Fascism is the union of government with private business against the People.
"To The States, or any one of them, or to any city of The States: Resist much, Obey little; Once unquestioning obedience, at once fully enslaved; Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city, ever afterward resumes its liberty." from "Caution" by Walt Whitman
"To The States, or any one of them, or to any city of The States: Resist much, Obey little; Once unquestioning obedience, at once fully enslaved; Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city, ever afterward resumes its liberty." from "Caution" by Walt Whitman
Friday, October 19, 2012
"Romney family buys voting machines through Bain Capital investment"
2012-10-19 "Romney family buys voting machines through Bain Capital investment"
Tagg Romney, the son of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, has purchased electronic voting machines that will be used in the 2012 elections in Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma, Washington and Colorado.
"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 [http://www.higprivateequity.com/NewsRelease.php?id=881]," according to independent journalist Brad Friedman [http://www.bradblog.com/?p=9628].
But Friedman is not the only one to discover the connection between the Romney family, Bain Capital, and ownership of voting machines.
Truth out reports [http://truth-out.org/news/item/12204-does-the-romney-family-now-own-your-e-vote#13507900698011&action=collapse_widget&id=332411]:
"Through a closely held equity fund called Solamere, Mitt Romney and his wife, son and brother are major investors in an investment firm called H.I.G. Capital. H.I.G. in turn holds a majority share and three out of five board members in Hart Intercivic, a company that owns the notoriously faulty electronic voting machines that will count the ballots in swing state Ohio November 7. Hart machines will also be used elsewhere in the United States.
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."
Both The Nation [http://www.thenation.com/article/170470/tagg-team-romney-family-recipe-crony-capitalism] and New York Times [http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/01/us/politics/ties-to-romney-08-helped-fuel-equity-firm.html?pagewanted=all] confirm the connection between the Romney family, Solamere and the Bain Capital investment in the voting machine company, Hart Intercivic, whose board of directors serve H.I.G. Capital.
"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." Truth out added.
There are also political connections between Solamere and the Romney's. "Matt Blunt, the former Missouri governor who backed Mr. Romney in 2008, is a senior adviser to Solamere, as is Mitt Romney’s brother, Scott, a lawyer," according to the New York Times.
Voter ID and voter fraud have been top issues in the 2012 race, as have claims of Republican voter suppression [http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/13082266-2012-elections-fraud-if-you-think-you-cant-win-cheat]. Mr. Romney's campaign has also been the subject of controversy over misleading ads, false claims, sketchy math on his tax plan, and overall vagueness on women's rights and other hot button issues.
Raising further questions of legitimacy in the Romney campaign is an audio recording recently made public, where Mitt Romney is heard asking independent business owners to apply pressure to their employees to influence their votes [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/17/mitt-romney-employees-voting_n_1975636.html]. What has also been made public are the emails those employers have sent to their employees with an implied threat that if they don't vote for Romney they may lose their jobs [http://www.salon.com/2012/10/17/plutocrat_bosses_to_employees_vote_romney_or_else/].
What it all says is that Mitt Romney, with the help of his family and Bain Capital connections, is more than willing to try to take the White House through illegitimate and highly unethical, if not specifically illegal means.
With each passing day, the character and campaign methods of Mitt Romney cast an ever-darker shadow over free and fair American elections.
Yet there is an irony in the Romney campaign that cannot be ignored. For all the noise the right-wing has made in questioning the legitimacy of Obama's presidency, there have been so many questionable efforts made to help put Romney in the White House, if he wins, there should be great dispute over whether his election could ever be called genuinely illegitimate.
The nagging question is why, if Mr. Romney truly has the qualities that American voters want in their president, does he have to go to such great and questionable lengths to try to win the election.
2012-10-25 "E-voting puts vote accuracy at risk in four key states; In four battleground states, glitches in electronic-voting machines could produce erroneous tallies that would be difficult to detect and potentially impossible to correct, a Monitor analysis finds" by Mark Clayton from "Christian Science Monitor"
Touch-screen electronic voting machines in at least four states pose a risk to the integrity of the 2012 presidential election, according to a Monitor analysis.
In four key battleground states – Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, and Colorado – glitches in e-voting machines could produce incorrect or incomplete tallies that would be difficult to detect and all but impossible to correct because the machines have no paper record for officials to go back and check.
While many state officials laud the accuracy of e-voting machines, mechanical and software failures are not a new problem. What makes the risk more serious this year is that polls project a close election, and e-voting problems in any of the four states in question could affect who wins the presidency.
"No matter how unlikely it seems now, there's a chance that this election will be so close that it could be flipped by a single voting machine problem in a single place in any one of those states," says Edward Felten, a professor at Princeton University in New Jersey who has analyzed e-voting machine weaknesses. "To avoid that, it's key to have a record of what the voter saw – and that means having a paper ballot or other paper record."
Paper verification of votes has proved to be a vital backstop to ensure that voting-machine software is not corrupt and that programming errors did not affect the accuracy of electronic vote tallies. Voting machines have at times "lost" thousands of votes or even "flipped" votes from one candidate to another, and total breakdowns are not unheard of.
* In 2006, some 18,000 votes were electronically "lost" by e-vote systems in a single Florida congressional race with no paper backup or ballots available to review.* In May 2011, voters in Pennsylvania’s Venango County complained that paperless electronic touch-screen machines were "flipping their choices from one party to another," according to a report by Verified Voting, a nonprofit group in Carlsbad, Calif., that tracks voting machine use nationwide. After an inconclusive audit of election results, the county simply decided to use paper ballots counted by optical scanners in future elections.* In March, an e-voting system in Florida’s Palm Beach County experienced a "synchronization” problem in a municipal election. The election software attributed votes to the wrong contest and the wrong candidates won. Thankfully, paper ballots existed. After a court-ordered recount, results were changed and two losing candidates were declared winners.
More than 1,800 voting machine problems were reported to election protection hotlines during the 2008 general election, according to Verified Voting. Such election failures mattered far less in 2008 because Barack Obama won by a landslide. But this year, the loser might be likely to demand a recount if the winning margin is small. In states that still use Direct Recording Equipment (DRE) – touch-screen voting equipment that lacks any paper verification – that could be a problem.
