The election outcomes in one of the most pivotal states in November--and in a January runoff--may have been significantly affected by a total of $45 million from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan, according to a government watchdog which has monitored the money used to fund election management across the nation.
Of that, $31 million went to Georgia for its general election, in which Joe Biden narrowly carried Georgia's 16 electoral votes beating Donald Trump by fewer than 12,000 votes. The center gave 14.5 million into Georgia counties for its January runoff election where Democrats won two special elections, flipping the U.S. Senate majority to Democrats.
The Foundation for Government Accountability contends that the grant cash in Georgia and throughout the nation was heavily weighted toward Democratic-leaning counties. While billed as election security grants during the COVID-19 pandemic, only a tiny portion in any of the states the base analyzed was used for personal protective equipment.
The CTCL gave about four times more in the Zuckerberg-financed grants to gloomy counties in Georgia as it contributed to reddish counties, according to the FGA analysis.
By comparison, the centre gave $2.3 million in grants--averaging $1.91 per registered voter--to counties that Trump won. The counties becoming the absolute most from the lead up to the presidential election were Fulton, Cobb and Dekalb.
"The Zuckerberg funding is an unprecedented example of using government employees and government tools to place your finger on the scale, to affect the election outcome," Tarren Bragdon, CEO of the Foundation for Government Accountability, told Fox News. "It'd be similar to giving personal money to police departments to get officers do more stop and frisk in certain areas compared to other neighborhoods. It'd be like giving money to the taxation department to perform improved audits in certain zip codes or areas versus other neighborhoods."
Approximately half of the counties which Biden carried received Zuckerberg cash, while just 20% of counties Trump transported received any. The CTCL gave over $1 million to only six counties in the lead up to 2020--all of that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. While the share of the Democratic election increased in many Georgia counties from 2016 to 2020 by about one percentage point, counties that didn't acquire Zuckerberg-funded grants"hardly budged at all," according to this FGA analysis.
The Center for Tech and Civic Life did not respond to queries for comment, but has previously defended the grants to Fox News.
"Last year, with generous private funding, CTCL announced the COVID-19 Response grant application," the organization told Fox News in an announcement in April. "All local election offices responsible for administering election actions covered by the CTCL COVID-19 Response grant application were eligible to apply for grant funds. ... Over half of licenses nationally went to election departments that serve fewer than 25,000 registered voters."
It is important to check out the numbers and the facts, countered Bragdon.
"They will speak about most of the counties that got money had fewer than 25,000 people or that X% of counties were European parties," Bragdon said. "However, the key here is to follow the money. And the money went disproportionately to Democratic counties. In Georgia, over 90 percent of the cash went to those Democrat counties. And you could see in the spending per registered voter it wasn't proportionate in any respect."
Although the justification for the grants was security for voters and election workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the watchdog group's evaluation says some counties did not spend any cash on personal protective equipment. Even though Fulton, Cobb and Dekalb spent on average 1.3 percent of the Zuckerberg-funded grants on PPE, the bulk of the money was spent mail-in voting, according to the report.
"This had nothing to do with COVID and had all related to utilizing government resources and government employees to play politics," Bragdon added.
The $14.5 million in grants to its special Senate election was similarly spent, where over 60% of the Zuckerberg-funded licenses went to Democratic Fulton and Dekalb counties.
Seven states--Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas and Tennessee--have enacted legislation to stop private dollars from funding election management.
With regards to countries restricting election jurisdictions from accepting private dollars, the CTCL Executive Director Tiana Epps-Johnson, stated personal cash is frequently utilized to supplement local authorities shortfalls such as libraries.
"We hope that as states think about the issue of private funding, they solve the real life threatening problem, which is making certain election branches are fully funded so they are able to deliver an expert, inclusive, secure voting procedure for each of their voters," Epps-Johnson told Fox News in April.