In the months leading up to November’s election, voting officials in major cities and counties worked with a progressive group funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and its allies to create ballots, strategically target voters and develop “cure” letters in situations where mail-in ballots were in danger of being tossed out.
Article by Steve Miller from RealClearInvestigations.
The Center for Tech and Civic Life, or CTCL, provided millions of dollars in private funding for the elections that came from a $350 million donation from Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. The CTCL gave “COVID-19 response” grants of varying amounts to 2,500 municipalities in 49 states.
In exchange for the money, elections divisions agreed to conduct their elections according to conditions set out by the CTCL, which is led by former members of the New Organizing Institute, a training center for progressive groups and Democratic campaigns.
A CTCL partner, the Center for Civic Design, helped design absentee ballot forms and instructions, crafted voter registration letters for felons and tested automatic voter registration systems in several states, working alongside progressive activist groups in Michigan and directly with elections offices in Georgia and Utah.
Still other groups with a progressive leaning, including the Main Street Alliance, The Elections Group and the National Vote at Home Institute, provided support for some elections offices.
Facebook, with the CTCL, was also part of the effort, providing a guide and webinar for election officials on how to engage voters. Included were directions to report “voter interference” to Facebook authorities. The company also provided designated employees in six regions of the U.S. to handle questions. Together, the groups strategically targeted voters and waged a voter assistance campaign aimed at low-income and minority residents who typically shun election participation, helping Democratic candidates win key spots all over the U.S.
The little-explored roles of CTCL and other such groups emerged in emails and other records obtained by RealClearInvestigations and public documents secured by conservative litigants and groups, including the Foundation for Government Accountability, which has filed more than 800 public records requests with elections offices accepting the grants.
Previously, the Zuckerberg-funded effort has been described in generally positive terms, notably when NPR reported in December on “How Private Money From Facebook’s CEO Saved The 2020 Election” — in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump’s doubts about the legitimacy of the process and “Congress’ neglect.”
Conservatives take a more critical view the effort. “This private funding has never been done before,” said Hayden Dublois, a researcher at the Foundation of Government Accountability. ”We hear about dark money and corporations buying ads, but never have we seen hundreds of millions of private dollars going into the conducting of elections. And states didn’t have any laws on the books to stop it.”
Numerous Trump supporters contend that the 2020 presidential election was rigged or even stolen but have produced little concrete evidence to prove it. But their suspicions aren’t likely to be dispelled by the efforts of the private progressive groups, however legal.
They are among other notable instances of monied interests underwriting public governance and affairs for political ends. In 2018, RCI reported that a New York University School of Law program funded by billionaire Michael Bloomberg had placed environmentally minded lawyers in the offices of Democratic state attorneys general to challenge Trump administration policies. And examples of private efforts to steer cash-strapped public education are numerous, from the Koch charities on the right to more recent race-conscious programs on the left emphasizing the legacy and centrality of white racism in society.
Zuckerberg did not respond to an emailed request from RCI for comment. In a post-election interview, he praised Facebook’s security work during the election and singled out its policing of “misinformation.” He noted working with polling officials to watch for information that might lead to “voter suppression” and said Facebook had strengthened its enforcement “against militias and conspiracy networks like Q-Anon.”
‘Curing Absentee Ballots’
According to court documents filed by the Thomas More Society, a conservative law firm, the Zuckerberg-funded CTCL allowed elections departments to use grant money to buy vehicles to transport “voter navigators.” The group filed unsuccessful lawsuits in several states before the election, contending the private funding created unconstitutional public-private partnerships. Several other suits remain active.
The election department in Green Bay, Wis., promised as part of its CTCL grant of $1 million that it would employ the vote navigators to “assist voters, potentially at their front doors, to answer questions … and witnessing absentee ballot signatures,” according to documents filed in legal complaints in Wisconsin by Erick Kaardal, a Minneapolis-based lawyer who has worked on the Thomas More Society lawsuits.
