Jan. 2022 Update: This report was written with the best information available in 2021 but is now out-of-date. For updated analysis using CTCL’s latest disclosures, see Virginia in “Shining a Light on Zuck Bucks“
Editor’s note, March 9, 2021: Updated report and data set based on new information on CTCL grants that was provided to CRC through a FOIA request by Ned Jones, election integrity director of the Virginia Project. Additions and updates are in magenta. The original blog post was published on February 15, 2021. March 17, 2021: Added data set for all Virginia counties, including counties that received no CTCL funding. May 12, 2021: New FOIA details for Fairfax County have been added below regarding how Virginia’s largest county spent its CTCL funds. Thanks to Clayton Percle, founder of the Virginia Liberty Project.
Many Americans now know that Facebook founder and billionaire Mark Zuckerberg interfered in the 2020 election, pouring $350 million into an obscure Chicago-based nonprofit that redistributed the funds to county elections officials nationwide. What they might not know is just how widespread those grants were.
Meet the Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL), a group that burst into prominence after Zuckerberg increased the tiny nonprofit’s revenues—just $1.4 million in 2018—by a bewildering 24,900 percent in the lead-up to the 2020 election. CTCL used its newfound fortune to funnel five-, six-, seven-, even eight-figure grants to the government officials responsible for administering the 2020 election—with devastating results for Republicans.
Now we’ve traced nearly $4 million from CTCL to Virginia, a state Democrats have eagerly colonized from their holdfast in Washington, DC, transforming the once reliable Republican Old Dominion into a leftist stronghold.
In the spirit of disclosure—and because CTCL has not yet publicly disclosed its grant data—CRC has released its data for viewing here.
What’s Red, Then Purple, Now Blue?
Virginia was a solid Republican state for decades, with Republicans winning the state from 1968 through 2004, often by wide margins. George W. Bush, for instance, won Virginia by 8 points in both 2000 and 2004.
The Democrats first flipped Virginia in 2008, when Barack Obama won it by 6 points, garnering 52.6 percent of the vote—almost exactly the percentage that Bush won it by in 2000. In 2012, Mitt Romney chiseled away part of Obama’s margin, losing the state by 4 points.
Virginia had poor turnout in 2016, and both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump lost votes compared to their 2012 counterparts. Clinton won Virginia with 1.9 million votes, 5 points over Trump, but 55,000 fewer votes than Obama’s historical high in 2012. Trump’s performance was somewhat worse, winning 1.7 million votes, some 91,000 votes less than Romney’s 2012 vote total (a historic high for the GOP). Pundits might point to this as proof of Trump’s historic unpopularity and divisiveness, yet the 2016 electoral map is strikingly similar to the 2000 map—a crushing Democratic defeat—and Trump received a similar number of votes compared with John McCain in 2008 and George W. Bush in 2004. (See Table 1.)
The 2016 election confirmed that Virginia was trending toward the Democrats. But why? The answer lies in the Democrats’ built-in population advantage.
Almost 48 percent of Virginia’s 8.5 million people live in just 10 of the state’s 133 counties and independent cities (a Virginia phenomenon equivalent to a county). From most populous to least, they are Fairfax, Prince William, Virginia Beach, Loudoun, Chesterfield, Henrico, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Arlington, and Richmond. A quarter of the state’s population lives in just four of these counties—Fairfax, Loudoun, Arlington, and Prince William—all in the greater National Capital Region.
In 2008, Obama won 8 of these 10 counties and cities, netting him 834,392 votes, or nearly 43 percent of his statewide total. The two he lost, Virginia Beach and Chesterfield County outside Richmond, still delivered him 173,195 votes, bringing his statewide total to 51.4 percent. Obama won these same 8 jurisdictions again in 2012 by similar margins.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton managed to win 7 of these 8 counties. She narrowly lost Chesapeake to Trump, yet improved on Obama’s votes, garnering 893,524, which accounted for 45 percent of her statewide vote totals.
The lesson here is that Democrats have a powerful advantage over Republicans in Virginia simply because half or more of their constituents live in just a handful of places. Going into any presidential election, a generic Democrat is assured of winning a near-majority in the Old Dominion, even in a bad year for turnout like 2016.
