The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has officially banned public officials from accepting and using funds from nongovernmental entities to conduct elections.
Passed by the state’s Republican-majority legislature and signed into law by Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday, the legislation (SB 982) mandates that Pennsylvania public officials “may not solicit, apply for, enter into a contract for or receive or expend gifts, donations, grants or funding from any individual, business, organization, trust, foundation, or any nongovernmental entity for the registration of voters or the preparation, administration or conducting of an election in [the] Commonwealth.”
Also included in the bill is the establishment of an “election integrity grant program,” wherein the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development is permitted to distribute grants “to counties for the administration of elections.” Beginning Aug. 1, counties will be allowed to submit applications to receive funds from the program, with the size of the grant received by a county determined “by the quotient of the county’s number of registered voters divided by the total number of registered voters in all counties.”
As specified in the law, these funds may only be utilized for purposes relating to the “payment of staff needed to pre-canvass and canvass mail-in ballots and absentee ballots,” “physical security and transparency costs for centralized pre-canvassing and canvassing,” and “processing of voter registration applications,” among other uses.
While speaking with The Federalist, the bill’s primary sponsor, state Sen. Lisa Baker, said she and co-sponsor Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill introduced the measure “because Pennsylvania needs to see action on actual reforms that will improve an election system that has been severely tried and tested in recent years.”
“We believe reform begins with prohibiting private groups from funding election administration. Voting is among our basic rights, and the responsibility for properly running and funding elections is vested in government,” Baker said. “No matter who on the outside is contributing, no matter their expressed motivations, millions of dollars coming in from national figures or organizations naturally raises suspicions of hidden agendas.”
The signing of SB 982 by Wolf is surprising given that members of his office actively colluded with “left-wing activists to secure millions of dollars in private money to run get-out-the-vote efforts in blue counties” in the state during the lead-up to the 2020 election. As reported by The Federalist’s Senior Legal Correspondent Margot Cleveland, during an April hearing held by the Pennsylvania legislature, state lawmakers heard public testimony revealing that “beginning in July 2020, consultants working for leftist organizations coordinated with local election officials and Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf’s office to lobby five blue counties to apply for these private grants,” with the funds originating from groups such as the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL).
A non-profit funded by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg — who gave upwards of $400 million to the organization — CTCL was instrumental in altering state and local election operations in battleground states across the country during the 2020 cycle. In Pennsylvania, for instance, CTCL flooded the state with approximately $25 million “Zuckbucks,” with the “5 biggest grants per capita in CTCL-funded counties” going to localities won by Joe Biden.
“CTCL gave grants to 10 of the 13 counties Biden won statewide, one of which (Erie County) flipped from Trump’s 2016 column. Together, these 10 counties received $20.8 million, or over 83 percent of all CTCL grants to Pennsylvania,” a Capital Research Center report found. “In contrast, CTCL gave grants to 12 of the 54 counties Trump won statewide. These 12 counties received just $1.73 million, a mere 7 percent of all CTCL funds in the Keystone state.”
As of July 2022, more than 20 states have passed laws banning or restricting public officials’ use of “Zuckbucks” and other private funds when conducting elections.