"Without a paper trail there's no opportunity to check, so then you just have to rely on faith that the software is functioning properly and capturing votes properly," says Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting. "Maybe the machine is working OK right now. But if there is a bug or glitch, there's nothing to go back to."
After the controversy over "hanging chads" in Florida in the 2000 election, touch-screen e-voting machines proliferated nationwide as the Help America Vote Act of 2002 helped states pay for new equipment. Most states have since replaced e-systems that lack paper verification with paper ballots counted by optical scanners. While scanners can also fail, the paper ballots are there to be recounted.
But 17 states still use paperless DREs, according to Verified Voting. Among those, four are expected to see election results close enough to potentially demand a recount.
"Most of the country has gone to some sort of paper-based optical or electronic system," says Peter Lichtenheld, vice president of operations for Austin-based Hart InterCivic, one of four major voting machine companies in the US. "In counties that have decided to stay with older direct response equipment [DREs], they've put in people and procedures to make them more secure."
For example, most states now run preelection software tests on the machines to verify that they are counting correctly. The machines are "sealed" against tampering and, increasingly, they are monitored by surveillance cameras even in off-use periods. Memory cards in the machines should retain votes, even in a power failure, but have not always done so.
To critics, however, reliance on electronic methods alone as a backup means that the machines are, in essence, checking themselves. Only a paper document checked by the voter ensures that the vote was recorded correctly and is immune to system failures or even cyberattack.
* In Pennsylvania, 50 of 68 counties have paperless equipment as their standard voting system, Verified Voting data show. Those machines serve some 7 million of about 8.5 million registered voters statewide.* In Virginia, 127 of 135 counties use paperless DREs, accounting for 3.7 million of the state’s 5 million registered voters, according to Verified Voting.* Colorado is shifting to mail-in paper ballots, but the transition isn't complete. Jefferson County, the state’s fourth most populous, is using paperless DREs as well as mailed ballots. So many of its 320,000-plus "active" registered voters will vote on the machines – more than enough to tip a tight race, says Ms. Smith of Verified Voting.* In Florida, all counties are required by law to have paper backups for their voting machines by 2014. Even so, a small but potentially significant number of disabled voters statewide still will use paperless touch-screen machines this year. Although only a few thousand votes may be cast on those "accessibility" machines, it could still be enough to throw the race if the state's vote tally were to end up as close as it was in the 2000 presidential election, when George W. Bush controversially won by 537 votes.
State officials stand by the machines.
"These DREs have been one of the more reliable pieces of equipment we've had," says Donald Palmer, secretary of Virginia's Board of Elections, the state's most senior election official. "We haven't had any major problems with them."
In fact, Colorado’s Jefferson County recently had to conduct a recount in a congressional race, in which votes cast on paperless DREs were included. Significantly, both candidates accepted the result although there was no paper to confirm that the machines had recorded the votes correctly.
"We think we have the right processes in place to make sure everyone is able to vote and that their votes count," says Andrew Cole, a spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State's office.
Still, Princeton’s Professor Felten has put all four states on his top 10 states “at risk” of an e-voting meltdown. Among the factors going into the the list is the effectiveness of a state’s vote-audit laws.
California, for example, is lauded because its post-election audits draw statistical comparison between paper totals and voting machine tallies to ensure the machines are accurate. In contrast, Virginia has no post-election audit and limited provisions for a recount in state law in case machine vote-count problems are detected. Similarly, Florida state laws are such that a recount may not be permitted even if a machine is known to have malfunctioned.
"Florida's post-election audit law is absolutely atrocious and does not afford the voters any certainty that their votes have been accurately counted," says Ion Sancho, supervisor of elections in Florida’s Leon County. "Because our laws only allow erroneous totals to be corrected on the basis of fraud, a machine could break down, but if there's no fraud, our laws would still not allow us to correct those erroneous totals."
The small number of voters who will use paperless DREs in the state limit the chances of an e-voting meltdown there, he acknowledges. But it is a concern. He notes that the blatant mistake made by e-voting machines in Palm Beach might have never been corrected had that been a statewide election, since there was no obvious fraud. "State law doesn't require it," he says.
"I'm hopeful," he adds, "that we can get through to 2014 without an election disaster like 2000 and finally get rid of all these [paperless] machines once and for all."
2012-10-08 "Bain-Controlled Company Owns 2012 Voting Machines" from "MidweekPolitics"
Vote counting company Hart Intercivic, whose machines have famously failed in the past, is tied to Mitt Romney and Bain Capital [http://www.freepress.org/departments/display/19/2012/4725].
2012-10-12 "About that Voting Machine Company Tied to Mitt Romney and Bain Capital..." by Brad Friedman
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 [http://www.freepress.org/departments/display/19/2012/4725].
"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 [http://www.thenation.com/article/170470/tagg-team-romney-family-recipe-crony-capitalism] 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 [http://www.thedailydolt.com/2012/10/10/former-bain-employees-own-voting-machine-company-used-in-swing-states/].
Hart's announcement of the deal describes H.I.G.'s role as as "co-investors" [http://www.hartintercivic.com/pr/108], though the financial services firm which brokered the deal described it in their own announcement as a full-fledged acquisition [http://www.cabrilloadvisors.com/398/]: "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 team….its going to be a great partnership!"
Also this week, in a video that has gone a bit viral [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sasfm_fTuyQ], 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 [http://www.sos.ca.gov/voting-systems/oversight/ttbr/red-hart-final.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.
When the story initially broke, I spoke about it on the radio with Fitrakis, but didn't comment on it at The BRAD BLOG for a number of reasons. One being the time we've been spending, during the same period, consumed by the continuing breaking story of the RNC/Romney consultant Nathan Sproul and his companies at the center of the national GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal [http://www.bradblog.com/?p=9627] which we've been covering in detail since it first broke several weeks ago [http://www.bradblog.com/?p=9586]. Secondly, and not to downplay this story, because it's a very good and important one, the fact is that, though the names of the corporate titans and companies are different, it is essentially the same story that we have been telling here, over and over again --- and warning about with hair afire --- at The BRAD BLOG for nearly a decade.
