Deception & Misdirection

States Banning or Restricting “Zuck Bucks”—UPDATED 06/30/2022


Editor’s note: June 22, 2021: Updated to include new states’ legislation and the current status of all known bills related to banning private funding of elections. July 12: Updates to Louisiana, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. August 16, 2021: Added Ohio and Arkansas. January 28, 2022: Added new vetoes, updated news articles across the board, removed Iowa, which did not restrict “Zuck bucks.” February 23: Updated Wisconsin. March 3: Added Minnesota. March 10: Re-added Iowa’s new bill prohibiting private funding; updated Indiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Virginia successful bans. March 14: Updated Alabama with new bill & passage. March 17: Updated South Dakota. March 24: Kentucky successful ban. April 1: West Virginia ban. April 11: Alabama successful ban, Wisconsin Gov. Evers’ second veto. April 13: Updated new Pennsylvania legislation progress. April 28: Added Walworth County, Wisconsin ban. May 10: Missouri bill passed legislature, awaits governor’s signature. June 1: Added Nebraska ban. June 17: Added Livingston County, Michigan, and Louisiana update. June 23: Alabama and Indiana governors’ signatures. June 30: Missouri ban.

 

Private financing of government election offices under the guise of COVID-19 relief skewed voter turnout in the 2020 election and may have tipped the presidential election to Joe Biden.

The chief culprit was Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who poured $350 million into one sleepy nonprofit, the Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL). CTCL then distributed grants to hundreds of county and city elections officials in 47 states and the District of Columbia.

Despite its claims that the grants were strictly for COVID-19 relief, not partisan advantage, the data show otherwise. CRC research into grants distributed in key states—Arizona and Nevada, Texas, Michigan and Wisconsin, Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Georgia—has documented their partisan effects. We have also catalogued our major findings at InfluenceWatch.

Summer 2021: The flood of “Zuck bucks” caught the attention of House Republicans, who sent CTCL a letter on June 21, 2021, demanding the group explain where its $350 million in COVID-19 “relief” funds went—since less than one percent of those funds were spent on personal protective equipment. They have also called on CTCL to publish its Form 990 for public review.

January 28, 2022: We’ve updated our original 2021 findings in the 9 states CRC analyzed using CTCL’s latest disclosures here. A list of all CTCL grants nationwide is available here with limited analysis. For a list of common questions and answers about CTCL’s 2020 grants, go here.

As detailed below, at least a dozen state legislatures have responded to these revelations with bills to protect free and fair elections by prohibiting or restricting private funding of government election offices. Note that not all of the states listed below banned Zuck bucks; some only regulated or restricted private funding for elections offices. Vetoes and failed bills are also noted.

As of June 2022, 20 states have banned or restricted the use of private funds for election offices and 6 governors—all Democrats—have vetoed potential bans. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) has vetoed 2 Zuck buck bans; Kansas’s legislature overrode its Democratic governor’s veto. In addition, 2 counties (Walworth, Wisconsin, and Livingston, Michigan) have banned Zuck bucks.

Many states are currently considering bans (see “in-progress”).

Alabama

Total CTCL Grants: $2,451,843

HB 194: Prohibits the solicitation, receipt, or use of private funds to administer an election, with exceptions. Passed House 3/10/22 on party lines. Passed Senate 4/7/22. Awaits Gov. Kay Ivey’s (R) signature. Signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey (R) 04/07/22.

Arizona

Total CTCL Grants: $5,169,724
Our Original CTCL Report
Updated CTCL Report
Scott Walter’s testimony to Arizona’s House of Representatives
Scott Walter’s testimony to Arizona’s Senate

HB 2569: Bans any state or public body that conducts or administers elections in Arizona from receiving or giving any private money for purposes related to the election, including registering voters. Signed into law 04/09/21.

Arkansas

Total CTCL Grants: $1,311,012

H 1866 (Act 961): Prohibits elections officials from accepting funding from any non-governmental source. Signed into law April 2021.

Florida

Total CTCL Grants: $16,040,950

SB 90: Prohibits state and local officials and certain agencies from accepting or using private funds for election-related expenses. Signed into law 05/06/21.

Georgia

Total CTCL Grants: $45,031,990
Our Original CTCL report
Updated CTCL Report
Scott Walter’s testimony before Georgia legislature

SB 202: Prohibits election superintendents and boards of registrars in Georgia from accepting private funding. Signed into law 03/25/21.

Idaho

Total CTCL Grants: $757,289

SB 1168: Prohibits any county clerk, local elections office, or government body conducting an election from accepting or giving any grant, gift, or funding to or from a private entity. Signed into law 04/22/21.

