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Louisiana passes constitutional amendment to ban "Zuckerbucks" after governor vetoed legislation

Louisiana is the 27th state to ban "Zuckerbucks" (the injection of private money into public election administration) after North Carolina banned the use of private funds by overriding the governor’s veto of the election integrity legislation.

Published: October 18, 2023 11:00pm

Louisiana has become the most recent state to adopt a ban on "Zuckerbucks" — the injection of private money into public election administration — from their elections through a constitutional amendment, following a veto by the Democratic governor over similar legislation.

Voters cast their ballots on Saturday in statewide races for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and state treasurer in addition to deciding on four ballot measures. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) won the gubernatorial jungle primary election and Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser (R) won reelection. The rest of the statewide races are advancing to runoff elections next month.

One of the ballot measures voters were presented with asked whether they supported prohibiting the funding of elections “from a foreign government or a nongovernmental source” unless the secretary of state authorizes funds from policies established by law. Louisiana doesn’t currently have policies that allow for outside funds to be used for administering elections.

A total of 72.6% of voters chose "yes" to ban Zuckerbucks, compared to 27.4% who voted "no."

The Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) poured nearly $350 million into local elections offices managing the 2020 election, with most of the funds donated to the nonprofit by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The nonprofit has claimed its 2020 election grants — colloquially known as "Zuckerbucks" — were allocated without partisan preference to make voting safer amid the pandemic.

Critics of the unprecedented level of private funding injected into election administration offices in 2020 argue the grants were awarded disproportionately to boost voter participation in swing state Democratic strongholds. A House Republican investigation found that less than 1% of the funds were spent on personal protective equipment. Most of the funds were focused on get-out-the-vote efforts and registrations

Following controversy surrounding the disproportionate resources funneled to Democratic jurisdictions and claims that the imbalance helped sway the election in Biden's favor, 25 states have either restricted or banned the use of private money to fund election operations, while several counties have also restricted or banned the funds, according to the Capital Research Center

Louisiana received $1,128,000 in Zuckerbucks in 2020, Capital Research Center reported.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) vetoed a bill passed by the state legislature in 2021 that would have prohibited Zuckerbucks. The bill was scheduled for a floor debate following the veto, but never moved forward. The following year, the state House passed another Zuckerbucks ban bill, but it died in the state Senate.

Louisiana is the 27th state to ban Zuckerbucks, after North Carolina banned the private funds by overriding the governor’s veto of the election integrity legislation. Louisiana appears to be the first state to ban Zuckerbucks via constitutional amendment.

The Wisconsin state legislature is in the process of sending a constitutional amendment to voters to decide on in the April 2024 primary election regarding whether to ban Zuckerbucks. The Democratic governor previously vetoed two bills passed by the state legislature to prohibit the private funds in administering elections.

In response to the Louisiana constitutional amendment passing, National Chairman of the Election Transparency Initiative and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli praised the state for banning Zuckerbucks.

“Louisiana has joined a movement of more than two dozen states declaring that elections should never be privatized, and we’re pleased that voters acted resoundingly to ban ‘Zuckerbucks’ once and for all after the governor’s politically motivated veto,” Cuccinelli said in a statement on Monday. “The House and Senate should be applauded for advancing this critical anti-corruption amendment which let voters decide whether the campaign financing scheme should be allowed to pollute Louisiana’s elections.”

Jason Snead, Executive Director of Honest Elections Project Action, also released a statement on the passage of the constitutional amendment. “Honest Elections Project Action applauds Louisianans for overwhelmingly voting to enshrine a ban on private funding for election administration into the state Constitution,” Snead said. “The resounding margin of victory for this provision should send a signal to state lawmakers across the country to follow Louisiana’s lead.

“Private dollars from ideologically biased groups like the left-wing Center for Tech and Civic Life understandably cast doubt on the impartiality of election administration in the minds of some voters. That’s especially the case given that CTCL’s latest venture also creates a potential conduit for foreign donors like Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss to influence American elections by pumping money directly into election administration,” he added.

“Credit to Louisiana lawmakers and voters for ensuring that private, partial actors can no longer have an influence on how their elections are run.”