Why did Giuliani, Powell, and Fox News pick on Smartmatic?

Smartmatic is a software company that works with election systems. They became the target of a systematic campaign by Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sydney Powell and Fox News personalities Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo, and Jeanine Pirro, who accused the company of rigging the votes in order to enable Joe Biden to win. The puzzling thing is Smartmatic’s only involvement in the election was in Los Angeles county where there was never any need to to fraudulently aid Biden to win since California was assured. So why pick on this company? The answer may be that its founder Antonio Mujica is originally from Venezuela. Aha! There was the smoking gun!

On that flimsy basis this bunch of loonies spun their fantastic yarn of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, George Soros, and the international Communist movement working to steal the election from Trump. Smartmatic has had enough and, like the Dominion Voting Systems company that manufactures voting machines who were also accused by this crew of stealing the election, they have initiated a massive $2.7 billion lawsuit against these five people as well as Fox News and its parent Fox Corporation.

The baseless conspiracy theories peddled about Smartmatic, which mimicked those pushed against Dominion, falsely suggested that the company’s technology was used throughout the country and allowed the November vote to be rigged against Trump.

Some strains of the conspiracy theory pushed on Fox aimed to tie the company to the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez. Other strains suggested that Dominion used Smartmatic’s voting software in swing states and that votes were exported out of the country to be tabulated; both assertions were false and Smartmatic pointed out in its lawsuit that it doesn’t work with Dominion as the two companies are competitors.

Smartmatic’s lawyer, J. Erik Connolly, told CNN Business that the case is one of the most “straightforward” he has ever seen. Connolly, who secured one of the largest defamation settlements ever in the “pink slime” case against ABC News, told CNN Business that because Smartmatic’s role in the 2020 general election was limited to providing services to Los Angeles County, he could easily prove all the conspiracy theories false.

“By being able to say Smartmatic was in Los Angeles County and nowhere else, I’ve been able to prove a lie of everything they essentially said with one salient fact,” Connolly told CNN. “I’ve been doing this for a long time and that might be one of the easiest ways to demonstrate falsity that I’ve ever had.”

The filing itself is a doozy. Just the introduction alone is something to savor, because it is no the kind of thing you normally see in legal documents in how they portray the sheer recklessness with which they propagated flat-out lies.

  1. The Earth is round. Two plus two equals four. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the 2020 election for President and Vice President of the United States. The election was not stolen, rigged, or fixed. These are facts. They are demonstrable and irrefutable.
  2. Defendants have always known these facts. They knew Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the 2020 U.S. election. They knew the election was not stolen. They knew the election was not rigged or fixed. They knew these truths just as they knew the Earth is round and two plus two equals four.
  3. Defendants did not want Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to win the election. They wanted President Donald Trump and Vice President Michael Pence to win re-election. Defendants were disappointed. But they also saw an opportunity to capitalize on President Trump’s popularity by inventing a story. Defendants decided to tell people that the election was stolen from President Trump and Vice President Pence.
  4. Defendants had an obvious problem with their story. They needed a villain. They needed someone to blame. They needed someone whom they could get others to hate. A story of good versus evil, the type that would incite an angry mob, only works if the storyteller provides the audience with someone who personifies evil.
  5. Without any true villain, Defendants invented one. Defendants decided to make Smartmatic the villain in their story. Smartmatic is an election technology and software company. It was incorporated in Delaware and its U.S. operations are headquartered in Florida. In the 2020 U.S. election, Smartmatic provided election technology and software in Los Angeles County. Nowhere else. Smartmatic had a relatively small, non-controversial role in the 2020 U.S. election.
  6. Those facts would not do for Defendants. So, the Defendants invented new ones. In their story, Smartmatic was a Venezuelan company under the control of corrupt dictators from socialist countries. In their story, Smartmatic’s election technology and software were used in many of the states with close outcomes. And, in their story, Smartmatic was responsible for stealing the 2020 election by switching and altering votes to rig the election for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
  7. Having invented their story, and created their villain, Defendants set about spreading the word. In November and December 2020, Fox News broadcasted thirteen (13) reports stating and implying that Smartmatic had stolen the 2020 U.S. election. They repeated the story in articles and social media postings. Night after night, publication after publication, Fox News reached out to its millions of viewers and readers around the world with a story: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris did not win the 2020 election; Smartmatic stole the election for them.
  8. Defendants’ story evolved over time as they claimed evidence had come to their attention supporting the story.

