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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Private equity dominated Election Day. Not in terms of the winning candidates, but in terms of the election process itself.

Between the lines: The most-utilized election system and software companies are owned by U.S. private equity firms. Dominion Voting Systems is the best-known of these vendors, as it's become the subject of evidence-free conspiracy theories.

  • The Canada-founded and Denver-based company was acquired in mid-2018 by Staple Street Capital, a mid-market buyout firm co-founded by Carlyle Group and Cerberus vets.

Hart InterCivic is a Texas-based company whose systems were used in some of the Michigan and Georgia counties where some conspiracy theorists baselessly claim that Dominion (not Hart) changed votes from President Trump to Joe Biden.

  • Enlightenment Capital, a Washington, D.C., firm whose two lead partners have a history of significant donations to Democratic Party candidates, purchased Hart InterCivic from H.I.G. Capital this past summer.

ES&S of Omaha was founded in 1979, and appears to be the country's largest maker of voting machines.

  • It's been backed for decades by private equity firm McCarthy Capital, whose current president and managing partner has donated to Republican Party candidates.

Other certified providers include: Clear Ballot Group (Boston-based startup backed by VC firms like Bessemer Venture Partners), MicroVote (owned by Fidelity National Information Solutions) and Unisyn Voting Solutions (owned by an Asian lottery group).

Of note: Axios reached out to the private equity owners of Dominion, Hart InterCivic, and ES&S. None returned any calls or emails.

  • Dominion's owner is keeping a particularly low profile, removing the team, portfolio and contact pages from its website in recent days.

The bottom line: Private equity has one overarching goal, which is to general profits for itself and its investors. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, it's very difficult to believe these firms were party to election-rigging, given that exposure of such misdeeds would destroy their portfolio companies' value.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jan 25, 2021 - Economy & Business

Merger Monday has been overrun by SPACs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Five companies this morning announced plans to go public via reverse mergers with SPACs, at an aggregate market value of more than $15 billion. And there might be even more by the time you read this.

The bottom line: SPAC merger activity hasn't peaked. If anything, it's just getting started.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Netanyahu is out as new Israeli government survives confidence vote

Photo: Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP via Getty Images

Israel has a new prime minister for the first time since 2009 after a power-sharing government led by Naftali Bennett survived a confidence vote on Sunday. Bennett was sworn in as prime minister.

Why it matters: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving prime minister and the man around whom Israeli politics have revolved for a decade, will now become opposition leader. Bennett, a right-wing former Netanyahu protege, will lead the most ideologically diverse government in Israeli history.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Afghanistan, cyber defense on the agenda for Biden in Brussels

Joe Biden arrives at Melsbroek Military Airport in Brussels on June 13. Photo: Yves Herman/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden touched down in Brussels on Sunday evening ahead of two days of talks with NATO and European Union leaders as part of his first foreign trip as president.

Driving the news: Biden was greeted on the tarmac by Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and a slate of other officials, including Douglas Jones and Mark Libby, the U.S. Permanent Representatives to NATO and the EU respectively.