Americans Elect sets stage for next election, buys its first U.S. senator

by Brenda J. Elliott

If you can’t buy yourself a president, a U.S. senator will just have to do.

Americans Elect, a secretive faux grassroots political action committee backed by three Wall Street billionaires — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Peter Ackerman, and John Burbank III — and unnamed donors, poured at least $1.7 million into television ads, direct mail, and polling services for the successful senatorial campaign of green energy advocate Angus King.

King, who ran as an Independent, served between 1995 and 2003 as Maine’s governor and more recently as a college lecturer, a law firm financial adviser, and a joint venture partner in a wind energy firm from which he resigned to run for office.

King replaces retiring Republican Senator Olympia Snowe. He beat out Republican candidate Charles Summers and Democratic candidate Cynthia Dill.

Earlier today, King told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid he had not yet decided whether he would caucus with Democrats or Republicans, “though he acknowledged he will probably pick a side,” Roll Call reports.

Bloomberg, Ackerman, and Burbank contributed $1.75 million to Americans Elect.

Breitbart reported last month:

Peter Ackerman founded Americans Elect in April of 2010 as a 501 c 4 non-profit. He was joined by founding members of the board of directors Eliot R. Culter, former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, Admiral Dennis Blair, Ambassador Steven Bosworth, and Irvine O. Hockaday, Jr. The organization’s original purpose was completely unrelated to its current mission as a Super PAC dedicated exclusively to the election of Angus King and no other candidate.

That “original purpose”, as Aaron Klein and Brenda J. Elliott reported in Fool Me Twice, was to secure a place on the ballot for a third-party candidate in the 2012 presidential election. In June, Americans Elect failed in its attempt to hold a nominating convention online for an independent presidential and vice-presidential candidate.

Americans Elect raised a reported $22 million, claimed over two million signatures nationwide, and secured a place on the ballot in every state in the U.S.

In 2009, an affiliated group, Unity08, also sought an independent candidate but suspended operations after fund-raising and organizational issues arose. Although it claimed to not back any candidate, Unity08 and Americans Elect shared the same D.C. address as the Draft Bloomberg Committee.

2014 and beyond

Daniel B. Winslow, a Repubican member of the Massachusetts House from Norfolk, and a senior counsel at the law firm Proskauer, who represents Americans Elect, told the Boston Globe:

“If he 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,” Winslow said.

Obama ties

Americans Elect also has ties to Barack Obama, Klein and Elliott reported.

The Americans Elect advisory board includes Obama technology adviser Lawrence Lessig, who has been named as a possible future candidate to head the Federal Communications Commission. Lessig also served as an Obama 2008 campaign adviser.

Americans Elect board member W. Bowman Cutter is a senior adviser to the Podesta Group, a lobbying and public relations firm founded by John Podesta who helped steer the Obama-Biden transition in 2008. Podesta is also the founder of the progressive think tank, the Center for American Progress.

Note King’s campaign director is Eliot Cutler, who reportedly served until June on the Americans Elect board of directors.

Rank hypocrisy

The AE Transparency blog reported in early October:

… ‘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.”

King claimed not to have known about Americans Elect’s largesse. Cutler’s involvement with the King campaign makes King’s response nothing less than rank hypocrisy.