It’s 3:00 a.m. on November 7, 2012.
With the painfully close presidential election now down to who wins the battleground state of Ohio, no network dares to call the race and risk repeating the mistakes of 2000 when a few networks jumped the gun on picking a winner.
As the magic boards used by the networks go ‘up close and personal’ on every county in the Buckeye State, word begins to circulate that there might be a snafu with some electronic voting machines in a number of Cincinnati based precincts. There have already been complaints that broken machines were not being quickly replaced in precincts that tend to lean Democratic and now, word is coming in that there may be some software issues.
The network political departments get busy and, in short order, discover that the machines used in Hamilton County, Ohio—the county home of Cincinnati— are supplied by Hart Intercivic, a national provider of voting systems in use in a wide variety of counties scattered throughout the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Colorado and Ohio.
A quick Internet search reveals that there may be reason for concern.
A test conducted in 2007 by the Ohio Secretary of State revealed that five of the electronic voting systems the state was looking to use in the upcoming 2008 presidential election had failed badly, each easily susceptible to chicanery that could alter the results of an election.
As reported in the New York Times, “At polling stations, teams working on the study were able to pick locks to access memory cards and use hand-held devices to plug false vote counts into machines. At boards of election, they were able to introduce malignant software into servers.”
We learn that one of the companies whose machines had failed was none other than Hart Intercivic.
With television time to fill and no ability to declare a winner so that the long night’s broadcast can be brought to a close, the staffs keep digging for relevant information to keep the attention of their viewers—and that is when it gets very real.
It turns out that Hart Intercivic is owned, in large part, by H.I.G. Capital—a large investment fund with billions of dollars under management—that was founded by a fellow named Tony Tamer. While is is unclear just how much H.I.G. owns of Hart Intercivic, we do learn that H.I.G. employees hold at least two of the five Hart Intercivic board seats.
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A little more digging turns up a few tidbits of data than soon become ‘the story’.
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’.
To Mr. Bohl’s credit, after giving a total of $4,000 to “Romney For President”, it must have occurred to him that it might not look so good for a board member of a company whose voting machines are to be a part of the presidential election to be playing favorites—so he gave $250 to Barack Obama to sort of balance the scales.
Mr. Tuch? Not so much.
Interestingly, Mr. Bohl lists himself as an investor at H.I.G. Capital for his Romney contributions but his far smaller donation to Obama was done as “Jeff Bohl, self-employed innkeeper”.
And finally, we learn that H.I.G. is the 11th largest of all the contributors to the Romney effort.
Did I say “finally”? My bad...because there is, indeed, more.
Can you guess who is reported to have a financial relationship with H.I.G. Capital?
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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.
And while I am not suggesting conspiracies or that anyone would get involved in any foul play here, most particularly the GOP candidate for President, how is it possible that so many people could exercise so much bad judgment?
The sanctity of voting in America is supposed to be one of our most important virtues. So concerned are we with a ‘clean’ process that James O’Keefe has made a career entrapping, video taping and destroying those sympathetic to Democratic Party candidates and causes who cross the line when it comes to the voting process. And that's just fine. If Mr. O'Keefe can legitimately expose someone engaging in voter fraud, he most certainly should call them out.
So, why would these individuals who serve on the board of directors of Hart Intercivic go out of their way to make a contribution to any political candidate given the critical importance of their company remaining above reproach when it comes to the political process? And why would those who run the company that owns Hart Intercivic be giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to a political candidate? And why would a political candidate and his family have a financial relationship with a company that owns a chunk of the voting machine company that will be counting the actual votes given to that political candidate or his opponent?
Keith Olbermann was suspended from his job at MSNBC for donating a couple hundred bucks to a local candidate that was a friend of his. Why? Because his employer required that journalists at the network stay free of having given such contributions to any candidate for all the obvious reasons.
Is it really too much to ask that those who control the voting machines that record and count the votes of our elections be held to at least the same standard?
Hopefully, everything will go swimmingly in Cincinnati on Election Day. And, if it doesn’t, it will no doubt be the result of honest error.
Yet, because of this uncomfortable chain of ownership, we now find ourselves with one more headache among the many headaches that accompany the important work of choosing an American president and believing that the process was a fair one—particularly when such an election comes down to a very few votes as may well be the case on Election Day, 2012.
Really, guys. You couldn’t find anything else to invest in? You couldn’t donate all those hundreds of thousands to charity rather than put it into political contributions so that your fellow countrymen would have no reason to ever doubt or question the results of so important an election—or any election for that matter, even if it's the choice of a county dogcatcher?
I truly wonder sometimes just what these allegedly smart people have inside their heads—or, more importantly, their hearts.
contact Rick at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me on Twitter @rickungar