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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 10/23/12

'Think Progress' Smears BRAD BLOG Coverage of Voting Machine Concerns as "Conspiracy Theory"

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Cross-posted from The Brad Blog
"I think you'd be right to call out Romney and his son for having a financial interest in this company. It doesn't look good." 
--  Former Democratic OH Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner to MSNBC, 10/22/12

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To be frank, while it's no secret that the Center for American Progress has always been an outside extension of the Democratic Party, their important blog site, Think Progress, has served as a crucial, and journalistically sound fact-checker on the excesses, inaccuracies and blatant fabrications of the Right over the past several years.

I have been more than happy to cite their excellent work on a number of fronts over the years and take no pleasure in calling them, their new Senior Editor Judd Legum, and one of their writers, Aviva Shen, out here on The BRAD BLOG for an egregious  and, frankly, outrageous journalistic failure.

It is one thing to make an error. We all do it. It is quite another thing indeed -- and what, in my opinion, separates real journalists from hacks -- when, once called out with independently fact-based and verifiable evidence of those errors, one sticks to the original error, come what may.

That's exactly what Legum and Think Progress have decided to do, as the email discussion between Legum and me illustrates below. I'm sorry I have to even run it, but, for journalists, credibility is our only currency -- (especially those of us not  funded by major foundations, as Think Progress is...so feel free to hit the tip jar here!) -- and being smeared, without correction, from a respected institution like Think Progress is extraordinarily damaging to all that we do here.

So here's what happened...

On Monday morning, TP's Aviva Shen posted an article headlined "Why Romney Isn't Rigging Voting Machines." Never mind the fact that neither Shen nor Think Progress have any idea whether Romney is or isn't rigging voting machines -- they present no evidence in the article either way -- what is most outrageous are the factually inaccurate smears in the piece, in which The BRAD BLOG (with a link to this article responding to NBC's Chuck Todd who made a similarly outrageous smear on Twitter over the weekend), as well as Truthout (with a link to this article reposted from FreePress.org by Ohio-based investigative journalists Gerry Bello, Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman) and even Forbes magazine, for chrissakes, (with a link to this Rick Ungar article) are all called out, smeared in fact, by Shen and Think Progress as "conspiracy theorists."

The Truthout/Free Press article, as well as the Forbes piece, offer well-supported investigative journalism highlighting the ties between H.I.G. Capital and Hart Intercivic, the nation's third largest voting machines company. H.I.G. Capital "acquired" Hart in a deal last year, according to the firm who brokered the deal. H.I.G., which is believed to stand for "Hart Intercivic Group," is run by several very major Romney backers, former Bain employees, and is heavily financed by the investment group created by Mitt Romney's son Tagg, with his father's seed money and business associates. Moreover, as the journalists reported, several members of Hart Intercivic's board (40% of the board, in fact) have made direct contributions to the Romney campaign.

What Truthout/Free Press and Forbes did was called reporting or journalism. I briefly, and quite reasonably, offered my take on some of the Free Press' coverage after they originally broke the news of the ties between the Romneys and Hart Intercivic some weeks ago, as I explained in my polite article responding to Chuck Todd's smear on Sunday:

The Austin-based Hart company, according to VerifiedVoting.org's database, supplies electronic voting machines and paper ballot tabulators that will be used to tally votes in the Presidential Election this year in all or parts of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

I offered my point of view about those concerns earlier this month, explaining that it was not just the private ownership of Hart's machines by Romney backers which voters should be concerned about, but the private ownership of the similar systems in all 50 states that will once again be used to tabulate the results of this year's Presidential Election with little -- and very often zero -- possibility of oversight by the public or even by election officials.

In that same original article, I had also cited the work on the very same issue by former Think Progress journalist Lee Fang, who now writes for The Nation, and explained that:

"Once again, we're reminded of the dangers of the privatization of our once-public electoral system. The company's ties to Romney aren't the only disturbing ones we've seen with similar companies over the years. The fact is, that nobody other than the public should have any sort of control of our elections. The proprietary voting systems now in use in all 50 states, whether owned by Romney associates, a George W. Bush associate (as with Diebold in 2004) or even a company tied to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez (as with Sequoia Voting Systems which blatantly lied about that tie to public officials, and the Canadian firm Dominion which purchased Sequoia and also immediately lied about the fact that Intellectual Property of their voting systems used all across the U.S. is still owned by the Venezuelan firm), continue to be a grave threat to American democracy and confidence in U.S. Elections."

You can read both of those full articles for yourself -- to which Shen's Monday article at Think Progress alluded in her opening graf this way:

"A new conspiracy theory being floated around the liberal blogosphere claims that a voting machine company with distant ties to Bain and Company is planning to fix the election for Mitt Romney before the ballots are even cast. The theory, circulated by TruthoutBradBlogForbes and others, suggests that Hart Intercivic, a company that owns electronic voting machines in Ohio, will program the machines to tally the votes for Romney. Their motivation for committing this serious crime stems from a sort of investment capital telephone game: Hart Intercivic is partially owned by HIG Capital, an investment company that has business ties to Solamere Capital, Tagg Romney's equity firm. They also note that four HIG Capital directors have helped raise money for Mitt Romney. Based on these connections, these theorists are concerned that the potential conflict of interest could lead the e-voting machine company to tamper with the election results."

Editor's Note: To read the remainder of this critical article, as well as the lengthy emails, please go to The Brad Blog.

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