by Aaron Klein Aaron Klein is WND's senior staff reporter and Jerusalem bureau chief.
A mysteriously funded, highly organized effort to secure a place on the 2012 presidential election ballot for a third party candidate has ties to President Obama and top Democrats, WND has learned.
The group, calling itself Americans Elect, or AE, seems designed to appear like a massive, grassroots effort involving millions of citizens acting to draft a third party candidate.
However, the organization’s voting process has been called into question and there also are concerns AE’s bylaws may allow the group’s own board members to bypass votes and nominate their own candidate.
AE describes itself as “a non-partisan, non-profit organization founded by Americans from across the political spectrum who are worried that our nation’s deep political divisions keep big problems from being solved.”
AE seeks to hold its own nominating convention on the Internet this June to select an independent presidential and vice-presidential candidate. The group says any registered voter can sign up to participate in the June convention.
AE reportedly has raised more than $22 million so far and already has been certified to be placed on the ballot in 12 states now, including California.
To get on state ballots, AE evidenced mass organizing skills. The group says it collected over two million signatures nationwide in its effort to get on state ballots.
WND found that two of AE’s board members, Kellen Arno and Michael Arno, were paid by the group for helping to run the massive signature gathering drive via their firm, Arno Political Consultants.
Michael Arno is senior adviser to the Podesta Group lobbying and public relations firm, which was founded by John Podesta, who directed Obama’s transition into the White House in 2008.
Podesta is director of the Center for American Progress, which is reportedly highly influential in helping to craft White House policy.
A Time magazine article profiled the influence of Podesta’s Center for American Progress in the formation of the Obama administration, stating that “not since the Heritage Foundation helped guide Ronald Reagan’s transition in 1981 has a single outside group held so much sway.”
AE, meanwhile, reportedly originally was associated with another group that sought an independent candidate. That organization, calling itself Unity08, eventually suspended operations citing organizing and fundraising issues.
Unity08 said it did not back any particular candidate, but two of its founders launched their own national effort to draft New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to run for president.
The Irregular Times documented how AE and Unity08 shared the same Washington, D.C., address. Previously, Unity08 shared its address with the Draft Bloomberg Committee.
Irregular Times also found that the founders of Unity08 “registered the domain name draftmichaelbloomberg.com in 2007 at a time when Unity08 was insisting that it had no candidates in mind.”
AE’s funding has been called into question.
In late 2010, AE changed its tax status from a tax-exempt group to what is known as a 501(c)(4), or social-welfare organization, which is not required to show its donor list.
Capital Weekly reported that prior to the change, in the second and third quarters of 2010, AE’s more than $1.5 million in funding came from one person – venture capitalist, Unity08 activist and Obama donor Peter Ackerman.
Ackerman reportedly gave AE a total of at least $5 million in seen money. Many of AE’s other donors are unknown.
AE officials have defended their secretive donor collection practices.
“We have to be able to raise significant amounts of money to be able to take on the status quo,” Kahlil Byrd, AE’s chief executive officer, told Mother Jones last November.
Byrd said that if his group would be compelled to disclose its donors, there would be “a chilling effect … on people’s willingness to participate in this process.”
Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, two campaign finance watchdogs, requested in September the IRS investigate Americans Elect, charging it may be violating nonprofit status by function like a political party.
Finances are not the only source of controversy.
Mother Jones reported that AE’s Internet voting system has been called into question.
Pamela Smith, president of VerifiedVoting.org, a voters’ advocacy group, argued AE’s reliance on Internet voting is insecure and difficult to audit.
“If you allow it to be used in public elections without assurance that the results are verifiably accurate, that is an extraordinary and unnecessary risk to democracy,” she says.
Regardless of the results, there are concerns that current guidelines reportedly allow AE to anoint its own candidate.
Salon.com reporter Justin Elliott noted candidates chosen by voters must be approved by a Candidate Certification Committee, which according to the group’s bylaws consists of AE’s board members.
The committee, according to the bylaws obtained by Salon, will need to certify a “balanced ticket obligation” consisting of candidates who are “responsive to the vast majority of citizens while remaining independent of special interests and the partisan interests of either major political party.”
In response, AE official Darry Sragow told Salon’s Elliot that his group’s guidelines are subject to change.
Sragow went on to defend AE’s board, even likening them to the Founding Fathers.
“While we don’t mean to put the board in the company of the Founding Fathers, we’d point out that nobody picked the Founding Fathers, either,” Sragow stated.
“They took it upon themselves to turn a popular dream into a shared reality. And they, too, had debates over how much control should be centralized. They knew that too much power in the hands of too few isn’t real democracy, but that power too diffuse is anarchy.”
