- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 27, 2003

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has asked state ethics officials to investigate a well-known lobbyist with ties to competing interests in the decision over whether touch-screen election machines should be used by the state.

Mr. Ehrlich’s aides said they learned last week that lobbyist Gilbert Genn is registered to lobby for the maker of the machines as well as a firm hired by the governor to study the security of the machines.

Mr. Genn said he has not received any money from the firm that conducted the study since 2000, when he worked on an unrelated matter.

The firm, Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), found serious flaws in the voting system made by Diebold Election Systems, but state officials say they believe the problems can be fixed before the March presidential primary.

The state plans to spend $55.6 million for the Diebold touch-screen technology.

“We did not know about his representation of both clients,” said Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell. “We wish that that had been disclosed.”

Mr. Genn and officials with the two companies said they did not believe the relationships, disclosed in filings with the ethics commission, are a problem.

“There was no conflict because there was nothing being done” for SAIC, Mr. Genn said.

Suzanne S. Fox, executive director of the state ethics commission, refused to comment specifically on the situation, but said it generally is the responsibility of lobbyists to make clear whom they represent in dealings with state officials.

James Browning, executive director of Common Cause/Maryland, said he uncovered Mr. Genn’s connections while researching the issue.

Mr. Browning said he also found Diebold and SAIC are members of the Information Technology Association of America’s Information Security Committee, which works to improve public perception of electronic voting.

Bill Owens, a former SAIC president, also sits on the board of VoteHere Inc., which also provides electronic-voting systems, he said.

“There are not many degrees of separation between these voting machine companies,” Mr. Browning said. “There can be no virgin birth here. Only insiders will know how the software works.”

The Diebold machines have been under scrutiny since a study was released in July by Johns Hopkins researcher Avi Rubin that said the Diebold machines were vulnerable to attack by hackers.

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