Americans Elect: Corrupt or Not?

8 Mar

Over at Crooked Timber there’s an interesting discussion shaping up about Americans Elect, a somewhat mysterious effort to use the internet to select a centrist candidate to run in the 2012 Presidential Election. The process is just complicated enough that I’m not going to try to explain it; you can start here on their website to find out for yourself.

The big mystery is that Americans Elect won’t reveal who’s funding them. Some people are OK with that, some are not. Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig is OK with that (FWIW, Lessig is on a Leadership list for AE). His reasoning, which is set forth in some detail at Crooked Timber, is that candidates won’t know any more about contributors than we do, so how could they be corrupted by them?

The problem, however, is that the board of Americans Elect retains the right to veto the ticket selected by the internet process. If they don’t like the result, they’ll over-rule that result though it’s not clear what happens then, though it seems at the point the process just folds. So, it seems rather important to know who’s footing the bills, for its likely that they’re the ones who’ll have to approve the ticket. Rumor has it that much of the money comes from hedge-fund honchos.

Henry Farrell at CT observes:

One of the ways in which American politics is corrupt in Warren’s sense is that voices (typically belonging to, or funded by, people who’ve made their money on Wall Street) calling for more fiscal austerity, the ‘rationalization’ of Social Security etc are massively overrepresented in public debate. Americans Elect is quite transparently and explicitly a vehicle for continuing, and, if possible, extending this overrepresentation. Furthermore, there is a strong prima facie case that its funders’ allergic reaction to transparency has a lot to do with the fact that they are the kind of people who would discredit the initiatives if their true identities were known. The chances of Americans Elect pushing a candidate who is genuinely interested in freeing up American politics through e.g. the kinds of funding reforms that Lessig would like are low-to-zero (if money were to count less, Wall Street billionaires would have considerably less clout than they do).

Stay tuned.

PS: Ron Paul’s their top (draft) candidate so far.


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