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Zuckerberg’s Election Meddling Could Be Emulated By Foreign Interests

Zuckerberg’s Election Meddling Could Be Emulated By Foreign Interests

Facebook might be a cesspool filled with lies, vitriol, and organized disinformation campaigns, but is it more frightening than a billionaire-funded political consultant with, quite literally, the keys to an election?

Mark Zuckerberg’s invention opened U.S. elections up to manipulation by foreign powers that everyone should be aware of.

No, not Facebook. His other invention. The private funding of public election offices.

When Zuckerberg contributed roughly $400 million to the Center for Tech and Civic Life to privately finance public election offices, he was the first person ever to do so. It was a strategy simply unheard of before 2020. And this second invention of the billionaire, who became famous for his serious effect on tech, had a serious effect on elections.

But, while speaking out against Facebook and the damage it’s done to democracy earns a segment on 60 Minutes, speaking out about Zuckerberg and his “zuckbucks” might find one labeled a conspiracy theorist.

The idea that Zuckerberg impacted elections in partisan ways through Facebook is almost universally accepted, but strangely the idea he did the same through the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) is somehow too farfetched. The reality is that CTCL impacted the 2020 election in ways Facebook never could, and legislators should be just as anxious to address “zuckbucks” as they are Facebook.

For proof, look no further than Wisconsin, where, in true Facebook fashion, one of CTCL’s “grant advisers” leveraged the terms and conditions of Zuckerberg’s funding to access information they had no right to see.

Reports show that Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein, CTCL’s Wisconsin “grant adviser” who once worked as a Democratic consultant in New York, became “de facto elections chief” for Wisconsin’s five largest cities despite holding no office.

Spitzer-Rubenstein re-wrote the rules for ballot curing in Milwaukee, requested to be allowed to personally cure ballots in Green Bay, helped election administrators decide how ballots would be transported, rented the room where ballots were to be stored in Green Bay, and as was given the keys to the hotel convention room where absentee ballots in Green Bay were stored “days in advance” of the election. In fact, Spitzer-Rubenstein was so intrusive and domineering that the Green Bay City Clerk resigned just before the election in disgust after her superiors ignored repeated email complaints questioning the legality and ethics of Spitzer-Rubenstein’s involvement.

Facebook might be a cesspool filled with lies, vitriol, and organized disinformation campaigns, but is it more frightening than a billionaire-funded political consultant with, quite literally, the keys to an election?

The details of how CTCL funds were used in Wisconsin are disturbing, but more disturbing is the fact that it was all legal. Most disturbing is that anybody else is now free to do the same. Anybody.

Oil tycoons, hedge fund managers, banking executives, literally anybody can fund 501(c)(3) nonprofits like the Center for Tech and Civic Life, and they can do it anonymously since 501(c)(3)’s are not legally required to disclose their donors. Worse yet, they wouldn’t even have to be a U.S. citizen because there are no rules against foreign donors either.

A Russian oil-oligarch looking to cripple his U.S. competitors could create a charitable front-group to disproportionately fund election offices of more environmentally conscious counties in hopes they would shut down drilling. A foreign dictator hoping to lift economic sanctions could use a nonprofit cultural center to pay for an election office’s voter outreach campaign but provide much more money to counties where a senator or presidential candidate sympathetic to their plight is winning.

This may sound like modern day McCarthyism, but there are numerous examples of foreign actors influencing U.S. elections in both 2016 and 2020.

Hansjörg Wyss, for example, is a little-known Swiss billionaire who illegally gave thousands to PACs (which non-citizens are not allowed to do) more than 30 times over several years before the FEC caught on. In 2021, the New York Times called Wyss an “influential force among Democrats,” despite the fact that he can’t contribute to candidates or political parties, because he uses his private foundation to funnel tens-of-millions of dollars into “nonpartisan” political advocacy groups each year, many of them 501(c)(3)’s just like CTCL.

Just this year, accusations surfaced that Wyss once again broke election law due to his involvement with the Arabella Advisors network, along with reports that he attempted to purchase numerous U.S. newspapers including the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, and the Daily News. Furthermore, leaked internal memos show that the Wyss Foundation developed a  $100 million “Democracy Strategy” that included funding get-out-the-vote drives and lobbying to change election laws, and shared it directly with John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, just before the 2016 election.

Wyss has no qualms about intervening in U.S. elections, and now that Zuckerberg has paved the way, Wyss might attempt to use his dark money network to follow suit. The same goes for the Russian government who famously tried to influence elections using targeted misinformation campaigns on Facebook in 2016, and the Iranian and Chinese governments who reportedly attempted to do the same in 2020.

It’s far from a conspiracy theory to say that “zuckbucks” gave Mark Zuckerberg a concerning level of influence over the 2020 election, and it’s just as reasonable to be worried that foreign interests will attempt to mimic Zuckerberg in the future. Luckily, dozens of states have put forward legislation to ban further private funding of election offices, but dozens more have yet to act. With 2022 fast approaching, time is running out for state legislatures to act, and if they don’t, our elections could be open to more interference and manipulation than ever before.


Parker Thayer is a research assistant at Capital Research Center. A native of Michigan, he recently graduated from Hillsdale College.


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Get your facts straight. 501(c)(3)s do disclose. 501(c)(4)s don’t. If you get such a basic fact wrong how can we trust the rest of your article?

