At least eight GOP-controlled states have passed bans on donations to election offices in order to deter Big Tech influence.
Last year, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg donated $400 million to election offices during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, after Trump’s loss in the 2020 election, conservative groups want to prevent that from happening again.
The conservative organizations allege that the donated funds went disproportionately to Democratic-leaning counties in Florida and Pennsylvania.
“People saw that, and looked around, and they were increasingly concerned about why would you have a billionaire funding our elections through the backdoor,” Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action, said. Heritage Action has backed the bans in several states.
The Center for Tech and Civic Life, a nonpartisan foundation with liberal roots, distributed the funds. According to the Associated Press, the funds provided “protective gear for poll workers, public education campaigns promoting new methods to vote during the pandemic, and new trucks to haul voting equipment.”
A spokesperson for Zuckerberg declined to comment on the bans but defended the donations as a whole.
“When our nation’s election infrastructure faced unprecedented challenges last year due to the pandemic, Mark and Priscilla stepped up to close a funding gap and granted $350 million to the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a nonpartisan, 501 (c)(3) organization,” Ben LaBolt, a spokesperson for Zuckerberg said of the donation. “Mark made clear this was a unique effort to address the unprecedented challenge of the pandemic and his preference for elections to be publicly funded.”
Some Republicans are not concerned about the CTCL’s distribution methods and defended the impartiality of the organization.
“I don’t see why governments should be barred from trying to work with the private sector in securing grant funds,” Brian Mead, a Republican election director Ohio, said. “If we can work with the private sector and secure funds where we save our taxpayers money, I think that’s a good thing.”
According to the Foundation for Government Accountability, however, in Pennsylvania, Democratic-voting counties received an average of $4.99 per voter, while counties that vote Republican received only $1.12 per voter.
“If Charles Koch was doing this, well, for many of these people the shoe would be on the other foot,” Hayden Dublois, a researcher at the Foundation for Government Accountability, said.
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