Last week, the Chicago-based Center for Tech and Civic Life finally filed its 2020 federal tax return and the list of grant recipients is shocking.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg donated approximately $350 million to the formerly unknown liberal organization CTCL. The group then gave “grants” to local election offices, along with explicit instructions regarding how election procedures were to be changed. This greatly benefitted Democrat candidates.
Although hundreds of jurisdictions received tiny gifts of a few thousand dollars, which probably made no difference in their actions, a surprisingly large number of jurisdictions received multi-million dollar grants of these so-called “ZuckBucks.”
Having spent many hours reviewing CTCL’s tax information and speaking with researchers at the Capital Research Center and the Rodney Election Research Institute, I am now more convinced than ever that this unprecedented type of “election spending” by CTCL and Zuckerberg is a serious violation of the spirit of free and fair elections. I am unable to recall any comparable effort ever having been undertaken in the entire history of U.S. elections.
It is hard to imagine President Biden wanting to add any city or county to the list of CTCL grant recipients, or him needing to ask them to perform any activities that were not already on the list of conditions that election officials had to meet in order to fulfill the CTCL grant requirements.
The adversarial election system in America works largely as intended. The parties fight each other in advertising with few restrictions, and may the best man win. But in 2020, liberal activists affiliated with CTCL conducted a massive and unprecedented intrusion into the administration of elections that was immoral, wrong, and violated the neutral manner in which all elections should be conducted. Election offices and procedures should not favor any candidate. They should not exhibit any prejudice or favoritism toward any class, party, or segment of voters. They should simply make access to voting consistent for all voters.
A SuperPAC can raise unlimited amounts of money, but its donors and every check it writes must be reported. Candidates cannot raise unlimited sums of money, but their spending must also be transparent. The law dictates that SuperPACs must operate without any collaboration or coordination with campaigns.
The same rules apply to Democrats and Republicans, and this system works well. Sometimes one party raises considerably more money than the other, but each will succeed or fail based on their own efforts, with no government interference. They make their case to the voters, who judge the arguments on their merits and vote accordingly.
Overall, it is a fair system, even when the sums being spent are enormous. Americans get to decide, in the privacy of their own hearts and minds, who is telling the truth and who is the better candidate.
An integral part of any such system is that neither side gets to run the administration of the election. Neither candidate gets to design the rules. Election offices are supposed to be guided by the principle of neutrality, and both teams get to look over election officials’ shoulders to assure that neutrality.
The funding of election administration should be roughly equal on a per-capita basis, should be equally distributed to all election offices in a state, and must come from taxpayers. Neutrality in election administration, funding, and staffing must be paramount.
Election offices must never be subject to outside influences that might favor a particular candidate. Wealthy and powerful people should not be allowed to use their money to influence the manner of administering elections. There is too much potential for such financial influence to result in elections favoring the party of the wealthy and the powerful.
CTCL’s False Claims
CTCL was tiny until last year. For almost a decade, it had an annual budget of less than $3 million annually. And that is with Chicago’s sky-high cost of living. Then Zuckerberg decided to give them $350 million in 2020.
CTCL’s website claims they not only operate in a nonpartisan fashion, but that CTCL officials are a mixture of Republicans, Democrats, independents, liberals, and conservatives. But all Republican operatives know its leadership to be hard-left political activists, with long and extensively documented relationships with the most notorious, high-dollar donors in the world of leftist election activism.
CTCL’s chief officials are considered even by Democrats to be radical progressives. Tianna Epps-Johnson, Whitney May, and Donny Bridges have spent many years on the barricades of liberal election activism.
Money to Democrats
One look at the cities that got the most money shows many that were widely discussed in Democratic Party circles during 2017 to 2019 as places in which more votes would be necessary than Hillary Clinton received in 2016 to flip the state against Trump and into Joe Biden’s win column. Milwaukee got $3.4 million. Madison, Wisconsin got $1.3 million. Detroit got $7.4 million. Ann Arbor got $400,000. Atlanta got $10.7 million. Phoenix got $1.8 million. Las Vegas got $2.4 million.
These grants are on top of existing state and local election funding, and in addition to the approximately $400 million of extra funding the federal government passed in the CARES Act last year. In most cases, these massive grants more than doubled the operating budgets of these election offices.
CTCL grants completely re-defined the procedures of every city that received a large gift, and in many cases involved changes not authorized nor anticipated by state election laws. CTCL and election officials in these cities may not have committed actual crimes, but the actions they took should never be ordered by political activists and high-dollar partisan mega-donors.
A deeper analysis shows election offices in left-leaning suburbs and exurbs on the list receiving large grants alongside the bigger cities, while similar-sized suburbs known to lean conservative are missing. Again, there were lots of token gifts of $5,000 or $10,000 to Republican areas, but the big gifts went to liberal areas where Democrats have continually stated their need to improve their vote totals, and their belief that there were untapped pockets of Democratic voters within those areas that could somehow be persuaded to vote.
Grant recipients were required to promote absentee voting over in-person voting, and to conduct “outreach” efforts targeted at “historically disenfranchised” voters. Perhaps the biggest “string attached” was a wave of hiring that resulted in a swarm of young and inexperienced activist employees descending on local election offices to replace the usual gray-haired and sober election volunteers that normally staff polling locations and election offices during election season. Suddenly election offices were hiring 25-year-old Democratic activists to manage the many procedures normally managed by seasoned, nonpartisan election officials.
The only comparable examples in American history that I can think of are situations in the 19th century where political parties and business trusts tried to force poor factory workers to vote for their favored candidates through even more blatantly corrupt procedures.
The full details of this story are not widely known yet, and due to the vast scale of CTCL spending and the number of election offices it affected, it is likely there are several years of revelations yet to come. Courts and legislative committees will undertake investigations and public records requests and reveal more about how CTCL manipulated the 2020 election.