Rick Ungar and the How-Romney-Stole-Ohio Non-Conspiracy

by Charles C. W. Cooke

A man named Rick Ungar, who provides Forbes with “writing from the left,” has concocted an interesting conspiracy theory that is doing the rounds among low-information progressives and causing quite a stir in the process. It’s called: “Romney Family Investment Ties To Voting Machine Company That Could Decide The Election Causing Concern,” which, although not particularly snappy, is a leftist’s SEO dream at the very least.

Most conspiracy theories provide poor explanations for events that have actually happened. Not this one. Innovatively, Ungar lays the ground for his by painting a picture of an eventuality that not only hasn’t yet occured, but which his impressive imagination (he is the mind behind the Biker Mice from Mars) has fashioned out of whole cloth:

It’s 3:00 a.m. on November 7, 2012.

With the painfully close presidential election now down to who wins the battleground state of Ohio, no network dares to call the race and risk repeating the mistakes of 2000 when a few networks jumped the gun on picking a winner.

As the magic boards used by the networks go ‘up close and personal’ on every county in the Buckeye State, word begins to circulate that there might be a snafu with some electronic voting machines in a number of Cincinnati based precincts. There have already been complaints that broken machines were not being quickly replaced in precincts that tend to lean Democratic and now, word is coming in that there may be some software issues.

Why, one might ask, might this happen? Is Ungar privy to some special information? Has he uncovered a plot? Is there widespread concern about electronic voting machines in Cincinnati? No, not really. Still, this doesn’t deter him: Having created his scandal, he illustrates how future Rick Ungar types might crack the case: 

A quick Internet search reveals that there may be reason for concern.

Ah, the good ol’ ”quick internet search.” Also known as the, “I’ve Had a Look on Google and, Well, How Can Fire Melt Steel?” approach to inquisition. What, pray, does this quick search throw up?:

A test conducted in 2007 by the Ohio Secretary of State revealed that five of the electronic voting systems the state was looking to use in the upcoming 2008 presidential election had failed badly, each easily susceptible to chicanery that could alter the results of an election.

As reported in the New York Times, “At polling stations, teams working on the study were able to pick locks to access memory cards and use hand-held devices to plug false vote counts into machines. At boards of election, they were able to introduce malignant software into servers.”

We learn that one of the companies whose machines had failed was none other than Hart Intercivic.

#more#Okay, computers are fallible. This is true. They are sometimes programmed — nay, have to be programmed — by people, who are also fallible. This is also true. (An aside: It’s funny how the “pro-science” Left is routinely suspicious of technology, while the “neanderthal” Right has embraced it.) Well, so what? In a criminal trial, this would be the point at which the prosecutor was obliged to present what the old-fashioned among us consider vital to any accusation: Evidence. Specifically, evidence that the voting machines are problematic, or that Mitt Romney has a plan to tinker with them. Instead — perhaps because he doesn’t have any such evidence — Ungar takes the Michael Moore approach, constructing a tangled web of insinuation that is tailor-made for already fevered minds:

It turns out that Hart Intercivic is owned, in large part, by H.I.G. Capital—a large investment fund with billions of dollars under management—that was founded by a fellow named Tony Tamer. While is is unclear just how much H.I.G. owns of Hart Intercivic, we do learn that H.I.G. employees hold at least two of the five Hart Intercivic board seats

Tony Tamer, H.I.G.’s founder, turns out to be a major bundler for the Mitt Romney campaign,  along with three other directors of H.I.G. who are also big-time money raisers for Romney.

Indeed, as fate would have it, two of those directors—Douglas Berman and Brian Schwartz— were actually in attendance at the now infamous “47 percent” fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida.

With that news, voters everywhere start to get this queasy feeling in the pits of their stomach.

To everyone’s amazement, we learn that two members of the Hart Intercivic board of directorsNeil Tuch and Jeff Bohl, have made direct contributions to the Romney campaign. This, despite the fact that they represent 40 percent of the full board of directors of a company whose independent, disinterested and studiously non-partisan status in any election taking place on their voting machines would seemingly be a ‘no brainer’.

“To everyone’s amazement”? Hardly. Ungar’s entire hypothesis relies upon a seven-degrees-of-separation argument that takes five or six paragraphs to explain, and which demonstrates only that, if you squint hard enough, Mitt Romney is connected in some way or another to some of the people who make some of the voting machines that may or may not be used in Ohio. As if this weren’t bad enough, Ungar then pulls out the “I’m Not Saying It Is True, But There’s Just Something Odd About It” card, by which, having laid out an absurd and flimsy conspiracy theory, he pretends that he’s not laying out an absurd and flimsy conspiracy theory:

And while I am not suggesting conspiracies or that anyone would get involved in any foul play here, most particularly the GOP candidate for President, how is it possible that so many people could exercise so much bad judgment?

Right. He continues:

The sanctity of voting in America is supposed to be one of our most important virtues. So concerned are we with a ‘clean’ process that James O’Keefe has made a career entrapping, video taping and destroying those sympathetic to Democratic Party candidates and causes who cross the line when it comes to the voting process. And that’s just fine. If Mr. O’Keefe can legitimately expose someone engaging in voter fraud, he most certainly should call them out.

Yes, he should. As should Mr. Ungar, if he has any evidence of wrongdoing. We’re still waiting for it.