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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez greets his supporters in 2005. Chavez died in 2013. (AP) Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez greets his supporters in 2005. Chavez died in 2013. (AP)

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez greets his supporters in 2005. Chavez died in 2013. (AP)

Noah Y. Kim
By Noah Y. Kim December 3, 2020

No, Hugo Chavez’s family does not own Dominion Voting Systems

If Your Time is short

• The company is majority-owned by a New York-based private equity firm. 

• The claim echoes elements of baseless conspiracy theories that we have debunked in the past. ​

A viral Facebook video rehashes conspiracy theories about Dominion Voting Systems to make unproven allegations of voter fraud in Arizona. 

In the video, a man speaks to the camera, claiming to be a Biden voter who initially doubted the Trump campaign’s allegations of voter fraud. He says that an Arizona press conference held Nov. 30 by Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis caused him to reevaluate his belief in the legitimacy of the election results.

Citing statements from the meeting, the man claims that Dominion Voting Systems, which makes software and hardware for election officials to use around the country, is owned by Hugo Chavez, the deceased former president of Venezuela. 

"Hugo Chavez’s family still owns the company," reads the headline of the video. 

The post, which has been viewed more than 74,000 times, was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

It’s wrong. There is no evidence to support the claim that the Chavez family owns Dominion. 

Dominion’s real ownership

Dominion was founded in 2003 in Toronto, Canada, not Venezuela. In 2018, the company was acquired by Staple Street Capital, a private equity firm based in New York. 

In an April letter to the House Committee on Administration, Dominion CEO John Poulos said that Staple Street Capital owns a 75.2% stake in the company. Poulos, a Canadian citizen, wrote that he holds a 12% stake and that no other investor owns more than a 5% stake, according to the Associated Press. 

"Dominion is not and has never been a front for communists. It has no ties to Hugo Chávez, the late dictator of Venezuela," Poulos wrote in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. "It has never been involved in Venezuelan elections."

Claim appears tied to another conspiracy theory

The speaker’s claim about Dominion echoes a baseless conspiracy theory that we have debunked in the past. 

Featured Fact-check

The thrust of the theory is that Smartmatic, a separate firm that builds electronic voting systems, is a Venezuelan company with close ties to Hugo Chavez. 

The founders of Smartmatic were born in Venezuela, but the company itself was founded in Boca Raton, Fla. 

Smartmatic says it has no affiliation with Chavez, who died in 2013, or with the current Venezuelan government. 

According to the company’s website, Smartmatic is run by its two founders, Antonio Mugica and Roger Piñate; 83% of its shares are held by SGO, a London-based company owned by the Mugica and Piñate families. An additional 10% of its shares are held by employees, and 7% by outside investors.  

Smartmatic voting systems have been used in elections around the world, including Venezuela. In 2017, the company said that its technology was manipulated to report a skewed vote total during a Venezuelan election. The company accused the Venezuelan government of election fraud, and it stopped its work there the following year. Smartmatic has claimed that the incident was an anomaly likely due to the lack of election monitors. 

Smartmatic technology was not used in any of the battleground states won by Biden where Trump allies are disputing the results. 

In order to draw a link between Smartmatic and the 2020 U.S. election, Trump supporters have baselessly alleged that the company owns its competitor Dominion, which was used to tabulate votes in key battleground states. But both Dominion and Smartmatic have issued statements denying that they are affiliated with each other. The companies have also denied that they use each other’s software. 

Eddie Perez, a voting technology expert, told the Associated Press that there was no reason to believe that Dominion and Smartmatic have ties to each other or to Venezuela. 

Our ruling

A Facebook video claims that "Hugo Chavez’s family still owns" Dominion Voting Systems.

According to Dominion, 75.2% of its shares are owned by Staple Street Capital, a New York-based private equity firm, and 12% of its shares are owned by John Poulos, its CEO. No other investor holds more than a 5% stake in the company. 

The claim — which is tied to other baseless conspiracy theories that we have debunked —  is not accurate. We rate it False. ​

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More by Noah Y. Kim

No, Hugo Chavez’s family does not own Dominion Voting Systems

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