Moreover, I've been on the road all this week for a conference, with much less time online than usual. But since so many folks have picked up on the Romney/Bain/H.I.G./Hart Intercivic stories and have sent email and Twitter queries to me about it, allow me to very quickly share a few thoughts, on this, some of which I sent to a reporter who also raised this issue with me late this week...
First, my statement that I sent to the reporter about this story...
Once again, we're reminded of the dangers of the privatization of our once-public electoral system. The company's ties to Romney aren't the only disturbing ones we've seen with similar companies over the years. The fact is, that nobody other than the public should have any sort of control of our elections. The proprietary voting systems now in use in all 50 states, whether owned by Romney associates, a George W. Bush associate (as with Diebold in 2004) or even a company tied to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez (as with Sequoia Voting Systems which blatantly lied about that tie to public officials [http://www.bradblog.com/?p=6005], and the Canadian firm Dominion which purchased Sequoia and also immediately lied about the fact that Intellectual Property of their voting systems used all across the U.S. is still owned by the Venezuelan firm [http://www.bradblog.com/?p=7906]), continue to be a grave threat to American democracy and confidence in U.S. Elections.
One other point I should add, for now, particularly since I suspect folks from the Right are also likely to ask about it. There has been a false Rightwing story that's been bubbling around this cycle, charging, inaccurately, that perennial Republican target George Soros owns or controls a company which will count 25% of U.S. votes in this year's election [http://mediamatters.org/blog/2012/05/18/fox-pushes-false-soros-vote-rigging-conspiracy/186617]. While the story, spread first by public airwaves clown and radio host Michael Savage and, naturally, Fox "News," is completely false, the general concern at the heart of it is not. Indeed, it underscores, yet again, the very point we've been making on this topic here for years.
The company in question in the false Soros story is a Spanish-based firm named Scytl. While they do run vote-tabulation machines elsewhere, and are attempting to get into the (insane) Internet Voting game here in the U.S., their main involvement with U.S. elections at this time is via their recent acquisition of a company named SOE. That company runs websites which report election results for various public jurisdictions (municipalities, counties, states) on the Internet, but does not actually count any votes.
Yes, there are similar concerns about private corporations being in the business of reporting results in that way, as we saw back in 2004 when a rightwing company named SMARTech took over the reporting of questionable Presidential Election results in Ohio in the middle of the night as the country was waiting on the Buckeye State to determine who would be the next President of the United States. The media used the numbers reported on SMARTech's servers as the actual results of the election, while the actual ballots in most of the Buckeye State were never allowed to be reviewed by the citizenry. So whatever the private Republican company reported, accurately or inaccurately, to be the results that night were generally regarded as the official results of the election.
That is virtually the same threat presented by the private, unoverseeable third-party corporations which now control the election machinery --- voting and tabulation systems --- itself in all 50 states in the union. Concerns about this matter are justifiable no matter which party you may or may not support.
Despite the Rightwing reports, Soros has no apparent control of the Scytl outfit [http://www.freepress.org/departments/display/19/2012/4719], but it doesn't matter. Other private corporate entities --- unaccountable to the public --- do. Either way, whether it's Soros or entities tied to Mitt Romney, George W. Bush, Hugo Chavez or anybody else, the fact that we have allowed this complete corporatization of the machinery of our public elections, the very lifeblood of our democracy --- the first and most important element of true self-governance --- is, in and of itself, a continuing shame for what was once regarded as "the world's greatest democracy."
Someone ought to do something about it. It's an outrage and a threat to our nation. But we've said as much many times before, even as very few in a position to actually do something about it, have bothered to pay much attention.
* For another take on the dangers of corporate control of American elections, see Ellen Theissen of VotersUnite.org's 2008 report on the vendor controlled "undermining of U.S. Elections" [http://www.bradblog.com/?p=6287].
* The David Pakman Show's short segment, detailing the concerns of Pakman and others about Romney/Bain investors' involvement in the voting machine company Hart Intercivic, as posted on 10/8/12 [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sasfm_fTuyQ].
2012-10-18 "Does the Romney family now own your e-vote?" by Gerry Bello, Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman from "The Free Press" online journal
Will you cast your vote this fall on a faulty electronic machine that's partly owned by the Romney Family? Will that machine decide whether Romney will then inherit the White House?
Through a closely held equity fund called Solamere, Mitt Romney and his wife, son and brother are major investors in an investment firm called H.I.G. Capital. H.I.G. in turn holds a majority share and three out of five board members in Hart Intercivic, a company that owns the notoriously faulty electronic voting machines that will count the ballots in swing state Ohio November 6. Hart machines will also be used elsewhere in the United States.
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.
As reported by Lee Fang of The Nation [http://www.thenation.com/article/170470/tagg-team-romney-family-recipe-crony-capitalism], Solamere was founded by Tagg Romney and Spencer Zwick, Papa Romney's campaign finance chair. Ann Romney and Mitt's brother G. Scott Romney are also invested. Mitt himself threw in $10 million "seed money" to get the fund going, and spoke personally to its first full investors conference. Solamere's public web presence has been reduced to a front page only [http://www.solameregroup.com/page/1/strategy], so a complete list of it's “partners” can not be found. But reportage by the New York Times, Boston Globe, Esquire and the Nation have slowly given us a partial picture of which funds are being funded by Solamere. Some $232 million has been raised so far, according to SEC filings and industry publications.
In addition to Romney's finance chair Spencer Zwick, Solamere has also provided the campaign with its finance director, Richard Morley, and a western regional finance coordinator, Kaitlin O'Reilly. O'Reilly is listed as an “executive assistant” at Solamere, and also at SJZ LLC, which was founded by her boss Spencer Zwick. The SJZ LLC campaign finance consulting firm has billed Mitt's campaign over $2 million this election cycle as well as doing another $9,687,582 in billing to various Congressional Campaigns. The host of the private fundraiser at which Romney made his infamous "47%" speech was Marc J. Leder, co-CEO of Sun Capital, another "partner" of the Solamere fund.
