By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — A bill co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Scott Fitzgerald would put an end to “Zuckerbucks” and other money dumps from private non-profit groups into election administration.
The Juneau Republican introduced the legislation in the wake of Wisconsin Spotlight’s investigation into liberal election activist groups infiltrating last November’s presidential election with the help of hundreds of millions of dollars in donations from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.
In Wisconsin, the vast majority of the approximately $10.3 million — $8.8 million, or 86 percent — in Zuckerberg-funded election grants went to Wisconsin’s five largest and Democrat-heavy cities. Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine (the so-called ‘WI-5) signed on to a “Wisconsin Safe Voting Plan” that bound them to strict grant terms from the Chicago-based Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL). The conditions came with a network of left-wing voting activists who, emails show, infiltrated election offices.
Voters have filed complaints with the Wisconsin Elections Commission alleging the WI-5 cities and CTCL usurped the authority exclusively granted to their local election directors.
“The underlying Wisconsin 5 cities’ complaints concern the influence of private funding from a private corporation and the slippery slope of possible governmental manipulation, involving election administration, funded and guided by private corporations,” the complaint states. “The private funding was merely the catalyst to entice the Wisconsin 5 cities’ officials to invite and accept influences from private corporations on a core governmental function—election administration. “
Fitzgerald’s bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code to prohibit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations — from the left or right — from directly funneling money into official election organizations. It would apply to funding provided in taxable years beginning after Dec. 31.
“It was bad enough in 2020 when Democrat state leaders completely steamrolled official election procedures, but we know too that billionaire Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unduly influenced local election organizations by funneling money in Democrat-leaning precincts,” Fitzgerald said. “This bill prevents tax exempt organizations from pushing their agenda by seizing election responsibilities from local election officials.”
Fitzgerald, a member of the Election Integrity Caucus, joined 13 of his Republican colleagues last month in sending a letter to CTCL demanding answers from the “safe and secure elections” organization. It appears CTCL has failed to respond.
The bill faces a tall hurdle. It would have to make it through a House controlled by Democrats, a split Senate, and be signed by President Joe Biden, the top beneficiary of the Zuckerberg grant funding. Gov. Tony Evers recently vetoed legislation that would check outside groups’ funding and involvement in election administration.
Late last month, U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Glenbeulah) joined members of the House Election Integrity Caucus in introducing a similar measure, the End Zuckerbucks Act,
Congressional Republicans say they hope congress and the president rise above politics and keep election activists from taking over elections.
“When official election organizations fail to operate free from outside influence, Americans lose faith in the integrity of our system,” Fitzgerald said.