  9. Millions of individuals who saw and read Defendants’ reports believed them to be true. Smartmatic and its officers began to receive hate mail and death threats. Smartmatic’s clients and potential clients began to panic. The company’s reputation for providing transparent, auditable, and secure election technology and software was irreparably harmed. Overnight, Smartmatic went from an under-the-radar election technology and software company with a track record of success to the villain in Defendants’ disinformation campaign.
  10. Smartmatic’s loss was Defendants’ gain. Fox News used the story to preserve its grip on viewers and readers and curry favors with the outgoing administration – one of their anchors was even able to get a pardon for her ex-husband. Ms. Powell used the story to raise money and enrich herself. Mr. Giuliani used the story to guarantee himself a flow of funds from the sitting President and to sell products. Defendants knew the story could not change the outcome of the election. It could, and did, make them money.
  11. The story, of course, did more than just make Defendants’ money and jeopardize Smartmatic’s survival. The story undermined people’s belief in democracy. The story turned neighbor against neighbor. The story led a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol. Defendants started a fire for selfish and financial reasons and they cared not the damage their story caused to Smartmatic, its officers and employees, and the country.
  12. With this action, Smartmatic says: Enough. Facts matter. Truth matters. Defendants engaged in a conspiracy to spread disinformation about Smartmatic. They lied. And they did so knowingly and intentionally. Smartmatic seeks to hold them accountable for those lies and for the damage that their lies have caused.

It is a pretty good summary of what happened after the election.

You may recall that Dobbs, Bartiromo, and Pirro all put on the identical odd, stilted interview with an anonymous interviewer of a computer expert Eddie Perez challenging their claims.

It was clearly something that had been ordered by Fox lawyers alarmed by the possibility of lawsuits. They will now try to use that clip to argue that their coverage was ‘fair and balanced’ and also claim that they are ‘opinion’ shows that should not be held to the standard of news. Let’s see if the court buys that.

Now it appears that Fox Business News has canceled Dobbs’s show.

Will Bartiromo and Pirro be next?


  1. flex says

    The Earth is round. Two plus two equals four.

    Give Giuliani, Powell and Fox News time, they’ll contest these facts too.

  2. consciousness razor says

    I know this isn’t the main story here, and I’m sure it’s not about to make headlines…. But can we just take a minute to notice how bizarre it is that we’ve privatized our voting systems?

    Seriously, what the fuck is that about? Since when is that not a job for the government? If they don’t ever plan to cancel elections — let’s hope not — then there will always be a need for such things. Maybe it’s worth saying that it’s not that I’ve got anything against Smartmatic specifically (or Dominion, etc.). It’s the general idea of ever doing anything like this which is utterly bonkers.

  3. billseymour says

    consciousness razor @3:  I’m not sure which government agency I’d want in charge of creating secure voting systems.  It would have to be independent of the executive branch somehow, which probably means some new department.

    Maybe Marcus Ranum could take this up on stderr.  It’s a safe bet that he can think about this much more clearly than I can.

  4. DonDueed says

    I’ve read through (much of) Smartmatic’s complaint. IANAL, but it looks pretty solid to me. The plea for relief names that huge number of 2.7b (minimum!), but it’s well justified — LA County was their showpiece for US elections and it went very well, but nobody wants to do business with them now. They ask for a jury trial, which could result in even higher penalties.

    The attorneys who wrote the filing must be pretty confident, as they loaded the complaint with snarky little comments. When describing an affidavit that was presented in one of Sydney Powell’s lawsuits, they point out that two events at different times could not have happened “barring the invention of time travel”.

