Like a bad movie sequel, leftwing nonprofits like the Center for Tech and Civil Life (CTCL) are once again pumping millions of dollars in left-wing “dark money” into election offices across the country. Just like they did in 2020, these groups are looking for ways to skew elections and boost liberal turnout in battleground states.
But this time, there’s a twist. CTCL and its allies aren’t just doling out eye-popping grants. They are aiming for nothing less than a shadow takeover of election offices. Through their new $80 million program, called the “U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence,” the left is targeting local election offices. The goal: push liberal voting policies and systematically reshape how our elections are run.
Voters need only to look to the contentious 2020 election cycle to appreciate the significance of this program. That year, Mark Zuckerberg pledged more than $400 million to support election offices during the pandemic. But he didn’t give the money to election offices directly. Instead, he gave the funds to left-wing nonprofits like CTCL.
CTCL then directed these “Zuck Bucks” disproportionately to cities and counties that voted Democratic. The aim was to boost turnout in blue areas. Just look at the impact in Georgia, which got $31 million in “Zuck Buck” grants, or nine percent of all Zuckerberg funding awarded nationwide. Between the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, Georgia counties that were funded by “Zuck Bucks” became, on average, 2.3 percentage points more Democratic.
Elections should be run freely, and be accountable to voters. That’s why, since 2020, nearly half the states have passed legislation outlawing the corrupting influence of private funding.
But in states like Michigan, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, Democratic governors have vetoed commonsense “Zuck Buck” bans. It is no surprise that the Alliance for Election Excellence has recruited target offices in all three states, and is pouring in millions in left-wing “dark money.”
But the Alliance’s tactics are even more insidious than before. Using public records requests, the Honest Elections Project has revealed the Alliance as a bait-and switch operation meant to reshape election offices and thwart oversight and public accountability.
The records we uncovered revealed that unsuspecting election offices believed they were getting a badge of excellence from a nonpartisan group. In truth, they were being targeted by a highly partisan organization. Each of the Alliance’s partners has deep ties to the Democratic Party and to the biggest “dark money” groups in the country. CTCL’s founders, for instance, worked for the New Organizing Institute, a group once dubbed the “Democratic Party’s Hogwarts for Digital Wizardry.” The Institute for Responsive Government and the Center for Secure and Modern Elections are both projects of the Arabella Advisors network, which raked in $1.5 billion in 2021 to support left-wing causes.
After the first ten election offices were chosen — so-called “Centers for Election Excellence” — the Alliance revealed that each would get an enormous grant from CTCL, complete with detailed restrictions on how the funds could be used.
At the same time, the Alliance announced a “pivot” from its original plan to offer free programming to recruits. Instead, participating election offices would pay dues, which would be converted into credits that offices can spend on services from CTCL and the other left-wing partners behind the Alliance. Those services include “legal” and “political” consulting, euphemisms for pushing partisan politics, as well as coaching, training, technology, software, “best practices,” and more.
To add insult to injury, the Alliance is adopting a quid pro quo structure that requires election officials to provide them with in-kind contributions in exchange for grants and services – all using taxpayers’ dollars. That includes enormous amounts of data about how they operate, so the Alliance can craft so-called “improvement plans” that reshape how each office functions.
If that does not sound like a plan to slowly convert these offices into outposts for the Left, then nothing does.
The program is so comprehensive that the Alliance even provides election officials with preapproved talking points to dismiss any public concerns over their participation in the Alliance’s scheme.
This is not how election offices should operate. Elections should be run neutrally, and that ought to be a bipartisan principle. Indeed, some states with Democratic governors, like Pennsylvania, have passed laws protecting public elections from the influence of billionaire donors.
But the fight is far from over. This week, Democrats in the Virginia legislature advanced a bill to roll back the existing “Zuck Buck” ban and let offices accept “subject matter expertise regarding election law, policies, and administration” from outside groups. In other words, the left wants to open Virginia to the Alliance.
But private funding bans are not enough. The documents we uncovered prove that the Alliance aims to expand nationwide, and is structured in ways that may allow it to skirt existing laws. Vigorous oversight and complete transparency are vital, and so is public engagement. The citizens of Greenwich, Connecticut are waging a fight right now to stop the spread of “Zuck Bucks 2.0.” Others should follow suit.
This is a democracy, after all. Government should be accountable to the people, not the special interests behind the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence.
Jason Snead is the Executive Director of Honest Elections Project Action.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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