Deception & Misdirection

Zuckerberg’s Return on Investment in Pennsylvania—UPDATED

Jan. 2022 Update: This report was written with the best information available in 2021 but is now out-of-date.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 Pennsylvania in “Shining a Light on Zuck Bucks

Editor’s note, May 20, 2021: Updated report and data set based on new information on CTCL grants in Pennsylvania, provided via FOIA request by Todd Shepherd of Broad and Liberty, and the Foundation for Government Accountability. June 8, 2021: Report now includes all counties in Pennsylvania.


Arguments over this year’s vote in Pennsylvania continue to rage, but one critical aspect deserves more attention: the millions of dollars that flowed from the family of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg into the state’s election offices. The cash first went to a supposedly “nonpartisan” nonprofit called the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), which then re-granted the money to local election offices in dozens of counties in Pennsylvania and thousands more election offices across America.

Read our groundbreaking CTCL reporting on Georgia, North CarolinaArizona and Nevada, Virginia, Texas, and Michigan and Wisconsin.

Update: For a list of states banning “Zuck bucks,” see our latest report.

We at the Capital Research Center are analyzing the effects of Zuckerberg’s $350 million investment state by state. We first examined the funding in Georgia, and our report was so shocking that the Georgia Senate asked me to testify about it. Lawyers for the Donald Trump campaign included the report in their legal briefs in Georgia, and Tucker Carlson invited me on Fox News to discuss the controversy.

CTCL Stonewalling

Now we’ve crunched the numbers for Pennsylvania, and the partisan outcomes are just as stark as Georgia’s. Admittedly, we don’t know every detail of what happened because CTCL has not disclosed the funding. CTCL has been asked by the New York Times, the Associated Press, the New Yorker, National Public Radio, and more, to no avail.

This stonewalling is especially obnoxious because federal law requires CTCL to disclose on its annual filings with the IRS all grants of $5,000 or more to government entities. But the clever partisans at CTCL know that their filing for 2020 grants can be kept in the dark until a year from now, and “dark money” is what powers CTCL’s heavy thumb on election scales across the nation.

(CTCL’s leaders are partisans of the first rank, as documented in InfluenceWatch’s write-ups of CTCL and the New Organizing Institute, which spawned the founders and leaders of CTCL. The Washington Post even called the New Organizing Institute “the Democratic Party’s Hogwarts for digital wizardry.” In addition, the New Organizing Institute’s old website mouths exactly the same platitudes as CTCL and likewise rarely mentions the political party whose turnout it strains every muscle to boost.)

All Politics Is Local

The one thing CTCL has done is list the local governments they’ve funded, though without disclosing the dollar amounts. So we at Capital Research Center have examined that list, as well as news databases and local government reports, to put together the picture revealed here. We think these numbers won’t change much when the full truth comes out because we’ve found grant amounts for most large jurisdictions in the Keystone State. And we have another reason to think the partisan results we found in Pennsylvania won’t change significantly with the remaining data:  The population of Trump-won counties for whom we lack specific grant amounts is less than half the population of Biden-won counties with unknown grant amounts.

The Data

To bolster transparency, we’re posting our data online for the public to examine. (The updated Pennsylvania data set showing $22 million in grants is here; Georgia data are here.)

When CTCL decides to come in from the dark and let the public see their data, we’ll update our reports promptly.

Democratic Skew

Meanwhile, consider that the IRS prohibits a 501(c)(3) nonprofit like CTCL from “voter education or registration activities” that “have the effect of favoring a candidate.” Yet these skewed numbers indicate that CTCL’s work in Pennsylvania was clearly designed to favor the Democratic candidate.

To date, we’ve uncovered $22,069,137 in grants to 24 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties; two, Armstrong and Bucks Counties, received CTCL funding but their grant amounts have not been identified.

  • Of these, CTCL funded slightly more counties won by President Trump (13) than by Vice President Biden (11).
  • Statewide, Biden won only 13 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, so CTCL funded 85 percent of Biden counties, compared to 24 percent of Trump counties.
  • A Biden-winning county was over three-and-a-half times more likely to be funded by CTCL than a Trump-winning county.
  • Biden won six counties across the state that delivered him 100,000 or more votes. CTCL funded 100 percent of those six.
  • Trump won four counties that delivered him 100,000 votes or more. CTCL funded 75 percent of them (three of four).

CTCL claims its grants were distributed on a nonpartisan basis. But the figures show a striking preference for counties that broke for Biden:

  • All five of the highest-funded counties were won by Biden (Allegheny, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties) and account for 81 percent ($17,993,405) of all grants to Pennsylvania.
  • Biden won 8 of the 10 highest-funded CTCL counties, which together received $21,047,163, or more than 95 percent of all grants statewide.
  • By contrast, four of the five least funded counties were won by Trump (Mifflin, Venango, Wayne, Juniata, and Pike Counties) only totaled $101,682 in CTCL grants.
  • Of the 10 least-funded counties, Trump won 8. Altogether they only account for $500,374—a measly 2.3 percent of all CTCL grants in Pennsylvania.

Even those numbers understate the funding disparity. A more accurate picture arises when we compare the funding per capita:

  • Trump counties received an average of $0.59 per capita, while Biden counties averaged $2.85 per capita (Ed.: revised down from $2.93)—over five times more funding per capita.
  • No Biden county received less than $0.55 per capita; the least-funded Trump county received $0.39 (Ed.: revised up from $0.18).
  • The most richly funded Biden county (Philadelphia) received $6.32 for every man, woman, and child, compared to a mere $1.12 for the most richly funded Trump county (Berks).
  • In fact, for every voter who cast a ballot in Philadelphia county, the Democratic election officials there received $13.60.
  • Delaware County, which borders Philadelphia and broke for Biden by nearly 88,000 votes, received $3.88 per person living there—or $10.66 for every Biden vote.
  • It’s the same story in Chester County, another Philly suburb, where CTCL provided a grant equal to $4.87 for every person living there. Biden took Chester by nearly 54,000 votes; CTCL’s grant was enough for over $14 per Biden vote.
  • Centre County, which both Clinton and Biden narrowly won in 2016 and 2020, respectively, received a shocking $5.32 for every person living there. That’s a staggering $21.56 per Biden vote!

How do the 2016 to 2020 vote totals stack up?

  • When we compare the presidential vote in 2020 to 2016 numbers, we find that in the 24 counties CTCL funded, 266,000 more votes were cast in 2020 for the Republican candidate and 460,000 more for the Democrat candidate. That partisan difference of about 194,000 votes is more than double Biden’s official victory margin for the entire state (80,555 votes).
  • Looking at this increased turnout in percentage terms, we find the median increase in Republican votes in all 24 counties CTCL funded was +17 percent in 2020 over 2016. The median increase in Democratic votes was +27 percent.
  • One final disparity: CTCL-funded counties supplied 79 percent of Biden’s total Pennsylvania votes, compared to 60 percent of Trump’s total Pennsylvania votes.

Votes and Liquor

Seasoned election observers went into November saying that Pennsylvania was a critical swing state for the presidential election and that Philadelphia would be ground zero for the Democratic candidate’s hopes. CTCL partisans knew this too, and their investments in Pennsylvania show it.

Now the question is whether the Pennsylvania state legislature will continue to allow out-of-state billionaires to distort the state’s elections, or will they follow other states and ban private funding of elections? Ironically, Pennsylvania has loudly debated for years whether to privatize liquor sales. Yet no one said a word when a Big Tech billionaire decided to privatize an election.

Scott Walter

Scott Walter is president of Capital Research Center. He served in the George W. Bush Administration as Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and was vice president at…
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