As in virtually every close presidential race, Ohio may well hold the key to the Electoral College decision as to who will become the nation's next chief executive. The presence of Hart Intercivic machines in Hamilton County, home to Cincinnati, means there is a high likelihood the votes that will decide the presidency will be cast on them. Major media like CBS have begun reporting that Cincinnati could be "ground zero" in this year's election [http://www.freepress.org/departments/display/19/2012/4742].
But these Hart machines are deeply flawed and widely know to be open to a troubling variety of attacks and breakdowns [http://www.bradblog.com/?p=9628]. There is no legal or other means to definitively monitor and re-check a tally compiled on Hart or other electronic voting machines. Ohio's current governor and secretary of state are both Republicans.
Does this mean the Romney investment in Hart Intercivic through H.I.G. Capital and Solamere will yield it not only financial profits but the White House itself?
Tune in during the deep night of November 7, when the electronic votes in swing state Ohio are once again opaquely reported to the nation and the world, without meaningful public scrutiny or legal recourse.
2012-09-27 "Vote counting company tied to Romney" by Gerry Bello & Bob Fitrakis from "The Free Press" online journal
Several Tanker trucks full of political ink have been spilled on Mitt Romney's tenure as a vulture capitalist at Bain Capital. 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 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.
In all 234 counties of Texas, the entire states of Hawaii and Oklahoma, half of Washington and Colorado, and certain counties in swing state Ohio, votes will be cast on eSlate and ePollbook machines made by Hart Intercivic. Hart Intercivic machines have famously failed in Tarrant County (Ft. Worth), adding 10,000 non-existent votes. The EVEREST study, commissioned by the Ohio secretary of state in 2007, found serious security flaws with Hart Intercivic products.
Looking beyond the well-documented Google choking laundry list of apparent fraud, failure and seeming corruption that is associated with Hart Intercivic, an ongoing Free Press investigation turned its attention to the key question of who owns the voting machine companies. The majority of the directors of Hart come from the private equity firm H.I.G. Capital. H.I.G. has been heavily invested in Hart Intercivic since July 2011, just in time for the current presidential election cycle. But who is H.I.G Capital?
Out of 49 partners and directors, 48 are men, and 47 are white. Eleven of these men, including H.I.G. Founder Tony Tamer, were formerly employed at Bain and Company, and two of those men, John P. Bolduc and Douglas Berman are Romney bundlers along with former Bain and H.I.G. manager Brian Shortsleeve.
Additionally, four of these men were formerly employed at Booz Allen Hamilton. Bush family friendly Carlyle group is an owner of Booz Allen which also made voting machines for the United States military. Booz Allen was also the key subcontractor for the controversial PioneerGroundbreaker program, an NSA data mining operation that gathered information on American citizens until it was shut down and replaced with even more invasive successor programs like MATRIX and Total Information Awareness.
H.I.G. Capital employees have given $338,000 to Mitt Romney's campaign. That amounts to over $1500 per employee. Bain Capital, Mitt's former company, by comparison, only gave him $268,000. H.I.G. is the 11th largest donor to the Romney Campaign. Clearly they are working really hard for their man. It appears that they will work even harder on election night. Although not boisterously promising to deliver states where their machines are to Romney as Wally O'Dell of Diebold did for Bush in 2004, they can alter hundreds of thousands of votes and swing the vote in the crucial swing state of Ohio.
Will Mitt's cronies steal our democracy the way they stole our jobs? Time will tell, but they have certainly positioned themselves to do so if they choose.
In our first investigative article "Who owns Scytl? George Soros isn’t in the voting machines, but the intelligence community is" [http://www.freepress.org/departments/display/19/2012/4719], the Free Press revealed that Scytl, a Spanish-based company now contracted to count 25% of the U.S. presidential vote, has ties to Booz Allen. Scytl's start up funding comes from three European Venture Capital Firms, Balderton Capital, Nauta Capital, and Spinnaker SCR. The director of Nauta's American operations is Dominic Endicott, who went from Cluster Consulting to Booz Allen Hamilton (NYSE: BAH) where he oversaw wireless practice. He then rejoined his former colleagues from Cluster Consulting at Nauta. In his capacity as a Nauta partner Endicott also sits on the board of CarrierIQ.
Scytl has emerged as the most mysterious election counting company in this presidential election. Scytl claims to have a Scytl USA division located in Glen Allen, Virginia. The following is a photo of the Scytl USA national corporate offices at 6012 Glen Allen Drive. The land deed records show that the owner of the property at that address is Hugh Gallagher, now listed as the managing director of Scytl USA. The deed, which was prepared in Ohio by a relocation firm in 2002, pre-dates the creation of Scytl USA. A Scytl USA sales office is located in Baltimore, Maryland, and appears to be a Rent-an-Office, often referred to as a “virtual” office which has a shared secretary and serves as a mail drop.
The ties of Hart Intercivic to Romney fund-raisers and Bain alumni should cause concern in the Obama re-election campaign. So, should the mysterious Spanish owned company, Scytl, with a U.S operation that seems to be an front.
2012-09-18 "Who owns Scytl? George Soros isn’t in the voting machines, but the intelligence community is" by Gerry Bello from "The Free Press" online journal
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of investigative articles documenting who owns the electronic hardware and software used in the U.S. voting process. Our goal is simple: To reveal the man behind the curtain and expose the vulnerability of non-transparent, faith-based voting. ~ Bob Fitrakis, Editor.
Various far-right conspiracy researchers have been alleging for some months that George Soros somehow secretly will control the outcome of the 2012 Presidential election. The Free Press's exhaustive research can find not a single tangible link between George Soros and any manufacturer of voting equipment. Our research did find links much more frightening.
The Free Press widely reported the various dirty tricks employed by Karl Rove and company to apparently outright steal the election for George W. Bush in Ohio, and thus the nation, in 2004. Since then, a witness in our case has died in a mysterious plane crash, and all the players in the DRE (Direct Reporting Electronic) voting machine game have shifted seats in a gigantic game of musical chairs.
