Legacy media have given Americans plenty of reasons to distrust their hack-tivist “journalism” — and an Arizona outlet’s attempt to discredit The Federalist’s reporting on Democrats’ dark money elections scheme is just the latest example.
On Jan. 8, The Federalist published an article detailing Coconino County, Arizona’s collusion with the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence, an $80 million venture launched in 2022 by left-wing nonprofits to “systematically influence every aspect of election administration” and advance Democrat-backed voting policies in local election offices. The piece specifically examined internal communications between the Coconino recorder’s office and the Alliance, and how the two entities coordinated on election administrative issues and the crafting of election-related materials to distribute to voters ahead of Arizona’s 2024 elections.
Rather than delve into the specifics of The Federalist’s reporting, the Arizona Daily Sun’s Adrian Skabelund penned an article on Sunday that reads more like a press release issued by the Coconino County recorder’s office than a news article. Titled, “Local officials reject allegation of bias in Coconino Elections office by conservative outlet,” the article attempts to cast doubt on the notion that Coconino officials are colluding with “left wing dark money” groups — but it does so without actually digging into the background of such organizations or describing why conservatives are alarmed by their coordination with local election offices.
“Coconino County Recorder Patty Hansen, who helps lead the county election office, said she found the allegation humorous yet sad,” the article reads before quoting Hansen, a Democrat, who downplayed her office’s coordination with the Alliance as nothing more than an effort to “make elections more secure.”
“It’s sad that they think there’s this big conspiracy going on, when what we’re trying to do is to help the citizens in our county and the voters,” Hansen whined. (Because as everyone knows, soliciting Arizona’s Democrat-caucusing senators to support provisions of President Biden’s 2024 fiscal year budget at the behest of left-wing actors and smearing a Republican congressman as a so-called “election denier” are just normal methods of “helping voters.”)
The article also quotes Fred Solop, a political science professor at Northern Arizona University, who baselessly claimed that The Federalist’s characterization of the Alliance as “left-wing” is part of an attempt to foment a “broader narrative that the election was stolen in 2020.” Nowhere in its article did The Federalist claim the 2020 election was “stolen.”
The Alliance’s Left-Wing Ties
Unsurprisingly, neither Skabelund, Hansen, nor Solop bothered to mention the Alliance’s left-wing backer. As noted by InfluenceWatch, the Alliance is sponsored by The Audacious Project, “a project of the TED Foundation” that finances groups with “left-of-center policy goals, particularly related to environmentalism and social justice.”
While TED doesn’t fund the Project, the initiative receives financing from “at least 37 organizations, including many left-of-center grantmaking groups like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Skoll Foundation, the Oak Foundation, and the Someland Foundation.” The Audacious Project is also reportedly “supported” by the Bridgespan Group, “a non-profit consulting firm which has worked for many major left-of-center organizations, including Planned Parenthood and the Rockefeller Foundation.”
Skabelund also conveniently failed to inform Arizona Daily Sun readers about the Alliance’s ties to left-wing figures. The Alliance itself was launched by the Center for Tech and Civic Life, whose co-founder Tiana Epps-Johnson was named as an inaugural fellow at the Obama Foundation in 2018. Prior to forming CTCL, Johnson also worked with CTCL co-founders Whitney May and Donny Bridges at the now-defunct New Organizing Institute, “a left-progressive group that trained digital organizers and campaigners for the Democratic Party and liberal political causes.” The Washington Post once referred to NOI as the “Democratic party’s Hogwarts for digital wizardry,” according to InfluenceWatch.
Meanwhile, the Center for Civic Design (CCD) — the Alliance partner collaborating with Coconino County on a 90-day notice to send to voters — was co-founded by Dana Chisnell and Whitney Quesenbery. While Chisnell previously worked in the Obama administration, Quesenbery has co-authored reports about voting for the Brennan Center for Justice, a legal advocacy group that seeks to advance “left-of-center policy priorities.” CCD has also worked with other left-wing organizations, including the Brennan Center, Democracy Fund, and League of Women Voters.
“Show Me The ‘Zuckbucks’!”
One of the more egregious aspects of Skabelund’s article, however, is his decision to omit how CTCL interfered in the 2020 election to Joe Biden and Democrats’ benefit. During that contest, CTCL and the Center for Election Innovation and Research — a nonprofit founded by left-wing activist David Becker — collectively received hundreds of millions of dollars from Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
These “Zuckbucks” were poured into local election offices in battleground states around the country to change how elections were administered, such as by expanding unsupervised election protocols like mail-in voting and the use of ballot drop boxes. To make matters worse, the grants were heavily skewed towards Democrat-majority counties, essentially making it a massive Democrat get-out-the-vote operation.
With Arizona and 26 other states having passed measures restricting the use of private money in elections in the years since, CTCL and other left-wing nonprofits devised the Alliance as a way to skirt these “Zuckbucks” bans. Instead of providing services to participating election offices for free, the Alliance “pivoted” to a fee-based membership model to evade private election-funding bans. This new strategy, as the Honest Elections Project’s Jason Snead previously noted, means that counties allowed to accept private funds can typically have the fees waived, while other counties can still “buy their way in for a relatively small sum, allowing the Alliance to spread its influence even in states where lawmakers have tried to prevent it.”
Democrat Elections Lies
Skabelund’s article wouldn’t be complete without parroting Democrats’ baseless claims that Republican voters everywhere are constantly threatening election workers across the country. “Some election officials have received harassment and even death threats based on unfounded notions that elections offices engaged in election fraud,” the article frets.
Yet, Hansen admitted to the Sun that she and her staff “have received very little in the way of harassment and no death threats regarding their work.” Unsurprisingly, Skabelund neglected to mention data published by Biden’s Department of Justice that further undermines Democrats’ bogus narrative.
Why It Matters
Skabelund’s failure to examine the Alliance and its partners’ “left-wing” nature isn’t all that surprising. In the years since the 2020 election, legacy media have regularly ignored — or in some cases, defended — CTCL’s interference in the contest to obfuscate that it wasn’t as squeaky clean as they’ve portrayed it.
Nonpartisan election administration is key to maintaining confidence in America’s electoral system. Election officials’ collaboration with outside actors — particularly those engaging in partisan activism — and the media’s neglect to provide Americans with the truth about such activities simply erodes that confidence.