The Dems have prepared a response to your accusations:

“Na na na na boo boo, prove it, liar….I also heard some mumblings about Russian bot, disinformation campaign, and some slur directed at Donald Trump” It was all way too sophisticated and intelligent for this poor, uneducated conservative to decipher.

Maybe I missed it, but I don’t believe this article touched on how existing protections on this activity were evaded or overridden.

Because of their tax-deductible nature (and not because of their immunity to membership disclosure, which wasn’t ruled upon until relatively recently), restrictions on 501(c)(3) entities forbid them from pursuing partisan or lobbying activities. How are those being finessed?

I was once an officer of a 501(c)(3), and can tell you from personal experience that just being allowed to petition a federal agency with a grievance that their increased restrictions on a material indispensible to our educational mission was an IRS nightmare.

It seems to me that the “loophole” here is not that millionaires can dump fortunes into 501(c)(3)’s as much as it is that 501(c)(3)’s have found a way to influence partisan politics in ways that are normally believed to be forbidden.

I sort of get that they are funding nominally nonpartisan elections offices in partisan communities, but unless those offices are corrupt, how does that result in partisan favoritism? Electing and campaigning are two different things.

    Excellent observation Henry. You’re 100% right, the real loophole here is that 501(c)(3)’s are able to get away with partisan activities which they justify by claiming to “promote diversity” or “foster civic participation”. The reality, which they will readily admit to left-leaning journalists, is that they’re working to benefit the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, lax IRS oversight of these groups has allowed them to get away with it for many years now, but a 501(c)(3) funding the government election offices themselves is something entirely new to 2020, which is why I focused on that.

    Regarding how these grants resulted in partisan favoritism, I’ll offer a brief explanation.

    You were right in observing that electing and campaigning are two different things. Campaigning is meant to persuade and motivate voters and government election offices are merely supposed to count the resulting votes, but during 2020, thanks to CTCL, those offices did a great deal more than that. CTCL grants paid for “voter education” that checked whether people were properly filling out mail in ballots, localized ad campaigns reminding people of deadlines for registration and voting, and even general “get out the vote” drives designed to increase turnout across the board.

    None of this seems too problematic, and the numbers show that CTCL grants dramatically increased voter turnout in the counties where they were given. The problem is that, on a per capita basis, CTCL grant monies were disproportionately given to Democratic leaning counties and cities, particularly in states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Additionally, emails obtained through FOIA requests have shown the Democratic counties were invited to apply for grants well before Republican ones. CTCL wasn’t campaigning for Democrats per say, they were just giving way more money to boost across-the-board turnout to Democratic leaning areas.

    Think of it as if a cereal company created a nonprofit to fund public service announcements encouraging people to eat a balanced breakfast (without mentioning a specific brand), but then gave most of the money for these advertisements to areas where they know their cereal outsells competitor’s cereals. They might not have advertised (campaigned) directly for their brand (party) but the end result is a boost in sales (Democratic turnout) nonetheless.

    Hope this helps.

Reading Molly Hemingway’s Rigged, half way through and it’s sickening what the Democrat/Marxists did and no one stopped them County’s to Supreme Court

    We all trusted the Republican Party, and the likes of McConnell and Romney and Paul Ryan, etc.

    We got what we deserved.

      As much as I detest Romney and Paul Ryan’s failure to push the agenda the base voted for or how many times McConnell continues to disappoint as a Senate Majority leader legislatively, neither of those positions has jack squat to do with running elections.

      The ugly truth about elections is that the d/prog are better organized, better funded, more creative, have a bigger lawfare operation than the r. The d/prog begin with several advantages; union members given time off via contract negotiations, a vast array of NGO that push nominally nonpartisan get out the vote operations but predominantly restrict themselves to blue Cities and blue CD to maintain their dominance.

      The Tea party/MAGA era has seen r grassroots efforts to begin to make headway to compete. These grass roots efforts were hammered by the d/prog political power structure and not reinforced by the establishment r because they were a threat to the establishment monopoly on campaign funding and organization.

      The bottom line is it’s up to us in our precincts, CD and States to build a true bottom up local organization and then using the County r party chairs we capture as a result to force change at the State party level and national party level. It’s not easy, it’s definitely hard work that will not be recognized or rewarding aside from the eventual results of transformation into a bottom up v top down structure.

      No one is going to do it for us. Registering and voting is the first step. Putting up a campaign is great. Neither are enough. Volunteer as a precinct captain or door knocker. Become a poll watcher. Drive folks to the polls. Make phone calls on behalf of candidates. IOW, we must give up our free time and days off to make it work. The sooner we realize that the sooner we overcome our excuses for not doing so.

Shady electioneering by billionaire Communists like Zuckerberg is a problem, but not the most serious one the US is facing. The main problems are:

1. A Third World-esque voting system ripe for fraud (massive mail-in balloting; ballot harvesting, etc.).
2. Voting fraud aside, all the campaign money in the world does not equal a single real vote. Americans who allow themselves to be influenced by what the Joseph Goebbels media tells them, and who prize virtue signaling above all else, deserve all the pain and misery they are sure to get (the trouble is that those who don’t want the Communists in power suffer as well).

I am sure everyone knows by now but did you see where Facebook is changing its name to META? It was in the news last week. Could Facebook’s rebranding to META be a predictive sign? An omen?

M = Make
E = Everything
T = Trump
A = Again