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Memos hint Zuckerberg to continue big spending on Georgia election workers, infrastructure

Facebook founder's influence on election process may extend beyond 2020 if Fulton County in Georgia has its way. Newly obtained memos talk of "doubled" future budget in Atlanta area.

Published: May 4, 2021 6:29pm

Updated: May 5, 2021 8:12am

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's multimillion dollar investment in the 2020 presidential election process may extend into this year or beyond, at least if Fulton County is any measure.

Georgia's largest county, which encompasses the blue-leaning city of Atlanta, received more than $6.3 million in private grants from the Zuckerberg-funded Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) to conduct elections during the 2020 pandemic, but recently reported it did not use all the money last year.

Now it would like to spend $858,667 in leftover proceeds in the future, according to county election officials' memos obtained by Just the News under the state's Freedom of Information Act.

CTCL, which got hundreds of millions from Zuckerberg and his wife to spend during the 2020 election, also hinted of bigger plans for the future in its after-action questionnaire for Fulton County.

"If your annual budget for elections permanently doubled, what would you be able to accomplish that you can't accomplish now?" the questionnaire asked.

Conservatives have raised serious concerns about CTCL grants, saying they appeared to be heavily focused on Democratic election strongholds in 2020 and amounted to an unprecedented back door for private money to influence neutral election judges and administrators. The group counters it was simply helping election coordinators get through an unprecedented pandemic.

In its application to extend leftover funding to June 30, 2021, Fulton County said it would use the money on "temporary staffing support," "vote by mail/absentee voting equipment and supplies" and "election administration equipment," the memos show.

The memos also provide an extraordinary window into the differences between what Georgia's largest county said it would spend CTCL money on and what it actually spent the grants on. 

For instance, Fulton County said in its application and plan for the grant money that it would spend $209,713 for voter education on mail-in ballots, but it reported in its extension request as having spent no money in that category. A separate report claimed the county spent $58,593 on voter education.

Similarly, the memos show the county requested $6,309,436 from the Zuckerberg-funded organization for 2020 and spent $5,478,297 by the end of the year, leaving $889,732.37 unspent.

But the grant extension request used different numbers, reporting $5,450,769 was spent by Dec. 31, 2021, and $858,667 was left over.

Phill Kline, Director of the Amistad Project, told Just the News on Tuesday that the 2020 election was "one of the least transparent elections in U.S. history because America was kicked out of the counting room" and private organizations were let in. He added that these public-private partnerships are preventing Americans from seeing what happened in the 2020 election.

"The people running the show aren't the government," Kline alleged, adding that private groups like CTCL don't have to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests or answer phone calls like government agencies. "They should," he said.

Kline also said that Zuckerberg, CTCL, and similar organizations should open up communications, "otherwise we won't know what happened in 2020."

Regarding state audits discovering what happened in the 2020 election, Kline said that they are "the beginning point, not the end point."

Fulton County Registration and Elections department did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday evening.

Additional interesting facts in the Fulton County records include:

  • The grant request submitted in summer 2020 asked for money for December and January Senate run-off elections, which were not even scheduled or assured to occur.
  • Despite more money being spent in the grant report than the grant extension request, the report claims less money was spent in polling place rental and cleaning expenses, temporary staffing support, and vote-by-mail/absentee voting equipment or supplies
  • Requested funding for "Early voting mega site in south Fulton," where "predominantly black, predominantly Democrat, lines were longer than in precincts in north Fulton. Democrats outvoted Republicans 4-1 in the June Primary."

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