Members of No Labels rally against extreme partisanship on the West Lawn of the Capitol in July.
Instead of forcing the two parties to work together, Americans Elect is trying to change the way voters choose candidates.
Americans Elect is promoting an online nominating convention where any registered voter can be a delegate. Delegates will help develop a platform and ultimately choose a “nonpartisan” presidential ticket in June.
“Right now, they use smoke-filled rooms that cannot give access to all Americans like we can through the Internet,” Americans Elect Chief Technology Officer Joshua Levine told Roll Call.
But the dream of an online convention and nonpartisan ticket is nothing new.
Americans Elect is the latest manifestation of what used to be known as Unity08. Led by wealthy financier and author Peter Ackerman, the group got some media attention with former Maine Gov. Angus King and “Law & Order” actor Sam Waterston as two of its public faces. The group ultimately ran into financial troubles. Ackerman ended up contributing to Democrat Barack Obama’s campaign.
Ackerman is now behind the scenes at Americans Elect, giving the group $1.5 million to get started when it organized in the spring of 2010 as a 527.
Last fall, Americans Elect reorganized as a 501(c)(4) and no longer has to disclose its donors. According to an official from the group, Americans Elect members can choose to disclose their contribution, but the online tool to make that disclosure public is currently broken.
It’s unclear what kind of presidential ticket would result from the unprecedented process.
“The ticket that comes out of Americans Elect will be a nonpartisan ticket. Meaning that two individuals of the same party won’t be able to run on that ticket,” group Chief Operating Officer Elliot Ackerman, Peter’s son, explained to Chuck Todd on MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown.”
Elliot Ackerman, 31, is one of the public faces of Americans Elect. He previously served eight years in the Marine Corps, including tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, where he earned a Silver Star for the Battle of Fallujah.
Americans Elect also is trying to distinguish itself by providing ballot access, a historical stumbling block for third-party movements, for its presidential ticket. The group has gathered more than half of the 2.9 million signatures it needs to get on the ballot in all 50 states.
The groups are rarely in direct competition, even though Americans Elect’s “true colors” feature is in the same vein as Ruck.us’ issues-based concept, but they are jockeying for attention and to distinguish themselves.
“No Labels is an advocacy group. Ruck.us has really nice technology but no ballot access. We’re a serious effort to give the American people direct access to nominating a candidate,” said Americans Elect’s Levine, a retired technology chief from E-Trade. Levine also described Ruck.us as “a game.”
But to founder and CEO Nathan Daschle, Ruck.us is anything but a game. Unlike No Labels and Americans Elect, Ruck.us aims to be a for-profit corporation and received an early round of money from angel investors.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.