WND reviewed AE’s board, finding multiple ties to Obama while some Republicans also graced the committee.
Besides Ackerman, an Obama donor who gave money to help start AE, the advisory board includes Lawrence Lessig, an Obama technology adviser.
Lessig has been mentioned as a future candidate to head the Federal Communications Commission, the FCC. He is an activist for reduced legal restrictions on copyright material and advised Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.
AE’s CEO, Kahlil Byrd, has drawn scrutiny from conservatives because he formerly served as Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s communications director. Patrick’s chief strategist was top Obama strategist David Axelrod.
AE board members Kellen Arno and Michael Arno are tied to John Podesta, as WND noted.
Meanwhile, AE’s board also includes former John McCain aide Mark McKinnon, Will Marshall of the Progressive Policy Institute, former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, Larry Diamond of the Hoover Institute, former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair.
AE also has ties to Hillary Clinton supporters.
Lynn Forester de Rothschild, who is a prominent Hillary Clinton backer, is on the board, as is Doug Schoen, a former pollster and adviser to Bill Clinton.
Schoen recently was in the news after he teamed up with Jimmy Carter’s former aide Patrick to publish an editorial in the Wall Street Journal last month, entitled “The Hillary Moment,” in which they called for Clinton to throw her hat into the ring for the presidency.
The two wrote another piece at Politico.com calling for Democratic voters nationally – particularly in New Hampshire – to organize a write-in campaign for Clinton.
With research by Brenda J. Elliott
He is like an octopus- many arms reaching into many different places/organizations/ways to win by any means necessary.
And the American public just doesn't know/pay attention/are misled by MSM/don't care.
WE ARE IN REAL TROUBLE!!
This is just the beginning. This will be the most corrupt election of all times.
I'm tired of this blogs cries of Chicken Little's sky is falling! The same as crying Wolf! No one wants to DO anything about our Great Nation being taken over! We have some great individuals like Col. Riley, Stingray and the list goes on! But i see no call to action! No web sight we can download. To await a starting point, a call to arms! If i knew how to do this and had the physical means to do it. I would! But my health and the ability to move has made it impossible. But it seems that there would be someone who isn't all talk. But all go! It's hard for me to believe that no one has the guts to get something going. So a physical revolt doesn't have to happen! But we can get rid of these against us by putting God back into his number one spot in America! For without him we have seen the results! Do we want to continue till the end of the book, to see the final demise of this country? Will someone with guts step forward? Regards, Larry
I echo your sentiments... all typing, no boots on the ground.
Where do we look? Who do we go to with our appeal? We need someone with standing, clout, money, ability to demand media coverage, integrity, etc..to do what??? .This is reality ---without some of the aforementioned characteristics, we're pi$$ing in the wind....who is it or who are they???
Frankly, I don't see anyone willing to step up before November.....everyone is waiting for the presidential election, accepting the current crop of candidates and waiting for voters to decide which one will oppose Obama.
In my opinion, we had the closest model conservative, constitutional, Founding Father visioned, with common-sense in Michele Bachmann as our national leader.....and no one supported her.
Now I see a republican convention fight....I don't see Ron Paul winning the nomination but he will have delegates and will demand platform concessions...if he doesn't get it, there will be convention chaos and probably result in Paul going third party......
So there you go.....now we're looking for someone??
This makes absolute sense. If the progressives can do anything to split the Republican vote it will guarantee the Chairmans' election.
Both parties are controlled at the top of each parties tickets, POTUS and VICE POTUS by the federal reserve bank who make sure the fix is in at the top! This same bank, the federal reserve bank, a private bank Thomas Jefferson said was of, "a central bank and its policies were a greater threat to our liberties than a standing army"!!!
Youre right George.This party wants to split the votes.Obama already has a billion dollar war chest for his reelecttion.HE INTENDS TO BUY THE ELECTION.
It looks like the left is who it would take votes away from, but, if they begin to push Paul to run on their ticket, then we'll KNOW FOR SURE THAT HE'S JUST IN THERE TO RUN INTERFERENCE FOR bo. AND GET HIM RE-ELECTED! I'm wondering more all the time if it isn't so. Can't actually trace Paul's funding to soros, but the 2 of them are the most vocal on the legalizing of drugs, and their views on defence and money to the military ARE VERY SIMILAR! There are a lot of disenchanted dems and libertarians who might well vote to save the nation UNLESS PAUL RUNS ON A 3rd PARTY TICKET!
That doesn't surprise me any, I've seen quite a few comments on the bloggs eluding to that.
That's just one more reason why we need to get this Usurper removed NOW.
RIGHT NOW THERE IS ONLY ONE PARTY ( THE COMMUNIST PARTY ) SOON WILL BE THE COMMUNIST WORLD PARTY.