Keep Private Money Out of Electoral Administration – Orange County Register

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In 2020, a tax-exempt charitable foundation operated by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan provided hundreds of millions of dollars for local election administration. As a nonprofit, a 501(c)(3) under the IRS code, the foundation cannot spend money on partisan political activities. Have you heard about this? While other election law changes have prompted thunderous press releases and high-profile corporate hand-wringing, these laws have received much less attention. But in 2017, Chan and Zuckerberg hired David Plouffe, who was Barack Obama’s campaign manager in 2008, to lead what Zuckerberg described in a news release as the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative’s “policy and advocacy effort.” In October 2019, as the presidential campaigns were heating up, Plouffe scaled back to a part-time role to make more time for other endeavors, including a book he was writing, later published in March 2020. The title of the book? “A Citizen’s Guide to Beating Donald Trump.”

In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey signed House Bill 2569 on April 9. The law bans any election official from taking private money for election administration. Georgia included a similar provision in its wider election reform law, Senate Bill 202, signed by Gov. Brian Kemp on March 25. So it’s interesting that a number of state legislatures are considering, or have already enacted, new laws to prevent local election officials from accepting private money to run elections.

In North Carolina, state lawmakers introduced House Bill 766 on May 3 and titled it, “An Act to Prohibit the Private Funding of Elections.” They also know a lot about fundraising, and how much it costs to run an effective get-out-the-vote effort. They know about campaign finance laws, and contribution limits, and how hard it is to raise money. They know where their voters live, and where the other team’s voters live.

The money paid for more polling places, more ballot-drop boxes, and more voter education. There were tight conditions on the use of the cash. For example, in Arizona’s Coconino County, the Board of Supervisors was told in a memo that the grant from CTCL would provide “additional capacity to increase voter education efforts.” But not everywhere. In 2020, the Chan-Zuckerberg foundation gave $350 million to a nonprofit organization called the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), which distributed it to about 2,500 jurisdictions in nearly every state.

While it’s completely legal for foundation money to be spent on non-partisan voter education and get-out-the-vote efforts, in this case, the foundation’s money appears to have been targeted to turn out one team’s voters. Campaign spending in federal elections is limited by federal law and regulated by the Federal Election Commission. States have similar laws that limit and regulate campaign spending. This includes the money that campaigns spend on costly get-out-the-vote efforts aimed at turning out the voters who are likely to be on the campaign’s team, and not on the other campaign’s team.

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