About half of the largest ballot-counting corporation, Election Systems & Software (ES&S), is owned by the Omaha World-Herald Company, which publishes the city’s conservative daily newspaper, and about a fourth is owned by the McCarthy Group, an Omaha investment fund that is identified with Republican causes.

John Gottschalk, publisher of the World-Herald, recruited Chuck Hagel into American Information Systems (AIS), an Omaha-based vote-counting company. Hagel worked there five years, eventually becoming CEO and part owner. In 1995 Hagel resigned to run for the Senate from Nebraska, where AIS would be counting the votes in his election contest. A Gallup/World-Herald poll the Sunday before the voting showed Hagel and his Democratic opponent in a 47-47 dead heat. Hagel won two days later by a fourteen-point spread. Easily re-elected in 2002, Hagel is a likely GOP candidate for President in 2008.

Hagel’s investment in the McCarthy Group is valued in his reports to the Senate at between $1 million and $5 million. I asked him if a US senator should be an investor in, as well as close friends and allies with, the leading owners of the largest vote-counting company in the country, which counts his own contested elections and expects to count about 61 million votes in November. Hagel replied: “I have no direct investment in ES&S. I have no discretion over McCarthy Group investments. But more importantly, disclosure is the answer [to] these dilemmas and questions. The people of America can determine if members have serious conflicts of interest.”

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Michael McCarthy, the CEO of the McCarthy Group, and his wife gave $28,750 to Republicans, nothing to Democrats, in the past three election cycles. Executives and employees of the firm have contributed almost six times as much to the GOP as to the Democrats ($74,245 to $13,300) in the past five and a half years.

Diebold CEO Walden O’Dell has bundled $100,000 or more in contributions for George W. Bush. O’Dell and his wife have given $19,965 to GOP candidates and campaign entities, nothing to Democrats. Since a letter was revealed in which he said he was “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President” in November, O’Dell has withdrawn from politics and prohibited all Diebold executives and employees from making political contributions. Since 1991 Diebold had given the Republicans $343,366 and the Democrats $2,700, a ratio of 127-1.

David Hart, chairman of Hart InterCivic, said that because of the business he’s in he doesn’t contribute. A major investor in Hart InterCivic is Tom Hicks’s investment firm, Stratford Capital Partners. Hicks was in the group of investors who bought the Texas Rangers from Bush and others for nearly three times their investment in it. Hicks has also been a lavish donor to Bush campaigns.

Executives and employees of one of the independent testing authorities (ITA), Ciber, Inc., favored the Republicans 57-1 over the past three election cycles, $101,900 to $1,800. The executives and principal owners of SysTest Labs, another ITA, appear to shun political giving. In the past three cycles employees at Wyle Laboratories, the third ITA, made a total of five contributions to five Republican recipients.