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Zuckerbucks 2.0? States begin banning new private, foreign funding of elections

Indiana has enacted a law to ban a new form of “Zuckerbucks” while the Arizona Senate has passed a prohibition on the foreign funding of elections.

Published: March 16, 2024 11:28pm

Two states are in the process of banning “Zuckerbucks 2.0” – the injection of private money into public election administration – with one focusing on an outright ban, while the other is looking to prohibit foreign funding of elections. 

As Indiana has enacted a law to ban a new form of “Zuckerbucks” – also called “Zuckerbucks 2.0” – the Arizona Senate has passed a related prohibition on the foreign funding of elections. Meanwhile, four counties in two other states have left the “Zuckerbucks 2.0” group.

On Monday, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) signed House Bill 1264 into law, which includes multiple election security measures, such as banning “Zuckerbucks 2.0.” 

The new law “[p]rovides that a political subdivision that conducts or administers an election may not join the membership of, or participate in a program offered by, a person who has directly financed certain elections activities,” according to the state legislature’s summary. 

The ban on the new form of “Zuckerbucks” comes after four counties have left the latest project involving private funding of election administration. 

Two Utah counties and two North Carolina counties have withdrawn from the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence, a project of the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL). There are currently 11 cities and counties across eight states that remain in the alliance. One of those counties, Coconino County, is in Arizona. 

The alliance is awarding funds to counties and municipalities under its Centers for Election Excellence program. According to CTCL in 2022, the alliance is providing $80 million over five years “to envision, support, and celebrate excellence in U.S. election administration.” 

The alliance aids elections offices that are part of its program by “identifying the election office’s unique challenges and goals, then, where permitted, we provide them with customized resources, coaching, implementation support, and grant funding to advance their nonpartisan goals related to improving the voting experience.” 

CTCL poured about $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, allegedly without partisan preference to make voting safer amid the pandemic

However, 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

Controversy ensued in part of the disproportionate private funding "Zuckerbucks" funneled to Democratic jurisdictions. Opponents claim the imbalance helped sway the 2020 election in Biden's favor, and asa result, 27 states have either restricted or banned the use of private money to fund elections, while 12 counties have also restricted or banned the funds, according to the Capital Research Center

The Arizona Senate passed Senate Bill 1374 on Monday, then sent it over to the state House. The bill “[r]equires a person to provide certification that the person is not the knowing recipient of foreign donations before entering into any agreement with a government entity to provide goods or services relating to elections administration.” 

This legislation is related to “Zuckerbucks 2.0” because CTCL received nearly $25 million in 2020 from New Venture Fund, according to the Capital Research Center. New Venture Fund, which is the largest nonprofit created by the Arabella Advisors network, received $57.8 million from nonprofits started by Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss, according to a report by Americans for Public Trust

Jason Snead, Executive Director of Honest Elections Project Action, told Just the News on Wednesday that Indiana is “first in the nation” to ban “Zuckerbucks 2.0,” while the Arizona Senate is doing so by focusing on foreign funding. 

Snead explained that the Arizona Senate bill is “basically making it impossible for a membership-type program” like the alliance “to recruit” an election office “if it can't certify” that the program is “free of foreign funding.” 

He added that the Arizona bill appeared to pass along party lines, noting that “after years of railing against foreign interference in elections, you have liberal lawmakers voting to keep elections open to foreign influence,” probably because they’re “benefiting from foreign funding.” 

CTCL didn't respond to a request for comment.

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