    It was kind of a hoot to go through it. I can’t wait to see Powell, Giuliani, and Fox get their comeuppance. Sadly, I imagine the thing will be settled quietly — I can’t imagine any of the defendants would want to go to trial. They’d get humiliated.

  5. Rob Grigjanis says

    cr @3:

    But can we just take a minute to notice how bizarre it is that we’ve privatized our voting systems?

    Take as long as you want, but nobody who’s been observing your country would be at all surprised. It’s no more bizarre than your obscene heath care system, or your gun laws.

  6. Rob Grigjanis says

    Health, not heath, but I doubt your shrubland habitat care has been that great recently either.

  7. Reginald Selkirk says

    This is a civil suit. I wonder if there is a possibility of criminal charges. Obtaining money through false pretenses is fraud. If they settle the civil suit, it could be viewed as admission of guilt.
    IANAL, of course.

  8. Ridana says

    The defendants will of course want to settle it quietly, but Smartmatic and Dominion clearly do not. They need a very public victory to save their businesses, if they can even be saved at this point. This will definitely see a courtroom.
    I think it’s even more bizarre and appalling that we’ve privatized half of our prison system, though it looks like Biden might be doing something about that.

  9. lanir says

    I would imagine the calculus that went into the decision at Fox to go ahead with this was pretty simple. Look at the bottom line of the companies they were villainizing. Fox already knows it can afford lawyers because it has to -- it’s an awful place to work with sexual harrassment sounding like a pretty commonplace occurrence. You need lawyers to back that sort of nonsense up or you get hammered with legal problems and drummed out of business. Fox has not gone out of business so they have lawyers on tap. They chose to use them here and probably felt like they could just intimidate a much smaller company into avoiding legal fees.

    They may still feel like they can do that. And they might not be wrong. It really depends on how committed Dominion and Smartmatic are to salvaging their names. Fox may think a quick payday for those companies will cause their execs to get greedy and cash out. Remember that even execs at smaller companies like these tend to fail upwards. And the substantial damages sought here are probably not unreasonable considering the damage to these company’s future growth potential done by Fox. They might even be a bit too conservative. So Fox is betting that the people making the decisions will choose based on short term greed rather than stay with it for the long term growth of their company as Ridana pointed out above.

  10. says

    Maybe Marcus Ranum could take this up on stderr. It’s a safe bet that he can think about this much more clearly than I can.

    I’ve already commented on that, namely that I believe the US government should license David Chaum’s patents on electronic voting, which -- collectively -- dominate that space; you can’t really do good secure e-voting without paying Chaum. So, we’re not talking F-35 money, and he has solved a great deal of interesting problems in that domain.

    The US government doesn’t WANT good voting machines. Especially not in the south. That is quite obvious.

    Yes, we should have a government capability for doing e-voting that is consistent and verifiable. Can you see something like that passing? Oddly, the republicans, who are all up in arms about vote fraud, wouldn’t support anything like that, right now. How mysterious.

  11. Snarlymon says

    I find it fascinating that there has been little interest in ES&S voting machines that seem to have handed Maine, North Carolina, and Kentucky to Senate Republicans by large margins despite the candidates having very poor approval ratings. It’s almost as if the outlandish claims Sydney and Rudy were making about Dominion and Smartmatic distracted ES&S from scrutiny since calling their machines into question would lend credence to the idea that voting machines could be hacked. Yet ES&S has a very poor record of reliability and auditablility. I hope that the Dems will consider passing minimum standards for all electronic voting machines, including an auditable paper trail. For more info check out this article https://www.dcreport.org/2020/12/31/ess-voting-systems-a-friend-to-republicans/

  12. says

    Millions of individuals who saw and read Defendants’ reports believed them to be true.

    I question the lawsuit’s use of the word “reports”, which some might take to infer it was “news”. Broadcasts is a better term for the Fox Nuisance shows. “Professional wrestling” is also a broadcast, and just as believable.

    consciousness razor (#3) --

    I know this isn’t the main story here, and I’m sure it’s not about to make headlines…. But can we just take a minute to notice how bizarre it is that we’ve privatized our voting systems?

