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As states across the country were banning private funding of election administration in response to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg spending about $400 million on the process in 2020, Montana election officials expressed urgent opposition in email exchanges to the same thing happening in their state.
A Montana Association of Counties official sent an email in March 2021 advising county election clerks that the bill banning what are sometimes called “Zuckbucks”, was “dead and undefinitely postponed.” One county official replied, “Woot!” Woot!” One wrote, “You’re all amazing.” Another wrote, “That is amazing!”
According to a recent report by the Public Interest Legal Foundation, which examined emails obtained via a public records request, these responses indicate that local election officials are addicted to private money from potential politicized actors.
While Zuckerberg announced he has backed away from future election administration funding after 21 states passed bans on such funding, another email shows donor interest in influencing how elections are run hasn’t waned.
HEMINGWAY: MARK ZUCKERBERG FUNDED QUIET TAKEOVER OF GOVERNMENT OFFICES TO HELP DEMOCRATS IN 2020 ELECTION
On March 17, 2021, Kristi Smith, voting rights coordinator for Montana Voices, emailed Shantil Siaperas, communications director with Montana Association of Counties to say: “There’s a funder who has been watching” the legislation before it was defeated. She added that “The funder is assessing the potential scope of their investment, and I’d love to be able to make a recommendation to them if there is interest.”
The Center for Tech and Civic Life, the left-leaning group that got $350 million from the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation for election administration grants in 2020, gave $1.7 million to 21 Montana counties.
Conservatives were widely critical of grants that were distributed to predominantly Democrat regions and had strings attached. Montana wasn’t a battleground state in the 2020 presidential race. It was, however, the site of a contested Senate race between Republican Sen. Steve Daines and challenger, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.
“This shows they have so much money they don’t know what to do with it all, so they are drilling deep into enemy territory with all that cash,” J. Christian Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, told Fox News Digital. They have created a legal scheme that will increase their influence on elections through leftwing influence peddling and philanthropy.
“Final Frontier” argues that Montana is a Republican-leaning state and is indicative of a bigger national problem.
Direct leftwing funding for election administration is the last way to control the election process. According to the report, the real play is purchasing the process, and not the immediate electoral outcome. “It doesn’t matter whether Mark Zuckerberg resists putting up additional money to finance elections. Other people are coming to his place in states that have no legal protections. The race is on, and local officials are already addicted to the easy money – whether they need it or not.”
ZUCKERBERG ILLIONS SAYS IT IS A ‘ONE-TIME THING’, SAYS IT
The legislation to ban private funds was a “reactionary response to a hypothetical threat” because state laws already prohibit money in the public treasury — which a grant would be upon acceptance–from being used to advance a political candidate or committee, said Siaperas of the Montana Association of Counties.
Siaperas stated that election administrators opposed SB 335 because it would ban future private grants dollars. This could negatively impact county operations and that there are already safeguards in the current Montana law making the legislation unnecessary.
She stated, “Montana’s elections have been and will be managed in a professional manner and transparently, and it is up to local officials to decide whether to apply for funding to support local election.”
The Center for Tech and Civic Life didn’t immediately respond to questions regarding this story.
The legal foundation report states that even without funding from Zuckerberg, the center still has clout. For example, the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence was launched by the organization to promote certain electoral methods at the local level.
The CTCL is actually expanding. The legal foundation claims that they are creating a new venture called U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence which promises a $80 million grant for local elections officials. “This is only a partial representation of the parallel ecosystem left-leaning charities that are ready to financially support or augment government administration of election.”
The legal foundation’s report shows emails from the fall of 2020 touting the ease of applying for grants. One Toole County election official sent an email to other officials in chat to tell them, “Easiest grant application.” Madison County officials wrote: “Easiest $5,000 that I have ever requested.” The CTCL minimum was $5,000. Ravalli County officials wrote that they had submitted the form and did not need to submit a plan.
According to the legal foundation report, the chatter was not about how these monies could be a lifesaver for core election administration duties. They were generally considered windfalls at that time.
Email exchanges among county officials showed opposition to the idea of banning private money. It would incur taxpayers’ expense.
However, the Center for Tech and Civic Life required that election departments agreed to grant money “will NOT supplant prior appropriated funds.”
The plea for fiscal accountability was rejected by the report.
“Remember that these are sometimes counties operating with $250,000-$750,000 annual budgets to election operations and they only discovered about what they thought was $5,000 one month before they big day, according the initial email chatter,” says the report.
Source: Fox News