Hacking the VotePosted: October 22, 2012
Let’s say you’re an extremely wealthy member of a secretive religious cult that’s been running for election for about 6 years and you really, really want to do that one thing your father never could–become president. Let’s say you know that you’re extremely unlikable and that you were unsuccessful and disliked at the one elected office that you held. Let’s also say that it’s pretty obvious your money came via your father’s connections, your church connections, and by doing things that basically have ruined the US economy. So, you’re very good at using your connections to get what you want at other’s expense. Let’s also say that you have spawned a bunch of sons that appear to be as shallow and callow but ambitious and greedy as you. What would you do to win an election besides saying anything to any one and being on any side of any issue just to further your own career?
Let’s just start this discussion with one with Forbes article and move on from there. The article in question is called “Romney Family Investment Ties To Voting Machine Company That Could Decide The Election Causing Concern”. Yes. We should be concerned. We should be very concerned.
Numerous media sources, including Truthout, are reporting that Solamere Capital—the investment firm run by Mitt Romney’s son, Tagg, and the home of money put into the closely held firm by Tagg’s uncle Scott, mother Anne and, of course, the dad who might just be the next President of the United States—depending upon how the vote count turns out, in our little tale, in the State of Ohio—have shared business interests with H.I.G. either directly or via Solamere Advisors which is owned, in part, by Solamere Capital, including a reported investment in H.I.G. by either Solamere Capital or Solamere Advisors.
Lee Fang, in his piece for The Nation exploring the government related activities of various companies in which Solamere has an interest writes-
“Meanwhile, HIG Capital—one of the largest Solamere partners, with nearly $10 billion of equity capital—owns a number of other firms that are closely monitoring the federal government. ”
While the Cincinnati scenario is —at this point—fiction, the rest of this story is all too true, including the part where the voting machines to be used in Hamilton County will be those provided by Hart Intercivic.
Making investments that pay for Romneys and hurt just about everybody else is basically the Romney way. Nothing would surprise me from a man who lies with extreme ease and a son that has no shame announcing he’d sucker punch a president if only there weren’t secret service in the way.
Indeed, as fate would have it, two of those directors—Douglas Berman and Brian Schwartz— were actually in attendance at the now infamous “47 percent” fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida.
With that news, voters everywhere start to get this queasy feeling in the pits of their stomach.
But wait—if you’re feeling a bit ill now, you’ll want to get the anti-acids ready to go because it’s about get really strange.
To everyone’s amazement, we learn that two members of the Hart Intercivic board of directors, Neil Tuch and Jeff Bohl, have made direct contributions to the Romney campaign. This, despite the fact that they represent 40 percent of the full board of directors of a company whose independent, disinterested and studiously non-partisan status in any election taking place on their voting machines would seemingly be a ‘no brainer’.
Then, there’s the relationship between H.I.G. and Solamere. You know, interlocking directorates are such a integral part of crony capitalism and the Romney wealth interlocks neatly. Solamere is Tagg’s company founded in 2008 with Romney Chief Fund Raiser Spencer Zwick. Solamere is hard to track because Tagg has used his father’s model of offshoring banking and business. We know a few things Solamere does because of law suits against the company and its partner HIG Capital.
Meanwhile, HIG Capital—one of the largest Solamere partners, with nearly $10 billion of equity capital—owns a number of other firms that are closely monitoring the federal government. One area where private equity firms have made lucrative investments is the new industry of dental management companies that bill Medicaid. In November 2011, Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Max Baucus of Montana opened an investigation in response to allegations that these corporate-controlled dentists have abused children. As PBS’s Frontline reported, several private equity–owned dental management firms have illegally coerced dentists to perform unnecessary and expensive procedures on low-income children, because Medicaid will reimburse such work. The scandal has provoked a flurry of congressional activity, as well as legislative reforms at the state level. In North Carolina, for example, the legislature debated a highly contentious bill that sought to curtail the ownership of dentists’ offices by private equity firms.
