NORTH CANTON, Ohio – Diebold Inc. (DBD), criticized last year for selling electronic voting machines while its chairman raised money for Republican political candidates, has banned its senior executives from making such donations.
The company's board of directors last week passed an amendment to its business ethics policy, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (search). It states that top Diebold officials "may not make contributions to, directly or indirectly, any political candidate, party, election issue or cause, or participate in any political activities, except for voting."
Walden W. O'Dell (search), Diebold's chairman and chief executive officer, was criticized in August 2003 for having a $1,000-a-plate Republican fund-raiser at his suburban Columbus home. In a letter inviting people to attend, O'Dell said he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."
He has since said he feels badly about the letter and has sworn off politics.
The new policy applies to the company's CEO, president, chief financial officer and others responsible for oversight of McKinney, Texas-based Diebold Elections Systems (search), the subsidiary that deals directly with the voting machines, according to the filing.
The policy places the same restriction on all employees of Diebold Elections Systems. Diebold spokesman Mike Jacobsen said Sunday it doesn't apply to people who work for other divisions of the company. He said neither O'Dell nor the company has made any political contributions since October of last year and that O'Dell spearheaded the policy change.
In the past, the business ethics policy encouraged employees to be active participants in the political process, Jacobsen said. He said that's had to be altered since Diebold's 2002 acquisition of Global Elections Systems.
"Since acquiring the elections business, some things have happened, clearly, with our chairman with his personal political involvement," Jacobsen said. "The chairman and the board saw fit to make this revision."