Transcript: Thom Hartmann: Why is Meet The Press doing infomercials for Americans Elect? 12 December '11

With the global backlash against corporatism picking up steam - the 1% has something up their sleeves to keep power.

It’s called “Americans Elect”.

Americans Elect runs a website - where it intends to let its members - or delegates as they’re called - “elect” a third party candidate by voting online.

It takes 3 million signatures to get on the ballot in all 50 states - and so far Americans Elect has over two million signatures.

So by 2012 - Americans Elect hopes to have a candidate - voted on by those who have signed up online to be members - or delegates - to Americans Elect - and that candidate’s name will be placed on the ballot right alongside Barack Obama and whoever the Republican nominee is in next year’s election.

As their website says:

Americans Elect is the first nonpartisan nomination. We're using the Internet to break the gridlock in Washington, open up the political process and give every single voter - Democrat, Republican or independent - the power to nominate a presidential ticket in 2012. Your voice matters. You decide the issues. You choose the candidates. And in a secure, online convention next June, you will make history by putting the Americans Elect ticket on the ballot in every state.

It all sounds reasonable.

The group operates as a non-profit organization - and talks like a grassroots movement.

Yesterday - Americans Elect was given a platform on Meet the Press - where David Gregory pretty much gave them an infomercial to sell their election scheme:

David Gregory: This week Americans Elect, an organization whose goal is to break down the barrier to entry to running for America's highest office. They are calling it the country's first direct nomination of a presidential candidate sing the power of the Internet.

You got quite an endorsement from Tom Friedmanwho write this in his column about the group:

Write it down: Americans Elect. What did to books, what the blogosphere did to newspapers, what the iPod did to music, what 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. Watch out.

Only toward the end of the interview - did Gregory ask the all-important question - where’s the money coming from?

David Gregory: Who's funding your operation to get ballot access?

Elliot Ackerman: Sure. We've raised about twenty-two million dollars to date, we've got a budget that's a little bit over thirty million dollars. So just to get started with this we had to go somewhere to raise that money. So we had about fifty individuals who came forward to raise that money. Some of those folks have disclosed, some of them haven't disclosed yet.

Did you catch that? That’s 50 individuals - who’ve thrown in 22 million bucks to get this operation off the ground - and to ensure whichever candidate is selected online makes it on to the ballot in all 50 states.

And many of those individuals want to remain secret.

As campaign finance reform activist Fred Wertheimer said about the secrecy behind Americans Elect:

They must be trying to hide from the public who their donors are. This is a very strange way for a group to act that is complaining about the state of American politics.

We know who some of the donors are:

There’s Peter Ackerman - a guy who apparently gave over one and a half million bucks to Americans Elect - who made a lot of his fortune working with private investment firms and holding stakes in numerous different corporations.

There’s a guy named Kirk Rostron - the co-founder of a private capital investment firm in Washington, DC - who specializes in managing hedge funds.

The group also, according to Wikipedia, has an affiliation with Arno political consultants - a company whose clients include special interests like the National Rifle Association and tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds.

Arno political has been involved in a slew of controversies - from tricking people into registering as Republicans in Florida - to paying off homeless people to sign petitions - to forging signatures on ballot initiative petitions - according to Wikipedia.

Altogether - Arno political - according to Wikipedia - has been accused of fraud by five different state attorneys general.

So looking at those who’ve come forward - it looks like Americans Elect isn’t so much a grassroots organization hoping to improve our democracy and give voters more direct access to politicians - as it is an operation funded by a bunch of rich guys - most of who want to remain secret - and that has hired some people with a background in election fraud.

The best way to think of Americans Elect is as a corporation - not as a political party.

Because it is a corporation - albeit a nonprofit one that won't disclose its money sources but apparently has connections to folks on Wall Street.

So expect someone like billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for example, to be a strong runner for their ticket - or corporate advocates who have suggested it might be a good idea to do some variation of turning Social Security over to Wall Street - people like Republican Buddy Roemer or corporate-friendly Democrat Evan Bayh.

The website - and the whole election process looks to me more like an astroturf meet-up like the Tea Party - where average Americans think they’re bucking both parties and voting for a moderate when in reality - they’re just dancing with millionaires and another corporation.

It’s not about political parties - a truth that even Americans Elect acknowledges.

And for progressives who want to put an end to corporatism - the answer will not be found in a corporation running a candidate.

The REAL grassroots movement is already in the streets.

The 99% Movement is putting incredible pressure on Democrats - and eventually can lead the whole party to follow in the footsteps of past progressives like Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt - one a Republican - the other a Democrat - who both fought against too much corporate influence in our government.

So let’s get to work on embracing and strengthening the REAL grassroots movement in the streets in front of our very eyes - it’s a far better hope, frankly, in my opinion, than a millionaire-funded web-based scheme to tinker with our electoral system.

That's The Big Picture.

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