Essentially, the voting industry is like many other industries in America. It’s controlled by a handful of people who care less about democracy than looking out for number one.
Election Systems & Software owns 60% of the US voting infrastructure. For those who read DeCamp’s book on the Franklin scandal, or the more recent one by Nick Bryant (which I highly recommend to anyone trying to sift through the paranoia), you’ll recall that the Omaha World Herald was at the center of the Franklin Credit Union cover up.
The Omaha World-Herald was the foremost local cheerleader for persecuting teenagers instead of investigating their claims. One of its own columnists, Peter Citron, had a long history of arrests for pedophilia and child porn and was implicated by two witnesses at Larry King’s sex parties. The long-time publisher of the World-Herald, Harold Anderson, was a big supporter of Larry King and had raised money for the Franklin. During the 18 years that King presided over the Franklin, the newspaper never noticed that King was living a hugely expensive lifestyle when he was supposedly making $17,000 a year in salary. The World-Herald Company is co-owner of Election Software and Systems, which counts half the election ballots in the United States.
They sold their stake in 2011, but the entire voting infrastructure is still controlled by one organization with many names. This group, which maintains a monopoly on your ballots, has close ties to criminals, dirty politicians, and members of the intelligence community. Not the sort of people that you’d entrust democracy with. In fact, some of these individuals were tasked with subverting democracy and free elections overseas.
Some of the CIA ties gained attention with the 2004 election fiasco.
Who owns your voting machines? Three corporations – Election Systems and Software (ES&S), Diebold, and Sequoia Voting Systems – own the hardware and software used to count about 80 percent of the votes cast electronically in the U.S.
Both ES&S and Diebold are owned by Republican partisans. ES&S is owned by the Omaha World Herald Company, a company with solid ties to the Republican Party. Sequoia’s owner is De La Rue, based in Great Britain. Sequoia counted more votes in the California recall election than any other company. De La Rue is the world’s largest commercial security printer and papermaker.
Arthur Andersen Co. is to count Internet military votes. According to Landes, the Internet voting business is dominated by two corporations. One is Accenture (whose corporate offices are located in Bermuda) and the other is VoteHere (Seattle). “The U.S. Department of Defense recently awarded a coalition of corporations, led by Accenture, the contract to provide Internet service that will count the votes of the U.S. military and some civilians in the 2004 presidential election.” Nearly 6 million voters may be affected. “Accenture was formerly known as Andersen Consulting, a subsidiary of Arthur Andersen.” Yes, the same company convicted of destroying evidence in the Enron crime. One of Accenture’s most important business partners is Halliburton.
Admiral Bill Owens is the chairman of VoteHere, the world’s leading supplier of Internet voting software. Owens is a former high-level military assistant to former Secretaries of Defense Frank Carlucci and Vice President Dick Cheney. Also sitting on the VoteHere Board of Directors is Robert Gates, an ex-CIA director once tripped up in the Iran-Contra scandal. Carlucci (also of the Carlyle Group and a business partner of former President George H.W. Bush) was former Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration and a Deputy Director of the CIA in the Carter administration. Carlucci is also on the advisory board of Populex, which is producing electronic voting systems for Illinois.
A striking fact about the boards of these companies is the presence of former CIA directors, including James Woolsey, Bobby Ray Inman, John Deutch, and Gates and Carlucci. When has the CIA been pro-democracy? Why this keen interest in voting technology?
Privately-held companies are in the business of counting our votes. So who monitors them? The National Association of State Election Directors (NASED). NASED is tied closely, according to Landes, to the election industry. There is no enforcement by the U.S. Department of Justice.
A few companies, including ES&S and Diebold, along with their subsidiaries, own all of the voting infrastructure in the US. Due to antitrust action, they swap subsidiaries, rename technology, spin off into other companies, and generally obfuscate. There’s such a significant degree of overlap that they can be thought of as one organization. Companies are renamed and executives are shuffled around until you’re either confused or sufficiently convinced that there’s more than one company. There isn’t.
An excellent overview of the various conflicts of interest can be found here. The Ahmanson family’s role is noteworthy, considering the fact that they profited from the savings and loan crisis. Howard F. Ahmanson Jr. was also a key member in the shady Council for National Policy, who were involved in so many scandals that they’ll need to be covered in future posts. Jack Abramoff and Tom Delay were both CNP members, along with Oliver North and other Iran-contra perps. Abramoff, Bob Ney, and DeLay were all involved in the passing of the Help America Vote Act, even slipping in some provisions to get the Tigua casino reopened. Ken Blackwell, the Bush crony who helped him steal the election in 2004, was pictured speaking at CNP. Carolyn Hunt was involved in Business Records Corp, a predecessor of ES&S. She is the daughter of HL Hunt, who provided the start up money for CNP.
