ELECTION TESTING LAB BARRED
The Chairman of the laboratory which the New York Times revealed has been barred from approving electronic voting machines, after federal investigators discovered appallingly haphazard testing protocols at the firm, dumped 25,000 common shares of stock in the company less than two weeks before the bad news was announced, netting himself almost $175,000, the MadCowMorningNews has learned.
In a little-noticed Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Dec. 21,Ciber,Inc Chairman Bobby G. Stevenson reported he sold the shares for about $6.71 apiece. The stock has fallen since.
The bad news from CIBER, which tests the centralized software that local elections offices employ to tabulate votes recorded by the touch-screens, may even affect the outcome of the hotly-contested Congressional decision in Florida’s 13th District, reported the Sarasota Herald Tribune in a story on the troubled firm with the headline a a story on the troubled firm headlined "CIBER Inc. at center of District 13 controversy.”
With more than 18,300 undervotes in the 13th Congressional District race, Democratic candidate Christine Jennings has stated that Sarasota County voters deserve an independent examination of the voting system, including a review of its "source code." Her request was turned down in a Florida courtroom two weeks ago.
Voting systems currently are certified under a system established by the Federal Election Commission and the National Association of State Election Directors. But the new federal watchdog agency set up for this purpose did nothing to alert the public that the CIBER lab had been barred.
Experts say the deficiencies of the laboratory suggest that crucial features like the vote-counting software and security against hacking may not have been thoroughly tested on many machines now in use.
“What’s scary is that we’ve been using systems in elections that Ciber had certified, and this calls into question those systems that they tested,” said Aviel D. Rubin, a computer science professor at Johns Hopkins
Pay now. Scrutinize later.
The problems at CIBER highlight the fact that until recently the labs that test voting software and hardware have operated without federal scrutiny. Even though Washington and the states have spent billions of dollars to install new voting machine systems, the machine manufacturers have always paid for their testing.
Newspaper reports in Colorado, where Ciber is headquartered, criticized the firm’s executives were being criticized by the government-watchdog group Colorado Common Cause for giving political contributions and gifts to state Republicans, even as Ciber's business contracts with Colorado increased from $300,000 in 2000 to $2.3 million in 2003.
Adding to suspicion, The MadCowMorningNews has learned that CIBER has been the beneficiary of considerable U.S. Federal Government largesse as well, including a $500,000 contract in 2002 from the North American Aerospace Defense Command; a $4 million multiyear contract from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in 1999; a $23 MILLION Port Security Contract at Port Freeport, Texas, and a five-year $12.6 million contract from a "major aerospace company" in Colorado whose name, CIBER reported, was being “withheld as per the Contract.”
The company out-sources back-office technical functions for large corporations, and maintains a large presence in India.
Exporting US jobs, testing US voting software
In addition to exporting American jobs, CIBER's Chairman utilized an ingenious but illegal scheme called the "kinky forward" to avoid paying American taxes.
“In January 1998 Merrill Lynch paid CIBER Inc. Chief Executive Bobby G. Stevenson $82 million in cash for his agreement to deliver a chunk of his CIBER shares by Feb. 1, 2001,” reported business magazine Forbes on September 30, 2002.
“It was a sweet deal for Stevenson, whose stock is off 80% since he got the cash. He locked in gains before the tech market tanked, but would not be taxed on his gains until he handed over the shares. Stevenson's deal with Merrill was essentially a prepaid variable forward contract–a "kinky forward," it's been called.”
A judge in Lubbock, Tex.'s taxpayer-friendly federal court rejected his bid to dismiss the $12 million the IRS said he owed, on the grounds he should have brought it in Colorado. Stevenson admitted spending far more time on his oceangoing yacht, M/Y Sweet Pea, sailing the seven seas than in the landlocked Texas Panhandle.
The long arm of the Longhorn GOP
Unmentioned in the New York Times story on CIBER are the firm’s strong GOP connections. Employees and spouses donated more than $72,000 to GOP candidates and groups during the 2001-2002 and 2003-2004 election cycles, according to the Center for Responsive politics, a nonpartisan watchdog group.
The Center for Responsive Politics found $5,750 worth of campaign contributions from Wyle Laboratories for this year's election. All of the money went to Republicans, including $1,500 to President Bush.
While the industry’s strong ties to the Republican Party have been noted in many places, what has escaped much attention until now are the almost equally strong ties the election industry inexplicably maintains to the state of Texas.
CIBER Chairman Bob Stevenson, for example, is from Lubbock Texas, is the largest single donor ever to alma mater Texas Tech, and gave the de rigueur maximum of $2000 to George W Bush’s 2004 Presidential campaign.
Top Ten Governors investigated by the FBI
CIBER Inc.’s has done business with such colorful politicians as former Kentucky Gov. Wallace G Wilkinson, who left this Earth still owing a CIBER subsidiary, DigitalTerra, almost a million dollars.
“If the FBI has a Ten Most Investigated Governors list, the name of Wallace G. Wilkinson must be on it,” reported the Lexington Herald-Leader on MAY 9, 2003, eight months after Wilkinson died.
The FBI investigated Wilkinson seven times in all while he held office between 1984 and 1996, the paper reported, and several times thereafter. He was actively being investigated at the time of his demise.
"They only closed it because he died," FBI employee Belva Cork, who processes Freedom of Information requests for the bureau, told the paper. That’s the kind of politician any company would be proud to have in its corner…unindicted.
Maybe CIBER wrote off Wilkinson’s debt as goodwill.
CIBER isn't the only company in the voting machine business at which people are actively involved in politics, of course, just the one in the news currently.
There’s Walden O'Dell, chief executive of Ohio-based Diebold Inc., the parent of electronic voting machine maker Diebold Election Systems, who raised funds for President George W Bush in the now-famous letter which attracted attention in 2004, sent to Ohio Republicans to raise money for the GOP, in which he said his commitment was to "to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."
Scratch the surface, and sleaze oozes from almost every pore of companies in an industry which has been entrusted with American’s sacred right to vote.