More than 600,000 of the 1.8 million votes in last week’s New York Democratic primary were cast and counted on voting machines belonging to an “election services” company with a long criminal history and a rap sheet an arm long.
Today it’s called Dominion Voting Systems. In last week’s primary in New York, Dominion controlled one-third of all votes cast in the state, said a spokesman for the New York Board of Elections spokesman in an interview.
The company controls roughly the same percentage nationwide; one of every three votes cast in America.
A private company with very private owners
Six years ago Dominion Voting Systems was an unknown Canadian start-up in Toronto that somehow managed to purchase a four-decade old election company called Sequoia Voting Systems in Exeter California.
Like any career criminal, the company uses a lot of aliases. Dominion “bought” Sequoia Voting Systems in 2010. That company had changed its name from Sequoia Pacific, where it had been fingered for causing the famous “hanging chad” debacle in Palm Beach Florida during the 2000 Presidential election.
That’d be one reason to change its name. There were others.
Lloyd Dixon Jr., Founder & Felon
The company’s founder and President was caught bribing election officials in Buffalo, and went to federal prison.
The company’s second owner went him one better, when he was caught bribing one of the nine Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States of America.
This same man—the second owner—is also credited with coining the word“cover-up,” which may be his most lasting legacy.
Stealing elections, getting home detention
Just before the 2000 Presidential election, in the Louisiana state capitol of Baton Rouge, Jerry Fowler, the State Commissioner for Elections, was convicted of taking real money—maybe ten million—for a period of a decade.
Jerry Fowler suborned elections in Louisiana for a decade.
Jerry Fowler was a large slow-moving beefy man who somehow parleyed playing in exactly four games in the NFL as a lineman for the Houston Oilers in 1964 into a lifelong career in politics.
The name of the bag man who’d been passing money to Fowler for a decade Pasquale “Rocco” Ricci, of Marlton, New Jersey, seemed right out of The Soprano’s.
When it came his turn to receive his sentence, Pasquale ‘Rocco’ Ricci, for suborning every election the state of Louisiana held for more than a decade, received a sentence of one year.
One year of home detention.
The "military-electoral" complex
What is today being called Dominion Voting Systems began its modern life in 1966 as something called Automatic Voting Machine, after defense contractor Rockwell International spun it off to company shareholders.
(The defense industry motif will recur in other ways as well. The company changed its name to Sequoia in the early 80’s while owned by private capital company Sequoia Associates. Robert A. Ferris, one of Sequoia Associates three owners, is a current director of PAE Government Service Inc, whose motto on its website is “Providing Enduring Support for Essential Missions.” )
All went well with Automatic Voting until Founder, President and CEO Lloyd A. Dixon Jr. was caught bribing election officials in Buffalo. Dixon was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury, convicted, and sent to prison in January of 1973.
At about the same same time the company was fined $50,000 for bribing Texas and Arkansas election officials. This was—by any normal business standard—not a particularly auspicious beginning.
But America is a forgiving nation, as well as a country filled with entrepreneurial zeal, and its hard to keep a company with a good proposition down.
So Lloyd Dixon Jr’s conviction and imprisonment did little to deter the company from continuing to suborn American elections.
“A shining beacon of crooked greed”
The second owner in Sequoia’s most recent incarnation—the company itself goes back to 1898 in Jamestown New York—was notorious corporate raider and financier Louis Wolfson. Wolfson was to the 1970’s on a more modest scale what Michael Milken became in the 1980’s, a shining beacon of crooked greed.
Wolfson was America’s first corporate raider. He is credited with creating the leveraged buyout. Wolfson built America’s first conglomerate, Merritt-Chapman & Scott. In a New York Times article on leaders in finance, “he was listed alongside such business luminaries as Howard Hughes and H.L. Hunt,” according to his obituary.
Only in America can a man with a career as checkered as Louis Wolfson’s go on to become a successful philanthropist with his own successful foundation. They really don’t care where your money comes from here. Today the Louis Wolfson Foundation is regularly in the news.
Supreme forced to resign in disgrace
But what Louis Wolfson will always be remembered for is bribing the only Supreme Court Justice ever forced to resign in disgrace, “Dishonest Abe” Fortas. Fortas began taking bribes from Wolfson, in 1969, at a time when Wolfson had already been convicted of securities manipulation.