The author also notes:
John Gottschalk has been reported as a director for both the World-Herald Company Inc. (concentrating on the non-newspaper subsidiaries) and ES&S. He was also involved with Senator Hagel in the World USO, has relationships with James Baker; he is listed as a USO pal of George W. Bush.
The following excerpts will be taken from a Harper’s Magazine piece titled How to Rig an Election. The entire article is worth the read, but I want to focus on some specific characters and how they relate to other scandals.
Old-school ballot-box fraud at its most egregious was localized and limited in scope. But new electronic voting systems allow insiders to rig elections on a statewide or even national scale. And whereas once you could catch the guilty parties in the act, and even dredge the ballot boxes out of the bayou, the virtual vote count can be manipulated in total secrecy. By means of proprietary, corporate-owned software, just one programmer could steal hundreds, thousands, potentially even millions of votes with the stroke of a key. It’s the electoral equivalent of a drone strike.
Symbolically speaking, this era was inaugurated by Chuck Hagel, an unknown millionaire who ran for one of Nebraska’s U.S. Senate seats in 1996. Initially Hagel trailed the popular Democratic governor, Ben Nelson, who had been elected in a landslide two years earlier. Three days before the election, however, a poll conducted by the Omaha World-Herald showed a dead heat, with 47 percent of respondents favoring each candidate. David Moore, who was then managing editor of the Gallup Poll, told the paper, “We can’t predict the outcome.”
Hagel’s victory in the general election, invariably referred to as an “upset,” handed the seat to the G.O.P. for the first time in eighteen years. Hagel trounced Nelson by fifteen points. Even for those who had factored in the governor’s deteriorating numbers and a last-minute barrage of negative ads, this divergence from pre-election polling was enough to raise eyebrows across the nation.
Few Americans knew that until shortly before the election, Hagel had been chairman of the company whose computerized voting machines would soon count his own votes: Election Systems & Software (then called American Information Systems). Hagel stepped down from his post just two weeks before announcing his candidacy. Yet he retained millions of dollars in stock in the McCarthy Group, which owned ES&S. And Michael McCarthy, the parent company’s founder, was Hagel’s campaign treasurer.
Not surprising, given what we’ve just learned. Hagel became Secretary of Defense a few months after the above was published.
Meanwhile, the new millennium, far from delivering a democratic promised land, presented Americans with the debacle of the 2000 presidential election, whose fate hung absurdly on “hanging chads”—the little pieces of punched-out ballot so contentiously examined during the monthlong recount. Few Americans knew (and many still do not know) that a faulty computer memory card triggered this fiasco. Late on Election Night, Al Gore’s total in Volusia County, Florida, suddenly dropped when one precinct reported 16,000 negative votes. Fox News was immediately prompted by Florida governor Jeb Bush to call the election for his brother. On his way to a 3 a.m. public concession, Gore changed course when a campaign staffer discovered that he was actually ahead in Volusia County by 13,000 votes.
The hanging chads controversy was brought to you by Sequoia Voting. Wikipedia notes:
A 2007 investigative report by Dan Rather charged Sequoia with deliberately supplying poor quality punch-card ballots to Palm Beach County, Florida for the 2000 election. According to former Sequoia employees, the ballots for Palm Beach County were produced with paper and manufacturing processes that were outside of normal specifications. This supposedly caused all of the problems with “hanging chads“. When quality problems were found, Sequoia management ordered the production workers to ignore them. One worker speculated that the object was to discredit punch-card ballots and thus promote sales of electronic voting machines.
Theresa LePore, who designed the infamous butterfly ballots, is affiliated with none other than Adnan Khashoggi. Khashoggi, a Saudi arms dealer who worked for the CIA and got his start selling trucks to Osama Bin Laden’s father, can be thought of as the Kevin Bacon of political scandals and cover-ups. He’s in everything. If you’re not familiar with Khashoggi’s work, search his name and you might be surprised what turns up. In the world of cover-ups, researchers sometimes half-jokingly ask “where’s the Khashoggi connection?” when news of a scandal breaks. I found myself asking that when the Panama Papers story broke, and sure enough his name turned up in the files. He gets around.
Slate had this to say on LePore’s connection to Khashoggi:
On Dec. 1, the “Washington Wire” column in the Wall Street Journal published this gratifyingly noir item about the postelection drama in Florida:
“Madame Butterfly” Theresa LePore wasn’t always an embattled Palm Beach ballots chief. In the 1980s, she moonlighted as a flight attendant on private planes owned by Saudi weapons dealer Adnan Khashoggi, a middleman in Reagan administration arms sales to Iran.
