U.S. Voting Machine Company’s Possible Ties to Foreign Government Draws Congressional Inquiry

May 5, 2006
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – The sale of an American voting machine company to a firm with possible ties to the Venezuelan government has already drawn questions surrounding a recent Chicago city election and now is the focus of a congressional inquiry. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY-14) has asked Treasury Secretary John Snow whether or not the sale of California-based Sequoia to Smartmatic, a company with possible ties to the Venezuelan government, was reviewed by the Department of Treasury or vetted in the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS) process (read the letter to Secretary Snow).

Smartmatic was first the subject of controversy in 2004 when the Hugo Chavez-led Venezuelan government selected it to provide the voting machines system for the presidential recall election, even though it would be the company’s first time providing machines for an election. Smartmatic teamed up with a Venezuelan software company, Bitza, which at the time was 28% owned by Chavez’s government. More recently, a Chicago city alderman questioned the possible ties between Sequoia and the Venezuelan government when that company’s machines were used in the March 2006 Chicago primaries.

“Just as the Dubai ports deal was a priority security issue, any potential foreign influence on our elections system is vital to our national security and deserves at least a look,” said Maloney. “It doesn’t seem that the deal for Sequoia was vetted by our government, and I want to know why.”

Maloney has been heavily involved in the effort to reform the CFIUS process that allowed Dubai Ports World to acquire a British company that controlled operations in several key U.S. ports. She is the ranking member on the Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Trade and Technology Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over CFIUS. She has introduced legislation that would implement a stricter foreign-acquisition approval process.