Restricting Private Funding of Elections

The American Conservative Union Foundation’s Center to Protect Voters & Their Voices believes that private contributions to election offices should be restricted to prevent private individuals from strategically commandeering election offices and influencing election outcomes. Elections and voting in the United States are held as sacred because they put the power to determine which individuals govern in the hands of the citizens; the equal power of every American to give voice to their choice of representatives undergirds our entire constitutional system. However, states must contend with the ever-present threat of individuals using targeted wealth contributions and unduly influencing the election administration system to get their preferred candidate elected. If elections are allowed to be decided by the influence of the wealthy rather than voters, there can be no confidence that elections actually reflect the will of We, the People.

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.

¹William Doyle, Mark Zuckerberg spent $419M on nonprofits ahead of 2020 election – and got out the Dem vote, New York Post (October 13, 2021)

²Sarah Coffey, Where Zuckerbucks Actually Went during the 2020 Election, FGA (May 12, 2021)

³Parker Thayer, Hayden Ludwig, UPDATED: Shining a Light on Zuck Bucks in the 2020 Battleground States, Capital Research Center (January 18, 2022)

4WSJ Editorial Board, Zuckerbucks Shouldn’t Pay for Elections, Wall Street Journal (January 3, 2022)

5Sarah Lee, Hayden Ludwig, States Banning or Restricting “Zuck Bucks” – UPDATED 04/01/2022, Capital Research Center (April 1, 2022)

6AL HB 194 (Regular Session 2022)