The Soros Allegations revolve around the entry of Barcelona based Scytl into the US elections market. Scytl was formed as a start up out of the Autonomous University of Barcelona to leverage existing concepts in modern cryptography (public key cryptography, digital signatures and zero-knowledge proofs) to ensure a secure and verifiable voting system in paperless remote environments including the internet and over wireless carriers. Scytl's scheme is intended to provide the voter with both privacy and verification that their vote was recorded as intended. Scytl's start up funding comes from three European venture capital firms, Balderton Capital, Nauta Capital, and Spinnaker SCR (a subsidiary of Riva y Garcia, which is described as an independent financial group). None of these are connected to George Soros. Balderton Capital is the London based spinoff of Benchmark Capital Investments which has no overtly political connections that our research could determine at this time. Nauta Capital and Spinnaker SCR are a different matter.
Nauta Capital was founded by 8 executives of the European management consulting firm Cluster Consulting. Cluster Consulting was purchased by Diamond Consulting (NYSE: DPTI) to form Diamond Cluster consulting. Diamond Cluster was subsequently purchased by Mercer Management Consulting and its Europe division spun off. The principles of the original Cluster Consulting used their profits from these mergers to fund Nauta. Two of the principals, Jordi Vinas and Charles Ferrar Roqueta, also have board positions at Spinnaker SCR and/or Riva y Garcia, keeping this coterie's control of Scytl very close. All of Nauta's partners have a strong background in the telecommunications business. In 2010, Scytl purchased a 100% interest in SOE software, an up and coming player in the American elections market with their Clarity Software Suite which is used in 525 jurisdictions in 19 states. SOE has a strategic partnership with ES & S, the major marketer of electronic voting systems in the US. ES & S was sued by the US DOJ in 2009 on anti-trust grounds after purchasing Diebold's elections division, Premier Election Solutions. ES & S subsequently sold Premier to rival manufacturer Dominion. Bob Urosevich, founder of ES & S, was also President of Diebold. In 2006 Urosevich was listed as managing director of Scytl Americas, although his name has subsequently been removed from their website.
The director of Nauta's American operations is Dominic Endicott, who went from Cluster Consulting to Booz Allen Hamilton (NYSE: BAH) where he oversaw wireless practice. He then rejoined his former colleagues from Cluster Consulting at Nauta. In his capacity as a Nauta partner Endicott also sits on the board of CarrierIQ.
Booz Allen Hamilton is majority owned by the Bush family friendly firm Carlyle Group. A long time government contractor, Booz Allen’s current and former management team has included some of the leading lights of the intelligence community such as:
• James Woolsey (director of the CIA 1993-1995),
• Michael McConnell (Director of the NSA 1992-1996 and Director of National Intelligence 2007-2009)
• Dov Zakheim (Comptroller of the Pentagon and part owner of Landmark Aviation, a support company for the extraordinary rendition flights)
• George Little (Director of Media Relations, CIA 2007-2011)
• James Clapper (Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency 1992-1995 and the current Director of National Intelligence)
• Keith Hall (Director of the National Reconnaissance Office 1997-2001)
Booz Allen was heavily involved as a sub-contractor in Projects TrailBlazer and PioneerGroundbreaker, which were NSA warrantless wiretap programs that spied on US Citizens in the wake of 9/11. These programs, along with Echelon, Carnivore, Thinthread and StellarWind were designed as an end run around FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) and the 4th amendment. The programs relied heavily on cooperation from private industry, including most telecom and wireless providers, a community where Endicott has vast experience having “worked with nearly all American mobile operators and is a well-known expert in wireless industry in USA,” according to Nauta's website.
Booz Allen also has a finger in the electronic voting industry, being the providers of the first DRE voting scheme for use by overseas voters in 2000. In the end, the $6.2 million program allowed 84 service members to vote. Booz Allen applied for and was granted a US patent (7,729,991 applied for 3/20/01 granted 6/1/10) for another electronic voting system and voter registration system over a network. This system bears a passing similarity to Scytl's scheme, although without the verification of voter intent by the voter.
Endicott's board tenure at CarrierIQ is also not without controversy around privacy concerns. Researcher Trevor Eckhart discovered in November of 2011 that CarrierIQ's software, installed on smartphones made by Apple, HTC, NEC and Samsung and used by the carriers AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, logs the location, phones call times and destination (pen-register), texts, internet searches and keystrokes for the mobile service provider without end user knowledge or opt-in, possibly in violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The FBI denied a FOIA request for training manuals and documents relating to CarrierIQ's software on the basis of a pending law enforcement proceeding. The FBI could make this claim this if it is using CarrierIQ for domestic surveillance of American citizens.
Scytl's allegedly secure voting method would be completely undermined by CarrierIQ's software. Interestingly Scytl seems to be set to market and deploy mobile phone voting applications for iPhone and Android in the 2014 election cycle. Scytl's end user verification of voter intent is completely useless in conjunction with all DRE voting machines currently in use. With direct internet and wireless reporting, targeted man-in-the-middle attacks against certain precincts could tip election results without leaving the evidence traces of 2004 which allowed the Free Press to raise serious questions as to whether the United States of America was subjected to its second coup in as many elections.
2011-07-06 "H.I.G. Capital Completes Strategic Investment in Hart InterCivic"
SAN FRANCISCO - July 6, 2011 — Hart InterCivic Inc., the leading national provider of election voting systems, election management products and services, today announced that an affiliate of H.I.G. Capital, LLC, has partnered with Hart InterCivic’s owners and management to make a strategic investment in the Company. The investment positions the Company for continued growth in its state, county and municipal technology businesses. The financial terms of the investment were not disclosed.
“We’re proud to join with H.I.G. as co-investors as we continue the growth and success of Hart,” said Gregg Burt, Chairman of Hart InterCivic. “H.I.G. shares and supports our vision, values, commitment to excellence and innovation, and—above all—commitment to meeting our customers’ needs. I look forward to working with them to continue, and build upon, the Hart InterCivic tradition of trusted leadership within the election industry.”
