Americans Elect: No Molotov Cocktails, Please

Americans Elect, the extremely well-promoted successor to Unity08 that wants to create ballot lines for a third party presidential savior, held a wide-ranging press call today to fete their arrival on the California ballot. I heard something new. According to AE strategist Darry Sragow, the group had grown so popular that some “labor leaders” had talked to them about running candidates on AE tickets.

How might that work? In 2010, the SEIU briefly talked about running third party challengers to Democrats who voted against the Affordable Care Act. Their main outlet, North Carolina First, never did much of anything. And AE is focused on running a 2012 presidential ticket – that’s what the convention et al is for. Getting ballot access for other offices, and then for 2014 campaigns, has only just come up as a possibility. What might labor be trying to do?

I didn’t get to ask this. Alas, I fell behind in the queue to Ken Vogel, Politico’s dogged money and politics reporter, one of the most vicious follow-up-ers on the planet. He dragged the AE leadership into a fascinating defense of their 501c4 status and decision not to disclose donors.

“The folks running Americans Elect, they don’t know who the donors are,” said Sragow, defending the secrecy. Another AE leader contradicted this a little bit. “I’ve participated in some of the meetings where people won’t sign because of fear of retribution,” he said. “We can have complete disclosure and fail, or we can succeed.”

But hang on: What sort of retribution were we talking about? “My father, Peter Ackerman,” offered the group’s COO Elliot Ackerman. “He’s been mischaracterized in the press frequently.”

Sragow wasn’t about to let this suggestion fly – this idea that working with AE wasn’t dangerous. “Don’t suggest that there is no retribution,” he said. “Nobody who’s spent 10 minutes in politics could think that.” He’d been vilified for participating in the group. He’d been attacked and insulted. “Fortunately, in this country, we don’t use molotov cocktails literally,” he said. “We use them figuratively.”

Well, this didn’t jibe either. Occasionaly, AE leaders have suggested that their donors will come out on their own. When would that happen?

“We’ll elect a president,” said Sragow, “and people will be very proud.”