An $80 million initiative begun last spring to support election offices across the country is the latest chapter in an ongoing effort by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to influence election officials, according to a new report.
In April, a coalition of left-wing nonprofits led by the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), a Chicago-based group funded by Zuckerberg, launched the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence, whose stated purpose was to send money to election offices for training, equipment, consulting and other resources.
However, the Honest Elections Project (HEP) on Thursday released a report in conjunction with the John Locke Foundation that described the Alliance as “merely a continuation” of CTCL’s so-called “Zuck Bucks scheme,” a term critics use to describe the private funding of elections by left-wing donors in 2020.
CTCL issued about $400 million in grants during the 2020 election to fund a variety of work and equipment. That included ballot drop boxes, voting equipment, additional manpower, protective gear for poll workers and public education campaigns on new voting methods, among other expenses.
Democrats defended the money as necessary to conduct the election safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, while Republicans noted most of the grants targeted Democrat-leaning districts. In several states, counties that broke heavily for Joe Biden received more “Zuck Bucks” donations, according to an analysis by the Capital Research Center.
House Republicans found in an investigation that less than 1% of the funds were spent on personal protective equipment. Instead, the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence appears to be another effort by Zuckerberg and CTCL to influence local election operations, according to critics.
“The work of the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence is Zuck Bucks 2.0, which is why they avoided states that have instituted bans on the private funding of election administration,” Andy Jackson, director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity, said in a statement.
Twenty-four states have enacted bans or restrictions on private funding of local election offices. But the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence has been working to ingratiate itself with local offices.
In November, the Alliance announced its first ten member offices — dubbed “Centers for Election Excellence” — including two counties in North Carolina, Brunswick and Forsyth. Other grant recipients on the list are from California, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan and Nevada. More are expected to be added in the coming months.
The first offices will receive grants over a two-year period leading up to the 2024 presidential election, CTCL Executive Director Tiana Epps-Johnson told The Associated Press last month.
Epps-Johnson added that grant amounts will vary based on the size of each jurisdiction, from $50,000 for those with fewer than 5,000 registered voters to $3 million for those with more than 1 million voters.
While the effects of the Alliance’s creation remain to be seen, the HEP report says its activities show the group is working to target local election offices and influence their operations to push left-wing voting policies.
HEP and the John Locke Foundation used the report to highlight documents they obtained through public records requests that, they argue, show the Alliance “is actually designed to systematically influence every aspect of election administration in target offices and push progressive voting policies.”
The report describes, for example, how after the Alliance recruited its first members, it announced plans to begin charging offices to join. The Alliance also created “scholarships” to cover these membership costs, which are instantly converted into “credits” that member offices can use to buy services from CTCL and other Alliance partners.
“As a result, offices receive access to funds they can spend exclusively on services provided by left-wing companies and nonprofits, entirely outside normal public funding channels,” the report said. “Based on documentation obtained through the public records process, these services range from ‘legal’ and ‘political’ consulting to public relations and guidance on recruitment and training.”
In exchange for grants and services, offices are expected to provide CTCL and its partners “substantial in-kind contributions,” help the Alliance develop its programming and turn over information regarding their inner workings, according to HEP. Such efforts are designed, in part, so election offices can work with the Alliance to develop and implement an “improvement plan” that may change the way each office operates.
“Elections should be transparent and accountable to the people. No matter what it claims to be, the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence is nothing more than a dark money-fueled scheme to push liberal voting policies and influence election administration in key states and localities,” Jason Snead, executive director of HEP, said in a statement.
“This report should make clear that a private funding ban, vigorous oversight and complete transparency from officials are essential to restoring trust in our election system and making it easier to vote and harder to cheat.”
Proponents of the Alliance have argued its planned investments — $80 million over five years — are necessary to ensure a fair voting process.
“Every American voter, no matter their zip code, should have access to a process that is fair and trustworthy,” Epps-Johnson said at the time of the Alliance’s launch. “Unfortunately, years of under-investment means many local election departments often have limited capacity and training. The U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence will bring together world-class partners so that local election officials no longer have to go it alone.”
The Alliance did not respond to a request for comment from Fox News Digital about the report.