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Zuckerbucks redux: Social media mogul funds recruitment of progressives to administer elections

Clerk Work has recruited hundreds of candidates to run for local elections offices. "You can influence quite literally who is administering elections," said founder of program's parent organization Amanda Litman, who was email director for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign.

February 24, 2023 11:40pm

Updated: February 25, 2023 11:16pm

The injection of private money into public election administration — or "Zuckerbucks" — is continuing in a new form, as left-leaning candidates are being recruited to run for local elections offices by an organization that receives funds from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

The U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence, a project of the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), is awarding funds to counties and municipalities under the Centers for Election Excellence program. The alliance will provide $80 million over five years "to envision, support, and celebrate excellence in U.S. election administration," according to CTCL.

CTCL poured nearly $350 million into local elections offices managing the 2020 election, with most of the funds donated to the nonprofit by 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.

Following controversy surrounding the disproportionate resources funneled to Democratic jurisdictions and claims the imbalance helped sway the election in Biden's favor, 24 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.

However, DeKalb County Board of Voter Registration & Elections accepted $2 million in private money from the alliance in "violation" of 2021 state election reform law, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) told Just the News on Thursday, while the county claims that it adhered to the letter of the law.

DeKalb County's acceptance of the funds came on the heels of an elections official in Michigan turning down an offer of private funding from the same source. Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck declined a $1.5 million grant from the controversial nonprofit due to concerns over private money with possible political connections being used "to fund election operations."

In North Carolina, election officials in Brunswick and Forsyth counties also said they won't take money from the Alliance for Election Excellence. However, unlike Ottawa County, Brunswick and Forsyth are keeping their membership with the alliance.

Yet the city of Madison, Wisc., like DeKalb, accepted a $1.5 million grant from the alliance.

The alliance is not the only left-leaning, Zuckerberg-linked organization seeking to influence elections.

Run for Something, which seeks out liberal Democratic millennial candidates for state and local political offices, was founded in 2017 by Amanda Litman, Hillary Clinton's former email director for her 2016 presidential campaign, and Ross Morales Rocketto, a Democrat Party consultant.

Run for Something's "candidates must be pro-L.G.B.T., pro-choice, pro-immigrant and pro-equality," media outlet amNY reported from an interview with Litman.

The organization received $10,000 in donations from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, $100,000 from Hillary Clinton's Onward Together, and $50,000 from ActBlue, a PAC that provides online fundraising software to Democratic campaigns and progressive groups, according to Open Secrets.

Run for Something has a program called Clerk Work, which recruits candidates to run for local elections offices. In July, Clerk Work had recruited nearly 300 candidates.

"You can influence quite literally who is administering elections," Litman told the Washington Post. "If we don't do it, we are absolutely going to regret it."

Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.), cochairwoman of the House Election Integrity Caucus, slammed Run for Something and CTCL in a statement to The Daily Signal. "Let's call this what it really is — a blatant attack on the security and integrity of the fairness and transparency of our elections," she said.

"Dark money liberal advocacy groups will stop at nothing to inject partisan funds into election administration efforts," she added. "They did it in 2020 with 'Zuckerbucks,' and they are continuing to find ways to do it today."

Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.), cochairman of the House Election Integrity Caucus, told The Daily Signal, "Propping up partisan operatives to serve as election clerks will not solve our election integrity issues, and it definitely will not restore confidence in our electoral system on either side of the aisle.

"It's going to take careful consideration and deliberate debate on these matters to improve election integrity and bolster faith in our elections."

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