Romney investment in voting machines uncovered

In the last debate Romney and Obama briefly sparred over their investment portfolios and the nefarious line items that may appear there—when Romney asked Obama if he was sure he didn’t have investments in Chinese firms, Obama dodged it by making a joke and saying his pension report sheet “isn’t as long” as Romney’s.

It was funny, but it also touched on a disturbing reality: When you get someone as rich as Romney their money becomes like a Russian nesting doll, with investments hidden under subsidiaries of private equity firms, offshore accounts and “blind” trusts. Keeping track of its influence—following the money, so to speak—can become nearly impossible.

But at least one Romney investment through-line has recently come to light that’s much more disturbing than investing in Chinese companies: investment in a voting machine company that will help determine the result of the presidential election.

You can read detailed accounts of the complexities at Forbes and The Nation, but the basic gist is this: after Romney’s primary loss to McCain in ’08 his son Tagg started a private equity firm called Solamere. Solamere has raised over $200 million in investment funds from Mitt himself and many of his peers, including H.I.G capital, which in turn owns Hart InterCivic, a voting machine company.

And not just any voting machine company. Hart InterCivic supplies machines for the critical swing state of Ohio. Not only that, a testing fiasco in 2007 found that the machines were highly faulty and susceptible to tampering and vote manipulation.

Aside from being tied to Hart InterCivic through the investment vehicle, H.I.G capital is the one of the Romney campaign’s biggest donors—11th largest.

By now Citizens United has become a household phrase and many are rightly outraged that we now allow unlimited anonymous private and corporate donations to political campaigns. But that a candidate for president is allowed to have direct investments with the voting machines that will be counting ballots should be totally flabbergasting. That the FEC allows this as a legal practice is completely incredible.

The intermingling of candidates and voting machines isn’t exactly brand new. Dick Cheney raised some eyebrows in 2004 when it came out that he had associative ties to voting machine company Diebold. But even then Cheney didn’t personally help start a private equity fund that was directly in bed with Diebold.

The Nation notes that Solamere’s prospectus touts “unique access” to other funds and investment vehicles. To the best of my knowledge, Romney’s investment also represents unprecedented access for a candidate to the actual voting mechanism.

Voter suppression? Who needs voter suppression when you own the friggin’ machine?