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Family of Hugo Chavez does not own Dominion Voting Systems

December 1, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: The family of the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez owns 28% of the election technology company Dominion Voting Systems.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Dominion has been majority owned since 2018 by Staple Street Capital, a New York private equity firm. The company is privately held and does not disclose its financials, but Dominion CEO John Poulos said in an April letter to the House Committee on Administration that no investor besides himself or Staple Street Capital owns more than a 5% stake. As well, Dominion does not have any ties to Venezuela, according to Eddie Perez, a voting technology expert at the OSET Institute, a nonpartisan election technology research and development nonprofit. 

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THE FACTS: A video circulating widely on Facebook on Tuesday made false claims that attempted to link an election technology firm used in the 2020 election to Venezuelan politicians.

In the video, which has been shared more than 1,200 times, an Arizona man said he watched a Monday meeting held by President Donald Trump’s lawyers in Phoenix. At the meeting, Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis laid out claims of what they claimed were irregularities in the vote count in Arizona and elsewhere, but they did not provide evidence of widespread fraud. 

Citing statements from the meeting, the man in the video claimed Hugo Chavez’s family owns 28% of Dominion, whose equipment is used for voting and vote tabulation in more than 30 states.

“Hugo Chavez is dead, but his family owns this,” the man said. “It was his business. Dominion was started by him. The software company was started by him.”

That’s false. Dominion was founded in Canada, not Venezuela. Since 2018, it has had the same majority owner: Staple Street Capital. 

Dominion is privately held and does not disclose its financials. But in an April letter responding to a request by the House Committee on Administration, Poulos said Dominion is 75.2% owned by the New York-based private equity firm Staple Street Capital and that he, a Canadian citizen, holds a 12% stake. No other investor owns more than a 5% stake, he said.

Election security experts and Dominion spokespeople confirm the company has no ties to Venezuela, nor to the family of Chavez, who died in 2013.

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The man in the video made further dubious claims about the integrity of the election in Arizona, stating, for example, that election officials “did not signature verify 1.9 million Maricopa County ballots.”

The Maricopa County Elections Department refuted that claim in an email to The Associated Press, saying, “1.9 million voters cast an early ballot, and in doing so had to be signature verified.”

A three-tier process for signature verification of ballots is embedded in Arizona’s state law and election procedures, and took place in the 2020 election, Communications Director Megan Gilbertson said. 

The man in the video also said CIA Director Gina Haspel is dead, a false claim that originated as part of a larger debunked theory about a raid of servers in Germany.

“Well…this is the most absurd inquiry I’ve ever addressed, but I’m happy to tell you that Director Haspel is alive and well and at the office,” a CIA spokesperson told the AP in an email.

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Associated Press writer Beatrice Dupuy contributed to this item from New York.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536