Indiana

Total CTCL Grants: $2,043,365

SB 134: “A political subdivision that conducts or administers an election may not accept private money donations to prepare, administer, or conduct elections or to employ individuals on a temporary basis for preparing, administering, or conducting elections, including registering voters. Requires all state agencies to submit to the budget agency a report of each individual state employee employed by the state agency whose salary is funded in whole or in part from donated money.” Passed legislature 03/08/22, awaits Gov. Eric Holcomb’s (R) signature. Signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) 03/11/22

Iowa (failed)

Total CTCL Grants: $4,436,775

SSB 3143 & HSB 719 (renumbered HF 2526): Bans contributions from private sources: “The state commissioner, a county commissioner, or a political subdivision of the state shall not accept or expend a grant, gift, or other source of funding from a source other than those listed in subsection, including from a private person, corporation, partnership, political party, nonparty political organization, committee as defined in section 868A.102, or other organization for the purpose of conducting an election.” Passed committee 02/23/22. HF 2526 died in committee.

Kansas (veto overridden)

Total CTCL Grants: $2,258,628

HB 2332 & HB 2183: Prohibits receipt and expenditure of private moneys by election officials. Vetoed by Gov. Laura Kelly (D) 05/03/21; veto overridden by legislature 05/03/21. Law effective 07/01/21.

Kentucky

Total CTCL Grants: $7,129,078

HB 153: Prohibits private funding of elections unless allowed by state authorities. Signed into law by governor 3/24/22.

Louisiana (vetoed; successor bill failed)

Total CTCL Grants: $1,128,000

HB 20: Prohibits any state or local official overseeing elections from accepting private donations. Vetoed by Gov. Bel Edwards (D) 06/07/21. Scheduled for floor debate on 06/09/21 but never moved forward.

June 17, 2022 (HB 811): New legislation would stop elections offices from accepting private funding for elections. “No state or local official, including but not limited to a registrar of voters or a clerk of court, or agency responsible for conducting elections shall solicit, accept, use, or dispose of any donation in the form of money, grants, property, or personal services from individuals or profit or nonprofit corporations, for the purpose of paying costs related to conducting elections.” Passed state house 05/18/22. Died in Senate 6/06/22.

Michigan (vetoed)

Total CTCL Grants: $16,862,654
Our Original CTCL Report
Updated CTCL Report

SB 0303: Requires elections to be funded with public money. Vetoed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) 10/29/21.

June 17, 2022: Livingston County, Michigan, voted to ban “unregulated monies for funding elections” on June 13, the second county nationwide to do so.

Minnesota (failed)

Total CTCL Grants: $6,169,406

SB 3333: Would ban counties, municipalities, and school districts “from accepting certain contributions for election expenses.” Introduced 02/21/22. Died in committee.

Mississippi

Total CTCL Grants: $3,704,972

HB 1365: Prohibits state and local election officials from soliciting and accepting private funds for elections. Passed 03/09/22. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) signed into law 04/03/22. Law effective 07/01/22.

Missouri

Total CTCL Grants: $6,857,914

SB 333: Bans private organizations from contributing funds or in-kind donations to state and local elections offices. Died in committee.

New – HB 1878: Overhauls state election integrity laws with photo ID requirements and related measures; bans drop boxes. “[N]either the state of Missouri nor any political subdivision thereof that conducts elections shall receive or expend private moneys, excluding in-kind donations, for preparing, administering, or conducting an election, including registering voters.” Passed House 3/10/22. Passed Senate 5/09/22. Awaiting Gov. Mike Parson’s (R) signature. Signed into law by Gov. Mike Parson (R) 05/18/22.

Montana (failed)

Total CTCL Grants: $2,181,878

SB 335: Prohibits elections officials from accepting private funding for elections. Died in committee.

Nebraska

Total CTCL Grants: $404,585

LB 843: 

“The Secretary of State, election commissioners, and county clerks shall not accept or use any gift, grant, or donation from  any private entity for the purpose of preparing for, administering, or  conducting an election unless the money received as a result of such  gift, grant, or donation is appropriated to the Secretary of State for such use by the Legislature.” Signed into law by Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) 4/19/22.

North Carolina (vetoed)

Total CTCL Grants: $7,193,264
Our Original CTCL Report
Updated CTCL Report

S 725: Prohibits the State Board of Elections, county boards of elections, and county commissioners from accepting private funding for election expenses. Vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper (D) 12/09/21. 

North Dakota

Total CTCL Grants: $397,552

HB 1256: Prohibits state and local officials for accepting or spending private contributions for elections. Signed into law 04/16/21.

Ohio

Total CTCL Grants: $7,158,652

HB 110: Bars private funding of elections; part of Ohio’s 2022-2023 appropriations bill. Signed into law 07/01/21.

