Montana may show how elections office is ‘addicted’ to private money like Mark Zuckerberg, report finds


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As states across the country ban private funding of election administration in response to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg spending about $400 million on the process in 2020, Montana election officials said in an email exchange expressed urgent opposition to the same thing happening in their state.

In March 2021, an email from an official with the Montana County Association of Counties notified county election clerks that the ban on the bill, sometimes referred to as “Zuckbucks,” was “dead and postponed indefinitely.” In the email, one county official replied: “Wow! Wow!” One wrote: “You’re all awesome.” Another wrote: “This is awesome.”

According to a recent report by the Public Interest Legal Foundation, which analyzed emails obtained from public records requests, the responses showed that local election officials were “addicted to private money from potential politicians” “.

While Zuckerberg announced he was withdrawing from future election administration funding after 21 states passed bans on such funding, another email showed that donor interest in influencing the way elections has not waned.

Hemingway: Mark Zuckerberg funded quiet takeover of government offices to help Democrats in 2020 election

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Financial Services Committee in the Rayburn Building office building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, with an image of himself on screen in the background, on October 23, 2019.

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Financial Services Committee in the Rayburn Building office building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, with an image of himself on screen in the background, on October 23, 2019.
(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

On March 17, 2021, Montana Voice’s Voting Rights Coordinator, Kristi Smith, emailed Shantil Siapras, communications director for the Montana County Association of Counties. “There is one funder who has been watching” before the legislation was rejected, the email said. She added: “Funders are evaluating their scope for potential investments and I’d be happy to advise them if there is interest.”

The Center for Technology and Civic Life, a left-leaning organization that received a $350 million election management grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation in 2020, donated $1.7 million to 21 Montana counties.

Conservatives have widely criticized the grants, which are largely allocated to Democratic districts and come with strings attached. Montana is not a battleground state in the 2020 presidential race. However, it was the site of a contentious Senate race between Republican Sen. Steve Daines and challenger Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan
(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

“It shows they have so much money and they don’t know what to do with it, so they’re using all that cash to go deep into enemy territory,” J. Christian Adams, president Public Interest Law Foundation, told Fox News Digital. “They have a perfectly legitimate plan and will expand their influence over the election through left-wing philanthropy and influence-peddling with local election officials.”

The report, “Final Frontiers: After Our Elections Are Buyed Out, They Will Never Be the Same Again,” argues that Montana, a Republican-leaning state, is a testament to a larger national problem.

“Direct left funding of election administration is the last aspect of exerting control over the electoral process. The buying process, not the short-term election results, is the real game,” the report said. “It doesn’t matter if Mark Zuckerberg is reluctant to give more money to the election, someone else will take his place in a state without legal protection. The race is on, and local officials are already addicted to easy money — whatever Whether they need it or not.”

Zuckerberg won’t run in midterm elections, says it’s a ‘one-off’ thing

Legislation banning private funding is “a reactionary response to a hypothetical threat” because state law already prohibits the use of funds from the public treasury, which are appropriated once accepted, to advance political candidates or committees, says Siaperas of the group said the Montana County Association.

“Election administrators oppose SB 335 because passage of such a bill would prohibit future private appropriations, which has the potential to negatively impact county operations, and because there are currently safeguards in Montana law that make the legislation change​ ​It’s unnecessary,” Siaperas told Fox News Digital.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has found himself embroiled in various controversies in recent weeks.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has found himself embroiled in various controversies in recent weeks.
(ENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)

“Montana elections have been and will continue to be managed in a professional and transparent manner, and the decision to apply for and utilize grant funds to support local elections should be left to local officials,” she added.

The Center for Technology and Civic Life did not immediately respond to inquiries for this story.

The Legal Foundation reports that even without Zuckerberg’s funding, the center remains influential because the group has launched the American Election Excellence Coalition to promote certain election methods at the local level.

“In fact, CTCL is expanding. They are launching a new enterprise called the American Coalition for Election Excellence, pledging $80 million in grants for local election officials to seek assistance,” the Legal Foundation said. “This simply represents a parallel ecosystem of left-leaning nonprofits that stand ready to financially support and strengthen the government’s management of elections.”

The Legal Foundation’s report shows fall 2020 emails touting the ease of applying for grants. “Easiest grant application ever,” one Tour County election official emailed others in the chat. “The easiest $5,000 I’m asking for,” wrote a Madison County official. The CTCL minimum amount is $5,000. “I just filed, you don’t have to have a plan,” wrote a La Valley official.

The Law Foundation reports, “The point of the chatter is not how the money can be a savior in fulfilling core election management duties. At the time they were often seen as windfalls.”

Email exchanges between county officials expressed opposition to the proposal to ban private funds, which would mean taxpayer expenses.

However, the Center for Technology and Civic Life asked the electoral department to agree that the grant “will not replace previously allocated funds.”

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The report refutes claims of fiscal responsibility.

“Keep in mind that these counties sometimes have election budgets of $250,000 to $750,000 per year, based on initial email chats, and they only learn about what they think is a $5,000 budget a month before the big day,” the report said.



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