Caleb Jeffreys, one of at least two voter navigators in Green Bay, described his duties as including “curing absentee ballots.” Jeffreys, now a city employee in Green Bay according to his LinkedIn profile, did not respond to an interview request.
Tiana Epps-Johnson, founder of CTCL; Whitney May, director of government services for CTCL; and Hillary Hall, senior adviser to state and local election officials for the National Vote at Home Institute, did not respond to interview requests.
Navigators in Green Bay were also part of voter registration efforts, emails show. They worked closely with a local nonprofit group, which requested that public employees work voter registration events. At least two city employees attended with equipment to conduct voter registration and help people apply for an absentee ballot.
Agents from CTCL trained poll workers in Georgia and paid for other individuals to count and tabulate ballots in Wisconsin, which was won by President Trump in 2016 and President Biden won in November by 20,000 votes.
Emails show that Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein, a fellow with the National Vote at Home Institute, directed Green Bay city employees in gathering and counting absentee ballots on Election Day, and that he was granted access by the city to secured areas and served as an on-site contact for the department on election night.
Rubenstein, who did not respond to a call seeking an interview, also provided help in “curing” ballots that were turned in without the appropriate information, including a signature or address.
Dozens of states require voting clerks to inform voters if their ballot has been filled out incorrectly, giving the voter a chance to fix the ballot and have it accepted. In Wisconsin, that practice is encouraged but not mandatory, under the reasoning that it can drain manpower from other tasks.
But with the grant money provided by CTCL, additional manpower made the time-consuming task feasible, freeing up money for more voter recruitment and outreach.
In Lansing, Mich., the elections department used its $443,000 grant to buy more absentee ballot drop boxes and mail absentee ballot applications to every registered voter.
In Georgia, the grants were used to expand curbside voting and conduct “the necessary voter outreach … to promote absentee voting and encourage higher percentages of our electors to vote absentee,” according to a grant application.
Documents inspected by RealClearInvestigations also showed:
- In Lowndes County, Ga., CTCL grant money was used to pay $15,000 in attorney fees through June. A county elections official told RCI that the money was paid to lawyers handling public records requests stemming from the elections, a process that she expects will last into the summer.
- CTCL was “very lenient regarding what we could spend the money on,” Deb Cox, Lowndes County elections supervisor, said. “They put virtually no restrictions on it as long as it relates to the election.”
- Mahoning County, Ohio, spent $3,500 on a student to monitor Twitter and Facebook and “report any bad actors that may want to disrupt our operations,” one local official stated in its grant report. Grant money was also spent to produce a training video for elections workers.
- Election officials in Lorain County, Ohio, paid an $8,100 Verizon bill and spent $24,000 on a van at a local car dealership. The van was used to transport equipment between a warehouse and the elections department, an elections official told RCI.
- In Boone County, Mo., the elections department used $3,000 of the COVID grant to make a rap video and buy radio spots. “We did a rap video to appeal to younger, first-time voters,” Brianna Lennon, Boone County clerk, said. “We wanted to keep it popular in a format that would have the most appeal to young voters. “
Elections departments received millions of extra dollars in federal aid in 2020, including $400 million in CARES Act funding and $425 million in federal Help America Vote Act grants.
Despite the influx of public money, elections departments across the U.S. were hamstrung because of the pandemic, said Ben Hovland, a Trump appointee to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which administers grants to the states.
Hovland praised the CTCL for providing the money to run elections.
“This was a very unique set of circumstances, and what you heard from election officials was that this [private] money was going for the basics of trying to help people vote, keeping people safe, postage – really the basics,” Hovland said.
He was unaware of the spending on rap videos, trucks, lawyers, vote navigators and phone bills with the private money.
“That runs contradictory to what I’ve heard from most election officials,” he said. “But every jurisdiction runs their election different, and each has its own way to spend money, so I can’t speak to any of that. It wasn’t federal funds. It wasn’t taxpayer money.”
As to the need for the money, not all jurisdictions that received a CTCL grant used it. The elections office in Miami-Dade County, Fla., received $2.4 million from CTCL, but did not spend it immediately, instead receiving a six-month extension to use the money. Several other municipalities did not spend the entirety of their grants and have received extensions.
