Wednesday, November 30, 2011

CSM gets rolled by Americans Elect

There are a number of problems with Andrew Mach's profile of Americans Elect in a recent edition of the Christian Science Monitor. The line I found most egregious was this one:
The drive, if successful, would mark the first time a presidential candidate nominated directly by the American people achieved ballot access.
The only way this statement is true is if you regard Democrats and Republicans as somehow not the American people. Otherwise, the American people have been nominating presidential candidates for some time now.

I was kind of confused by this point:
So far, 1.9 million people in 24 states have signed the petitions. [...] In California, organizers submitted 1.6 million signatures in early October, more than for any single initiative in state history.
Is this right? In this allegedly grassroots, nationwide movement, Californians have provided at least 84% of the signatures? Either these numbers are wrong, or this is just evidence that Americans Elect's deep pockets are buying ballot placement with the help of California's vast petition signature collection industry. (And incidentally, the petition to recall Gray Davis in 2003 received 1.7 million signatures, although only 1.4 million were able to be validated. Not sure whether the Americans Elect signatures have been validated yet, but I'm guessing not.)

Oh, and speaking of deep pockets, Mach seems to accept the following story without bothering to check whether it's, you know, legal:
Financial backing for the endeavor is a mystery. Americans Elect is funded exclusively by some $20 million in contributions from unnamed individuals, says Mr. Byrd. The group's website says it intends to repay the initial financiers so that no single individual will have contributed more than $10,000.
Could an unnamed donor provide millions to the Democratic Party, maintaining anonymity as long as the party later paid him or her back? Is that legal? If not, how does Americans Elect qualify for an exemption? Or do they?


Matt Glassman said...

Wow, you weren't kidding when you said that CSM got rolled.

My confusion with AE is that I don't understand why they think their nomination system is any different than the old caucus/convention system. I guess it has the twist of direct democracy at the national convention, but that seems like a bug, not a feature.

And you just KNOW that the type of people who believe in this AE stuff would be the exact type of people who hated the caucus/convention system.

Seth Masket said...

Yeah, I don't get that, either. They're basically inviting interested people to participate in a convention. How that differs from what the parties have traditionally done escapes me.

Robert said...

Right. I listened to a story the other day where an AE representative insisted that the group is not a political party, but then went on to describe a process that sounds precisely like what a party does. It's pure doublespeak. But I suppose that it's a fitting entity for a populace that professes to love democracy while hating everything about the democratic process.

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