Oklahoma

Total CTCL Grants: $2,540,055

HB 3046: Requires elections be paid for with public funds. Signed into law 05/04/22.

Pennsylvania (vetoed; new legislation in-progress)

Total CTCL Grants: $25,011,085
Our Original CTCL report
Updated CTCL Report
Scott Walter’s testimony before Pennsylvania legislature

HB 1300: Does not prohibit private funding for elections. Instead, the bill will make it secretary of the commonwealth’s duty to receive private funding and distribute it equally across the counties of Pennsylvania with the oversight of the Election Law Advisory Board. Vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf (D) 06/31/21.

New – SB 982: Prohibits private, nongovernmental funding for elections. Introduced 12/10/21; passed Senate State Government Committee 4/12/22.

South Carolina

Total CTCL Grants: $5,373,219

HB 3877: Prohibits any state or election official from accepting private donations for the purpose of elections. Introduced in committee 06/21/21 but has not advanced since.

South Dakota

Total CTCL Grants: $375,231

SB 122: Prohibits private funding of election costs except for gifts of a “nominal and intrinsic value.” Passed 03/09/22. Gov. Kristi Noem (R) signed into law 03/17/22.

Tennessee

Total CTCL Grants: $382,962

HB 0996: Prohibits state and local elections officials from accepting outside funding for elections. Signed into law 05/18/21.

Texas

Total CTCL Grants: $38,681,136
Our Original CTCL report
Updated CTCL Report

SB 7: Regulates, but doesn’t prohibit, Zuck bucks. Prohibits county officials accepting any donation larger than $1,000, unless it is approved by the secretary of state, governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the state House. Signed into law 06/18/21.

Virginia

Total CTCL Grants: $3,738,823
Our Original CTCL Report
Updated CTCL Report
Scott Walter’s testimony before Senate committee on Zuck bucks

SB 80: Prohibits state and local elections officials from soliciting, accepting, using, or disposing of any moneys, grants, property, or services given by a private individual or nongovernmental entity for the purpose of funding voter education and outreach programs, voter registration programs, or any other expense incurred in the conduct of elections. Passed Senate 01/27/22 with unanimous support. Passed House 03/02/22, awaits Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) signature. Signed into law by Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) 4/11/22.

West Virginia

Total CTCL Grants: $0

SB 565: Prohibits elections officials from accepting private donations for elections. Died in committee.

HB 4097: Regulates, but doesn’t prohibit, Zuck bucks. Donations from private individuals and entities will go into a state fund to be spent by the State Election Commission. Signed into law by Gov. Jim Justice (D) on 03/30/22.

Wisconsin (vetoed as bill; proposed as constitutional amendment; reintroduced as bill; vetoed again)

Total CTCL Grants: $10,108,644
Our Original CTCL report
Updated CTCL Report

AB 173 (2021): Regulates, but doesn’t prohibit, Zuck bucks. Prohibits any election official from accepting private funding without permission from the state Elections Commission. If the Elections Commission gives permission, then the donation must be distributed to municipalities based on per capita data. The Joint Committee on Finance must oversee any dispersions of money. Vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers (D) 06/30/21.

Update Feb. 3, 2022: In response to Gov. Evers’s veto, Republican lawmakers have proposed banning Zuck bucks through an amendment to Wisconsin’s constitution, which requires passage in the legislature and a vote by the people, bypassing the governor’s office.

Update Feb. 22, 2022Senate Republicans passed Senate Joint Resolution 101 by 21 ayes to 11 nays. The bill proposes a constitutional amendment “prohibiting the use of a donation or grant of private resources for purposes of election administration and specifying who may perform tasks related to election administration.”

SB 935 (2022): Legislature reintroduced a Zuck bucks ban 2/3/22 as part of a larger election reform bill. “Under the bill, no official or agent of a state agency, county, city, village, or town may apply for or accept any donation or grant of moneys, equipment, materials, or personnel from an individual or nongovernmental entity for purposes of election administration, except as expressly authorized under the statutes relating to elections.” Passed legislature 2/24/22. Vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers (D) 4/8/22.

From Governor’s veto:

“I am objecting to this bill in its entirety because I object to the ban on governments using private grant funds for election administration.

. . .

Regardless of the source of additional funding for election administration, election administrators must always run elections according to state and federal law. By prohibiting donations or grants to election agencies, this bill unnecessarily restricts the use of resources that may be needed to ensure elections are administered effectively.”

Walworth County, WI: First county to ban private monies for administering elections. Passed local board of supervisors on April 21, 2022. (More information here.)

Wyoming (failed)

Total CTCL Grants: $0

SF 0142: Prohibits elections officials from accepting private funding for elections. Died in committee 04/01/21.

Victoria Ydens contributed to this article.

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