSH, WFVX, WGME, WLBZ, WMTW, WPFO, and WVII for "television advertising - media placement"
As fellow AECorp-watcher Jim Cook reported last week, the resulting 'vote for King' TV ads, over Americans Elect's name, began running in Maine on October 5th.

The beneficiary of this largesse, Senate candidate Angus King, back in June of this year bemoaned the influence of outside money on Maine's election: "This money is distorting our politics and it is largely anonymous. Sen. John McCain referred to the way it all works as, ‘identity laundering’ — where you can’t really tell who is making these enormous contributions to people’s campaigns,” King said. “I think it is also this flow of money that has contributed to the public cynicism and distrust of government."

However, since this tsunami of outside cash crashed over his Republican opponent's head last week, the King campaign has come to see things differently. "We did not know about this ad nor did we ask for it," King's spokeswoman, Crystal Canney, said in a written statement. "[The King campaign] will not unilaterally disarm. The time has passed when this money could have been kept out of Maine."

So how does Americans Elect rationalize its sudden metamorphosis from a "grassroots" organization intended to empower independent voters, into yet another entitled cabal of wealthy donors seeking to steer elections in whatever direction they personally desire? It doesn't even try. Americans Elect's hired mouthpiece, attorney Daniel Winslow (yet another original AECorp insider) told the Boston Globe: “As Maine goes, so goes the country. The country and Mainers are hungry for problem-solving, independent candidates running for important offices. “If [AECorp's King's Gambit] is successful, Americans Elect will participate in the upcoming election cycle to develop 3, 5, or 10 more Angus Kings representing an independent caucus to bridge the divide between the partisan extremes, to turn the tide of gridlock in Washington, and to put us onto a course of government the American people want and deserve.”

The problem with AECorp's old strategy was that while "the country [is] hungry for problem-solving independent candidates," it nonetheless proved to be the case that the country -- as represented by Americans Elect's delegates in its online nominating convention -- proved not to be hungry for precisely those candidates which Pete Ackerman and his henchmen personally favored. So it was necessary to destroy the village (the old AECorp) to save it. AE now retreats back to the time-tested cynical strategy of simply enabling a few ultra-rich individuals to throw wads of money around  influencing elections, thus handily side-stepping the problem of the inherent untidiness of actual democracy.

We here at AE Transparency have been in the business of predicting AECorp's future ever since its appearance on the national stage, with (we blush to admit) uncanny accuracy. Here's our prediction for the rest of AE's future. The Corporation will indeed, as Winslow has warned us, throw tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars in the next election cycle into promoting the candidacies of its hand-picked favorite 'independents', with increasingly visible participation by Mike Bloomberg. This cycle's King's Gambit is merely a test-drive. Then, with this coterie of nominally independent (but financially dependent) sycophants in its pocket, doing its bidding (for how else could they be re-elected?) and aping its words, AECorp will go after its long-sought brass ring: putting Bloomberg himself in the White House in 2016.

In short, Ackerman Selects has simply abandoned the short con, in favor of the long con.

If this is not a future for American democracy which appeals to you, we encourage you to look at the big picture and to vote AGAINST any candidate who permits him- or herself to be supported by Americans Elect (Angus King in Maine) or Mike Bloomberg (Massachusetts senate incumbent Scott Brown). Only by sending a clear message to politicians that Ackerman/Bloomberg's Americans Elect is radioactive can we effectively oppose its further gaming of the democratic process. Candidates who are merely innocent bystanders and who  might otherwise suffer collateral damage from Americans Elect's interference can easily defend and redeem themselves, and their campaigns, by simply coming out and loudly proclaiming their unequivocal opposition to Americans Elect's schemes. We eagerly await such messages from candidates Angus King and Scott Brown.

Vote FOR democracy. Vote AGAINST Americans Elect.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Americans Elect: Still Crazy After All These Years

Perhaps you thought, as we did, too, that with the failure of Americans Elect's online primary earlier this year (chronicled throughout this blog's previous posts) that AECorp was finally consigned to a tawdry little footnote in American politics...but no. Apparently AECorp's founder, Peter Ackerman, meant what he said when he took down AE's $40 million web site and replaced it with a single page ominously warning us "See You in 2013!" Except it turns out that Pete couldn't wait even that long to meddle once more in the democratic process in a morally (and legally) questionable manner.

As always, Irregular Times' cub reporter, Jim Cook, broke the story yesterday: television ads are now appearing in Maine over the Americans Elect name, explicitly promoting the Senate campaign of Maine's ex-governor, independent Angus King. Subsequently Politico revealed that this ad buy, totaling $1.75 million, was funded by six-figure donations from AECorp's founder (and sole remaining official?) Pete Ackerman, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg (Ackerman's clubhouse chum and unindicted co-conspirator in waiting), and fellow Titan of Finance John Burbank (founder of Passport Capital).

The fly in the ointment is that such explicit political advertising in support of a named candidate is in direct contradiction of AECorp's long-prized tax exempt status as a 501(c)(4) "civic welfare" organization. With the airing of this ad, Americans Elect has transformed itself into a political action committee (PAC). There's just one teensy tiny problem: AECorp appears to have forgotten to register itself as a PAC with the Federal Election Commission first.


In response to this eyebrow-raising activity, yesterday the Republican Party of Maine filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, accusing Americans Elect Corporation of "illegal coordinated spending practices." While we are not election law experts, we find the GOP's argument compelling: AECorp certainly appears to now be functioning as an illegal unregistered PAC, in flagrant violation of Federal law. This leaves us wondering whether AECorp is still attempting to maintain 501(c)(4) tax- (and scrutiny-) exempt status, as well? Have some more cake, Pete (and eat it too)?

Man, you just can't make this stuff up.