There’s a big story circulating on liberal blogs and news sites right now.The gist of the story is this:
The Romney family has invested in the third-largest voting machine manufacturer in the United States, a company that makes the e-voting machines used in crucial swing states like Ohio and Colorado.
The story is based on an article reported by Gerry Bello, Bob Fitrakis, and Harvey Wasserman of The Free Press that was published on October 18th.
Now, however much this might sound like an absurd conspiracy theory, it’s certainly worth looking into. If the family of a candidate in, say, a Russian election, owned the company that made the voting machines, reasonable observers would howl that the election might obviously be rigged. And they would be justified in doing so.
So, is the story true?
Does the Romney family actually have an investment in the voting machine company that makes the eVoting machines used in the crucial swing state of Ohio?
According to the Romney family-linked fund that reportedly made the investment, a firm called Solamere, the answer is “no.” The Weekly Standard published a follow-up story in which a Solamere spokesperson denied that the firm was a direct or indirect investor in the voting-machine company.
Let’s assume that that is true, at least technically.
It’s obviously a relief.
But it’s also not the whole story.
Here, as best we can currently tell, is the whole story:
- “Solamere” is a private-equity fund started by Mitt Romney’s son, Tagg Romney, and the man who is now Mitt Romney’s campaign finance director, Spencer Zwick. Solamere is a so-called “fund of funds,” which means that it does not invest in companies directly. Instead, funds-of-funds invest in funds invested by “partners,” which are other private-equity firms. These other firms then make investments in companies.
- Mitt Romney provided $10 million of “seed capital” to Solamere.
- Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann Romney, and brother, G. Scott Romney, are also investors in Solamere. (The Free Press)
- In addition to employing Mitt Romney’s campaign finance director, Spencer Zwick, Solamere also employs (or employed) Romney’s finance director Richard Morley and its western regional finance coordinator, Kaitlin O’Reilly (The Free Press). Solamere is therefore closely linked to key figures in the Romney campaign.
- One of Solamere’s “partners” (private-equity firms whose funds it invests in) is Sun Capital. Sun Capital is run by Marc J. Leder, who hosted the private fund-raising event at which Mitt Romney made his video-taped remarks about the “47%” of Americans who he said refused to take responsibility for themselves. (The Free Press)
- Another Solarmere partner is a firm called H.I.G. Private Equity. H.I.G. Private Equity is a large private equity firm with $9 billion under management and offices around the country. According to The Free Press, H.I.G.’s directors include three close associates of the Romneys. “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.” And that’s not the firm’s only connection to the Romneys, according to The Free Press: “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.”
- Last summer (2011), Solamere partner H.I.G. made a controlling investment in a company called Hart InterCivic, which is the third-largest voting machine manufacturer in the country. Hart InterCivic makes the e-voting machines that will be used in critical counties in Ohio, along with other swing states.
- Solamere, the Romney fund-of-funds, denies that it had partnered with H.I.G. on the voting machine investment, although it has partnered with the firm on other investments.
So, let’s review.
A private-equity firm that is run and controlled largely by the Romney family, Solamere, sometimes co-invests with a “partner” private-equity firm, H.I.G., run by former colleagues of Mitt Romney and key fund-raisers for the Romney campaign.
The Romney’s private-equity firm, Solamere, says it has not invested in the H.I.G. fund or entity that made the investment in the voting machine company.But Solamere has invested in other H.I.G. funds that are run by the same H.I.G. partners who manage the H.I.G. entity that invested in the voting-machine company, many of whom are former Romney colleagues and current Romney fundraisers.
So Solamere may not have a direct or indirect investment in the voting machine company. But its partner H.I.G. does. And the partner, H.I.G., is run by executives who actively support the Romney campaign.
Now, of course, the only way any of this matters in reality is if someone tampers with the voting machines in a way that gives Mitt Romney an edge.
Is there any evidence that anyone has tampered with the voting machines?
But you’ve got to admit… The connection here is close enough that it creates, if not the appearance of impropriety, at least the appearance of the potential for impropriety.
Electronic voting machines are controversial. And in the past, at least, they have been blamed for some mysterious voting results, in Ohio and elsewhere.
The close connection between the Romneys, the Romney campaign, and the voting-machine company, therefore, looks bad, regardless of whether the Romney family-linked fund actually has a “direct or indirect” investment in the voting machine company.
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