Left-wing election group still rooted in areas with ‘Zuckerbuck’ bans

By Around the Web

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[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by The Daily Signal.]

By Fred Lucas
The Daily Signal

Before voters approved a constitutional amendment to make their state the 28th in the nation to ban private funding of election administration, Wisconsin’s capital city, Madison, already had spent over $1 million in private grants.

Madison, like jurisdictions in three other states that ban private dollars from paying for elections—Arizona, Georgia, and Missouri—is a member of the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence. The organization, founded by the left-leaning Center for Tech and Civic Life, doled out $350 million in election-administration grants in 2020 funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife.

Wisconsin’s move to ban private money to pay for elections was significant progress for election integrity but not a silver bullet, said former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, national chairman of the Election Transparency Initiative.

“It is like staying ahead of hackers,” Cuccinelli told The Daily Signal. “But this is the real world and not digital, where we are dealing with votes and maintaining clean elections.”

“The other side will keep trying to muddy the waters and we will keep trying to clean it up,” he said. “Some jurisdictions are bragging about already spending the money. Good. This is about stabilizing elections going forward.”

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In the book “The Myth of Voter Suppression,” I detail the impact of the Zuckerberg grants in battleground states. Democrat-leaning counties in Pennsylvania got about 92% of the grant money. In Arizona, more than half of the “Zuckerbucks” went to Maricopa County.

A special counsel appointed by the Wisconsin Legislature concluded the Zuckerberg grants functioned as a state-sanctioned get-out-the-vote campaign conducted almost entirely in the heavily Democrat areas of Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Madison.

The city of Madison got $1.5 million in private dollars before the ballot initiative, which won’t be affected by the voter-approved ban.

“The city has spent the second grant it received from CTCL in the amount of $1.5 million to purchase equipment that will automate the process of mailing absentee ballots and sorting them upon return, as well as security carts to transport voting equipment,” Madison City Attorney Michael Haas told The Daily Signal.

“There was also a grant to help the city pay for its membership in the [Alliance] for Election Excellence,” Haas said in a written statement. “Since that grant was made and the membership was purchased prior to the constitutional amendment being passed, I do not believe the amendment applies to it.”

“Plus, the amendment prohibits the use of money or equipment from a grant to conduct elections,” the city attorney added. “I think it is a stretch to argue that learning and developing best practices, which is what [the alliance] does, is actually conducting an election.”

The Daily Signal previously reported that DeKalb County, Georgia, accepted a $2 million grant from the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence last year despite a 2021 Georgia law that banned the use of private money to administer elections.

DeKalb County contended that it could accept the money because the 2021 law said only that “no superintendent” who oversees elections could accept the money. So the county’s  general treasury accepted the money and then passed it to election officials.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and other Georgia Republicans accused DeKalb County of skirting the ban. In 2023, the Georgia Legislature closed the loophole and made it a felony for any public official to accept private dollars intended for elections.

DeKalb County officials acknowledged an inquiry from The Daily Signal, but didn’t respond before publication of this report.

The Center for Tech and Civic Life was founded in 2012 by Tiana Epps-Johnson, Donny Bridges, and Whitney May, who previously worked together at the New Organizing Institute, which The Washington Post referred to as “the Democratic Party’s Hogwarts of digital wizardry.”

For the Alliance for Election Excellence, CTCL partners with several nonprofits, including the Center for Secure and Modern Elections, that are funded by Arabella Advisors, a left-wing dark money organization.

Coconino County, Arizona, is also a member of the alliance. But it’s not getting any grants, County Recorder Patty Hansen said.

“We received a $614,000 grant from the CTCL in 2020 before the Legislature passed the ban,” Hansen told The Daily Signal. “We don’t accept any money from the alliance. We accept services. … The alliance works on developing best practices and standards that can be shared across the country.”

Both Arizona and Georgia were formerly solid-red states that flipped blue in the 2020 election. Joe Biden’s narrow victory over Donald Trump in each state was assisted by large margins of victory in Coconino County, where the largest city is Flagstaff, and DeKalb County, where the largest city is Decatur.

Two Missouri counties, Boone and Scotland, are also members of the Alliance for Election Excellence and neither received grants, Boone County Clerk Brianna Lennon said. She made it clear when the county signed up that it couldn’t receive private funds, Lennon said.

“Boone County is a member of the Alliance for Election Excellence; however, we do have the prohibition in Missouri law for private funding and, as a result, our county has not received grant funding from the alliance,” Lennon told The Daily Signal in a written statement.

Missouri, which leans heavily Republican, isn’t a battleground state in elections.

Boone County, which includes Columbia, the state’s fourth-largest city, also went heavily to Biden in 2020. Scotland County, with a population under 5,000, went overwhelmingly to Trump.

“Scotland County, Missouri, is our other Missouri member of the alliance and they also have not received private funding,” Lennon said in the written statement, adding:

The membership gives us access to subject matter experts that are current or former local election officials on administrative areas like poll worker recruitment (finding enough election judges, especially judges that affiliate as Republicans, is a perennial problem for us), better ways to design forms and applications so that voters can understand them, and ways to make our existing elections processes more efficient.

The Center for Tech and Civic Life did not respond to inquiries from The Daily Signal for this report.

The center’s Alliance for Election Excellence gave $3 million to Clark County, one of the larger jurisdictions in Nevada, which is considered a battleground state in 2024 with no ban on private money to run elections.

The other jurisdictions in the alliance are in solidly blue areas and have no ban on private dollars bankrolling local elections. They are Shasta and Contra Costa counties in California; Kane and Macoupin counties in Illinois; and the city of Greenwich, Connecticut.

[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by The Daily Signal.]


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