|Type||Social Welfare Organization |
|Tax ID No.||27-2285014|
|Founded||April 6, 2010|
|Founder(s)||Peter Ackerman (Chairman)|
|Key people||Peter Ackerman (Chairman); Kahlil Byrd (CEO); Douglas Schoen (paid consultant); Mark McKinnon (Advisory Board member); Christine Todd Whitman (Director); Daniel B. Winslow (counsel)|
|Area served||United States|
|Mission||Provide a Web-based participatory mechanism leading to the nomination of a "balanced coalition ticket" for the 2012 U.S. presidential election. Secure 50-state ballot access for this ticket.|
|Revenue||$5,113,010 in 2010|
|Endowment||$1,717,857 as of December 31, 2010|
|Motto||Pick a president, not a party.|
Americans Elect was a political organization in the United States known primarily for its efforts to stage a national online primary for the 2012 US Presidential Election. Although it was successful in obtaining signatures to get on the ballot in a majority of states, the process set up by the organization did not select a candidate.
Incorporated on April 6, 2010, by Peter Ackerman and Kahlil Byrd, Americans Elect began recruiting delegates for its 2012 Presidential Primary in July 2011. Americans Elect was scheduled to host a national online primary in two phases, ending with a convention in June 2012. The resulting ticket, chosen by Americans Elect users, would have listed on the ballot nationwide under the Americans Elect line. The organization had an open membership, which allowed any U.S. voter to draft and support his or her candidate of choice. The drafting began on February 1, 2012, and in the first few hours the 360,000 delegates had initially drafted 52 possible candidates including Michael Bloomberg, Warren Buffett, Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Condoleezza Rice, and Buddy Roemer. Americans Elect was open to candidates from any party, as well as independents. Presidential candidates would have been required to choose a vice presidential running mate from a party different from their own to ensure a balanced ticket.
In order to obtain ballot access nationwide, some states' guidelines required Americans Elect to register as a political party. For the 2012 elections, Americans Elect succeeded in ballot access status in 29 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Any U.S. citizen thought to be constitutionally eligible was eligible to be drafted as a candidate. Americans Elect participants, referred to as delegates, could also propose and vote on the Platform of Questions, a list of questions that all candidates would have to answer before the June phase of the primary.Prior to delegate voting, the positions of various potential candidates on the Platform of Questions were inferred, using voting records and public statements compiled by OnTheIssues.org, and posted on the web site.
Candidates, whether drafted or self-declared, were required to receive a minimum number of clicks of support from verified delegates to advance to the American Elect online primary ballot. Candidates who have served in any of the following positions, without having been removed from office, current criminal indictment, or conviction, needed 1,000 support clicks from each of 10 states to qualify:
- Vice President
- United States Senator
- Member of Congress
- Presidential Cabinet member
- Head of a Federal agency
- Mayor of any of the largest 100 cities in the United States
- Chairman or chief executive officer or president of a corporation, nonprofit corporation, or philanthropic organization with 1,000 or more employees
- President of a national labor union with 100,000 or more members
- Military officer who has attained flag rank
- President of an American-based university with 4,000 or more students
All other candidates required 5,000 support clicks from each of 10 states to qualify for the primary ballot.
The first phase of voting was intended to identify the six most popular certified candidates through three rounds of online balloting. The organization announced that it would hold a series of three primary ballots to narrow down its field of candidates on May 8, 15, and 22, 2012. However, on May 1, 2012, the first primary ballot (which had been scheduled for May 8) was cancelled, because no candidate had garnered sufficient support clicks to qualify for the ballot. Voting was then rescheduled to begin on May 15, 2012. However, with no candidate qualifying by that date, the primary was pushed off again.
The six finalists were expected to advance to the second phase of the primary after agreeing to the Americans Elect rules and selecting a Vice-Presidential running mate. (Declared candidates would have had to select a running mate affiliated with a party other than his or her own.) Then, in June 2012, Americans Elect planned to choose its final candidate through an Internet-based convention, a process open to all voters, regardless of party affiliation. The intent was to provide a more open nominating process, resulting in better choices during the election.
In July 2012, the remaining board members decided to officially end Americans Elect's presidential efforts and withdrew its name from most state ballots.  However, in Arizona, Richard Grayson and Stephen Dolgos both ran on an Americans Elect ticket in Arizona's 4th and 8th Congressional Districts respectively. Americans Elect also ran television ads supporting the U.S. Senate campaign of former Maine governor, Angus King.The Americans Elect website is still accessible, but has not been updated since 2012.
