By Calvin Freiburger
A controversial organization once funded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has launched an $80 million initiative ostensibly to “improve” operations of local elections, but which critics suspect has a far more nefarious purpose.
The National Pulse reports that the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) has announced the so-called U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence, a “nonpartisan collaborative that is bringing together election officials, designers, technologists, and other experts to help local election departments improve operations, develop a set of shared standards and values, and obtain access to best-in-class resources to run successful elections.”
The initiative intends to spend $80 million over the next five years to help local election departments with tasks such as replacing equipment.
Those who suspect the operation is more interested in election regulation than election improvement cite two main points: first, that it was originally created by the left-wing “dark money” sponsor New Venture Fund; and second, that it played a suspicious role in the highly-contentious 2020 presidential election.
In Wisconsin, for instance, emails revealed CTCL’s disbursement of hundreds of millions of dollars in grant money ostensibly to “protect American elections” and “bolster democracy during the [COVID-19] pandemic.”
In Green Bay, Wisconsin, $1.6 million of that money led to Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein of the National Vote at Home Institute being made a “grant mentor,” functioning as “the de facto city elections chief,” including “access to boxes of absentee ballots before the election,” despite his past work for several Democrat candidates, including “fiercely liberal” former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
According to the emails, Spitzer-Rubenstein sought and eventually obtained a role to “help” cure (fix errors or omissions on) absentee ballots, and was even given keys to the locked room where absentee ballots were stored “several days before the election.” Green Bay city clerk Kris Teske originally declined the request, but was overridden by pressure from the office of Democrat Mayor Eric Genrich, and ultimately resigned in October.
“As you know I am very frustrated, along with the Clerk’s Office,” she wrote to Green Bay Finance Director Diana Ellenbecker in August. “I don’t know what to do anymore. I am trying to explain the process but it isn’t heard. I don’t feel I can talk to the Mayor after the last meeting you, me, Celestine, and the Mayor had even though the door is supposedly open. I don’t understand how people who don’t have knowledge of the process can tell us how to manage the election.”
“Wisconsin election law clearly spells out that municipal clerks are in charge of administering elections,” Wisconsin Spotlight’s MD Kittle wrote at the time. Wisconsin Voters Alliance and Thomas More Society attorney Erick Kaardal “said CTCL’s election security funding came with conditions that bound the city to give these left-leaning actors power they could not legally take. The mayor and his team, as well as the city council, had no legal right to limit the clerk’s role in the elections, or take them over.”
In response to such activities, Florida enacted an election integrity law that, among other things, prohibits election officials from accepting any private donations for “any type of expenses related to election administration” such as “voter education, voter outreach, voter or registration programs, or the cost of any litigation related to election administration.”
Last month, Thomas More Society attorneys filed a complaint accusing Madison, Wisconsin Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl of bribery for accepting similar money from CTCL for similar purposes.
“The alliance appears to be a rebranding effort by the CTCL,” the Pulse’s Natalie Winters writes. “Earlier this year, Zuckerberg even claimed that he would not be engaging in the effective privatization of local election offices again – a claim belied by the latest CTCL announcements.”
Zuckerberg is not listed as a financial backer of the Center’s new initiative; the Washington Post says now the Facebook CEO’s “money is gone [from the Center] and Zuckerberg and [wife Priscilla] Chan have declined to send any more to election departments.”