Claim: Mitt Romney's son Tagg owns a company that manufactures voting machines.
Example:[Collected via e-mail, October 2012]
Is it true that Tagg Romney, son of Mitt Romney, buys voting machines through Bain Capitol?
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.
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.
Origins: This somewhat tangled tale of intrigue has Tagg Romney, the son of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, as owner of a company that manufactures voting machines which will be used in the upcoming presidential election through the following chain:
After his father's 2008 presidential campaign ended, Mitt Romney's son, Tagg Romney, started Solamere Capital, a private equity fund, along with Spencer Zwick, the Romney campaign's top fund raiser, and a third partner, Eric Scheuermann. Tagg Romney's parents, Mitt and Ann Romney, contributed $10 million to the firm's first fund.
According to the New York Times, "unlike many private equity funds that specialize in scouting out companies to invest in directly, Solamere is a 'fund of funds' that invests in 22 other private equity funds," and one of the equity firms with which Solamere Capital has partnered is H.I.G. Capital.
In 2011, H.I.G. Capital made a controlling investment in Hart InterCivic, a national provider of "election voting systems, election management products and services" used in hundreds of voting jurisdictions in several states, including a high-population county in the key swing state of Ohio.
Therefore, Tagg Romney allegedly holds a significant ownership interest in the manufacturer of voting machines that will be used in an election determining whether his father will become President of the United States.
However, according to a Solamere spokesman quoted by the Weekly Standard, although Solamere has some shared investments with H.I.G. Capital, the latter firm's investment in Hart Intercivic is not one of them:
"Not only does Solamere have no direct or indirect interest in this company [Hart Intercivic], Solamere and its partners have no ownership in this company, nor do they have any ownership in nor have made any investments in the fund that invested in the voting machine company," the spokesman said.
So while Solamere does partner with HIG on investments, none of those investments involve Hart Intercivic. HIG may be simultaneously managing investments with both companies, but the investments are kept separate, as required by law. Put simply, Tagg Romney is not an "investor in a voting machine company."
An H.I.G. spokesman quoted by the Huffington Post also said Solamere itself has no investment in the H.I.G. Capital fund that is invested in Hart Intercivic:
[Charles] Sipkins [said] that there is no connection at all between Solamere and Hart Intercivic. "Solamere has invested in a certain H.I.G. Capital fund. Solamere has no interest in the specific H.I.G. fund that invested in Hart Intercivic." He added that Solamere's total investment in H.I.G. represents 0.05 percent of H.I.G.'s total assets.
It is true that H.I.G. Capital's co-founder, Anthony Tamer, and several of H.I.G.'s managing directors once worked at Bain & Company (whose CEO was Mitt Romney); that Anthony Tamer and his wife are donors to the Romney campaign; and that H.I.G. Capital is the sixth-largest financial contributor to Romney fundraising
committees; and it is true that Tagg Romney's firm, Solamere, has investments in other H.I.G. funds that are run by partners who are former Romney colleagues and current Romney fundraisers, and those partners also manage the fund invested in Hart Intercivic. That close a connection between the Romney family, Romney campaign contributors, and a provider of voting systems may raise some eyebrows, but it doesn't establish any direct ownership link between Tagg Romney and a provider of voting systems.
Additionally, the potential for vote-tampering in Ohio through manipulation of Hart Intercivic's equipment is quite low. As the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported, the pieces of Hart InterCivic equipment to be used in Ohio aren't electronic voting machines that record voters' selections directly through touch screens — they are merely standalone scanners that tabulate paper ballots, so any close or suspect results could be confirmed through a recount:
Elections officials in Ohio's Hamilton and Williams counties — the only two of Ohio's 88 counties that use equipment made by Hart InterCivic — as well as company representatives say there's no way such meddling could occur.
Both counties use a paper balloting system in which results are tallied by scanners made by Hart InterCivic. All programming of the machines, diagnostic testing, and vote tabulation is done by elections staff in each county and no vote tabulation is done over the Internet, county election board representatives say. The paper ballots are there as backup and can be recounted with Democratic and Republican party representatives on hand.
"There is no truth to the idea that anyone could get into our system and tamper with the results," said Hamilton County elections board deputy director Sally Krisel.
Even if an investment (which is fairly hands-off) led to some sort of manipulative scanning (which is far-fetched) that wasn't caught in pre-election audit testing (even more far-fetched), the problem with this theory is that any significant deviation from the expected turnout models and exit polls (and pre-election polls) will lead to an examination and audit of the paper ballots. Any real deviation would not just be noticed; it would be quarantined and examined. If you're planning to steal an election, leaving a paper trail is not how to do it.
This is a guilt-by-association theory. Too many eyes are on every step of the voting process this year. It's not 2004. And the machines in question are no better or worse than optical scan systems from other manufacturers, Ohio's former Democratic secretary of state found in independent testing. In contrast, other electronic voting machines used across Ohio don't leave as extensive a record of actual balloting as the optical scan systems, as they rely on cash register-like tape rolls to record every vote.