Neil Tuch, a Managing Director of H.I.G. said “Hart InterCivic is a well-positioned, high-growth company with a great future. We are pleased to become significant investors in Hart, and particularly excited we were able to join with management to complete this transaction. We look forward to working with the entire Hart InterCivic team to continue serving its growing customer base while building the Company’s value for its clients, employees, and shareholders for years to come.”
About Hart InterCivic, Inc.
Hart is a leading national provider of voting systems, election management products and services. Hart delivers a deep-rooted level of credibility across the electoral process with field-proven products, services and support that successfully, dependably meet the rigorous demands of today’s election procedures. Millions of votes are cast each year using Hart’s eScan™ and eSlate® polling place voting systems and Ballot Now central scanning / by-mail solution. Hart’s latest products, ePollbook® and the eSlate A/T®have triggered dramatic growth in the market. For more information, please visit www.hartintercivic.com.
About H.I.G. Capital
H.I.G. Capital is a leading global private equity investment firm with more than $8.5 billion of equity capital under management. Based in Miami, and with offices in Atlanta, Boston, New York, and San Francisco in the U.S., as well as affiliate offices in London, Hamburg and Paris in Europe, H.I.G. specializes in providing capital to small and medium-sized companies with attractive growth potential. H.I.G. invests in management-led buyouts and recapitalizations of profitable and well managed manufacturing or service businesses. H.I.G. also has extensive experience with financial restructurings and operational turnarounds. Since its founding in 1993, H.I.G. has invested in and managed more than 200 companies worldwide. The firm's current portfolio includes more than 50 companies with combined revenues in excess of $8 billion. For more information, please refer to the H.I.G. website at www.higcapital.com.
2012-10-10 "Tagg Team: The Romney Family Recipe for Crony Capitalism" by Lee Fang from "The Nation" weekly news journal
Marc Leder, a wealthy investor, played host to Mitt Romney last May at a private fundraiser at his $4 million home in Boca Raton. Little did Leder know at the time, however, that someone would videotape the event and later leak it to the world, revealing the GOP standard-bearer in the act of caustically dismissing 47 percent of the country as too “dependent upon government” even to consider voting for him this year.
Leder attempted to duck the ensuing storm of media attention, telling Fortune that he had simply “hosted a fundraiser for an old friend.” But Leder’s ties to the candidate run deeper than campaign contributions or an old friendship. As an investor, he is part of a network of links to the Romney family business empire that will acquire enormous relevance if the GOP nominee manages to ascend to the White House.
In 2008, soon after Romney ended his first bid for the presidency, his eldest son Tagg and his chief fundraiser, Spencer Zwick, formed Solamere Capital, a private equity firm named after the exclusive community in Utah where Romney owned a vacation ski lodge.
What Tagg lacked in experience in the world of high finance, he made up for with a vast network of political connections forged through his father, who seeded the firm with $10 million and was the featured speaker at its first investor conference in January of 2010. Romney also reportedly gave strategic advice to the company, which secured prominent campaign donors as some of its first investors.
Unlike most private equity firms dedicated to analyzing and buying companies, Solamere specializes in something else: billing itself as a “fund of funds” with “unparalleled networks,” it provides investors with “unique access” to an elite set of other private equity firms and hedge funds. Sun Capital Partners, the fund founded by Leder, is one of at least thirteen Romney-linked firms in Solamere’s network, according to a prospectus circulated among potential investors and uncovered by The Boston Globe last year. Solamere also has an investment relationship with Bain Capital, the pioneering fund founded by Mitt Romney.
Solamere, a firm predicated on its founders’ relationship with Romney, presents a channel for powerful investors to influence the White House if he wins. Private equity executives looking to lobby a Romney administration may very well have a leg up if they are already doing business with the firm that the president created for his son.
Requests for comment from a Solamere representative for this article were not answered.
The looming conflicts range from general matters that affect all private equity firms—such as tax changes or the new rules mandated by the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill—to more specific concerns relating to businesses owned or controlled by Solamere’s partner firms. Many of these businesses, in fact, depend on government contracts; indeed, some have been accused of fleecing taxpayers (which is ironic given that many private equity titans claim to support Romney for his unabashed belief in small government and free enterprise). A Romney administration could directly affect the profitability of these companies—and, by extension, potentially the success of Tagg’s venture.
“It’s absolutely a conflict of interest,” says Adam Smith, the communications director for the group Public Campaign, which works on issues concerning money in politics. “Romney can’t un-know that his son’s investment company could benefit financially from his policies. And the other investors—many of whom are likely Romney campaign donors—will have extra access and influence in a Romney administration.”
Take Leder, Romney’s Boca Raton host, whose Sun Capital firm bought a stake in the Scooter Store last year. The company, known for its ubiquitous television ads promising seemingly free motorized wheelchairs for Medicare beneficiaries, has struggled as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that governs the programs, implements rules to curb rampant billing fraud. As a CMS report noted last year, 80 percent of the claims for scooters and power wheelchairs did not meet Medicare requirements, meaning that $492 million a year is being improperly spent.
In 2007, the Scooter Store gave up $13 million in Medicare payments and paid $4 million to settle with the Justice Department over allegations that it had overbilled for its electric wheelchairs. The company, which has been bleeding money over the years as regulators moved to curb waste, still faces challenges that could make or break its business model—challenges that could be mitigated by pressure from the executive branch.
A Romney administration, for example, would have a role in the fate of a recently launched pilot program ensuring that patients see a doctor face to face to determine if a Medicare scooter is medically necessary—a program that has reportedly already reduced billings to the Scooter Store. Another challenge for the company is Section 3136 of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act. If Romney wins and repeals significant portions of the ACA, would he retain this provision, which compels Medicare to have a competitive bidding process for motorized wheelchairs?
Leder, who has donated nearly $300,000 to Romney and other Republicans in this campaign and another $225,000 to a pro-Romney Super PAC, didn’t respond to a request for comment. Disclosures, however, suggest that pressuring the government is the only way his investment in the Scooter Store can turn a profit.
