Americans Elect Will Save Our Democracy With Secret Money, Probably From Hedge Funds

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 3 2011 10:41 AM

Americans Elect Will Save Our Democracy With Secret Money, Probably From Hedge Funds

Dan Froomkin endured the latest "Americans Elect" dog and pony show yesterday and asked the right question: If they've raised $22 million, who's donating to them?

Kahlil Byrd, the group's CEO, said it is operating "completely within the bounds" of the law. He noted that unlike a traditional political group, "Americans Elect has no candidate and has no issue."
As for the donors, he said, the reason they want to remain secret is to avoid political payback. "This is a very tough political environment," he said. "Retribution is real."
Byrd also, perhaps contradictorily, described donating to the campaign as "a small act of courage."
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Well, okay. The group has $22 million. We only know where $1.58 million is coming from. Our only clue about the source of the funding comes, helpfully, from Tom Friedman's dippy press release column about the group: We know it's "financed with some serious hedge-fund money." Which hedge funds? What have they donated to in the past? Which candidates have the people donating to the group donated to in the past? AE is effectively a Super PAC for either 1) bupkis and total failure or 2) a wealthy candidate who can take over all the ballot lines painstakingly bought by AE. (The men featured in a hypothetical candidate round-up at this launch event: sputtering GOP candidate Jon Huntsman, scandalized former Democratic candidate Bill Richardson, conservative Democrat Joe Manchin, and Democrat-turned-barely visible Republican John Hoeven.)

In the meantime, good news: A secretive group funded by hedge funds has secured a ballot line in Ohio. Do you feel better about democracy yet?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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