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ChoicePoint

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ChoicePoint, a corporation based near Atlanta, Georgia, USA, which claims to be the "nation's leading supplier of identification and credential verification services," is the company whose DBT subsidiary spoiled the electoral roll in Florida enabling George W. Bush to "win" the 2000 presidential election.[1]

Profiles

"ChoicePoint, used by financial services groups and every government law enforcement agency, aggregates information from publicly available records -- including telephone directories, bankruptcy filings, business license registrations and court filings -- to create comprehensive reports on individuals." [2]

"Choicepoint, a data aggregator in Georgia that sells millions of dossiers on private citizens to both the government and private business.

"The information bundled by Choicepoint and its competitors is gleaned from public and proprietary sources and includes everything from driving records to criminal histories. The data is used for background checks, fraud investigations, insurance applications and to locate criminal suspects." [3]

Anne Wexler of Wexler and Walker Public Policy Associates is the registered US Senate lobbyist for Choicepoint. According to the US Senate Office of Public Records, Wexler was paid approximately $40,000 for the six month period to June 30, 2003. [4]

Overview

ChoicePoint has a DNA laboratory which was used to identify victims of the World Trade Center attacks. Data supplied by ChoicePoint was used in the Beltway Snipers investigation. Choicepoint also assisted the Transportation Security Administration in conduction ~100,000 applicants. The US Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children credit the corporation with assisting in the return of ~800 missing children. As of 2003, ChoicePoint's CEO is Derek V. Smith, who has held that position since 1997. In 2002, ChoicePoint generated earnings of ~$200 million on revenue of ~$791 million. The company employs ~3,500 people at 52 locations within 26 states.

Florida Voter File Contract

In 1998, the state of Florida signed a $4 million contract with Database Technologies (DBT Online), which later merged into ChoicePoint, for the purposes of providing a central voter file listing those barred from voting. As of 2002, Florida is the only state which hires a private firm for these purposes. Prior to contracting with Database Technologies, Florida contracted with a smaller operator for $5,700 per year. The state of Florida contracted with DBT in November 1998, following the controversial Miami mayoral race of 1997. The 1998 contracting process involved no bidding and was worth $2,317,800.

Criticism Regarding the Florida Voter File

ChoicePoint has been criticized, by many critics of the 2000 election, for having a bias in favor of the Republican Party, for knowingly using inaccurate data, and for racial discrimination. Allegations include listing voters as felons for alleged crimes said to have been committed several years in the future. In addition, people who had been convicted of a felony in a different state and had their rights restored by said state, were not allowed to vote despite the restoration of their rights. (One should note Schlenther v. Florida Department of State (June 1998) which ruled that Florida could not prevent a man convicted of a felony in Connecticut, where his civil rights had not been lost, from exercising his civil rights.) Furthermore, it is argued that people were listed as felons based on a coincidence of names, despite other data (such as date of birth) which showed that the criminal record did not apply to the voter in question.

Journalist Greg Palast has argued that the firm cooperated with Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, and Florida Elections Unit Chief Clay Roberts, in a conspiracy of voter fraud, involving the central voter file, during the US Presidential Election of 2000. The allegations charge that 57,700 people (15% of the list), primarily Democrats of African-American and Hispanic descent, were incorrectly listed as felons and thus barred from voting. Palast estimates that 80% of these people would have voted, and that 90% of those who would have voted, would have voted for Al Gore. The official (and disputed) margin of victory, in the election, was 537 votes.

ChoicePoint Vice President Martin Fagan has admitted that at least 8,000 names were incorrectly listed in this fashion when the company passed on a list given by the state of Texas, these 8,000 names were removed prior to the election. Fagan has described the error as a "minor glitch". ChoicePoint, as a matter of policy, does not verify the accuracy of its data and argues that it is the user's responsibility to verify accuracy.

On April 17, 2000, at a special Congressional hearing in Atlanta, ChoicePoint Vice-President James Lee testified that Florida had ordered DBT to add to the list voters who matched 80% of an ineligible voter's name; middle initials and suffixes were to be dropped, while nicknames and aliases were added. In addition, names were considered reversible, for example; Clarence Thomas could be added in place of Thomas Clarence. Lee opened his testimony by noting that ChoicePoint intended to get out of the voter purge industry. Then, on February 16, 2001, DBT Senior Vice-President George Bruder testified before the US Civil Rights Commission that the company had misinformed the Florida Supervisors of Elections regarding the usage of race in compiling the list. Greg Palast concludes, "An African-American felon named John Doe might wipe out the registration of an innocent African-American Will Whiting, but not the rights of an innocent Caucasian Will Whiting." Palast believes that 80%, of the 57,700 people he argues were illegally barred from voting, were African-American.

In January 2000, Pennsylvania terminated its contract with ChoicePoint after alleging that the firm had illegally sold citizens' personal information.

DBT Online

DBT Online was founded by Hank Asher as Database Technologies. The group once had a data management contract with the FBI, however, this was terminated following allegations that Asher was associated with Bahamian drug dealers. (1 p.18)

Personnel

Executives and 2006 pay:

Quotes

  • Vice-President Martin L. Fagan: "Given the outcome of our work in Florida and with a new president in place, we think our services will expand across the country."

Contact details

1000 Alderman Drive
Alpharetta, GA 30005
United States
Phone: 770-752-6000
Fax: 770-752-6005
Web: http://www.choicepointinc.com
Search Billions of Records from Your Desktop Computer, ChoicePoint.

Resources

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. Derek V Smith, Forbes, accessed February 2008.
  2. Douglas C Curling, Forbes, accessed February 2008.
  3. David T Lee, Forbes, accessed February 2008.

Websites

Articles & Commentary