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Published: June 9, 2016
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Hey California. Here’s an URGENT SIGALERT: There’s a snake hidden in your midst, coiled inside your election machinery. Exercise extreme caution. Be on the lookout for a late-model black SUV with illegally-tinted windows… and a million votes tied up in the trunk.


Executives (and owners) of the election company that counted approximately 40 per cent of California’s vote have been convicted of bribing and suborning public officials. They’ve been busted for rigging elections—a couple times per decade—for the past 40 years. Top executives have gone to jail. Still, they soldier on, tabulating and counting the vote, as if nothing had happened. And we let them.

Two days before the California primary, I wrote, “If the 2016 Democratic primary in California is rigged, it’s ‘‘the boys’ from one company—Sequoia Pacific nee Dominion Voting Systems, working out of San Leandro, and Oakland, and tiny Exeter in the San Joaquin Valley—who’ll likely be charged with making it happen.”

I’m not gifted psychically. But making that call was easy. Why? Because these are the go-to guys for this sort of thing. Also, several years ago California’s then-Secretary of State left to go to work for the company, after steering them a good chunk of the state’s business.

So, there’s that.

khA felony conviction may prevent you from voting in states like Florida, but having a arm-long rap sheet doesn’t disqualify you from counting millions of other people’s votes. Just ask Katherine Harris.

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, so I’m also publishing a video showing Sequoia/Dominion being caught in the act of rigging an election. But first, a brief criminal history of the company that rigged the 2016 Democratic Presidential primary election in California.


Getting mugged on Memory Lane

Just before the 2000 election, in the state capitol of Baton Rouge,  Louisiana Commissioner for Elections Jerry Fowler was convicted of taking real money—maybe ten million dollars—for a period of a decade.

vlcsnap2016-06-09-03h12m40s008Fowler, a large slow-moving beefy man, had somehow parleyed playing in exactly four football games in 1964 as a lineman for the Houston Oilers into a lifelong career in Louisiana politics.

The name of the bag man passing all that cash to Fowler was Pasquale “Rocco” Ricci, of Marlton, New Jersey. Having a name right out of The Soprano’s doesn’t make you a wise guy. But what Rocco did is the very definition of organized crime. 

After being convicted of bribing the Election Commissioner in the State of Louisiana for more than a decade, Rocco Ricci was sentenced to a year.

A year of home detention. 


“Phil Foster, Please Leave Our Elections Alone”

vlcsnap2016-06-09-03h12m19s048What that means in real terms: If there were five statewide elections in Louisiana during this decade, one every two years, Rocco Ricci went to the Big House for about 70 days for each statewide election he fixed.

Only in his case the Big House meant his mansion in Marlton, New Jersey, instead of Jimmy Swaggart’s old mansion, which was his residence in Louisiana.

During the scandal, New Orleans newspapers asked, “What was Sequoia’s salesman Phil Foster doing when he delivered cash-filled envelopes on five occasions to businessman Pasquale Ricci, who passed them, in turn, to Louisiana election commissioner Jerry Fowler?”

Good question. Foster never answered, or publicly explained why he was never called to account for his role in the scheme that put his buddy Jerry Fowler in prison.

fosterBut hey…today’s a new day, and here he is again, the ultimate bad penny, working for the same company. Back in the game!

That’s him, second from left, in a recent photo whose caption reads: “Secretary Schedler, Phil Foster, Customer Relations with Dominion Voting Systems, WVLA reporter and Commissioner of Elections Angie Rogers.”


At the same time, in another part of the forest

FireShot Screen Capture #1426 - 'Sequoia Voting Systems Responsible for 2000 Presidential Debacle_ I WIRED' - www_wired_com_2007_08_sequoia-votinRemember hanging chad? These are those guys.  That same year, 2000—a banner year for the company—Sequoia Pacific was responsible, according to a later Dan Rather-led investigation, of causing what became known as the Florida Vote Snafu. There were even suggestions it might have been deliberate.

At the time the company was known as Sequoia Pacific. Then—even though key personnel remained the same—they changed their name. Not just once. Twice. First to Sequoia Voting Systems. Then, after a move to Canada, where the glare of public scrutiny is slightly less white-hot, to Dominion Voting Systems.

autoWhen Sequoia Pacific began its modern life in the 1960s it was known as Automatic Voting Machine, a subsidiary of Defense contractor Rockwell International, which spun it off to a Rockwell executive named Lloyd A. Dixon Jr.

Incidentally, the defense industry motif recurs in other election companies, like the industry’s largest, E S &S, which was Dixon’s main competitor. Its President was Ransom Shoup, who also went to the Big House, in 1979. His company went on to become the industry’s largest, but apparently escaped a Justice Dept. investigation only after a change in Administrations in Washington.

“We had to get Ronald Reagan elected President to get this thing (the investigation) killed,” quipped E S & S’s President at the time.


“Tacho’s got a question for you”

In a Nov 29, 1985 Chicago Tribune report headlined “VOTE MACHINES CAN BE A DIFFICULT SELL” E S &S marketing director Ron Lawyer told the paper, “Whether working in the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa or Latin America, the first disquieting question of potential customers is always the same: ‘Can these things be rigged?’”

Lawyer spoke of a meeting he and Ransom Shoup took in the palace of Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza. in Managua, Nicaragua. Shoup was trying to sell Somoza some voting machines. “Tacho (Somoza) had only one question,” Lawyer told the Tribune. “Can I be guaranteed the election?”‘

13051536_10154139973257433_6978371511547785490_n-1Back at what would one day be Sequoia Pacific and then Dominion Voting Systems, Lloyd Dixon Jr. lasted as president and CEO until January of 1973, when he went to prison. Dixon got caught bribing election officials in Buffalo, and went to federal prison. At the same time, the company was also fined for bribing Texas and Arkansas election officials.