HIG Capital, betting that it could beat the controversy, purchased the dental management firm InterDent for an undisclosed sum in August of this year. InterDent hasn’t been named in the current fraud investigation, but the company has been implicated in other ethics problems in the past. In 2008, InterDent signed a corporate integrity agreement after it was caught overbilling the government at some of its offices in California. This year, the company provided $50,000 for an effort to lobby legislators against the dental management reform bill in North Carolina.
The Brad Blog has been following this story closely. There are a lot of juicy links embedded in this short post.
Late last month, Gerry Bello and Bob Fitrakis at FreePress.org broke the story of the Mitt Romney/Bain Capital investment team involved in H.I.G. Capital which, in July of 2011, completed a “strategic investment” to take over a fair share of the Austin-based e-voting machine company Hart Intercivic.
“Several tanker trucks full of political ink have been spilled on Mitt Romney’s tenure as a vulture capitalist at Bain Capital,” Bello and Fitrakis wrote. “A more important story, however, is the fact that Bain alumni, now raising big money as Romney bundlers are also in the electronic voting machine business. This appears to be a repeat of the infamous former CEO of Diebold Wally O’Dell, who raised money for Bush while his company supplied voting machines and election management software in the 2004 election.”
Lee Fang at The Nation recently confirmed the FreePress reporting in a story of his own on the “crony capitalism” of Tagg Romney, whose father’s money and high-profile connections present a number of troubling corporate conflicts of interest should Mitt Romney become President. The Daily Dolt also followed up with a very well-documented article on the H.I.G. group, their connections to Bain, and their takeover of Hart Intercivic.
Hart’s announcement of the deal describes H.I.G.’s role as as “co-investors”, though the financial services firm which brokered the deal described it in their own announcement as a full-fledged acquisition: “Hart Intercivic was acquired by HIG Capital late last week. The deal caps off a 2+ year relationship with Hart! Congrats to both Hart and the HIG teamâ€¦.its going to be a great partnership!”
Also this week, in a video that has gone a bit viral, The David Pakman Show expressed understandable concerns about Romney’s close business partners having this type of corporate control over a large e-voting company whose, extremely vulnerable and insecure [PDF] — and often 100% unverifiable — voting and tabulation systems are now used, according to VerifiedVoting.org’s database, in all or parts of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
Bain-linked voting machines have been found all over the place. These are machines that cannot be monitored by the public. The companies–in fact– cannot be closely monitored by the public either with all that patented Romney offshoring of vital functions and courts protecting the sanctity of voting machine software instead of protecting the public interest.
In other words, a candidate for the presidency of the United States, and his brother, wife and son, have a straight-line financial interest in the voting machines that could decide this fall’s election. These machines cannot be monitored by the public. But they will help decide who “owns” the White House.
They are especially crucial in Ohio, without which no Republican candidate has ever won the White House. In 2004, in the dead of election night, an electronic swing of more than 300,000 votes switched Ohio from the John Kerry column to George W. Bush, giving him a second term. A virtual statistical impossibility, the 6-plus% shift occurred between 12:20 and 2am election night as votes were being tallied by a GOP-controlled information technology firm on servers in a basement in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In defiance of a federal injunction, 56 of Ohio’s 88 counties destroyed all election records, making a recount impossible. Ohio’s governor and secretary of state in 2004 were both Republicans, as are the governors and secretaries of state in nine key swing states this year.
As we have previously reported, H.I.G. Capital has on its board of directors at least three close associates of the Romney family. H.I.G. Capital directors John P. Bolduk and Douglas Berman are major Romney fundraisers. So is former Bain and H.I.G. manager Brian Shortsleeve. H.I.G. employees have contributed at least $338,000 to Romney’s campaign. Fully a third of H.I.G.’s leadership previously worked at Romney’s old Bain firm.
But new research now shows that the association doesn’t stop with mere friendship and business associations. Mitt Romney, his wife Ann Romney, and their son Tagg Romney are also invested in H.I.G. Capital, as is Mitt’s brother G. Scott Romney.