    A country that privatized its income tax filing along with much of its health care, prisons, and education system? It’s not the least bit bizarre that one form of corruption and profiteering appears elsewhere.

    billseymour (#4) --

    I’m not sure which government agency I’d want in charge of creating secure voting systems. It would have to be independent of the executive branch somehow, which probably means some new department.

    Why does it not shock that a country which used “butterfly ballots” can’t and won’t use paper ballots marked with an “X”? The US has TWO MONTHS between elections and inauguration yet demands final results within five minutes of the polls closing.

    Meanwhile, functional democracies can count and recount handmarked paper ballots and then swear in a government, all within a week.

  13. Holms says

    #12 robertbaden
    The problem is that public agencies can’t really check the software due to “trade secrets.”

    That’s the secondary problem; the primary problem is that voting was privatised.

  14. Reginald Selkirk says

    @19 “Broadcasts”

    In the world of television, that word has specific meaning, for stations that go over the air via radio waves rather than through a cable.

  15. says

    The problem is that public agencies can’t really check the software due to “trade secrets.”

    That’s not correct. Public agencies can negotiate contractually for right to review systems, architecture, or even source code. For example, Microsoft cheerfully provided the Chinese government Windows source code when China threatened to block product sales until it could be reviewed. The same applies with voting machines and software -- but the state agencies aren’t interested in making the effort because they don’t want good voting machines.

    Some voting machine companies would be difficult to negotiate reviews with, e.g.: Diebold -- whose machines have consistently been hacked to bits by Avi Rubin’s team at JHU and rando hackers at DEFCON. They like to insist they fix all the bugs and that’s good enough for state agencies.

    My take is it’s not a conspiracy -- it’s that they know they bought a pig in a poke and don’t want to have to admit their incompetence.

  16. brucegee1962 says

    Yes, that’s another question for Marcus — wouldn’t it make sense for voting software to be open source, so that everybody could check for bugs and exploits?

  17. KG says

    Smartmatic pointed out in its lawsuit that it doesn’t work with Dominion as the two companies are competitors.

    Ah! Ah-ha-ha-hah! But both companies are suing the same people!! Coincidence???? I think not!!!!!!!

  18. says

    wouldn’t it make sense for voting software to be open source, so that everybody could check for bugs and exploits?

    More important would be for design documents and architecture descriptions to be published. Think of that as the road-map, and the source code as having to search through all the mailboxes on all the streets. It’s good to be able to do that, too, but the road-map will tell you where the data goes and where to look.

    Open source would make sense. The patents I keep spouting about, by David Chaum, are computational processes that are pretty simple. The patents, in my earlier description, are the road-map, and then the implementation can be checked against that. Open source would be good, but it would also mean anyone could make a fake voting machine pretty easily. That’s not a big problem but it’s a consideration. The total system architecture matters: back-haul networks, storing servers, summarizing processes, databases (if used), ingestion processes, then network security architecture and platform security. It doesn’t matter if you are using clever algorithms if you’re running on Windows XP.

    An open source vote collecting system is the kind of thing a team of security architects (waves hand!) could design in a month, meeting every day in a room with caffeine and whiteboards. Then, we’d go write up the architecture design and implementation road-map along with caution points (“the ingestion process needs to check the integrity of incoming data before ingesting anything” etc) after that, I’d hire Margaret Hamilton’s consulting firm to go over the architecture and identify check-points that would indicate the process was working correctly. And after that, I’d have someone spec the functional APIs and have one team design regression test-harnesses (with input from Hamilton or Hamilton-style analysis) and the other team implement the functional code. Given an F-35-style budget, there’d be 2 implementations and a test harness, and the system could be constructed from parallel implementations and cross-check itself. If you recall how the space shuttle’s computers worked there were 2 different implementations that expected the same result and if either one started producing different results it would take itself loudly offline.

