[My follow-up to this piece is here. — JL]
The groups No Labels and Americans Elect will tell you that they simply are pragmatists and nonpartisans
who are trying to return the country to a politics of moderation and common sense.
In fact, the brand of fiscally conservative "centrism" — which is to say, center-right-ism — that these groups
are advancing, whether in public or behind the scenes,
is every bit as partisan and every bit as ideological as the "extremes" of "left" and "right" from which they claim to want to rescue the republic.
As it happens, there are are many connections between Americans Elect and No Labels. These connections
rarely come into sharper focus than when seen through the lens of informed speculation about New York mayor Michael Bloomberg's presidential intentions. And no one has been more thorough and persuasive in digging out and documenting these connections than the investigative journalist Jim Cook of Irregular Times.
Go to Irregular Times and read, in chronological order, everything that comes up under dedicated searches for "Americans Elect," "No Labels," and "Michael Bloomberg." You might find the exercise illuminating.
Yes, That Doctoroff
To all the "dots" that Jim Cook already has connected,
I offer the following for consideration.
On 31 January, Huffington Post published a piece by Andrew Doctoroff, "Why An Independent Presidential Candidate Can Succeed in 2012." Doctoroff identified himself as a "former journalist" and a "Detroit lawyer."
What Doctoroff didn't mention — either in his piece or
in his bio — is that his brother, Daniel Doctoroff, was Michael Bloomberg's deputy mayor from 2001 through 2007, or that Daniel Doctoroff left the Bloomberg administration to become President of Bloomberg LP
and now serves as the company's President and CEO.
What Doctoroff also didn't mention is that his piece originally was published five days earlier, as a "guest piece" on the Americans Elect Web site.
Bloomberg and Americans Elect
The truth is, observers long have sensed that Americans Elect was a stalking horse for a Bloomberg presidential candidacy in 2012. As Jim Cook reported in November 2010 (sources linked in the original):
New York Magazine's John Heilemann spoke to Michael Bloomberg aide Kevin Sheekey in October and reports that the New York City mayor's office has strong interest in using an Americans Elect presidential ballot line to run for President in 2012:
"One key factor, now as three years ago, is Bloomberg's ability to get onto the ballot nationwide. Thus are Sheekey and others eagerly monitoring a new outfit called Americans Elect, which plans to launch early next year. Backed by a wealthy private investor, Peter Ackerman, the group says...that it intends to hold a web-based convention to nominate a 'balanced presidential ticket that will bridge the vital center of American public opinion' and place
it 'on the ballot in all 50 states.' Ackerman has
already put $1.55 million into the project, with
more to come."
Americans Elect is in fact backed solely by Peter Ackerman's contributions of
$1.55 million in the second and third
quarters of 2010. Moreover, a dance between Bloomberg and Americans Elect would not be new. Americans Elect is, after all, the new incarnation of Unity08 — the two groups shared the same business address for a time. Before that, Unity08 shared its business address with the Draft Bloomberg Committee. Indeed, the founders of Unity08 registered the domain name draftmichaelbloomberg [dot] com in June 2007, at a time when Unity08 was insisting that it had no candidates in mind, that the people would choose, and also at a time when Unity08 leaders were holding secret talks with the Bloomberg camp.
Many of the senior leaders of Unity08 have moved on, or at least are not publicly involved with Americans Elect at this point. One senior Unity08 leader has remained: Peter Ackerman, co-chair of the Unity08 rules committee from the beginning, member of the Unity08 Board
of Directors, member of the Unity08 Advisory Committee and now Chairman of the Board
and sole funder of Americans Elect.
Interesting, given Doctoroff's excoriation of both the Democratic and the Republican parties, and his call specifically for a presidential candidate who is a registered "independent" (or who, at least, would not be running as a traditional party nominee) — i.e., his call for someone like, say, Michael Bloomberg — that both of the two prospects that Doctoroff name-checks, Mitch Daniels and Kent Conrad, are strongly identified with one of the two "major" parties.
A diversion? A cover? A VP shortlist? Any — or all — of these seem possible.
The move of Doctoroff's, however, that may be the
best "candidate" for further investigation is his quiet insertion of this 40-page research paper (pdf) —
"An Assessment of the Viability of an Independent Presidential Candidacy in 2012." The paper is credited to Doctoroff, who links to the paper in both of his two pieces arguing for "an independent presidential candidate" and cites it as the basis for the first of these. Although the paper is undated, it includes late-January polling data,
so it was completed within the last few weeks.
According to the paper's first footnote, "[m]uch of
the research for this paper was conducted by Ashley Jardina, a doctoral graduate student in the University
of Michigan's Department of Political Science" — and, indeed, at least in terms of presentation, this is a
serious piece of research.
Which begs the question: Who commissioned this paper? A "draft Bloomberg" group? Bloomberg's consultant, Douglas Schoen? — who, perhaps not coincidentally, is listed as part of the "Leadership" of Americans Elect. Bloomberg himself?
Certainly, analysis of this length and substance is not typically the sort of thing that a person or group does for their health. More often, there is money involved — or, at the very least, the guarantee of a "high-end" readership.
No, there is nothing accidental about the release of
this paper, which, I surmise, was written specifically
(1) to persuade Michael Bloomberg that now is the time to run for President, and (2) to persuade existing and potential Bloomberg supporters that now is the time to vote for him.
Moreover: Unless Daniel Doctoff's brother, Andrew,
is going a bit rogue, it seems highly unlikely that this paper, which makes an unequivocal case for the viability of an independent presidential candidacy in 2012,
would have been made public — and made public by
the brother of the person, Daniel Doctoroff, who was Bloomberg's longtime deputy mayor and who now is
the President and CEO of Bloomberg LP — without the independent Michael Bloomberg's explicit approval.
To be fair, the paper is very careful not to mention Bloomberg by name. But, if you have any doubt that Bloomberg is the unmistakable subtext, note that the paper's persistent frame of reference — and favorable benchmark — is the experience of another billionaire independent, Ross Perot, in 1992:
[T]he 1992 election teaches one lesson above all: an independent presidential candidate
who spends large sums of money on his
or her campaign has the potential to win significant electoral support....[I]n 1992,
Ross Perot captured 18.9% of the popular
vote. In 2012, if the political climate does
not change significantly in the months ahead, an independent candidate should be able to eclipse the performance of Perot, garnering a significantly higher percentage of the popular vote. Obviously, this assessment also assumes that an independent candidate would be able
to spend on his or her campaign an amount
of money (adjusted for inflation) comparable
to what Perot spent in 1992, i.e., $73 million. But money may be the only hurdle that would prevent an attractive candidate from sprinting unimpeded to a historic finish on Election Day.
Michael Bloomberg is not yet saying yes to a presidential run in 2012 — but, for those who are listening, he might just have started thinking it a lot louder.