Pennsylvania's elected auditor says officials in 18 of the 67 counties reported accepting gifts, meals or trips from firms competing to sell new voting machines ahead of the 2020 elections.
Dominion Voting
Pennsylvania's elected auditor says officials in 18 of the 67 counties reported accepting gifts, meals or trips from firms competing to sell new voting machines ahead of the 2020 elections.

Democratic Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Friday that accepting the gifts is wrong, even if officials took no action in return.

DePasquale says the gifts included expense-paid travel to destinations including Las Vegas, tickets to a wine festival and distillery tour, dinners at high-end restaurants, tickets to an amusement park and an open bar at a conference for elections officials.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is pressing counties to buy voting machines with voter-auditable paper backups ahead of the 2020 election.

That's after federal authorities said Russian hackers targeted at least 21 states during 2016's presidential election, including Pennsylvania.

According to the Auditor General's website, 4 of the 18 counties named are in our region:

Cambria County

The report said officials attended vendor-sponsored luncheons and dinners during county election conferences.

Shirley Crowl, Director of Elections, said meals are generally a part of any conference and no one accepted more than the ethics limit of $250.

Elk County

The Auditor General said they accepted lunch from Election Systems & Software on April 25, 2018, and lunch from Dominion on May 24, 2018.

Janis Kemmer, Elk County Commissioner, said their solicitor found the meals to be above board and are cooperating with the Auditor General.

Clearfield County

The report said the county accepted dinners and lunches from ES&S and Dominion.

John Sobel, Clearfield County Commissioner, said everything was within the exceptions and the meals will not factor into the county's decision.

Cameron County

Per the Auditor General, "At a 2016 conference in State College, attended a Dominion-sponsored dinner at a local restaurant; Dominion provided transportation to a wine tour of the area and paid entry to a private tour of a local distillery; at a 2017 conference in Harrisburg, ES&S paid for transportation to and meal at a high-end restaurant; at a 2018 conference in Pittsburgh, accepted from Dominion a meal, transportation, and tour of a museum; in September 2018, ES&S held an equipment demonstration and took board of elections and staff to lunch at a restaurant; Dominion paid for lunch at another 2018 equipment demonstration; ES&S provided boxes of chocolate-covered pretzels; ES&S sometimes provides lunch at annual conferences for those who attend its luncheon meetings."

Lori Reed, Chairperson of the Cameron County Board of Commissioners, said they answered the request truthfully and today's release is being blown out of proportion. Reed said that nothing that was done is anything different from what is done at any other conference or luncheon, though the county will begin immediately accounting for anything from anyone they receive.

DePasquale said he has reason to think that at least some recipients may not have disclosed gifts as required, and is referring those matters to the State Ethics Commission for review. He added Pennsylvania needs a tougher law barring all state, county and local government employees from accepting gifts.

Katina Granger, Public Relations Manager for ES&S said in a statement,
The success of ES&S is firmly grounded on the outstanding performance of equipment during thousands of elections over the last 40 years. An ES&S value is operating "above the line," which means we hold ourselves accountable to ethical, honest and productive behavior in every interaction, whether it's within our company or with our valued customers.
A spokesperson for Dominion also denied any wrongdoing.

Dominion Voting Systems is proud to be working with county officials to provide the voters of Pennsylvania with the most modern, accessible and secure equipment on the market today. We fully comply with Pennsylvania law, to include ethics and disclosure laws for companies doing business with elected officials in the Commonwealth. We have provided no gifts to individual election officials that would be of the reportable nature or amount that the Auditor General has referenced. We commend the officials who are working to ensure a transparent and fair process for selecting voting systems to serve the public, and we pledge full cooperation regarding any Ethics Commission questions as to the appropriateness of our expenditures at public or professional events.

Source: Associated Press