Americans Elect was formed by many of the individuals who were responsible for a previous attempt to nominate an Internet candidate, Unity08, and had substantially identical goals for the 2012 presidential election cycle. Americans Elect's founder and Chairman was financier Peter Ackerman. Kahlil Byrd was the former CEO; he subsequently become the president of StudentsFirst by January 2013. Other members of the Board of Directors included Eliot Cutler, Dennis Blair, Stephen W. Bosworth, Irvine Hockaday, and Christine Todd Whitman and Joshua S. Levine.
Reception and Impact
Although it had a minor impact on the election, columnist Thomas Friedman initially saw promise in the organization, writing “Americans Elect. What Amazon.com did to books, what the blogosphere did to newspapers, what the iPod did to music, what drugstore.com did to pharmacies, Americans Elect plans to do to the two-party duopoly that has dominated American political life — remove the barriers to real competition, flatten the incumbents and let the people in.”Similarly, Lawrence Lessig discussed the possibility of Americans Elect producing a spoiler candidate. He argued, at the time, that it represented the best chance of producing a situation where the issue of electoral reform might be properly addressed.  Less favorably, commentator Harold Meyerson predicted that an Americans Elect candidate "could well replicate the signally dubious achievement of Ralph Nader in the 2000 election: Throwing the election to one of the two major-party nominees who otherwise would not have won."
The group was criticized for failure to fully disclose its funding. The group was originally organized as a political organization and at that time tax documents show that Peter Ackerman, father of the Chief Operating Officer Elliot Ackerman, had contributed $1.55 million. In 2011, it changed its designation to a 501(c)4 social welfare group. Americans Elect claimed that none of its funding came from special interests, lobbyists, corporations or other groups. The group changed its bylaws in 2012 to provide that the wealthy donors who loaned the organization its initial funds would be repaid from donations to the organization.
At the conclusion of the campaign, Garrett Quinn of Boston.com wrote, "This $35 million operation was doomed to fail from the beginning. How can you run a serious political organization aimed at winning elections without any kind of guiding ideology or real local organization? You can't. These guys, like so many compassless folks in politics, seriously misread the American electorate and recent third party history. Third parties do not work without a guiding ideology, be it left, right, libertarian, statist, whatever. These guys stood for something a thousand times worse than the bitter hyperpartisanship they whined about: a wish-washy just do something attitude towards governance rooted in the pipe dreams of 'radical centrists.'" At least one candidate was also critical of the long, complex, and unreliable verification process for delegates.
- Patrik Jonsson (July 29, 2011). "Americans Elect launches centrist third-party bid amid Washington dysfunction". The Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA). Retrieved 2012-02-05. "With the dysfunction of Washington on full display as the nation inches toward defaulting on its debt, a coalition of American centrists has launched a bold gambit to nominate a third-party ticket for the 2012 presidential election. ... Americans Elect, which is applying in states as a political party but operates legally as a nonprofit 501(c) 4 social welfare organization."
- Yvette L. Woods (November 11, 2011). "Form 990 – Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- "Americans Elect: Statement of Financial Position (Audited) as of December 31, 2010" (PDF). 2011. Retrieved 2012-02-05. "For the period from April 6, 2010 (Date of incorporation) to December 31, 2010"
- "2011 Pre-Election Convention Rules of Americans Elect" (PDF). December 19, 2011. p. 15. Retrieved 2012-02-19. "Rule 8.0 – Balanced Ticket Obligation – The Presidential and Vice Presidential ticket nominated by Americans Elect shall, as nearly as practicable, consist of persons of differing ideological perspective or positions on the Platform of Questions to result in a balanced coalition ticket responsive to the vast majority of citizens while remaining independent of special interests and the partisan interests of either major political party. Subject to reversal by majority vote of all registered Delegates, the Candidate Certification Committee shall determine whether any proposed ticket is balanced by reference to candidates’ responses to the Platform of Questions within 14 days after the final Primary Ballot, or such further time as the Board may allow. A ticket with two persons consisting of a Democrat and a Republican shall be deemed to be balanced. A ticket with two persons of the same political party shall be deemed to be imbalanced."
- Ruth Marcus (December 27, 2011). "Americans Elect: A wild card for the Internet age". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-02-05. "Americans Elect delegates — any registered voter who signs up online — will choose a presidential ticket through successive rounds of Internet voting, culminating in the choice of a candidate in June. The vice presidential nominee on this unity ticket must come from a different political party."
- Lois Kazakoff (February 2, 2012). "Draft your nominee for president". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-02-05. "In its first few hours of business to select a nominee through an online primary, Americans Elect’s 360,000 delegates have drafted 52 candidates for president. You’ll recognize a few of the names: Michael Bloomberg, Jon Huntsman, Buddy Roemer, Warren Buffett, Rahm Emanuel and Condoleezza Rice."
