Lou and Kitty Look Into the Sale of Sequoia Voting To A Company Owned By Venezuelan Nationals
By John Gideon on 10/31/2006, 9:15am PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon of VotersUnite.Org

As Lou and Kitty look into the investigation by the US Treasury Department into the sale of Sequoia Voting Systems to Venezuelan nationals Lou summarizes and speaks for many; "The idea that we are at this stage with all of the problems that you've documented that have been demonstrated with these machines, the ties between the testing laboratories and the manufacturers, the fact that software is proprietary and that election officials wouldn't be in charge of a recount on these things, it's just mind-boggling."


The text-transcript of Monday's segment on Lou Dobbs Tonight follows in full...

DOBBS: With just eight more days before our midterm elections, the United States is investigating the sale of electronic voting machine company Sequoia to a company mostly owned, as best we can determine, by Venezuelans. The company, Smartmatic, denies any connection to the anti-U.S. Chavez government.

The sale took place in March of 2005. Unbelievably, it has taken the United States government a year and a half to decide to investigate this sale.

Kitty Pilgrim reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're here to talk today...

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's about time. Just days before the midterm elections, the U.S. Treasury Department is looking into Venezuelan ownership of an American voting machine company.

Sequoia, the Oakland, California, based voting machine company, was sold in 2005 to Smartmatic, a company 90 percent owned by three Venezuelan businessmen. Today, at a president press held by Smartmatic, the company showed charts of complicated holding companies, saying people just don't understand the corporate structure.

But some in Congress understand only too well, and in June called for a review of the sale.

REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: I have urged Treasury twice in written requests to include a review of this company. Voting machines are central to our democracy. I feel it's a national security concern to know who owns the companies that manufacture such an important part of our democracy.

PILGRIM: Smartmatic pretends to be an all-American company, with corporate headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida. But don't let that fool you. Only 10 people work there. Five times that many work and live in Venezuela.

But Smartmatic is in denial.

JEFF BIALOS, ATTORNEY FOR SMARTMATIC & SEQUOIA: The companies are --- have been in full disclosure mode with the government. They've given the government a good deal of information. We'll give them whatever they want in this area. And the companies look forward to a very full and fair inquiry by CFIUS.

PILGRIM: Of deep concern is that the Venezuelan government is openly hostile to the United States. A government led by Hugo Chavez, who at the U.N. General Assembly railed against President Bush as the devil.

Smartmatic say the Venezuelan government is not involved in its company. But the same businessmen early in their careers received startup loans from the Venezuelan government for another of their companies. They downplayed the importance of those loans, saying they paid the money back before they bought the U.S. voting machine company.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: During today's press conference, Smartmatic was continuously asked when the CFIUS review process started and how long it had been going on. The company refused to answer that question, but they told this program months ago they were providing documents.

Now, Treasury late today confirmed the formal review has started but cannot tell us how far along they are in that process --- Lou.

DOBBS: We need considerably more transparency in the CFIUS process, or just simply to blow it up and put together something that actually works in the interest of this country altogether. But there is some --- as you look at this absurdity, at least you find some irony.

Diebold, which had been run by a man with very specific affections for the Bush administration; Sequoia now with a company that appears to have very specific affections for Hugo Chavez. There's some symmetry, if not sense, in all of that.

It doesn't do anything, of course, to make any of us feel better about what's going on with e-voting machines in this country.

The idea that we are at this stage with all of the problems that you've documented that have been demonstrated with these machines, the ties between the testing laboratories and the manufacturers, the fact that software is proprietary and that election officials wouldn't be in charge of a recount on these things, it's just mind-boggling.

PILGRIM: It's truly shocking that we're this close to the election and much of this has not been resolved.

DOBBS: Kitty, thank you very much.