THE BLOG

The Most Ominous Monopoly

11/19/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Last week the most ominous monopoly in America's long history opened its gaping jaws. Sniffing the air and casting its gaze around for victims, the horrifying leviathan took its first breaths amidst reports of the merger of Election Systems & Software (ES&S) and Diebold.

Black Box Voting published maps revealing the breathtaking demographic scope of the new corporate fusion of Diebold and ES&S, and Democracy for New Hampshire published an analysis of the voting machine industry that is now dominated by the freshly minted mammoth monopoly and labeled the new entity a "national security threat."

America's love story with capitalism is crystallized in this merger of the two computerized voting machine giants like nothing that has ever been seen before in American history.

With its acquisition of Diebold, ES&S will now control almost three-quarters (74.8%) of vote-counting, ballot-tallying and the tabulation of official election results in the entire United States of America.

In American culture, capital trumps democracy -- first one way, then another. In the nineteenth century, Boss Tweed's money paid for votes with the birth of machine politics in Tammany Hall. Soon, the new industry spread from coast to coast with vast complexes of political machinery installed in Chicago by Daley and in Kansas City by Pendergast and a host of other American metropolises.

By the dawn of the age of television, corporate money merged with Madison Avenue to create a culture of money-driven politics that manufactured candidates and public consent for them in a smooth chain of systematic operations. Madison Avenue and public relations fulfilled the visions of Walter Lippmann who advocated the corporate manufacture of consent while he captivated Wall Street with his enthralling rationale, "Private property was the original source of freedom. It is still its main ballpark."

The rectitude of money-driven politics became more than a philosophy of life; it was enshrined into religious cant by Norman Vincent Peale who urged his throngs of followers, "Put God to work for you and maximize your potential in our divinely ordered capitalist system."

While America obsessed over economic freedom, few players actually cared about the process of democracy other than to divine how to make money out of it.

Privatizing the processes of democracy provides the perfect metaphorical backdrop to Michael Moore's latest film, Capitalism, A Love Story.

The corporate history of ES&S presents a proud profile -- starkly partisan and embarrassingly political pedigree for the vote-counting corporation is rock-ribbed Republican from conception to gestation to maturation.

Shortly after the merger became the source of minor ripples on the blogosphere, the Wikipedia article on ES&S was drastically truncated, shortened and reduced to approximately one quarter of its former length. The following passage on its proud Republican pedigree was deleted entirely:

Republican Senator Chuck Hagel disclosed in public documents that he was the Chairman of American Information Systems and claimed between a $1 to 5 million investment in the McCarthy Group. In 1997, American Information Systems purchased Business Records Corp. (BRC), formerly Texas-based election company Cronus Industries, to become ES&S. One of the BRC owners was Carolyn Hunt of the right-wing Hunt oil family, which supplied much of the original money for the Council on National Policy.

In 1996, Hagel became the first elected Republican Nebraska senator in 24 years when he did surprisingly well in an election where the votes were verified by the company he served as chairman and maintained a financial investment. In both the 1996 and 2002 elections, Hagel's ES&S counted an estimated 80% of his winning votes. Due to the contracting out of services, confidentiality agreements between the State of Nebraska and the company kept this matter out of the public eye. Hagel's first election victory was described as a "stunning upset" by one Nebraska newspaper.

The seminal corporation in ES&S's origin was bankrolled by Chuck Hagel and the oil-rich Hunt family who have a reputation for funding right-wing causes. Source Watch, the highly reputed media monitor, describes Hunt Oil Company as one of the major donors behind the political careers of the various members of the Bush family.

Not only does ES&S represent a potential threat to the integrity of American elections by veering beyond the pale of constitutional commitments to capitalism, this development represents the formal robotification of democracy. A robotic monopoly will now control three-quarters of ballot integrity in the United States of America.

When Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson contemplated a democratic form of government, they never conceived that their vision might be placed in the hands of partisan capitalists prepared to install programmable robots as the ultimate custodians of democracy.

From their high seats on Mount Democracy, Franklin and Jefferson weep for America. If there was ever a monopoly in American history that deserved to be broken up, it is ES&S. In his day, Teddy Roosevelt stood up against big business and busted trusts and monopolies.

To his already lengthy agenda of historical tests that stretches from tax reform, economic rejuvenation, wars in the Middle East to a broken foreign policy, President Obama now faces a uniquely monopolistic monstrosity - a robotic ballot-tallying monopoly.