West Virginia and Kentucky have become the latest states to pass legislation that would restrain local and state election officials from accepting certain gifts and other funds from nongovernmental entities to conduct elections.
In West Virginia, HB 4097 received near-unanimous support in the state legislature, with only one House delegate voting against the bill. Signed by Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday, the law seeks to prohibit “public officials and bodies responsible for elections in West Virginia from directly receiving or accepting money or anything of value for election administration and related expenses from private parties.”
While the bill does not ban private funding outright, it does require the West Virginia secretary of state, with the approval of the state election commission, to be the one “to accept, distribute, and utilize private gifts of tangible property or non-monetary things of value for election administration and related expenses.”
A previous version of the legislation barring private funding of elections altogether was active in the legislature last year, but died on the calendar in the House Judiciary Committee following its passage in the Senate.
While speaking with The Federalist, Del. Josh Holstein, who introduced the now-passed measure in the House, elaborated on how “West Virginians are deeply concerned with election integrity and want [their] elections to continue having a reputation of security.”
“Voters should have confidence that their official election administration is not influenced by outside groups,” he said. “The provisions in this bill are some of the most impactful steps that can be made to ensure the security of our elections in West Virginia and across the nation.”
Co-sponsor and fellow Del. Brandon Steele echoed similar sentiments, arguing that the new law “can identify early on problematic gifts and donations from entities that have clearly engaged in political behavior, are vendors for particular election products, or pose some other ethical problem for municipalities receiving the donation.”
“At the end of the day, we need oversight over these donations much the same way we need oversight over lobbying activities in our legislature,” he told The Federalist. “I am hopeful that this change will be for the better.”
In Kentucky, state legislators passed a similar law, which mandates that “[a]ll costs and expenses related to election administration shall be paid for with public funds” and that “[a]n employee of a governmental body shall not solicit, take, or otherwise accept any private contribution, donation, or anything of value to assist with election administration within this state.”
Unlike West Virginia, however, Kentucky’s bill (HB 301) unequivocally prohibits private funding of local and state election processes without any caveats. Passed by both the House (75-22) and Senate (27-4), the measure effectively became law on March 24 after Democrat Gov. Andy Beshear permitted the bill to become law without his signature.
The legislation passed by both states would largely bar outside funding from left-wing advocacy groups such as the Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL), which received upwards of $350 million from Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to quietly change state and local election operations during the 2020 election cycle. As previously reported by Federalist contributor William Doyle, CTCL spent millions on “financing the infiltration of election offices at the city and county level by left-wing activists, and using those offices as a platform to implement preferred administrative practices, voting methods, and data-sharing agreements, as well as to launch intensive outreach campaigns in areas heavy with Democratic voters” leading up to the 2020 contest.
According to figures from the Capital Research Center, CTCL spent approximately $7,114,078 “Zuckbucks” in Kentucky during the 2020 election cycle. Alternatively, West Virginia (along with Wyoming) was not listed on the organization’s Form 990 and is presumed to not have received any grants.
In addition to Kentucky, multiple battleground states across the country saw Zuckbucks infiltrate their election systems ahead of the 2020 race. As detailed by Federalist Editor in Chief Mollie Hemingway in her New York Times bestselling book, “Rigged: How the Media, Big Tech, and the Democrats Seized Our Elections,” Zuckerberg “didn’t just help Democrats by censoring their political opponents,” his financing of “liberal groups running partisan get-out-the-vote operations” was “the means by which [Democrat] activists achieved their ‘revolution’ and changed the course of the 2020 election.”
“It was a genius plan,” Hemingway writes. “And because no one ever imagined that a coordinated operation could pull off the privatization of the election system, laws were not built to combat it.”