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Sunday, July 11, 2004

Quid Est "Qui Tam"? 

From Scoop, your one-stop source for e-voting-scandal news (based, naturally enough, in New Zealand), comes the tale of a lawsuit unsealed on Friday:
"Qui Tam" is a term for a whistleblower suit seeking to recover government funds spent based on fraudulent claims. The Qui Tam suit filed by Bev Harris and Jim March seeks to recover funds for the state of California from Diebold Election Systems. As part of the Qui Tam action, a bounty for the whistleblowers is paid, and Diebold will be asked to pay this to Harris and March as part of additional damages, which in turn will help fund Black Box Voting.

This case was originally filed back in November of 2003, and the existence of the case was held under seal by the courts while various government attorneys decided whether or not to "join in the case". When it became clear that the seal would still be intact through the California primaries (March 2nd), Harris, March and attorney Finley "split out" elements of the case that could be made public immediately in an attempt to improve the security of the primaries. That attempt via preliminary injunction failed, although those weaker case elements are still in play, but now the other shoe has dropped: the much stronger "financial fraud-based" elements of the case are now public.

The state and county attorneys are still officially undecided as to whether to join in or not. Should they do so, the plaintiffs and their attorney will split a 15% "bounty" on all funds recovered -- should Harris and March have to prosecute the entire matter without government legal assistance, the state and county will still get their money back but the "bounty" jumps to 30%.

Note that when fraud can be proven in a Qui Tam action under California state law, damages are subject to triple damage penalties. In Alameda County alone, this would cost Deibold $42 million, which would go towards restitution to the taxpayer.

As a result of this Qui Tam action, ALL California counties attempting to use Diebold's equipment now have the option of joining in the Qui Tam action and recieving up to triple their costs for the fraud committed against them. Taxpayers in any county trying to remain with Diebold while this option is now publicly on the table should be asking harsh questions of their local officials.

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