The investment comes in part through the privately held family equity firm called Solamere, which bears the name of the posh Utah ski community where the Romney family retreats to slide down the slopes.
Unlike other private equity firms, Solamere does not invest in companies directly. Instead, Solamere invests in other private equity funds, like H.I.G. Capital. Solamere calls them partners. These partners, like H.I.G., then invest in various enterprises, like Hart Intercivic, the nation’s third-largest voting machine manufacturer.
I would venture to say that it is not at all coincidental that the state that has a lot of these machines is Ohio. The Ohio GOP has been working hard to purge voter rolls and set up barriers to voting for sometime. Will Ohio be the perfect storm of voter suppression and hacked machines?
- Since 2009, the Ohio GOP has purged roughly a million citizens from the state’s voter rolls. This accounts for some 15% of the roughly 5.2 million votes counted for president in the state in 2008. The purge focuses on counties that are predominantly urban and Democratic.
- Electronic voting machines have been installed throughout the state which are owned, operated, programmed and maintained – and will be tallied – by Republican-connected firms.
- The GOP controls both houses of the Ohio Legislature, the governorship, the secretary of state’s office, and the state Supreme Court. Soon after the 2008 election, it imposed a draconian photo ID law designed to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of suspected Democrats, as is being done throughout the US. But Ohio is a referendum state. A statewide grassroots movement recently crushed a GOP-pushed anti-labor law, and many Republicans feared the photo ID law would also go down. Then GOP stalwart Jon Husted (now the secretary of state) was ruled ineligible to hold office over a residency conflict. Ohio’s Supreme Court re-instated his eligibility, but he was prompted to oppose the photo ID law. Today a prospective Ohio voter can use 17 different kinds of ID, but in recent elections some poll workers have demanded photo ID anyway. Without a grassroots army of independent election monitors to protect them, many more Ohioans are likely to be disenfranchised.
- In 2004, 10.6% of the votes cast in Ohio were so-called “early votes” via absentee ballots. A voter had to be absent from the county to vote absentee. In-person Election Day voters at the 42 predominantly black inner-city precincts in Columbus waited between 3-7 hours to vote.
Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman–authors of WILL THE GOP STEAL AMERICA’S 2012 ELECTION–explain how government rulings that software on voting machines is proprietary to owners makes hacking an easy act. They have more documentation on the interlocking directorates and the relationship of investors to the Romney campaign.
Hart Intercivic, on whose machines the key votes will be cast in Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, was taken over last year by H.I.G. Capital. Prominent partners and directors on the H.I.G. board hail from Bain Company or Bain Capital, both connected to Mitt Romney. H.I.G. employees have contributed at least $338,000 to Romney’s campaign. H.I.G. Directors John P. Bolduk and Douglas Berman are major Romney fundraisers, as is former Bain and H.I.G. manager Brian Shortsleeve.
US courts have consistently ruled that the software in electronic voting machines is proprietary to the manufacturer, even though individual election boards may own the actual machines. Thus there will be no vote count transparency on election night in Ohio. The tally will be conducted by Hart Intercivic and controlled by Husted and Kasich, with no public recourse or accountability. As federal testimony from the deceased Michael Connell made clear in 2008, electronically flipping an election is relatively cheap and easy to do, especially if you or your compatriots programmed the machines.
So as the corporate media swarm through Ohio, reporting breathlessly from “ground zero” in Cincinnati, don’t hold your own breath waiting for them to also clarify that the voting machines in what may once again be America’s decisive swing state are owned, programmed and tabulated by some of the Romney campaign’s closest associates.
It is amazing to me the number of ways our democracy is being highjacked by rich plutocrats who are out to get their associates into high office any way they can. I’m also amazed at the duplicity of the judiciary in letting virtual racketeering go unchecked. Like I said, be very afraid. This could make Florida 2000 look like child’s play.
Let me repeat my mantra in case any one has forgotten: VOTE ANYONE BUT Romney/Ryan in November.