Since Leder’s firm invested in the Scooter Store, the company has spent nearly $900,000 on lobbyists to push back on these two latest challenges to its motorized-scooter empire. Lobbyists not only try to influence legislation; they are also paid to gather information. Tips about government regulatory decisions can be as good as gold to investors who can act before the information is public knowledge. But what if the company had the ultimate lobbyists: the president’s oldest son, brother and personal fundraiser?
The Birth of Solamere -
Shortly after his father conceded the Republican nomination to John McCain in 2008, Tagg Romney and Spencer Zwick went to dinner at a San Diego resort with John R. Miller, the CEO of National Beef Packing Company. The pair had a proposition for Miller: that he should invest in their new business venture.
Miller, who has served as a top fundraiser in both of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns, signed on and even became an operating partner at Solamere. The scene, recounted earlier this year by The New York Times, is one of the precious few details made public about Solamere’s investment portfolio and client list, both of which are kept secret.
What is known has been drawn largely from a trail of documents filed by the investment group. Records indicate the firm was incorporated at the same Boston office where Romney’s campaign headquarters had been located, and later shared an office address with Romney’s PAC.
Zwick first worked for Romney during the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. A student at Brigham Young University at the time, he has been at Romney’s side ever since, serving on his campaigns, working as an aide and leading his fundraising efforts since 2007. He has been referred to as Romney’s “sixth son.” And by all accounts, he’s one of the most trusted advisers in Romney’s circle. “When you’re talking to him, you know he’s got the ear of the candidate,” one Romney donor remarked to the press.
Two weeks after Romney’s concession speech in February 2008, Solamere Capital registered with the State of Massachusetts. Zwick and Tagg joined with Eric Scheuermann, a former Jupiter Partners executive, as the three managing partners of the firm.
Scheuermann was the only one with prior experience in private equity; Zwick had none, and Tagg’s previous experience ranged from working at the Monitor Group, an international consulting firm, to sports marketing jobs with Reebok and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
However, success for the firm seemed preordained. A press release the following year hinted at the type of assistance Solamere was enjoying from the Romney network. It announced that Lee Scott, the former Walmart CEO, was joining the firm as an operating partner. Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney’s longtime press aide, was listed as the contact name on the release. The former Walmart chief’s entry came after G. Scott Romney, Mitt’s brother, signed up as an adviser with the firm. So did Matt Blunt, the former Republican governor of Missouri.
Solamere surpassed its $200 million fundraising goal with help from an elite set of “high net worth” individuals, many of whom are close Romney allies. Meg Whitman, the former eBay executive, current Hewlett-Packard CEO and Republican gubernatorial nominee in California two years ago, invested with Solamere (and her son scored a job at the firm). Two Romney donors, L. Scott Frantz, an investor and Connecticut state senator, and Mark Chapin Johnson, the CEO of a medical supply company, were also among the sixty-four investors to entrust Solamere with their money.
As a managing partner of Solamere, Tagg stands to make millions of dollars. The three managing partners will receive $16.8 million in management fees over the first six years, as well as “performance-based incentive” pay, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Little is known about the exact investment decisions at the firm. A tax return filed by Mitt and Ann Romney, made public in September, showed that Solamere has used an array of Cayman Islands entities to reduce its investors’ tax liability on its income. Rebecca Wilkins, a tax expert with Citizens for Tax Justice, says that Solamere likely uses “blocker corporations” to help its tax-exempt investors avoid paying the unrelated business income tax.
It seems that Tagg has taken after his father, whose former firm Bain Capital also uses these offshore structures. Most of the offshore entities do not have to file a tax return in the US or anywhere else in the world, making them an ideal shelter for Solamere’s investors, says Wilkins. “To me, the most egregious part of this is that they’re facilitating tax evasion.”
A complaint filed in August with the US Office of Government Ethics argues that Mitt Romney’s investment portfolio violates the Ethics in Government Act because so much of his money rests in opaque funds, like private equity firms and limited partnerships. The law states that presidential officeholders must disclose their investments and their investments’ underlying assets worth more than $1,000. The law, however, carries an exemption for qualified blind trusts.
In June, the Romney campaign announced that if he’s elected, the candidate would move his assets into a federally qualified blind trust, and would also likely sell off any assets that “are not fully compliant with federal disclosure and other rules applicable to the office of the presidency.” But if Romney wins, there’s almost no chance that the underlying assets of his son’s firm, Solamere, will be revealed. Solamere could have assets involved in healthcare, energy, telecommunications or any number of other industries, but the public will be left in the dark.
“There are no legal constraints that could be imposed on family members and close friends and associates to prevent them from cashing in on a Romney administration,” explains Craig Holman, a lobby watchdog for Public Citizen.
Crony Capitalism -
What is known is that Solamere’s private equity partners are eager to influence the federal government. Three of the firms listed in the Solamere prospectus—Sun Capital Partners, TPG Capital and TA Associates—are currently financing a lobbying campaign under a trade group called the Private Equity Growth Capital Council (PEGCC), which is seeking to influence a number of tax and regulatory decisions.
The PEGCC has spent nearly $5.8 million on federal lobbying over the past three years, and untold millions this year on a public relations campaign in swing states to improve the image of private equity—a strategy seen as designed to benefit Romney’s campaign. One of the primary concerns of the PEGCC and many private equity firms is that the carried interest loophole, which allows wealthy investment managers to be taxed at only the 15 percent capital gains rate, may be closed. The group has also fired off at least a dozen letters and held meetings with regulators to complain about the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill’s mandates, ranging from new registration requirements to limits on commodity speculation.
On the campaign trail, Romney has made it clear that he wants to “repeal Dodd-Frank,” while recognizing “that some revisions make sense.” This approach, which American Banker magazine calls “muddled,” provides an opportunity for the finance industry to roll back at least some of the requirements it views as most onerous.
