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Wisconsin Voters Can Deal A Fatal Blow To Private Election Funding Schemes


On April 2nd, Wisconsinites will have the chance to stand up to election interference and prevent billionaires from meddling in Wisconsin elections.

The ballot measures up for a vote on Tuesday would outlaw corrosive private election funding in one of the nation’s most important presidential battlegrounds. With the 2024 election just nine months away, that cannot happen soon enough.

Elections are the foundation of our republic and democratic process. The offices we trust to run them should be accountable to the people, but private funding schemes expose election administration to the influence of billionaires and special interests. That is why more than half the states in the nation have already banned private election funding, many on a bipartisan basis.

But Wisconsin remains exposed to these “Zuckerbucks” grants, a term coined to describe the unprecedented election influence program Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg financed in 2020. That year, Zuckerberg gave over $400 million to two liberal non-profits, which then funneled his money disproportionately to cities and counties that wound up voting for Joe Biden.

That pattern repeated itself here in Wisconsin. The Zuckerberg-funded Center for Tech and Civic Life, or CTCL, poured over $10 million into Wisconsin election offices. According to Capital Research Center, Joe Biden won 90% of the localities that money went to. Most of the funds went to just five cities, all heavily liberal.

That was no fluke. CTCL is an unabashedly left-wing group founded by staffers of an organization the Washington Post once called the “Hogwarts of Democratic digital wizardry.” It is supported by major partisan donors, including the Arabella Advisors dark money network that spends over $1 billion a year to help liberals and Democrats, and has accepted more than a quarter-billion dollars in foreign donations.

The Zuckerbucks program gave CTCL influence and leverage to push election offices to skew their voting practices and focus on driving turnout in ways meant to benefit the left. One example of this played out in the city of Racine, which used Zuckerbucks to buy a ballot collection van, and in 2022 deployed it more often to collect votes in areas with high concentrations of Democrat voters.

Fortunately, a judge ruled that this blatant attempt to stack the deck was illegal.

That is an important win for the rule of law. But until Zuckerbucks are banned altogether, private election funding will remain an ongoing and urgent threat to fair elections.

Milwaukee is preparing to take another staggering $786,000 grant ahead of 2024. Where are these funds coming from?

There are more questions than answers. Madison, too, has taken a new round of private grants. It netted $1.5 million from the CTCL-led U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence, a national program aimed at pumping left-wing politics into election offices nationwide.

Banning Zuckerbucks should not be a divisive issue. No one should want partisan and potentially foreign-funded special interests influencing how elections are run.

Nevertheless, liberal activists and politicians defend these schemes, and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, who has repeatedly vetoed legislation to ban Zuckerbucks. They claim private funding promotes “democracy.” Would they say the same if Zuckerbucks had been concocted by conservatives? Never.

That partisan double standard is the best argument for banning Zuckerbucks. Elections depend on public trust, and that trust hinges on neutral, nonpartisan election administration. Private election funding calls that neutrality into question, and that is wrong no matter which side stands to gain.

There are two amendments on Wisconsin’s April 2nd ballot aimed at ending private election grants: one bans private grants and donations, the other says that elections officials are the only ones who can perform election-related tasks.

Adopting these measures would help keep Wisconsin’s elections fair and transparent, free from the influence of hyper-partisan groups.

Private election funding is a Trojan horse for partisan political influence. It corrupts the rule of law and erodes public trust in elections. On Tuesday, Wisconsin voters will finally have the chance to ban private.

Jason Snead is the Executive Director of Honest Elections Project. Annette Olson is CEO of MacIver Impact.

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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