Fortas was pocketing what he briefly tried calling “a lifetime yearly retainer” from Wolfson’s family foundation. But Fortas’ fellow judges drew no distinction between ‘accepting a retainer’ and “taking a bribe.” It was time to cut himself a deal.
Fortas became the only U.S. Supreme Court Justice who ever wore a wire to work off his “beef,” as they say in criminal parlance. At the FBI’s behest, he taped his phone calls with Wolfson, who was caught on tape pleading with the Supreme Court Justice to dummy up.
The day the word “cover-up” was born
It was in the transcripts of those phone calls, according to deceased New York Times wordsmith William Safire, that the word ‘cover-up’ entered the American lexicon for the first time. Safire later coined the adage: “The cover-up is always worse than the crime.”
In a documentary about Wolfson in 2010, the filmmakers discovered new material about Wolfson, including his role as the major financier behind Presidential candidates.
So Wall Street hasn’t changed.
Talk show host Larry King was once arrested for grand larceny after Wolfson filed charges against him. “We discovered some evidence Wolfson may have been using King in an attempt bribe President Nixon to secure a presidential pardon,” said the filmmakers.
Back in the current day, if investigation learns of a “cover-up” to shield the true and currently anonymous owner of Dominion/Sequoia, it will come as no surprise.
“Rocco” Ricci from New Jersey is the face of American Elections
One of Sequoia Pacific’s top executives, Phil Foster, was indicted in January of 2000 on two counts of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of conspiracy to commit malfeasance in office. Foster’s brother-in-law, J. David Philpot, pleaded guilty in August to charges resulting from his role in the alleged scheme.
Fowler ended up serving four years in prison, for what the US Attorney said was taking kickbacks on voting machine contracts. But that explanation makes no sense.
Nobody pays $10 million for a contract for voting machines that’s not worth half that in profit. The inescapable conclusion is Fowler was getting all that money for “looking the other way,” a task for which he seems to be particularly suited, while “mechanics” for Sequoia, imported from New Jersey, fixed elections, a pursuit in which there can be big money involved. For a gambling initiative, for example.”
After Fowler’s sentencing in Baton Rouge, US Attorney for Louisiana L.J. Hymel held a triumphal press conference on the steps of the US Courthouse. I took the opportunity to ask him a question: “Was the man who bribed Jerry Fowler for a decade a member of Organized Crime?”
“I don’t know,” replied Hymel tersely. He indicated impatience with a toss of his silver-maned head. As recently as 10-15 years ago Big Hair was sometimes considered important by U.S. Attorneys. But organized crime links to election companies suborning the vote were not.
I shouldn’t have. But I persisted. “You’re the US Attorney, and you don’t know if the man who bribed the state Commissioner of Elections for a decade belongs to Organized Crime?”
It seemed like a simple question, even if it did come from a visiting ‘Yankee.’ But the shocked silence that ensued among the members of the press corps on the steps of the Federal Courthouse showed they were as offended as if I’d asked Hymel whether he enjoyed having sex with small furry animals.
“Is Pasquale “Rocco” Ricci of Marlton, New Jersey, a member of the Mob?” was not considered a fit topic for discussion on the steps of the US District Courthouse. Meting out Justice to bribe-taking public officials was no cause for asking reckless questions about Mob involvement in election companies.
I still think it was a fair question. Hymel had almost ten years to look up the answer.
A sad and (inexplicable?) death: Mari Fowler
Investigators believe she was abducted from that location. Her belongings were found scattered on the pavement. Investigators also found some of her acrylic nails which may have been torn off in a struggle with an abductor. Curiously, robbery did not appear to be the motive. Her purse, keys and the Christmas presents in the back of her car were all left behind.
She was last seen wearing a “full length black coat, dark grey slacks, light shirt,rings, earrings, watch, a diamond necklace, and a “Blue Dog” broach, and her face showed tiny facelift scars.”
And we still haven’t discussed Dominion/Sequoia’s most infamous owner, Dr. Michael Smurfit,who is known as Ireland’s richest man. Except Smurfit’s not a doctor of anything, and he isn’t even Irish. When we tracked him down in Dublin after Sequoia was blamed in large measure for the Florida vote snafu, Smurfit was under indictment for bribery and fraud in Spain.