Connoisseurs of Khashoggi-centric conspiracy theories should have little difficulty using this information to finger Khashoggi as the mastermind of the plot to deny Al Gore the presidency. Khashoggi has close ties, from Iran-Contra and elsewhere, to the Republicans, and vaguely defined ties to Dubya’s father. (In a 1990 court case, Khashoggi’s phone records revealed that Khashoggi had spoken at least twice with George Bush’s vice-presidential office during 1985 and 1986.) LePore worked for Khashoggi during the 1980s, when, according to her official biography, she was chief deputy supervisor of elections in Palm Beach County, a job she held until 1996, when she was elected supervisor of elections.
After significant public outrage, LePore responded by replacing the paper ballots with electronic voting machines from Sequoia. Managing the Florida recount for the Bush campaign was James A. Baker III, who was also involved in a number of scandals. Aside from being connected to Gottschalk at ES&S, he was mentioned in the Michael Moore documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, for his role in the Carlyle Group meeting. From wikipedia:
On September 11, 2001, Baker watched television coverage of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington DC, where Baker and representatives of Osama bin Laden’s family were among those attending the annual conference for the Carlyle Group. Baker is Senior Counselor for the Carlyle Group, and the bin Ladens are among its major investors
We could mention the other Bush connections to the Bin Laden family, including James R. Bath, Khalid bin Mafhouz, and Salem bin Laden. But if you’ve read this far, I’d probably be preaching to the choir. So let’s get back to the Harper’s piece:
Such blockbuster allegations are perhaps unsurprising given the group of Beltway insiders who helped to pass HAVA. One central player was former Republican representative Bob Ney of Ohio, sentenced in 2006 to thirty months in prison for crimes connected with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff—whose firm was paid at least $275,000 by Diebold.
HAVA’s impact has been huge, accelerating a deterioration of our electoral system that most Americans have yet to recognize, let alone understand. We are literally losing our ballot—the key physical proof of our power as citizens.
Bob Ney was a key figure in the Abramoff scandal (which enabled sex and human trafficking from the Northern Marianas islands). As I mentioned before, Abramoff, DeLay, and Ahmanson were all involved in Council for National Policy.
Would you believe me if I told you that Mohammed Atta allegedly visited Abramoff’s Sun Cruz gambling ships? The FBI investigated the possibility, seizing surveillance tapes.
The Harper piece goes on to mention the strange case of Michael Connell, who was called to testify on Karl Rove’s role in voter fraud in the 2004 presidential election. According to the lead attorney, Connell ultimately received a death threat if he refused to take the fall. He received a subpoena in September and died in a plane crash by December.
Four years later, Ohio attorney (and former Republican) Cliff Arnebeck began gathering evidence to file a racketeering claim against Karl Rove, which included the charge that Rove had masterminded the theft of the 2004 election. “We detected a pattern of criminal activity,” Arnebeck told the British journalist Simon Worrall. “We identified Connell as a key witness, as the implementer for Rove.” On November 3, 2008, he took a sworn deposition from Connell, who had repeatedly tried to quash Arnebeck’s subpoena.
Initially Connell denied any role in choosing SmarTech to host the mirror site. Questioned further, he admitted that he “may have” made use of the Tennessee servers, but denied any knowledge of whether the mirror site had even been activated in 2004. His job, he insisted, was simply to display vote counts, “taking the public results as they are currently being reported and aggregating them into totals.”
In fact, the SmarTech site went into action at 11:14 p.m. on Election Day. At this point, Arnebeck believes, the data being routed to Tennessee was used by G.O.P. partisans to target Ohio counties that were ripe for vote tampering. “The SmarTech people may have been guiding the manipulation of paper ballots in places like Warren County,” Arnebeck told me.
Others argue that SmarTech’s role was far more insidious and involved partisan control of the total vote count. Stephen Spoonamore, an IT specialist (and Republican) who has consulted on cybersecurity for Boeing, MasterCard, the Navy, and the State Department, has studied the electronic “architecture map” used by Ohio during the 2004 election. He speculates that SmarTech might have been able to use Connell’s interface to gain access to and modify vote totals. In a sworn affidavit, Spoonamore said that the “variable nature of the story” and “lack of documentation available” would, for any of his banking clients, provoke “an immediate fraud investigation.”
Arnebeck hoped to have Connell testify in open court against Rove. But the prospective witness died on December 19, 2008, at age forty-seven, when his single-engine Piper Saratoga, which he was piloting alone, crashed en route from Washington, D.C., to Ohio. The circumstances of his death were viewed with suspicion by his family and close friends and sparked a firestorm of conspiracy chatter on the Internet, but no criminal investigation was launched.