Boosting Democratic Turnout
Vote margins in many of the areas receiving CTCL funding showed increased Democratic voter turnout, part of a strategy to boost the margins enough in Democrat-friendly areas to overcome Republican margins.
President Trump took the reliably Republican state of Missouri in 2020, but President Biden increased the Democratic presidential vote and won Boone County by 7,000 votes. Hillary Clinton had a 5,000-vote margin in 2016.
In Webb County, Texas, which received $2.8 million from CTCL, voter registrations increased by 10,000 over 2016. The new recruits in the South Texas county voted for President Biden by a two to one margin.
In Fairfax County, Va., which received $1.4 million in CTCL funding, Democrats increased voter turnout by 65,458 compared with a 10,564 increase by Republicans in 2020 versus 2016. The state, which trends Democratic, went to Biden.
While seven states have passed legislation this year prohibiting or limiting elections departments from accepting private funding, far more allow it and “it will certainly continue,” said Kaardal, the Minneapolis-based lawyer.
Kaardal contends the plan by these operatives, working in league with some election officials, was to increase the absentee ballot turnout among demographic groups that favored their candidates and to offset the margins by Republicans, typically in areas outside cities.
“It was a pay-to-play scheme, where in exchange for taking this money, the CTCL gets to tell them how to run the election,” he said. “And it will happen again in 2022.”
In Texas, U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant III, an Obama appointee, ruled in favor of the private funding with a stance that was typical among the judiciary in various federal districts and states.
“Ultimately, plaintiffs complain that people with different political views will lawfully exercise their fundamental right to vote,” Mazzant ruled. “That is not a harm. That is democracy.”
It’s a democracy embraced by elections officials across the U.S. who called the 2020 elections the most secure ever.
Paul Adams, elections supervisor in Ohio’s Lorain County, is eager to accept more private grant money after his department received $435,000 for the fall election.
“If anything like this came along in the future, I would certainly apply,” Adams said. He’s convinced the CTCL is a nonpartisan group trying to make voting safe and easy, and can’t understand why some states are trying to halt private money in public elections.
“I don’t think it’s the grants these people are mad about,” Adams said. “It’s more a matter of where they came from.”
‘The Purge’ by Big Tech targets conservatives, including us
Just when we thought the Covid-19 lockdowns were ending and our ability to stay afloat was improving, censorship reared its ugly head.
For the last few months, NOQ Report, Conservative Playbook, and the American Conservative Movement have appealed to our readers for assistance in staying afloat through Covid-19 lockdowns. The downturn in the economy has limited our ability to generate proper ad revenue just as our traffic was skyrocketing. We had our first sustained stretch of three months with over a million visitors in November, December, and January, but February saw a dip.
It wasn’t just the shortened month. We expected that. We also expected the continuation of dropping traffic from “woke” Big Tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, but it has actually been much worse than anticipated. Our Twitter account was banned. Both of our YouTube accounts were banned. Facebook “fact-checks” everything we post. Spotify canceled us. Medium canceled us. Apple canceled us. Why? Because we believe in the truth prevailing, and that means we will continue to discuss “taboo” topics.
The 2020 presidential election was stolen. You can’t say that on Big Tech platforms without risking cancellation, but we’d rather get cancelled for telling the truth rather than staying around to repeat mainstream media’s lies. They have been covering it up since before the election and they’ve convinced the vast majority of conservative news outlets that they will be harmed if they continue to discuss voter fraud. We refuse to back down. The truth is the truth.
The lies associated with Covid-19 are only slightly more prevalent than the suppression of valid scientific information that runs counter to the prescribed narrative. We should be allowed to ask questions about the vaccines, for example, as there is ample evidence for concern. One does not have to be an “anti-vaxxer” in order to want answers about vaccines that are still considered experimental and that have a track record in a short period of time of having side-effects, including death. One of our stories about the Johnson & Johnson “vaccine” causing blood clots was “fact-checked” and removed one day before the government hit the brakes on it. These questions and news items are not allowed on Big Tech which is just another reason we are getting canceled.
