Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) ) is an inter-agency committee of the United States Government that reviews the national security implications of foreign investments in U.S. companies or operations. It is composed of the leaders of 14 US government agencies involved in national security and commerce.
During the Obama administration CFIUS approved several controversial sales of American assets with national security implications. Among them were:
- See also: Uranium One bribery scandal
In 2010, CFIUS included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder, whose Justice Department and lead agency, the FBI, were conducting the investigation of Rosatom's ongoing U.S. racketeering, extortion, and money-laundering scheme.
Four senior House national security experts — Peter King (R., N.Y.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.), Spencer Bachus (R., Ala.), and Howard McKeon (R. Calif.) — voiced grave concerns, pointing out that Rosatom had helped Iran build its Bushehr nuclear reactor. The members concluded that “the take-over of essential US nuclear resources by a government-owned Russian agency . . . would not advance the national security interests of the United States.” Republican senator John Barrasso objected to Kremlin control of uranium assets in his state of Wyoming, warning of Russia's “disturbing record of supporting nuclear programs in countries that are openly hostile to the United States, specifically Iran and Venezuela.”
The Department of Justice's National Security Division (NSD) reviewed this transaction in consultation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and CFIUS agencies. In accordance with standard procedure, NSD evaluated the factors listed in section 721 of the Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended, and ultimately communicated to CFIUS the Department's clearance of this transaction.
On June 29, 2010, Bill Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech to Renaissance Capital in a pay-to-play bribery scam arranged by Sec. of State Hillary Clinton for State Dept. approval of Russian purchase of Uranium One, an American mining company. Clinton was thanked personally by Russian President Vladimir Putin after the speech. Renaissance Capital is a controlled entity of the Russian government. Bill & Hillary Clinton file joint taxes, are a joint economic unit, therefore any money received by one spouse is joint income to both spouses.
That same June Uranium One and Rosatom notified the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) of the Russian government's intent to acquire twenty percent of the United States’ uranium assets. In July Renaissance Bank of Moscow reportedly assigned Uranium One a “buy” rating, a move that would principally benefit its Russian investors. Later the Department of Justice investigation into Prevezon Holdings determined that $13 million from the crime that Sergei Magnitsky uncovered, exposed, and was killed over went to the bank accounts of Renaissance Capital in the United Kingdom.
On October 22, 2010 CFIUS certified to Congress the sale of Uranium One to Rosatom of the Russian Federation. No disclosure of Russian racketeering and strong-arm tactics was made to Congress — not by Secretary Clinton, Attorney General Holder, or President Obama.
Between August 28 and September 3, 2015 an FBI agent sent notification to preserve records to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; U.S. Dept. of Treasury; Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI James Clapper); National Counter Terrorism Center; and the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), the National Security Agency (NSA – Admiral Mike Rogers) the United States Secret Service (USSS); the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and the Department of Defense in relation to Hillary Clinton email scandal. All these are member agencies of the Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS) necessary to approve the Uranium One deal. During these notifications on August 31 Vadim Mikerin was allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge.
- See also: Dominion Election Systems
Smartmatic acquired Sequoia Voting Systems in 2005. Following this acquisition, Rep. Carolyn Maloney requested an investigation to determine whether the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) had followed correct processes to green-light sale of Sequoia to Smartmatic, which was described as having "possible ties to the Venezuelan government". The request was made after a March 2006 following issues in Chicago and Cook County, where a percentage of the machines involved were manufactured by Sequoia, and Sequoia provided technical assistance, some by a number of Venezuelan nationals flown in for the event.
Following the request, Smartmatic and Sequoia submitted a request to be reviewed by the CFIUS while also denying links to the Venezuelan government. The company disclosed that it was owned by Antonio Mugica (78.8%), Alfredo Anzola (3.87%), Roger Pinate (8.47%), Jorge Massa Dustou (5.97%) and employees (2.89%). Smartmatic subsequently sold Sequoia and later withdrew from Cook County in December 2006.
The Wall Street Journal wrote that "Smartmatic scrapped a simple corporate structure" of being based in Boca Raton "for a far more complex arrangement" of being located in multiple locations following the Sequoia incident. Though Smartmatic has made differing statements saying that they were either American or Dutch based, the United States Department of State stated that its Venezuelan owners "remain hidden behind a web of holding companies in the Netherlands and Barbados". The New York Times states that "the role of the young Venezuelan engineers who founded Smartmatic has become less visible" and that its organization is "an elaborate web of offshore companies and foreign trusts", while BBC News states that though Smartmatic says the company was founded in the United States, "its roots are firmly anchored in (Venezuela)". Multiple sources simply state that Smartmatic is a Venezuelan company. Smartmatic maintains that the holding companies in multiple countries are used for "tax efficiency".