- "2012 Pre-election Convention Rules of Americans Elect" (PDF). December 19, 2011. p. 15. Retrieved 2012-02-04. "The Presidential and Vice Presidential ticket nominated by Americans Elect shall, as nearly as practicable, consist of persons of differing ideological perspective or positions on the Platform of Questions to result in a balanced coalition ticket responsive to the vast majority of citizens while remaining independent of special interests and the partisan interests of either major political party. ... A ticket with two persons consisting of a Democrat and a Republican shall be deemed to be balanced. A ticket with two persons of the same political party shall be deemed to be imbalanced."
- Ray Harlan (January 30, 2012). "Americans Elect are ready to crash the party". Retrieved 2012-02-05. "The predecessor to AE, Unity08, in 2008 took the Federal Election Commission to court to challenge the rules set up to preserve the Republican/Democrat duopoly. In a landmark decision, (Unity08 vs. FEC), the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled in March 2010 that the FEC must allow new parties to raise cash to gain ballot access and start a campaign."
- "Arizona has a new political party". AZCentral.com. Retrieved 2011-07-24.
- "Arkansas Secretary of State Says Americans Elect Petition is Valid". November 10, 2011. Retrieved 2012-02-03. "On November 10, the Arkansas Secretary of State said that the Americans Elect ballot access petition has enough valid signatures."
- "California Secretary of State Americans Elect Gains Official Party Status". Retrieved 2011-12-19.
- Amy Bingham (December 19, 2011). "Americans Elect Candidate Will Be on California Ballot". ABC News. Retrieved 2012-02-05. "Americans Elect has submitted petitions for ballot access in three more states and is collecting signatures in 15 others. It aims to secure a spot on the ballot in every state before its online nominating convention in June, where any registered voter can cast a ballot for their preferred Americans Elect candidate."
- "Americans Elect Petitions Way Into Colorado Ballot as Minor Party". www.denverpost.com. Retrieved 2011-11-30.
- "Americans Elect to Begin Signature Drive Toward Ballot Access in South Carolina for Presidential Election 2012". fitsnews.com. Retrieved 2012-02-03.
- Associated Press (2012-03-29). "Americans Elect gains spot on Hawaii's general election ballot". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
- Steve Mistler (January 26, 2012). "Cutler: Americans Elect gains Maine ballot access". Sun Journal (Lewiston, Maine). Retrieved February 3, 2012. "Maine is now the 15th state in which AE has achieved ballot access."
- Jim Dobkowski, ed. (December 7, 2011). "Americans Elect 2012 Gains Presidential Ballot Access in Mississippi in 2012". Long Island Politics. Retrieved 2012-02-03.
- Winger, Richard (2012-03-13). "Montana Secretary of State Approves Americans Elect Petition". Ballot Access News. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
- "Americans Elect gains ballot access in Nebraska". Lincoln Journal Star. 2012-03-26. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
- Terrell, Steve (2012-02-03). "Americans Elect cleared for ballot". The Santa Fe New Mexican. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
- News & Observer: Americans Elect secures place on NC Ballot[dead link]
- Kim Geiger (November 2, 2011). "Ohio approves virtual third party effort for 2012 ballot". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-02-03.
- The Associated Press (2012-03-29). "'Americans Elect' recognized for Oklahoma ballot". RealClearPolitics. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
- Richard Winger, ed. (December 20, 2011). "Rhode Island Says Americans Elect Petition is Valid". Retrieved 2011-12-20. "On December 20, Rhode Island elections officials announced that the Americans Elect petition for party status has enough valid signatures."
- Lee Davidson (November 23, 2011). "Online candidate to be on ballot in Utah". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2012-02-03.
- Richard Winger (January 1, 2012). "2012 Petitioning For President". Ballot Access News. p. 5. Retrieved 2012-02-03.
- Lowe, Diane, Lead Elections Specialist. "Partisan Primary Sample Ballot and Reminders for a Successful Primary" Wisconsin Government Accountability Board; June 7, 2012
- "Americans Elect gains spot on Wyoming ballot". Billings Gazette. Associated Press. 2012-02-27. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
- Thomas L. Friedman (July 23, 2011). "Make Way for the Radical Center". The New York Times. p. SR5. "Every candidate will have to post in words or video his or her answers to the platform questions produced by the Americans Elect delegates."
- "Americans Elect could put Buddy Roemer on presidential ballot". 2011-11-25.