It was not a particularly auspicious beginning. Founder Lloyd Dixon Jr.’s sordid history got the company off on the wrong foot.  But America is a country filled with entrepreneurial zeal, as well as a forgiving nation, and its hard to keep a company with a good get-rich quick proposition down.


Mugged on Memory Lane II

Sequoia/Dominion’s next owner was an infamous financier and corporate raider credited with creating the leveraged buyout, and leading the way for the Wall Street flim-flam men, like Michael Milken, who followed.

wolfsonLouis Wolfson’s eternal claim to fame, however, was that he bribed a sitting  Justice of the Supreme Court on the United States of America, “Dishonest Abe” Fortas, the only Justice ever forced to resign in disgrace. Fortas got caught palming a lifetime yearly “retainer” from Wolfson’s family foundation.

Fortas cut himself a deal, and at the FBI’s behest taped phone calls with Wolfson, where the desperate financier pleaded with Fortas to for Christ’s sake dummy up.

fortas140It is in the transcripts of these phone calls that the word “cover-up” first enters the American lexicon, according to NY Times-man and wordsmith William Safire, a Nixon speechwriter when the sordid chapter played out.

Speaking loudly so the tape recorder would clearly pick up his words, Fortas said “No I can’t do that! That would be a cover-up!”

The Modern Age had begun.


Caught in the Act

susanAs a politician, Susan Bernecker was unremarkable, running—and losing—in a ho-hum race for the New Orleans City Council in the mid-90’s. However she distinguished herself in a much more important way, documenting how the second largest election company in America—Sequoia Pacific, both then and now—rigged an election.

It turns out to be frightfully easy.

Susan was surprised when she lost, she told me, and felt a twinge of suspicion that things might not be kosher. For one thing, she said, there were way more “Bernecker for City Council” signs festooning the lawns in her district, pretty much the gold standard for predicting local races where polling is prohibitively expensive.

So, what happened?

“In Louisiana,” she explained, more than five years later, “every candidate that runs for office is allowed, by law—three days after the election—to go and check the voting machines. The candidates themselves can inspect the machines. But very few ever do.”


So, having nothing to lose, or so she thought, spunky Susan Bernecker showed up at the warehouse at the appointed time to check the machine, and brought a cameraman in tow. Inside she encountered a startled election technician.

“The election techs thought all they had to do was check in the rear of the machine, where when you push a button you get the numbers. So that’s what he did. He gave me a long ticker tape and said, ‘here are your results.’”


Rage Against the (Election) Machine


“And I said, ‘Well, that’s nice, but I’d like to see how you arrived at this number.’”

“And he said, ‘Well, this is all you have.’ So I said, ‘Show me how the machine works.’”

“So he proceeded to open the machine and show me, okay, you push this number and if the machine’s in a certain mode it will give you your tally in a liquid crystal display. When you press your selection, its supposed to show up in the liquid crystal display.”

“So I pressed a few of them, and noticed when you pressed my name—voted for me—my name did not show up in the liquid crystal display. My opponent’s name showed up.”

On the video, we watch as she hunches over the machine, and narrates for the cameraman. “Pressing Bernecker… Got Giambelluca. Again… I’m pressing Bernecker, I got Giambelluca.”


“And I was like, oh my god! And my name didn’t show up again, and I did it again, and again, and my name showed up about every three to fourth time.  So I asked my cameraman to turn on the camera. What am I doing with a cameraman? I’m not a reporter, and I had a gut feeling that I might need some kind of proof of… something.”

“So I went to the next machine, and the next machine, and the next machine. And the same thing occurred all down the row.”

“So what we did is set up a press conference a few days later, because I felt—for my own safety—that I had to get this out on the news.”


Alice goes down the well-known rabbit hole

Evenvlcsnap2016-06-09-03h53m58s277 to run against her opponent in New Orleans, with its pervasive mob influence, had taken a big supply of moxie. Brave is one thing. This, however, was worse. Was she frightened?

“Actually I was scared to death,” she replied evenly. “Because if—if this was vote fraud, if this was manipulation of the voting machines—they knew that I knew… But nobody else knew!”

Bernecker matter-of-factly described what happened next. “My life was threatened continuously,” she said. “On practically a daily basis.”

With little warning, Susan Bernecker fell down a deep dark rabbit hole. For her, nothing has been quite the same since.


The connection between corruption in Susan Bernecker’s long-forgotten local race in New Orleans and the the “Florida Vote Snafu” after the 2000 Presidential Election is systemic corruption at Sequoia Pacific, or Dominion (or whatever it calls itself these days).

Why is this important now? Because the company’s fingerprints are all over the 2016 Democratic primary in California.


Susan Bernecker had an interesting take on why she happened to have been singled out to lose. “I have my own theory. On the ballot at the same time was a big gambling initiative, on whether or not to allow gambling in Louisiana, which had already lost several times.”

“If there was scamming or fraud going on in that election, it was a consequence of all the gambling money involved. Everybody knows about gambling. Where gambling is, there’s always corruption.”

Which makes sense. And where there’s a buck to be made peddling goods and services to the government of the United States of America, the easiest and safest way to do it is through massive and virtually untraceable election fraud using electronic voting machines.

So far, pretty much, no one’s the wiser.

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