Is Obama Making A Deal With Iran?
President Obama has been engaged in secret back channel talks with Iran in which he has informed Tehran’s leaders that he is completely opposed to any Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, according to informed Middle Eastern officials.
The officials told this reporter that the behind-the-scenes talks aim to secure a guarantee from Iran that it will not retaliate against the U.S. in the event of an Israeli military strike, the officials said.
It is unclear what, if anything, Obama offered Iran in exchange for a pledge against targeting U.S. installations, including in the Gulf.
The State Department did not immediately return a request seeking comment on the alleged back door talks.
Controversial Group Forging Ahead In Getting On Ballots
The mysteriously funded, highly organized Americans Elect, or AE, is now one step closer to its goal of getting on the ballot in all 50 states in an effort, apparently, to run an independent candidate for president.
The group has ties to President Obama and top Democrats, as this column has previously documented.
On Friday, AE was notified that it was approved for the ballot in Oklahoma for the 2012 presidential election after filing nearly 90,000 signatures of Oklahoma voters one month.
AE seems designed to appear like a massive, grassroots effort involving millions of citizens acting to draft a third-party candidate. However, the organization’s voting process has been called into question. There are concerns AE’s bylaws may allow its own board members to bypass votes and nominate their own candidate.
AE plans to hold its own nominating convention on the Internet this June to select an independent presidential and vice-presidential candidate. The group says any registered voter can sign up to participate in the June convention.
To get on state ballots, AE has been demonstrating mass organizing skills. The group says it collected more than two million signatures nationwide in its effort to get on state ballots. WorldNetDaily found that two AE board members, Kellen Arno and Michael Arno, were paid by the group to help run the massive signature-gathering drive through their firm, Arno Political Consultants (APC).
APC has been rampantly accused of forging signatures and collecting signatures using fraud. In 2004, APC was accused of forging signatures on a petition to legalize slot machines in Florida’s Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. The next year, Boston’s Fox television affiliate, WFXT, ran a feature interviewing paid signature collectors hired by APC through subcontractors. The interviewees said they were trained on how to trick people into signing a petition using fraud, including by switching the petition text after each signature was collected.
In 2007, APC reportedly hired JSM Inc., which in turn hired independent contractors who gave snacks and food to homeless people in exchange for signing petitions and registering to vote. Then in 2009, APC gathered signatures to put the Ohio Casino Initiative on the Nov. 3, 2009, ballot, but a subsequent review reportedly found the overall validity of the signatures were certified at just under 51 percent.
In late 2010, AE changed its tax status from a tax-exempt group to what is known as a 501(c)(4), or social-welfare organization, which is not required to show its donor list. Capital Weekly reported that prior to the change, in the second and third quarters of 2010, AE’s more than $1.5 million in funding came from one person – Obama donor Peter Ackerman. Ackerman reportedly gave AE a total of at least $5 million in seed money. Many of AE’s other donors are unknown.
AE’s Internet voting system has also been called into question. Pamela Smith, president of VerifiedVoting.org, a voters’ advocacy group, argued AE’s Internet voting is insecure and difficult to audit. Regardless of the results, there reportedly are concerns that current guidelines allow AE brass to anoint their own candidate.
Salon.com reporter Justin Elliott noted candidates chosen by voters must be approved by a Candidate Certification Committee, which according to the group’s bylaws consists of AE’s board members. This column reviewed AE’s board, finding multiple ties to Obama; some Republicans were also on the committee.
Besides Ackerman, the advisory board includes Lawrence Lessig, an Obama technology adviser. Lessig has been mentioned as a future candidate to head the Federal Communications Commission. He advised Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.
AE’s CEO, Kahlil Byrd, has drawn scrutiny from conservatives because he formerly served as Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s communications director. Patrick’s chief strategist was top Obama strategist David Axelrod.
AE board member W. Bowman Cutter is senior adviser to the Podesta Group lobbying and public relations firm, founded by John Podesta, who directed Obama’s transition into the White House in 2008. Podesta is director of the Center for American Progress, which is reportedly highly influential in helping to craft White House policy
Is There More To The Obama-Ayers Story?
Has the full extent of President Obama’s relationship with Weatherman terrorist Bill Ayers been exposed?