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Voters Prohibit ‘Zuckbucks’-Style Private Funding And Staff From Wisconsin Elections

Wisconsinites approved two constitutional amendments prohibiting ‘Zuckbucks’ and mandating only legally authorized officials may administer elections.

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Wisconsin voters approved two constitutional amendment proposals Tuesday that prohibit private money from being used to conduct elections and mandate only legally designated government officials may administer elections. This makes Wisconsin the 28th state to ban “Zuckbucks”-style electioneering and the second to do so by constitutional amendment.

According to preliminary results, Question 1 is projected to pass. That amendment stipulates that “private donations and grants may not be applied for, accepted, expended, or used in connection with the conduct of any primary, election, or referendum.” Question 2 requires that “only election officials designated by law may perform tasks in the conduct of primaries, elections, and referendums. It was also approved by voters, according to The New York Times.

During the 2020 election season, nonprofits including the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) 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.

Among other things, these funds went to help expand unsupervised election protocols including mail-in voting and ballot drop boxes. To make matters worse, the grants were heavily skewed toward Democrat-majority counties, essentially making it a massive, privately funded Democrat get-out-the-vote operation.

Leading up to the 2020 contest, Wisconsin received an estimated $10.1 million “Zuckbucks” from CTCL, which “distributed a total of 31 grants above the $5,000 minimum to Wisconsin cities and townships.” Of those 31 grants, 28 went to cities, eight of which were won by Trump and 20 by Biden.

The constitutional amendment stipulating that only officials designated by law may administer elections seeks to prevent a repeat of what happened in Green Bay during the 2020 contest. As my colleague Matt Kittle reported, “Communications obtained through open records requests show a longtime Democrat operative who was embedded in the Green Bay City Clerk’s office [during the 2020 election] offered to help ‘cure’ absentee ballot envelopes and was given the keys to the room where absentee ballots were stored.”

In recent years, bills attempting to restrict or ban private entities from interfering in Wisconsin elections twice cleared the Republican-controlled legislature, only to be vetoed by Democrat Gov. Tony Evers. Using the constitutional amendment process permitted Republicans to give voters the final say and sidestep Evers’s efforts to keep Wisconsin’s elections open to private financiers.

The Grassroots Take Action

The passage of the two amendments wouldn’t have been possible without election integrity activists.

AMAC Action Senior Vice President Andy Mangione told The Federalist his group “deployed a call-to-action to [its more than] 48,000 members in the state … in a get out the vote effort” and “encouraged [AMAC] members to vote yes on questions one and two.” Ken Cuccinelli’s Election Transparency Initiative PAC ran a six-figure texting campaign targeting GOP voters in nine key counties. The campaign was directed at GOP voters who have strong histories of voting in recent primaries and general elections, but who may not always vote in the spring.

Annette Olson, the executive director of The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy, told The Federalist her organization worked with several Wisconsin-based groups to get the amendments over the finish line, including MacIver Impact, Inc., Wisconsin Family Action, Wisconsin Family Council, Wisconsin Firearms Owners, and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty.

Olsen also participated in weekly meetings co-hosted by Kerri Toloczko, executive director of the Election Integrity Network; Lynn Taylor, president of the Virginia Institute for Public Policy; and Sharon Bemis, a policy analyst for the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Election Protection Project.

Groups that partook in these conferences include the Wisconsin Voter Alliance, Capital Research Center, and Honest Elections Project. Also participating: the Citizen’s Election Research Network, Center for Election Confidence, Wisconsin Ad-Hoc Committee on Election Integrity, America First Works, the Institute for Reforming Government, and Restoration of America. ROA published articles advocating for the amendments’ passage and highlighting the issue of “Zuckbucks” in elections.

Speaking with The Federalist, Toloczko explained how this “mini coalition” made the GOTV effort “easier, and far more coordinated.”

“We contacted both state groups and national groups to encourage them to help educate Wisconsin voters and get out the vote,” Toloczko said. “These groups were on the calls, shared information, graphics, research, and were active both in grassroots and media. On the calls, partners shared names of friendly media for radio, TV, and op-eds. Annette [Olson] and her team at MacIver provided invaluable printed materials — research papers, press releases, memes.”

“Everyone worked so well together, shared all resources, and assisted each other with messaging and dissemination,” she added.

National and state groups such as the Republican National Committee and Republican Party of Wisconsin were also involved in efforts to pass the amendments. The RNC’s Gates McGavick told The Federalist both organizations “sent out multiple email campaigns” and helped fill more than 1,000 poll observer shifts throughout the state.

Americans Winning Elections also helped with GOTV efforts.

Remaining Concerns

While a welcome development, it’s unclear how the newly enacted “Zuckbucks” ban will affect localities that already accepted private election grants ahead of the 2024 election.

Most recently, it was revealed that the Democrat-dominated city of Milwaukee — which sits in a county Joe Biden won by nearly 40 points in the 2020 election — accepted a nearly $800,000 grant from Cities Forward, a left-wing nonprofit with ties to Democrats’ dark money network. Cities Forward previously received funding from Open Society Foundations, a group founded by leftist billionaire George Soros, back when it was an initiative of the left-wing New Venture Fund.

The city of Madison, another Democrat-majority locality, accepted a $1.5 million grant from CTCL in January 2023 for “planning and operating safe and secure elections,” according to the Wisconsin State Journal. While the city initially said it planned to spend $500,000 in 2023 and $1 million in 2024, The Cap Times reported in November that Madison officials had “not yet spent any of the funds.”

Madison received the grant as part of its membership with the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence, a five-year, $80 million venture launched by CTCL in 2022 that’s designed to “systematically influence every aspect of election administration” and advance Democrat-backed voting practices in local election offices.

This article has been updated since publication to include Americans Winning Elections as one of the groups that helped with GOTV efforts in Wisconsin.


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