There are more topics that they refuse to allow. In turn, we refuse to stop discussing them. This is why we desperately need your help. The best way NOQ, CP, and ACM readers can help is to donate. Our Giving Fuel page makes it easy to donate one-time or monthly. Alternatively, you can donate through PayPal as well. We are pacing to be short by about $3700 per month in order to maintain operations.
The second way to help is to become a partner. We’ve strongly considered seeking angel investors in the past but because we were paying the bills, it didn’t seem necessary. Now, we’re struggling to pay the bills. We had 5,657,724 sessions on our website from November, 2020, through February, 2021. Our intention is to elevate that to higher levels this year by focusing on a strategy that relies on free speech rather than being beholden to progressive Big Tech companies.
During that four-month stretch, Twitter and Facebook accounted for about 20% of our traffic. We are actively working on operating as if that traffic is zero, replacing it with platforms that operate more freely such as Gab, Parler, and others. While we were never as dependent on Big Tech as most conservative sites, we’d like to be completely free from them. That doesn’t mean we will block them, but we refuse to be beholden to companies that absolutely despise us simply because of our political ideology.
We’re heading in the right direction and we believe we’re ready talk to patriotic investors who want to not only “get in on the action” but more importantly who want to help America hear the truth. Interested investors should contact me directly with the contact button above.
As the world spirals towards radical progressivism, the need for truthful journalism has never been greater. But in these times, we need as many conservative media voices as possible. Please help keep NOQ Report going.
One Sick Day Proves We Need More Voices in Truthful Media
On October 19, I was sick. It crossed my mind that I had finally gotten the ‘rona, but my wife’s cream of chicken soup and a few extra hours of sleep into mid-afternoon had be back up and running after a sleepless night before.
When I finally stumbled over to my computer in the evening, I was met with a deluge of concern from readers. They asked what had happened as only one article had been posted that day. Generally, we post between 10-20 daily between all of the sites, not included curated and aggregated content. Seeing that we’d only posted my super-early morning article before taking the rest of the day off had readers assuming the worst.
We have a wonderful and talented group of writers who volunteer their time for the sites and their readers. Sharing their amazing perspectives has always been a blessing to us because we cannot afford to hire anyone at this time. But having great writers is meaningless if we don’t have great editors, or at least one additional. My wife helps me read and edit stories from time to time, but I’m a one-man show when it comes to getting the stories posted.
Whenever I highlight our desperate need for donations, I note that we do not receive money from Google ads even though most in conservative media are beholden. I often ambiguously note that the money donated will help us grow. Today, I’m highlighting a specific need. We must get an editor to help take some of the load and to expand on our mission of spreading the truth to the world. One sick day proved that.
The great news is that there is no shortage of people who CAN help. I am emailed variations of resumes every week by people who are much smarter than I am. As much as I’d love to hire some of them, we simply cannot. That takes money and as blessed as we’ve been to receive donations and collect ad money (though not from Google or Facebook), we have still fallen short.
Those who have the means, PLEASE consider donating. We have the standard Giving Fuel option and people can donate through PayPal. We are also diving into what we believe is extremely disruptive technology at LetsGo.finance, the world’s first major donation portal for crypto. I’ll be talking a lot more about them in the near future. Those who prefer Bitcoin can send to my address here: 3A1ELVhGgrwrypwTJhPwnaTVGmuqyQrMB8
We can get the voices out there and we’re willing to shine a spotlight on new talent. We just need the resources to make it happen. If you can help, we would be extremely grateful.
Thank you and God bless!
All ORIGINAL content on this site is © 2021 NOQ Report. All REPUBLISHED content has received direct or implied permission for reproduction.
With that said, our content may be reproduced and distributed as long as it has a link to the original source and the author is credited prominently. We don’t mind you using our content as long as you help out by giving us credit with a prominent link. If you feel like giving us a tip for the content, we will not object!
JD Rucker – EIC