Zuckerberg’s cash fuels Republican suspicions and new election rules


Denver (AP) — Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg donated $ 400 million to fund the election office When they scrambled to deal with the coronavirus pandemic late last summer, he said he wanted him never to do it again.

The Republican legislature has acknowledged his wish.

At least eight GOP-controlled countries have passed a ban on donations to election offices this year as Republicans are trying to block external funding for voting. Laws are often offered as part of the Republican package, imposing new restrictions on how voters cast ballots and new requirements on county or city-based election authorities.

The anger and suspicion on the right that Zuckerberg’s money benefited the Democrats in 2020 has spurred the reaction. Conservatives have long accused tech mogul social media platforms of censoring right-wing voices as part of a campaign against false information.

Zuckerberg’s money was distributed primarily through a nonpartisan foundation with liberal roots. Conservative groups cite an analysis that funds flowed disproportionately to democratic counties in major states such as Florida and Pennsylvania.

“People looked around at it, and they were more and more worried about why you have a millionaire to fund our elections through the back door,” some states said. Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action, a conservative group that promoted the ban in Japan, said.

However, many electoral officials say the effort is short-sighted and fueled by paranoia. They claim that election offices are chronically underfunded and cannot benefit from donations that are still flowing to many other government agencies, including police, schools and libraries.

In addition, they say there are no signs of favor in the distribution of grants from Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. Elections are more expensive in populous urban areas, especially last year when the state scrambled to move to ballot voting to deal with a pandemic. In metropolitan areas, it was necessary to purchase expensive equipment to open and sort postal ballots. This is a task that smaller, Republican-minded counties can do by hand or with less equipment.

Also, Republican-prone areas have already discouraged accepting election subsidies because of Zuckerberg’s conservative suspicions. Last year, the Republican Attorney General of Louisiana ordered the state’s election office to refuse grants from nonprofits. Center For Tech and Civic LifeZuckerberg distributed $ 350 million in money.

“All the electoral departments that applied have received the funds,” said Tiana Epps-Johnson, Executive Director of the CTCL, adding that the distribution of funds “reflects those who chose to apply.”

A Zuckerberg spokesman refused to deal with the new wave of law.

“Last year, when the US election infrastructure faced unprecedented challenges due to a pandemic, Mark and Priscilla stepped up to close the funding gap, a nonpartisan 501 (c) (3) organization, Center for Tech. We donated $ 350 million to and Civic Life, “said Ben Labolt. “Mark revealed that this is a unique effort to address the unprecedented challenge of a pandemic and his preference for publicly funded elections.”

The center has distributed grants to 2,500 election offices nationwide, from Alaska to Florida. Money was spent in a variety of ways — protective gear for pollsters, public education campaigns to promote new ways to vote during a pandemic, and new trucks to carry voting equipment.

In northern Arizona, the vast Coconino County uses a $ 614,000 grant to hire more electoral workers, especially Navajo speakers who can outreach in settlements, for voters to drop ballots. A drive-up site has been set up, said county record clerk Patty Hansen.

She said it was the first time she had enough money to extend outreach throughout the county. The entire county is 18,600 square miles, one of the largest land sizes in the country, but has a sparse population.

“Because of the law passed and signed by the Governor, we will never be able to get such a grant,” she said. “They are blocking funding sources so that they can provide these additional requirements that they impose on us.”

Election officials have long complained about lack of funding, but not as much as last year when the entire business had to be renewed immediately at the peak of the pandemic. There was a major shift to voting by mail, but even face-to-face voting required new safeguards and payments for the dangers of voting workers.

The Democratic Party demanded an additional $ 2 billion from the election office in April’s first coronavirus aid bill, but only $ 400 million. Zuckerberg intervened after the primary election issues and the spring and summer of the party’s impasse. He and Chan donated a total of $ 400 million to the election office and $ 350 million in the form of grants to local offices distributed through CTCL.

The choice of CTCL frowned among several conservatives because of the roots of the group. Some of its founders, including Epps-Johnson, were at the New Organizing Institute, which once provided data and training to liberal activists. Nevertheless, the CTCL has become respected by the electoral authorities, including Republicans, Pamel Anderson, and an elected clerk in the former suburbs of Denver. -Area county on that board. She said in an interview that the group was “100% independent.”

Other Republican electoral authorities also guarantee the fairness of the program. “I don’t know why the government should be barred from working with the private sector to secure grants,” said Brian Meade, Republican Election Director in Licking County, Ohio, who received $ 77,000 from the CTCL. “I think it would be good if we could work with the private sector to secure the money to save taxpayers’ money,” Mead said.

It did not soften the conservatives, especially after the first grant was given to the major Democratic voting cities. Philadelphia, one of the central battlefields for the presidential election in Pennsylvania, received $ 10 million from the CTCL with an annual election budget of $ 12.3 million.conservative Foundation for Government Accountability In Pennsylvania, we found that Democratic voting counties received an average of $ 4.99 per voter, and Republican voting counties received an average of $ 1.12 per voter.

In Florida, the difference is dramatic, with one-third of the total $ 18 million sent to Democratic Palm Beach County and an additional $ 2.4 million to Miami-Dade County to support Democrat Joe Biden. did. Be expected. Republican Donald Trump won the state.

“If Charles Koch were doing this, well, for many of these people, shoes would be on the other side,” said Hayden Dubrois, a researcher at the Responsible Foundation, a conservative billionaire. Said by mentioning.

In some states, including Georgia and Texas, new legislation requires the Secretary of State to distribute all donations to local election offices. In states such as Arizona, Kansas, and Iowa, they are completely banned.

Anderson, a Republican CTCL board member, said it would cause real damage.

“If you want to block this funding, would you like to ask if lawmakers are funding the election?” Anderson said. “Because so many states don’t.”


The Associated Press writer Felicia Fonseca of Flagstaff, Arizona and Julie Kerr Smith of Columbus, Ohio contributed to this report.