Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg contributed approximately 31 million dollars to Georgia during the 2020 general election and 14.5 million dollars during the Jan. 5, 2021 senate runoffs, according to reports published by the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) and the Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR).
The money was routed through CEIR and the Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL), two nonprofit organizations. In total, CTCL is believed to have received 350 million dollars in funds, while CEIR received 69 million dollars.
Millions of dollars in funding
Of the more than 400 million dollars that Zuckerberg funneled into the 2020 elections, the state of Georgia received over 31 million dollars, according to the FGA report published on May 24, 2021. In fact, Georgia received “nearly nine percent of all Zuckerbucks, despite Georgia accounting for just 3.2 percent of the nation’s population and three percent of the nation’s electoral votes.”
Counties that Donald Trump won only received 2.3 million dollars in funds, which is equivalent to a spending rate of $1.91 per registered voter. In contrast, counties that Biden won received 29 million dollars, with a spending rate per registered voter of $7.13.
In other words, counties that Biden won received almost four times the amount in funds from Zuckerberg’s nonprofit compared to Trump counties. All six counties that received over one million dollars were won by Biden. Moreover, nine of the top ten counties that received the highest amount of funds were won by the Democrat.
“Not only did Biden counties rake in the big bucks, but they were generally more likely to receive any Zuckerbucks at all. In fact, nearly 50 percent of counties that voted for Biden received Zuckerbucks, compared to approximately 20 percent of counties that voted for Trump,” the report stated.
The money also impacted the partisan voter turnout in the state. “Shockingly, 75 percent of Zuckerbucks-receiving counties saw a significant uptick in Democrat votes that offset any upward change in Republican votes.” This was especially true in highly populated counties such as Dekalb, Fulton, Cobb, and Gwinnett.
Even though the messaging for the funds was “COVID-19 response grants,” much of the money was actually spent elsewhere. In the three counties that received the most funding, expenses for personal protective equipment (PPE) accounted for just 1.3 percent of spending. In contrast, nearly 10 times that amount was spent on mail-in voting.
For the Senate runoff elections held in January 2021, Zuckerberg contributed an additional 14.5 million dollars through CTCL. More than 60 percent of the money went to two counties, Dekalb and Fulton, both of which are Democrat strongholds.
According to the CEIR report, the organization provided Georgia with over 5.5 million dollars in funding. “Georgia used CEIR grant funds in both the November general election and January runoff election to encourage voters to apply for a ballot online… Georgia also used the funds to counteract disinformation, issuing public service announcements warning voters of disinformation and encouraging them to report fraud to the Secretary of State hotline.”
Following the controversy of Zuckerberg funding the 2020 election, several states moved to restrict such activities. On Mar. 25, 2021, Georgia implemented the “Election Integrity Act of 2021,” which includes a clause prohibiting election officials from using third-party money for elections.
“No superintendent shall take or accept any funding, grants, or gifts from any source other than from the governing authority of the county or municipality, the State of Georgia, or the federal government,” the bill states.
The bill also instructs the State Election Board to study and eventually propose a method of accepting donations intended to facilitate the administration of elections to the General Assembly. In addition, by Oct. 1, 2021, the board must come up with a method to ensure that donations are distributed equally in the state.
Other states that have proposed or passed bills to prevent or restrict private funding of elections are Florida, Arizona, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Texas.