The 2020 Presidential Election provided a sudden and stark example of the influence of private money; Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg used a nonprofit called the Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL) to direct hundreds of millions of dollars to government election offices.¹ While CTCL justified its distribution of funds by citing challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, less than one percent of the funds were spent on PPE while the majority went to get-out-the-vote efforts to influence turnout in favor of Democrats.² Much of the information surrounding the donations is still unknown, as CTCL refuses to answer most questions regarding its distributions, but the data indicates that bigger grants and more money per capita were consistently given to counties that voted for one candidate.³
As many states and news sources immediately recognized, “private election funding is inappropriate and sows distrust.”4 Without restrictions on private influencing of official election procedures, the partisan effect on the outcome is apparent. In response to the flagrant undue influence of private donors on the 2020 Presidential Election, over a dozen states have appropriately banned or restricted the use of private funds for election offices.5 One effective example was a state bill that permitted donations of items to protect public health in a state public health emergency, but only so long as the items were given to and then equally distributed to each county by the Governor’s Office.6 Such measures are critical for the protection of free and fair elections secured against the influence of individual elites.
ACUF’s Center to Protect Voters & Their Voices believes that prohibitions against private contributions to official election offices that influence election outcomes should be implemented throughout the United States to ensure that every vote counts and elections are decided by voters and not wealthy elites.
²Sarah Coffey, Where Zuckerbucks Actually Went during the 2020 Election, FGA (May 12, 2021) https://thefga.org/blog/zuckerbucks-2020-election/.
³Parker Thayer, Hayden Ludwig, UPDATED: Shining a Light on Zuck Bucks in the 2020 Battleground States, Capital Research Center (January 18, 2022) https://capitalresearch.org/article/shining-a-light-on-zuck-bucks-in-key-states/.
4WSJ Editorial Board, Zuckerbucks Shouldn’t Pay for Elections, Wall Street Journal (January 3, 2022) https://www.wsj.com/articles/zuckerbucks-shouldnt-pay-for-elections-mark-zuckerberg-center-for-technology-and-civic-life-trump-biden-2020-11640912907.
5Sarah Lee, Hayden Ludwig, States Banning or Restricting “Zuck Bucks” – UPDATED 04/01/2022, Capital Research Center (April 1, 2022) https://capitalresearch.org/article/states-banning-zuck-bucks/.
6AL HB 194 (Regular Session 2022) http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/ALISON/SearchableInstruments/2022RS/PrintFiles/HB194-enr.pdf.