Not unusual when dealing with the Omaha elites connected to the Franklin Credit scandal. When Franklin investigator Gary Caradori phoned his wife to declare that he finally had the proof he needed, his plane broke up in flight on his way home that night. Local farmers alleged that unidentified agents arrived at the scene before the police and removed evidence. The briefcase that would’ve contained the evidence was never found.
Salem bin Laden and Mohammed bin Laden, both previously mentioned, also died in private plane crashes.
The vote-by-mail system doesn’t seem to be much better. Diebold’s infamous Global Election Systems was created by a convicted embezzler and a narcotics trafficker that he met in prison.
These same companies handle the Democratic primaries as well. Daniel Hopsicker recently pointed out:
A few highlights from Dominion/Sequoia’s sordid history:
The company’s founder and President was caught bribing election officials in Buffalo, and went to federal prison.
The company’s second owner went him one better, when he was caught bribing one of the nine Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States of America.
Clifton White also worked closely with then-CIA director William Casey on the Reagan administration’s pro-contra propaganda network. He ran a group like the notorious Committee on the Present Danger, only focused on Central America.
At the same time IFES was established, two sister quasi-governmental organizations—the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and the International Republican Institute (IRI)—came into being. All receive funding from the governmental organization. All three focused on “democracy promotion.”
Yet for outfits hell-bent on “democracy promotion” they’ve gotten into a lot of nasty scrapes over the years, from supporting the 2009 Honduran coup d’état, or the coup in Haiti, where the IRI was accused of training and supporting pro-coup opposition parties in a Canadian Broadcasting Corp. documentary about the role of NGO’s called “Haiti: Democracy Undone.”
None of this—were it known—would likely play well with New York’s liberal Democratic electorate. Especially not if was also common knowledge how important an American NGO which has often been accused of meddling overseas is to the current American election.
During the Fowler scandal, New Orleans newspapers asked, “What was Sequoia’s salesman Phil Foster doing when he delivered cash-filled envelopes on five occasions to businessman Pasquale Ricci, who passed them, in turn, to Louisiana election commissioner Jerry Fowler?”
Phil Foster has never publicly explained his role in the scandal that put Fowler in jail. But that was 2000 and 2001; today’s a new day, and here he is again, the ultimate bad penny, working for the same company. It was called Sequoia Voting Systems then. A little fresh paint, tart it up a bit… and today’s it’s Dominion Voting Systems.
Internet voting? That seems to be compromised to some degree as well.
But on Nov 22, hardly a month later, the DNC took it all back. They voted to approve the use of Internet voting for the Michigan Democratic Primary. What’s up with that? Aren’t they connecting the dots? No paper ballot – no security – no recount. But, there’s also something sinister in the air. When this reporter called the Michigan Democratic Party to find out which company got the contract for the Internet vote, I was told that the company did not want its name released at that time. I then called the DNC who had to approve the deal and who also agreed to keep the company’s name a secret. They finally relented under the merciless scorn this writer heaped on their spokesperson.
So, Election Services Corporation (ESC) is the Internet voting company and Democratic bad boy Tony Coelho is on their board. This is a little unusual in a business dominated by the Republican and foreign corporations. Tony “was a six-term congressman and House majority whip, who resigned from Congress after reports surfaced that he had accepted a sweetheart loan from a troubled S&L operator. The loan helped Coelho buy a $100,000 junk bond, but he never reported it on his government disclosure form. The Justice Department decided not to bring charges against him,” according to Slate.msn.com. He was also investigated by the State Department when he was Al Gore’s campaign manager for the 2000 presidential election. The investigation was reportedly related to his work as the commissioner general of the United States Pavilion at the 1998 World Expo. As a result, Tony resigned as Gore’s campaign manager.
Coelho, yet another savings and loan criminal involved in this network, was caught up with Jack Kemp and Don Dixon in the Vernon S&L case. Kemp, who was a member of Council for National Policy (surprise surprise) and Foundation for Defense of Democracies, also has some sway over your votes. He’s a board member of Election.com. This article details how most of the voting companies, including Election.com, are owned by military defense contractors, intelligence agents, and in several cases, people affiliated with George Bush or the aforementioned Carlyle Group.
In 1988, George Bush ran against Pat Robertson (founding member of CNP) and Jack Kemp (CNP member). At the very least, when members of a group run against each other in a supposedly free election, said group should be closely scrutinized. But these groups, whether they’re CNP or a fraternity like Skull & Bones, are notoriously tight lipped.
George Carlin said it best. “It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it.”