That’s a relatively recent development. In 2000, George W. Bush won 7 of these counties and won most of them again in 2004, losing only Fairfax County, the state’s most populous and now a Democratic standby.
Flash forward to 2020, and the facts are bleak for Republicans. Trump earned a historic 1.9 million votes and improved his vote share over 2016 totals by 231,274 votes—comparable to Bush’s improvement between 2000 and 2004 and more than twice as much as Mitt Romney’s improvement over John McCain between 2008 and 2012. Yet he still lost the Old Dominion to Joe Biden by a staggering 451,138 votes.
Statewide, Biden increased his vote share over Clinton’s 2016 figures by close to 26 percent, winning a whopping 2.4 million votes—twice that won by Al Gore in 2000 and almost half-a-million votes more than Obama’s 2012 record.
Of Virginia’s top 10 counties Biden won all 10, netting him 1,370,414 votes, or 56.7 percent of his total votes statewide, far exceeding the 1 million votes Obama won in 2012 and the 1.1 million Clinton won in 2016. Critically, Biden flipped Virginia Beach and Chesterfield County—held by Republicans since 1968 and 1952, respectively—finding an additional 41,000 votes in Virginia Beach and another 26,000 votes in Chesterfield.
While Biden’s gains are remarkable, they also confirm Virginia’s leftward trend in the Nation Capital Region. Biden won over 806,000 votes in the four largest Beltway counties, where Clinton won 661,000 votes in 2016, Obama won 582,000 votes in 2012, and John Kerry won 418,000 votes in 2004—less than the 420,000 votes Biden won in Fairfax County alone.
This was more than enough to surmount any lead Trump developed elsewhere in the state. Given the Beltway counties’ demographics, one might simply label the result in Virginia the “revenge of the Swamp.”
So what role did CTCL play in the Old Dominion? Virginia was always expected to be firmly in Biden’s grip, so the question isn’t whether CTCL funding flipped the state but rather how much its grants aided turnout in Democratic-leaning counties.
A list of “preliminary grants” discovered online notes 38 counties and cities in Virginia that evidently received funding from CTCL. Of these, CRC has uncovered $3,968,221 in grants flowing to 38 Virginia counties and cities (including one not listed in CTCL’s preliminary document), leaving at least one more jurisdiction (Hanover County) that almost certainly received some money from the group.
How these funds were spent is generally unclear. In Fairfax County—the source of Biden’s greatest vote haul and recipient of the largest yet identified CTCL grant ($1,431,950) in Virginia—elections officials used the funds to “support in-person early voting” and “vote by mail.”
May 12, 2021 Update: A “CTCL COVID-19 Response Grant Report” (archived here) obtained via FOIA request shines more light on how Fairfax County spent its funds:
- $967,294 for “temporary staffing support”
- $59,850 for “vote-by-mail/absentee voting equipment or supplies”
- $102,765 for “election administration equipment”
- $54,802 for “voting materials in languages other than English”
- $58,530 for “security for office and polling locations”
Interestingly, categories included in the CTCL form (but which Fairfax didn’t apparently spend money on) include “ballot drop boxes,” “drive-through voting,” and “non-partisan voter education,” as well as less alarming things such as “personal protective equipment” for staff and cleaning expenses. Fairfax County also applied for a 6-month extension for its grant (the report was filed in late January) to expend its remaining $187,709, which theoretically brings its CTCL funding through July 2021 and primary season for the state’s coming gubernatorial election in November.
In July 2020, Virginia’s Democratic majority in the state legislature enacted statewide no-excuse absentee voting and early voting. CTCL effectively bankrolled the Democrats’ biggest step toward replacing Election Day with “Election Month” in the state’s largest county and a leftist stronghold. A similar $10 million CTCL grant to Philadelphia stipulated that the city use the funds for printing and postage for mail-in ballots. It also required Philadelphia to scatter “Secure Dropboxes” around the city to collect ballots, circumventing basic voting integrity requirements by allowing anyone—without any identification—to drop any number of ballots into a private collection bin with no official oversight and no accountability after the fact. If a fraudster wanted to flood Philadelphia with phony ballots, CTCL’s “Zuck bucks” enabled him to bypass USPS mailboxes.
- Overall, CTCL gave grants to at least 39 of Virginia’s 133 counties and cities. Of the 87 counties Trump won statewide, CTCL funded 25. CTCL funded only 14 of the 46 counties and cities Biden won in 2020.
