Voting Machine Smack-Down: Lobbyists Brawl
The city Board of Elections -- the last unabashed stronghold of political patronage - is poised to award the ultimate political contract. On Tuesday the board's ten political appointees - one each from each party in each borough -- will choose between two giant election machine companies that, for almost a decade, have been waging one of the great mud-wrestling matches of all time: the very profitable designation to provide new optical vote scanning devices as the old hand-lever machines are finally scrapped. Payout on the contract starts at $38 million and heads into the stratosphere from there.
As the Daily News' Errol Louis reports today, the behind-the-scenes battle between Election Systems & Software and Dominion Voting Sytems(a/k/a Sequoia Voting) is being carried on by highly-paid proxies, namely the city's most politically wired lobbyists. Dominion/Sequoia's bid is being led by the estimable Stanley Schlein, who was Mayor Bloomberg's pick as chairman of the Civil Service Commission until he was found to be using the place and staff as his private law office. Schlein has a nice inside edge at the board, thanks to his long-time friendship with board deputy director George Gonzalez, a Bronx pol who is so cheap that he was billing the elections board for his morning coffee until the News caught him at it last year. Also on board for Dominion is the powerhouse Greenberg Traurig law firm, as well as Brown, McMahon, Weinraub which includes a brother of congressman Michael McMahon.
Not to be outdone, ES&S has its own congressional brother on its team, John "Sean" Crowley of Davidoff Malito law firm and brother of Joe Crowley, who is not only a congressman but also head of the Queens Democratic Party (a major plus, since Queens Dems have their own commissioner on the board). Also pitching hard for ES&S is the team of Hank Sheinkopf and Norman Levy. Sheinkopf was considered a die-hard Democratic consultant/lobbyist but he went to pitch for Team Bloomberg in the last election. Levy is one of comptroller Bill Thompson's closest cronies.
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