December 7, 2020

USA: Facebook CEO Zuckerberg Gave $350 Million To Buy Election Judges And Mail In Ballot Drop Boxes. When Lawsuits Were Filed Challenging Its Legality, He Spent $100 Million More To Pay Defense Lawyers

The Federalist
written by Scott Walter
Monday December 7, 2020

The biggest question the Georgia legislature should ask is whether a California billionaire should be allowed to waltz into the Peach State and finance aspects of their elections.

Imagine if a billionaire of conservative or libertarian leanings—Charles Koch, say—had given $350 million to a nonprofit run by Republican operatives who previously worked at a “dark money” outfit tied to Karl Rove where they trained digital activists and campaign workers.

Then imagine this nonprofit group re-granted the millions of dollars to local election officials to “help” them carry out the 2020 election—buying drop boxes for ballots, hiring temporary staff, conducting “voter education,” and the like.

Finally, imagine that in 2020, a state that usually voted for the other party in presidential elections narrowly flipped to the donor’s preferred party, and counties receiving “help” were disproportionately ones that helped the Republican win the state, with many counties shifting dramatically from their historical patterns in a red-ward direction.

Even supposing there were perfectly ethical and legal reasons for all this, because of the appearance of election influence from private parties with deep pockets, it would be front-page news. The New York Times would be outraged a nonprofit gave the appearance of acting in a partisan basis in an electoral process. Elected officials in the disfavored party would be loudly objecting, threatening lawsuits, demanding investigations of the election officials who accepted the funds, and insisting election laws be changed to prevent any such effort in the future.

As head of Capital Research Center, a watchdog on the use and abuse of nonprofits, I would sympathize with the angry politicians and happily critique the scheme publicly. But I know of no such effort by right-leaning donors or nonprofits.

I do know, however, of a scheme by left-leaning out-of-state donors Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan to give $350 million to an allegedly “nonpartisan” nonprofit, the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), which in turn re-granted the funds to thousands of governmental election officials around the country. CRC has begun state-by-state studies of how these funds were used, beginning with Georgia (Pennsylvania is next). As I testified Friday to the Georgia state Senate, the Georgia data are startling.

We can’t specify all funding CTCL gave to Georgia counties, because the Center isn’t disclosing that information to the Associated Press or anyone else, even though they’re required to reveal it in their next IRS filing (which conveniently won’t appear until a year from now). But using local government records and news accounts, we’ve uncovered many of the largest grants, mostly given to the largest urban areas, and CTCL has disclosed which counties received grants, though not the amounts. Notably, CTCL funded less than one-third of all counties.

We’ve correlated the grants with the official vote totals for the counties involved. Here are some notable discoveries we’ve found:
  • Nine out of ten of CTCL’s largest known grants went to counties Joe Biden won.
  • Of the ten counties with the greatest shifts to the Democratic presidential candidate (comparing 2016 to 2020 votes), nine received CTCL grants.
  • These nine grantees averaged a 13.7 percent shift toward the Democrat. Two, Cobb and Gwinnett, were among the four counties that delivered Biden the most votes.
  • Although CTCL funded more counties won by Donald Trump than by Biden in raw numbers, it only funded 21 percent of all Trump counties versus 55 percent of Biden counties. So a Biden county was more than two-and-a-half times more likely to receive funding.
  • CTCL funded all four counties that provided Biden 100,000 or more votes.
  • And CTCL funded those four counties lavishly. Per capita, they received between $4.38 and $10.47 for every man, woman, and child.
  • By contrast, so far as we currently know, only one county won by Trump was funded above one dollar per capita (Cherokee), and that county’s Democratic vote leapt up 70 percent, compared to a 24 percent rise in its Republican vote. Trump counties like Carroll, Camden, and Lumpkin received about a half-dollar or less.
  • Biden carried 33 counties that delivered him 10,000 or more votes. CTCL funded 70 percent of them. By contrast, Trump carried 46 counties that gave him 10,000 or more votes, but CTCL funded only 20 percent of them. So the most vote-rich counties for Biden were three-and-a-half times more likely to be funded than Trump’s most vote-rich counties.
  • Totaling votes in all 44 counties CTCL funded, the Republican presidential vote rose 207,000 over the last election. The Democratic presidential vote jumped by 530,000, or more than two-and-a-half times the Republican rise.
Do these numbers sound nonpartisan? If not, shouldn’t the authorities in Georgia and other battleground states, and authorities in Washington, start investigating what happened, and whether CTCL, which is legally forbidden to act as a partisan in elections, overstepped the law? There may be perfectly ethical explanations for all this that involve zero electoral influence by outside parties, but public trust in elections requires avoiding even the appearance of conflicts of interest.

I gave the Georgia senators some obvious questions to ask: How did these relationships between CTCL and counties in Georgia begin? Did CTCL reach out first? What preconditions did the Center put on its funds? Did the counties fulfill their budgetary and other obligations under Georgia state law when using these funds? Who designed voter “education” materials and advertisements?