- Yet the 39 jurisdictions that received CTCL grants delivered 758,518 votes to Trump and 1,200,969 votes to Biden, a difference of more than 442,000 votes. Recall that Biden won Virginia by 451,000 votes.
- The 14 CTCL-funded counties that Biden won received $3,563,610, or 89.8 percent of all the CTCL funds CRC has identified in Virginia.
- Those 14 counties gave Biden 1,071,615 votes, 44 percent of his statewide total. They also accounted for 223,555 (45 percent) of the 496,723 votes that Biden gained over Clinton’s 2016 totals. In other words, CTCL’s grants went to the Democratic nominee’s most vote-rich jurisdictions in the state.
- Grants to the 25 CTCL-funded counties that Trump won totaled only $404,611. Hanover County, which is listed in CTCL’s list of preliminary grants, voted for Trump in 2020 but their grants haven’t been identified.
- CTCL’s largest identified grant went to Fairfax County, where the group spent $3.41 per Biden vote or $1.25 for every man, woman, and child living there. Trump scrounged together 168,401 votes in Fairfax County, a tiny (7 percent) increase over his 2016 totals. Biden, on the other hand, received 419,943 votes, an 18 percent increase over 2016 totals. Fairfax was by far Biden’s largest source of votes in the entire state.
- Prince William County, CTCL’s second most richly funded spot and Biden’s second largest stronghold after Fairfax, received $631,421 from the group. That’s $1.34 per person living in the county, or $4.42 for every Biden vote. Biden crushed Trump, netting almost 143,000 votes to his opponent’s 81,000, a difference of 61,000 votes.
- Loudoun County in northern Virginia also received $355,760 from CTCL, $0.86 per person living there or $2.57 per Biden vote. Biden won Loudoun by over 56,000 votes, making it his third-largest conquest statewide.
- Henrico County, a Democratic-leaning county just north of Richmond that broke for Biden by a margin of 53,000 votes, received $411,822 from CTCL—or $3.53 per every Biden voter. In 2016, Clinton won Henrico by just under 34,000 votes. Biden improved his vote totals there by nearly 25 percent in 2020.
- In Arlington County, which hugs the Potomac River, CTCL spent $256,688. That’s $1.08 for every person in the county or $2.44 per Biden vote. Arlington went for Biden almost 5-1, netting him 105,000 votes compared with Trump’s 22,000.
- Alexandria, a wealthy city in the greater DC metropolitan area that heavily skews to the left—Biden won this city of 159,000 people by nearly 52,000 votes—received $201,650 from CTCL, or just over $3.04 per Biden voter.
- Petersburg, a lightly populated city south of Richmond that broke almost for Biden, was lavished with an $81,890 grant from CTCL—that’s $2.61 per person, or $6.61 per Biden vote.
- At least two counties that Trump won in 2016 and lost to Biden in 2020 received CTCL grants. In Lynchburg, which received $63,882 from CTCL ($0.79 per person or $3.54 per Biden vote), Trump lost 885 votes, and Biden gained 3,261 votes. In James City County, which got $38,745 from CTCL ($0.51 per person or $1.52 per Biden vote), Trump gained 1,847 votes, and Biden gained 6,462 votes.
Big Philanthropy Means Big Politics
The grant data in Virginia are consistent a pattern that we’ve observed thus far across multiple CTCL-funded states. Even in a year with historically high turnout, CTCL’s grants made it easier for Democrats to grease the skids of voter mobilization in precisely the areas they needed to clinch the presidency. While he may have somewhat underperformed in 2016, President Trump’s performance in 2020 exceeds that of Republican presidential candidates over the past two decades. In fact, it almost mirrors George W. Bush’s impressive gains between 2000 and 2004.
The Republican stumbling block, as ever, proved to be the Beltway, where a perfect storm of mail-in and early voting, lavish CTCL spending, and the Swamp’s loathing of Trump proved his undoing in the Old Dominion.
A Big Tech billionaire tried to privatize the 2020 election, and all we heard from the “mainstream” media was crickets.
Data set for all known CTCL grants to Virginia available here.
Data set for all known CTCL grants to Virginia, plus all remaining counties in Virginia (without CTCL grants), available here.