- "2012 Pre-election Convention Rules of Americans Elect" (PDF). 2011-12-19. pp. 6–11. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
- "2012 Pre-election Convention Rules of Americans Elect" (PDF). 2012-02-01. pp. 6–11. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
- "Proposed AE Rules Amendments Give Candidates More Time to Qualify for Ballot". 2012-02-02. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
- "Group stirring for independent White House bid hits obstacle, cancels 1st phase of ticket hunt". The Washington Post. Associated Press. 2012-05-01. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
- Americans Elect. "Statement by Americans Elect CEO Kahlil Byrd". Retrieved 15 May 2012.
- Alex Altman (December 21, 2011). "Can Well-Heeled Insiders Create a Populist Third-Party Sensation?". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2012-02-05. "Though it will be listed alongside other political parties on state ballots next fall, the group is organized as a social-welfare organization — devoted to promoting no particular candidate, ideology or issue — which allows it to preserve the anonymity of its donors. ... Skeptics are also wary of the powers the group has reserved for itself. The group’s bylaws entrust an appointed group of advisers — known as the “candidate-certification committee” — with deciding whether candidates who don’t automatically qualify for inclusion on the ballot are eligible for nomination. The committee’s decision can be vetoed by two-thirds (now changed to one half) of Americans Elect delegates, but the structure has sparked complaints that it is sinister — “über-democracy meets backroom bosses,” as Obama strategist David Axelrod put it to reporters on Dec. 13."
- Anonymous. "Unanimous written consent in lieu of a meeting of the board of directors of Americans Elect". Americans Elect. Retrieved 8 October 2012.
- Byrd, Kahlil (2012-10-05). "Report of independent expenditures made and contributions received". Federal Election Commission. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
- Manu Martinez, ed. (January 10, 2012). "Americans Elect Organizational History Review". Gilroy News. Retrieved 2012-02-04. "Americans Elect 2012 is an organization that was formed by many of the individuals that were responsible for Unity 08, and has substantially identical goals for the 2012 presidential election cycle."
- Anonymous. "Americans Elect - The First National Online Primary". Americans Elect. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
- Matea Gold (July 28, 2011). "Americans Elect seeks to upend primary system". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-02-04. "It hopes to select an alternate presidential ticket through an online, open convention. Its status as a social welfare group has enabled it to keep private its financiers even as it tries to qualify as a new party."
- StudentsFirst (2013-01-04). http://www.studentsfirst.org/press/entry/studentsfirst-announces-new-hires
- Richardson, John (2012-10-05). "National group spends $1.7 million on pro-Angus King ads". Maine Sunday Telegram. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
- "The Last Best Chance for Campaign Finance Reform: Americans Elect". Retrieved 2012-04-27.
- Harold Meyerson (March 20, 2012). "Don't let Americans Elect muddy the 2012 race". LA Times. Retrieved 2012-03-28.
- Aaron Sankin (December 22, 2011). Arianna Huffington, ed. "Americans Elect Qualifies For California Ballot". Retrieved 2012-02-05. "While Ackerman has given Americans Elect some $5.5 million, other donors to the organization have been kept secret. "This is not popular in the Democratic of Republican parties," Elliot Ackerman, Peter's son and the group's chief operating officer told the Sacramento Bee. Ackerman argued that Americans Elect's backers shouldn't be made public or else they would likely face recriminations from the political elites of both parties."
- Jim Cook (July 24, 2011). "No Special Interest Funding for Americans Elect? New York Times reports "Serious Hedge-Fund Money"". Irregular Times. Retrieved 2012-02-04. "That’s a curious turn of phrase, considering the point-blank declaration this month by Americans Elect that “None of our funding comes from special interests or lobbyists.”"
- "Americans Elect: Donor Search". The Center for Responsive Politics. Retrieved 2012-02-04.
- "Americans Elect to Pay Off Big Donors to Feckless Centrist Third Party". Retrieved March 12, 2012.
- Quinn, Garrett (2012-05-17). "Americans Elect failed, and that's a good thing". Less Is More. Boston.com. Retrieved 20 May 2012.
- Tilove, Jonathan (2012-05-09). "Buddy Roemer still short on 'clicks'; Americans Elect will have to delay vote again". NOLA.com. Retrieved 15 May 2012.
- Americans Elect website
- Americans Elect bylaws as provided to the State of Nevada
- Americans Elect: 9 Questions with Americans Elect C.O.O. Elliot Ackerman Mike Lucier, "Point Nine Nine", January 16, 2012
- The 1 Percent President; Americans Elect’s hypothetical ‘centrist’ candidate wins plaudits from pundits from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting February 2012
- Commentary on Americans Elect at IrregularTimes.com
- AE Transparency blog