Here’s an especially obvious question: Was any money spent on training to deter vote fraud, such as how to match signatures?

The biggest question the Georgia legislature should ask is whether a California billionaire should be allowed to waltz into the Peach State and finance aspects of their elections? Do they want billionaires in the future to steer election resources so unequally and inequitably?

That’s still a live question for Georgia and her voters, because CTCL is already offering more grants to county offices for the U.S. Senate runoff elections in January. As I told the Peach State senators, some states forbid this kind of funding. Georgia can too.
written by James Varney
Thursday October 29, 2020

Facebook magnate Mark Zuckerberg and his wife gave a nonprofit $400 million to pay election workers, train poll workers and rent polling locations for the Nov. 3 vote in various states.

The Zuckerbergs’ largesse is an unprecedented private expenditure on a process long held to be an exclusively public operation and has spurred at least nine lawsuits challenging the effort by the Center for Tech and Civil Life.

The donation to the center roughly equals what Congress appropriated to the states in this year’s CARES Act to pay for running elections in 2020 amid the tumult of the COVID-19 pandemic, critics charged.

“We’ve invited billionaires into the counting room and it will undermine the integrity of our elections. It’s unprecedented,” said Phill Kline, director of the Amistad Project, an initiative started by the conservative Thomas More Society to defend civil liberties.

“We are headed toward a situation in which Big Tech controls the flow of information and the election process. These are the first things any oligarchy wants to control when it takes power.”

The Center for Tech and Civic Life, which was established in 2015, received $300 million from Mr. Zuckerberg’s wife, Priscilla Chan, on Sept. 1 and then another $100 million on Oct. 13, according to the center‘s press releases.

Among the group’s top directors are three people who were previously cyberspace operatives with the liberal grassroots group New Organizing Institute, according to the nonprofit’s website.

The center did not respond to questions from The Washington Times.

The Zuckerbergs’ second contribution came after nine court challenges in state and federal courts failed at the first level, though eight cases remain active on appeal. The center indicated some of the money will go to lawyers defending their operation.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, whose office filed a lawsuit initially rejected by a district court judge, said private money spent in any amount on elections is “inherently insidious.”

“Irrespective of whether the court rules in our favor or not, we believe it is still illegal and improper for state election officials to take money in the manner they are giving it out,” he said.

Mr. Landry has asked the district court to reconsider its ruling, and he plans to appeal if it is upheld.

He likened the project, which involves “money being sprinkled around the country in an inequitable manner,” to an “invisible hand” that could influence how ballots are collected and counted.

“And we’ve got enough money,” Mr. Landry said of Louisiana’s election apparatus. “If Zuckerberg wants to do this, he should give the money through proper channels so we don’t have corporate boardrooms and billionaires spending the money.”

It is not clear exactly how the money is being spent.

More than 2,100 local election jurisdictions applied for grants that can be used for drive-through voting, poll worker recruitment, hazard pay, training and polling place rental, among other items, according to the website.

The Center for Tech and Civic Life website also says it does not serve partisan interests and is not trying to influence the elections’ outcome.

Mr. Kline contends that is exactly the project’s goal.

One of the complaints says that the group distributed money primarily in grants to Democratic regions. Thus far, that argument has not held up in court and is based on what critics acknowledge is an incomplete picture of how much the group has spent and where it has done so.

A graphic at the group’s website, however, does show heavy grant-giving in traditionally blue areas. A red dot on a U.S. map is used to show each grant application the nonprofit received, and the dots virtually cover Michigan’s mitten and are thickly clustered along the Northeastern seaboard.

The center, which says it trains election workers and seeks to expand voter information, says on its website that more than 80 million voters in 2018 — more than two-thirds of the total ballots cast nationwide — were “served by election officials trained by CTCL.”

The Amistad Project said that through legal pleadings it uncovered correspondence between the group and Cory Mason, the Democratic mayor of Racine, Wisconsin, last April. In it, the the center offers Mr. Mason $100,000 of which $60,000 can be for Racine and the rest spent on getting heavily Democratic areas near Racine to file grant applications.

In Philadelphia, long a Democratic stronghold, money provided by the center is to be used to establish 800 polling places, an increase of 76% from the number of polling places the city had in the primaries, according to an August email sent to the center by Nick Custodio, a deputy commissioner in the Philadelphia election office.

“The number of total ballots cast is expected to be between 730,000 and 800,000,” Mr. Custodio writes in bold, figures that would mark between a 21% and 25% increase from the total number of Philadelphia voters in the 2012 and 2016 elections.

Philadelphia voters traditionally break about 70% to 30% in favor of Democratic candidates, and the city with its former polling places produced some 600,000 votes in the 2012 and 2016 elections. Mr. Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 by fewer than 45,000 votes.

Mr. Landry said one way the grant money could be used would be to send out prepaid return ballots in heavily Democratic districts around New Orleans, “while some guy in a rural parish still has to buy his 50-cent stamp.”

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