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Currently run by Michael P. McCarthy, the McCarthy Group is a venture capital and long-term investment banking firm throughout most of America. While this in itself does not make the company particularly newsworthy, its connections to big business, the Republican Party, and perhaps most importantly, voting technology, demands that it be viewed with more scrutiny.

Ok, so a long time ago when voting machines first became popular in America, a number of companies stepped up to the challenge of designing, programming, and instituting technology to smooth out the voting process. One of these companies was Data Mark, which later branched off a subsidiary, American Information Systems. Throughout the early 1970s and into the 1980s, these companies operated relatively independently of each other (though many of the same executives worked for both companies), competitive but not overly so, since government contracts ensured that all were paid handsomely for their efforts. The first signs of impropriety occurred in the system when Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel won his seat in 1996, while he was currently CEO of American Information Systems, the same company that provided the machines he was voted into office with. His campaign treasurer? Michael McCarthy.

While no tampering or wrongdoing was ever discovered, Hagel stepped down from his executive position, replaced by Mark Urosevich, a former CEO of Data Mark. At the same time, AIS underwent a largely cosmetic name change to Election Systems & Software. Their primary owner remained the McCarthy Group, overseen by McCarthy, whose ties to the Republican party extended well beyond merely helping out his buddy Hagel's campaign. The McCarthy Group also owns large pieces of several Republican-backed firms, including Halliburton, The Williams Company, and the Ahmanson Group, a group particularly noted less for its finances than its politics - Howard Ahmanson, the founder of the group, is a Christian reconstructionist, believing America should revert to a theocracy in order to save itself from destruction.

In 1997, the McCarthy Group entered into a joint trust with Omaha World-Herald for ownership of ES&S. Interestingly, World Marketing Incorporated, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Omaha World-Herald, is one of the primary investors in the McCarthy Group. The cycle continues ...

On a personal note, as a student at the George Bush School of Government and Public Policy at Texas A&M University (headed by Robert Gates, former CIA director and long-time member of the Council for National Policy, far-right think tank of the Reagan administration), I get to meet a lot of captivating and interesting conservative speakers who make their way to special conferences here. From Dan Quayle to Newt Gingrich to the former President himself, they've all come down and given a speech or two and done Q&A with us political science students. These occasions are usually pretty stiff and formal, and certainly nobody threw any "potatoe" jokes at the former Veep when he was here. There was one exception to this: P.E. Esping.

Esping is a businessman from Dallas who was here to discuss new corporate laws and their effect on the economy (long story short: business is good). But apparently (and unbeknownst to me) Esping used to be CEO of Business Records Corporation, which was bought up in 1997 during the Election Systems & Software trust deal. This company, owned by Cronus Industries (the main money of the Hunt oil company - needless to say, this all gets convoluted rather quickly, but trust me, it's a lot of money and it's conservative to the core.) and thus Esping had direct contact with the (ultimately secretive) owners and executives of the Omaha World-Herald, ES&S, and the McCarthy Group. One inflamed member of the crowd began throwing all kinds of accusations at Esping, asking how much it would cost "to buy a vote" and "who owns the voting machines" and all sorts of vitriol. Esping laughed nervously at first, but apparently his Texas pride got the best of him, and he spewed back some really banal but interesting comments about fighting "liberalism at all fronts" and whatnot. After the spectator had been (rightfully) removed for interrupting the proceedings, Esping made a very simple but chilling comment: "Lucky for us that THOSE people don't own the voting machines."

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