Salon magazine reported Tuesday Hart Intercivic's ties to the Republican presidential nominee first popped up last month on the Ohio website Free Press, which reported a key investor in Hart was HIG Capital.
Seven HIG Capital directors are former employees of Bain & Co., where Romney was chief executive officer before leaving in 1984 to found Bain Capital. HIG Capital, which has contributed $338,000 to the Romney campaign this year, announced its investment in Hart a month after Romney formally entered the presidential race, Salon said.
The Nation reported HIG Capital has ties to the Romney family through private equity firm Solamere, which has invested in HIG and is run by Romney's son, Tagg.
Hart Intercivic spokesman Peter Lichtenheld told Salon while HIG is a major investor, "it has nothing to do with management at Hart."
"We don't want the perception that we have some political agenda," Lichtenheld said. "We are in the election business and integrity is paramount."
Salon also noted a 2007 study commissioned by the state of Ohio found Hart Intercivic's voting system does a poor job when it comes to protecting the integrity of elections. The study found the Hart system allowed unauthorized individuals to gain access to memory cards and "easily tamper" with core voting data.
"The vulnerabilities and features of the system work in concert to provide 'numerous opportunities to manipulate election outcomes or cast doubt on legitimate election activities ... virtually every ballot, vote, election result and audit log is forge-able or otherwise manipulatable by an attacker with even brief access to the voting systems,'" the study concluded.
Lichtenheld said Hart's system has not been upgraded to address the concerns. He downplayed the concerns, saying the evaluators "were given unfettered access" so "they had all the time in the world and didn't have to worry about security breaches."
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