    I would also specify that the software had to boot on bare metal using a secure BIOS boot, and ran without an operating system that could interfere with it. I.e.: the endpoint system wouldn’t do much more than collect votes, timestamp and hash them into sequential hashes, and write them to a USB device that would get offloaded by a processing/summarizing node.

    I could go on all day about this and the end result would be an architecture for an open source voting machine. 🙂 And it’d be boring as sanctity (not sin!) so I won’t go on.

    The point is, it can be done. But the US doesn’t want it done. Why not? You’d have to tell me but I suspect it has something to do with republican voter suppression operations.

  19. jrkrideau says

    @ 9 Rob Grigjanis
    I doubt your shrubland habitat care has been that great recently either.

    Even Trump complained that they were not sweeping the forest floor.

  20. jenorafeuer says

    As others have pointed out above, other countries, including Canada, don’t even use voting machines for the federal elections, because everything is done using a single paper ballot with a single ‘X’ on it, easy enough to hand-count. We have a separate non-partisan government agency whose primary purpose is to run the elections, they would technically report to the Governor-General rather than the Prime Minister (so the ceremonial head rather than the functional leader) and they hire a whole bunch of people to count ballots with their budget.

    Of course, part of the reason we can do this here is that we don’t have things like ‘Dog catcher’ or ‘District Attorney’ or ‘Judge’ on the ballots: the ballot is just for the local Member of Parliament, and whichever party has the most Pembers of Parliament gets the first crack at forming the government. (So, yeah, our Prime Minister is technically like the U.S. House Majority Leader. Well, aside from us having five parties in Parliament, so it’s not always a majority.)

    And some of the big questions from up here would be… why the hell did anybody think it was a good idea to have elected judges or prosecuting attorneys? Half the reason the American elections are so bloody complicated is that they elect people that in pretty much no other democracy are elected. Because a District Attorney who uses his successful prosecution record as a campaign point is already an attack on a functional society. He’s obviously more concerned with making sure someone gets put in prison rather than necessarily the right person. That attitude is bad enough in police officers; when the officers of the court have it as well… well, that attitude and a number of landmark court cases are a good chunk of why Canada no longer has the death penalty.

  21. John Morales says

    … because everything is done using a single paper ballot with a single ‘X’ on it, easy enough to hand-count

    On the white Senate ballot paper, you need to either:
    * number at least six boxes above the line for the parties or groups of your choice, or
    * number at least 12 boxes below the line for individual candidates of your choice.


  22. prl says

    @John Morales, @jenorafeuer

    It’s not only in the Australian Senate where it’s not a simple “X” to vote. The House of Representatives ballot is also a preferential/single transferable pen (or pencil) on paper ballot.

    However, the outcome of the Reps election is still usually clear on the day of the election by about 10pm Australian Eastern Time, though most electorates won’t have a formal declaration of the results then, and there definitely won’t have been any recounts in that time frame. Government is formed in Reps, so it’s usually clear, though not official, who will form government by the close of counting on election day.

    The final outcome of the Senate vote isn’t usually known until several days after the election. Its counting mechanism is more complicated than for Reps, including transfers of fractional votes.

    IMO, the most important differences between the way Australia conducts federal elections and US federal elections is that the elections are carried out entirely under federal law, conducted by a federal government agency that is generally seen as fair and independent, and the rules for the election are the same across all states and territories. My understanding is that Canada has similar arrangements.

  23. prl says

    @KG Not invented in America, therefore doesn’t even come into consideration.

    Receiving a pre-printed ballot in exchange for having your identity checked against an electoral roll, marking it in private and having it counted anonymously is an Australian invention (and is sometimes referred to as an “Australian ballot”), and it has become quite widely adopted, even in parts of the USA 😉


  24. says

    why the hell did anybody think it was a good idea to have elected judges or prosecuting attorneys?

    Did you see the way a bunch of politicians just packed the US Supreme Court? That’s why. Maybe there is some hope that democratic processes aren’t worse.

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