In 2008, VoterAction, an activist group based in Massachusetts and Washington State, issued a public report “SEQUOIA VOTING SYSTEMS, INC. USES VOTE-COUNTING SOFTWARE DEVELOPED, OWNED, AND LICENSED BY FOREIGN-OWNED SMARTMATIC, A COMPANY LINKED TO THE VENEZUELAN GOVERNMENT OF HUGO CHÁVEZ”, where they noted:
|“U.S. national security is potentially at risk because software used to count votes in 20% of the country during U.S. elections is owned and controlled by a Venezuelan-run company with ties to the Venezuelan government of Hugo Chávez, which has been described as ‘the foremost meddler in foreign elections in the Western hemisphere.’ Foreign-owned and foreign-run Smartmatic’s control over vote counting software used in the voting machines of Sequoia Voting Systems… presents a potential national security risk now just as it did in 2006 when the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS”) opened an investigation of Smartmatic’s ownership of Sequoia. CFIUS is a U.S. government inter-agency committee led by the U.S. Department of Treasury that addresses national security risks posed by foreign ownership of or influence over U.S. business, including companies providing the means by which voters in the U.S. elect their President and Congressional Representatives. Rather than answer to CFIUS regarding the ultimate owners of the Smartmatic conglomerate and its ties to the Chávez government, an investment group led by Sequoia management reportedly bought Sequoia from Smartmatic in late 2007 under terms that were not made public. Since then, however, it has come to light that Smartmatic continues to own the software that counts the votes on Sequoia voting machines and licenses to Sequoia that software, which Smartmatic develops in Venezuela. Concern, now, is that Smartmatic’s sale of Sequoia “was fraudulent”, “a sham transaction designed to fool regulators.” Efforts to date have not succeeded in determining the ultimate owners of Smartmatic or the extent to which Smartmatic and the Chávez government of Venezuela have influence over U.S. elections through Smartmatic’s control of the software that counts votes for Sequoia voting machines…”|
- https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2017-10-12%20CEG%20to%20OSTP%20(Uranium%20One%20Follow%20up).pdf p.2 fn.4.
- Jo Becker and Mike McIntire, “Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation Amid Russian Uranium Deal,” THE NEW YORK TIMES(April 23, 2015).
- Senate Comm. on the Judiciary, Oversight of the Foreign Agents Registration Act and Attempts to Influence U.S. Elections: Lessons Learned from Current and Prior Administrations, Testimony from Mr. Bill Browder at 20-21 (July 27, 2017).
- CFIUS Certification to Congress, Case 10-40: Rosatom (Russian Federation)/Uranium One, Inc, (October 22, 2010).
- Hillary Clinton emails, FBI Vault, Part 15, page 7.
- "Voting Machine Firm Denies Chavez Ties", The Washington Post, 31 October 2006. “Bizta, a start-up technology company in Venezuela with some of the same owners as Smartmatic”
- Business Wire, 9 March 2005, Sequoia Voting Systems and Smartmatic Combine to Form Global Leader in Electronic Voting Solutions
- "Smartmatic es una empresa de "comercio riesgoso" y... defraudadora", La Crónica de Hoy, 1 December 2009. (es-MX)
- Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. Retrieved on 2 January 2018.
- ABC Local, 7 April 2006, Alderman: Election Day troubles could be part of 'international conspiracy'
- Voting-Machine Firm Denies Hugo Chavez Ties (2006-10-30).
- Voting Machine Company Vows No Connection to Venezuelan President Chavez (en).
- "Politics & Economics: Smartmatic to Shed U.S. Unit, End Probe Into Venezuelan Links", The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 22 December 2006.
- "US Caracas Embassy: 'Smartmatic is a riddle'", The Manila Times, 1 December 2015.
(7 February 2007) Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), One Year After Dubai Ports World: Congressional Hearing. Washington, D.C.: Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. ISBN 978-1422320471.
"Smartmatic faces probe", Philippine Daily Inquirer, 14 May 2016.
Belgian Region's Decision to Use New Voting Machines Reignites E-voting Debate|url=http://www.cio.com/article/2391971/e-voting/belgian-region-s-decision-to-use-new-voting-machines-reignites-e-voting-debate.html%7Cmagazine=CIO magazine|date=2012-09-24
- "Election officials OK with probe", The Chicago Tribune, 30 October 2006. (en)