Other Solamere investment partners own businesses that face imminent regulatory action. SCF Partners, another private equity fund partnered with Solamere, specializes in energy and equipment investments, especially those involved in the fracking industry. Rockwater Energy Solutions, an SCF company, provides support for managing the trillions of tons of chemical fluids pumped into hydraulic natural gas wells. Another SCF firm, IPS Canada, provides a technology used for perforating horizontal wells during the fracking process. SCF’s president, L.E. Simmons, chaired the energy “policy roundtable” for donors to the Romney campaign back in February, and several partners in the firm have donated generously to Romney.
Romney has also called Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency “out of control,” and his energy plan pledges to vastly expand domestic fracking by moving control of federal lands to the states. Having a pipeline of information from Romney’s EPA could result in a wellspring of profits for SCF.
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.
For its part, TA Associates—the Romney-connected private equity firm also involved in the PEGCC—has a stake in Monarch Dental, another prominent dental management company that may face scrutiny in the coming months as legislators re-evaluate the ownership rules regarding dentists’ offices.
The Medicaid reimbursements for the dental management companies offer a revealing look at the underlying business model being pursued by the Romney-supporting private equity firms: big government, when harnessed to industry-friendly regulators, can mean big profits. Many of these private equity–owned companies rely on federal and state contracts, from HIG Capital’s Hart Intercivic, a voting machine company, to EnviroFoam Technologies, a biological and chemical decontamination firm that does business with the US military and is owned by Peterson Partners, a private equity firm listed in the Solamere prospectus.
It’s already clear how the Solamere nexus of influence would work to advance such companies under a Romney administration. Romney has voiced his support, for example, for expanding federal aid to proprietary colleges, which have been cited for waste, fraud and abuse, not to mention rising levels of student debt—and the for-profit college he has singled out for praise on several occasions is directly linked to Solamere.
Asked about the rising cost of colleges at a town hall event in New Hampshire in December 2011, Romney said that students should take a look at for-profit colleges like Full Sail University, a career college for the entertainment and production industry. Weeks later, in an interview with the Ames Tribune, Romney hailed the “advent of for-profit institutions of higher learning” for providing competition with public and private universities. He again volunteered Full Sail University as a good example of how students can “hold down the cost of their education.”
What Romney neglected to mention is that Full Sail University—in fact the third most expensive college in the United States—is owned by TA Associates. Indeed, TA Associates has viewed the for-profit college industry—a $40 billion market where 85 percent of the funds are supplied by taxpayers—as an excellent opportunity for growth. The firm has invested in other for-profit colleges, including the Rocky Mountain School of Design, the Los Angeles Film School and Vatterott Educational Centers Inc. Like most profit-driven colleges, which account for only 10 percent of all students but about half of all loan defaults, TA Associates’ schools do not boast a stellar track record. Leaked documents for Vatterott show that recruiters were instructed to use “pain” when targeting students—who, the recruiters are told, decide on college “based more on emotion than logic.” Within three years of dropping out or graduating, 26.6 percent of Vatterott students default on their loans.
Romney would have the ultimate power, through his Education Department, to decide if the current loopholes in federal lending policy continue to benefit for-profit colleges regardless of their track record. The Romney campaign’s education policy outline already makes clear that he would roll back the few regulations requiring for-profit colleges to demonstrate that a percentage of their students are able to find jobs after graduation as a basis for receiving aid.
He would also have the power to rescind President Obama’s recent executive order limiting for-profit college recruitment at military bases. Summit Partners, a Solamere private equity fund, owns Trident University, a for-profit college that targets veterans. “The fact that Mitt Romney praised an overpriced, underperforming college that is owned by his son’s investment partners, and whose owners have contributed a quarter-million dollars to his campaign and Super PAC, shows how he embodies the corrupting influence of money on politics,” asserts David Halperin, a college affordability advocate and attorney who has covered the for-profit industry for years. “It shows how his administration could, as a matter of course, allow special interests—the interests of his rich friends—to skew important policy decisions and harm the public interest.”
Of Insiders and Handouts -
A Solamere brochure reviewed by The Nation makes clear that Tagg Romney and his fellow managing partners routinely attend investor meetings and hold regular discussions with their partner firms. Major investment decisions must be made with the unanimous consent of all three managing partners, meaning that Tagg and Zwick have been doing their private equity work throughout the election year.
But Tagg hasn’t shied away from the campaign as a result; rather, he has become a key surrogate, stumping for Romney across the country. Behind the scenes, he has advised his father on messaging and even his pick for running mate. ”I lobby—I’m in the peanut gallery,” Tagg said, joking about his role in the campaign’s inner circle in a chat with radio host Hugh Hewitt.
The intersection of these two worlds came into view for curious reporters at a Romney fundraising retreat in Park City, Utah, in late June. The scores of wealthy donors who attended were picked up by golf cart and ferried around the Chateaux at Silver Lake resort. They were also welcomed with personalized notes from Zwick thanking them for joining the Romney campaign.
In an adjacent building, Solamere Capital held its own gathering—an investor conference. “It was not a coincidence that the Solamere conference took place in the same city just before the retreat began,” said one fundraiser who requested anonymity, speaking to Huffington Post reporter Peter Stone.
American Crossroads, the Republican Super PAC that has needled Obama in its advertising for supposedly allowing “donors and insiders [to] line up for handouts,” sent its chief officers, including Karl Rove, to both confabs. Under federal law, Super PACs cannot coordinate with candidate committees.
Rove spoke to investors at the Solamere conference, which was also attended by several Romney fundraisers, in an event that doubled as a pitch for those interested in his own Super PAC. Rove could talk Super PAC strategy to those Romney fundraisers because Solamere hosted it—a technicality that allowed him to bypass the campaign finance laws preventing him from working directly with the Romney campaign.
Unlike his colleagues on the Romney political team, Zwick could appear at both the campaign retreat and the Solamere events next door, thanks to his role as a Solamere partner.
Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitcho has suggested that there is a firewall between Solamere and the campaign. But if Zwick’s effortless transition between the Solamere conference and the campaign retreat in Park City is any guide, that firewall might just be as thick as the air that separated the two buildings.
Posted by Northbay Uprising Radio at 8:33 PM