WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Call it the revenge of the voting machines: Smartmatic has joined Dominion Voting Systems in seeking billions of dollars in damages from supporters of former President Donald Trump who have claimed voter fraud.
Florida-based Smartmatic filed a defamation suit Thursday (Feb 4) against Fox News, some of its better-known news employees and two attorneys close to Trump, Sidney Powell and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The lawsuit, which seeks US$2.7 billion (S$3.6 billion) in damages, accuses them of executing a coordinated disinformation campaign aimed at convincing the public of rampant election fraud.
Smartmatic's suit follows a pair of similar complaints filed last month by Dominion against Giuliani and Powell, accusing both of spreading bogus claims for self-promotion and a shot at salvaging a second term for Trump. The case against Giuliani alleges he promoted the election fraud conspiracy to hawk gold coins, cigars and supplements on a podcast.
Powell is accused of leading the charge against Dominion by claiming foreign agents had infiltrated its voting software. Each suit seeks US$1.3 billion.
Smartmatic's existing and potential clients around the world are getting cold feet because of the bogus claims, and in some cases have described Smartmatic as "toxic," said Chief Executive Officer Antonio Mugica, who declined to offer examples.
Before suing the conservative news outlets, Smartmatic and Dominion in December demanded retractions, calling for the defendants to stop peddling their false election conspiracies. That month, Fox News and Newsmax aired segments and statements saying there was no evidence of manipulated voting machines in the 2020 election. A Newsmax anchor this week interrupted the chief executive officer of MyPillow after he began discussing election-fraud claims on air.
Smartmatic said in its complaint that the Fox segment didn't amount to a retraction because the news outlet "did not fully admit and correct all of its mistakes."
Essential to the campaign were baseless claims that Smartmatic and Dominion were embroiled in a conspiracy to change enough votes to block Trump's return to the White House, according to a complaint filed today to the New York State Supreme Court.
Dominion said it has sent letters to social-network companies Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Parler asking them to preserve documents and data related to "false accusations that Dominion rigged the November 2020 election," even if that content has been removed from public platforms.
Smartmatic, which provides voting equipment to Los Angeles County and numerous foreign governments, is seeking damages from Fox News, Giuliani, Powell and the Fox News commentators Lou Dobbs, Jeanine Pirro and Maria Bartiromo.
A spokesperson for Fox News Media said the company is "committed to providing the full context of every story with in-depth reporting and clear opinion. We are proud of our 2020 election coverage and will vigorously defend this merit-less lawsuit in court."
Powell described the complaint as "just another political manoeuvre" by the "radical left."
In her statement, she included a partially redacted affidavit dated Nov 15, 2020, from a supposed insider with knowledge of Smartmatic's relationship with the Venezuelan government. The affidavit, in which the witness's name is also redacted, has previously been submitted in unsuccessful lawsuits alleging the 2020 election was rigged.
Giuliani didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
Smartmatic was formed by three Venezuelans after the 2000 US presidential election to resolve the issue of hanging chads - a bit of the ballot that isn't punched out all the way - by replacing paper ballots with digital alternatives.
The conspiracy contrived by Giuliani and Powell claimed that Dominion installed Smartmatic software on its voting machines across the country, and that Smartmatic maintains allegiances to Venezuela's socialist leaders, including the late former President Hugo Chavez, according to the lawsuit.
Smartmatic's attorneys said they have counted "dozens" of references to what they describe as the smear campaign on Fox News. That these claims were made repeatedly and echoed by the channel's news staff is evidence that Fox News was actively plotting with Giuliani and Powell to disseminate the conspiracy, said Smartmatic's attorney J. Erik Connolly.
The company maintains that its case is supported by its limited exposure to US elections: Los Angeles County is its only current US client.
"That we were only used in one jurisdiction, and weren't used in any closely contested states makes the disinformation campaign even more egregious and irresponsible," said Connolly.
Smartmatic CEO said the company stands to lose US$500 million in contracts and another US$190 million in add-on services. The US$2.7 billion Smartmatic is seeking is founded on estimates of harm to its "brand, reputation and enterprise value," according to the complaint.