Zuckerberg Delivers Ballots of Cash

March 2, 2022

If it looks, swims, and quacks like a duck, it's a duck. On Tuesday a Wisconsin Office of Special Counsel reported a "bribery scheme" discovered in the 2020 election, in which the Chicago-based Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) unequally funded "get out the vote" (GOTV) efforts in heavily Democratic counties. They conclude, despite Democrats' refrain about "no evidence of widespread voter fraud" (at least in elections where they win), that "security gaps... tend to enable bad actors to operate in the shadows," as shown by their catalog of "numerous questionable and unlawful actions of various actors in the 2020 election."

The CTCL got much of its cash from tech-baron Mark Zuckerberg, hence the nickname "Zuckerbucks." It then began doling out the cash to stimulate absentee and in-person voting -- but only to Democratic areas. Milwaukee, Madison, Racine, Kenosha, and Green Bay all received $10,000 grants, but that quickly grew into "a joint operation." When all was said and done, those five Wisconsin urban centers had received $8.8 million to get out the vote. Hundreds of thousands of dollars went to locating ballot drop boxes in "targeted neighborhoods," which the report said violated Wisconsin election law. The report contended that the grants and local election offices violated the law "by not treating all voters the same in the same election ... a bedrock of principle of election law."

To be clear, the report does not allege widespread voter fraud. There was no violation of the "one citizen, one vote" principle. What the report does show is a well-funded effort by government-run election boards to systematically turn out more votes in regions known to lean towards one political party. Political parties and candidates are allowed to do this; in fact, GOTV efforts are essential parts of every modern political campaign. What is illegal here is that election administrators put their thumb on the scale for one political party. In the words of the report, they "crossed the line between election administration and campaigning."

The Zuckerbucks program wasn't limited to Wisconsin. In Georgia, CTCL had "average grants of $1.41 per head in Trump areas and $5.33 in Biden ones." In total, Mark Zuckerberg bankrolled the non-profit organization to deliver $350 million to nearly 2,500 election departments across the country. Laundered as this money was through an ostensibly non-partisan non-profit to local election administrators, it bypassed the rules governing campaign contributions from private individuals.

How many votes can you buy with $350 million? Possibly enough to swing a close election. But to know for certain, we would have to prove how many votes would not have been cast if the money had not been spent, and that's impossible. The money was spent unfairly, but this is one wrong that can't be righted retroactively -- at least, not by human judges.

But we don't have to stand for such ongoing abuse of our election system. Legislatures in several states are moving quickly to block private sources of funding from election administration. The Senate elections committee in Minnesota yesterday took up a bill to do just that. Several states, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Ohio, already have laws against private funding in place. Your state legislators can hear from you, too.

Then again, money isn't everything in elections. During the 2018 "blue wave," Democrats failed to defeat Senator Mitch McConnell with $90 million or Senator Lindsey Graham with $57 million. If the other side has an unfair advantage with funding, we shouldn't abandon the electoral process. We the people must fight back harder and take our revenge at the ballot box.