MADISON — The liberal voter activist group that dumped more than $8 million in election grants on Wisconsin’s five largest and most heavily Democrat cities insists its efforts were all about ensuring “safe” elections during the pandemic.
But it appears that less than 1 percent of the Chicago-based Center for Tech & Civic Life’s (CTCL) hundreds of millions of dollars in ““safe and secure elections” grants went to personal protection equipment. So what happened to the other 99 percent of the funding?
Republican members of congress — including Wisconsin U.S. Reps. Scott Fitzgerald (Juneau) Glenn Grothman (Glenbeulah) and Tom Tiffany (Minocqua) — want to know. More so, they want CTCL to “immediately publish” its financial 990 forms, the information tax-exempt organizations file with the IRS.
In a letter this week to CTCL Executive Director Tiana Epps-Johnson, the representatives point out that the private nonprofit distributed more than $350 million to nearly 2,500 election officials in 48 states and the District of Columbia. The vast majority of the funding (about 92 percent) went to overwhelmingly Democrat-leaning precincts, according to the lawmakers.
“Unfortunately, now more than seven months past election day, the American people have yet to receive a full accounting of exactly how this enormous sum of money was distributed,” the letter states.
CTCL’s “COVID-19 response grants” were marketed as available to local election officials to “safely serve every voter” in the pandemic-ridden 2020 elections. But states have reported spending the money on an array of initiatives well beyond the scope of election safety — from advertising and ballot design to registering teen voters and felons.
As Wisconsin Spotlight has reported in its investigations into the activities of CTCL and its network of liberal partners, the city of Racine used $250,000 in grant funding to purchase a recreational vehicle to serve as a “mobile voting precinct” so “the city can travel around the city to community centers and strategically chosen partner locations and enable people to vote in this accessible (ADA compliant) secure, and completely portable polling booth on wheels.” The pitch assured CTCL that the RV would be an “investment that the city will be able to use for years to come.”
Green Bay elections officials bought two trucks totaling nearly $100,000 with the CTCL cash it received.
The letter from the federal lawmakers notes an elections supervisor in Lowndes County, Georgia, stated that CTCL was “very lenient regarding what we could spend the money on. They put virtually no restrictions on it as long as it relates to the election.”
Wisconsin Spotlight’s investigations uncovered a coordinated effort between CTCL and its network of liberal activist partners to embed themselves in local elections offices in Wisconsin’s five largest cities through the presidential election.
Emails show CTCL-partner groups and election officials sharing raw voter data and discussing how best to maximize turnout of traditionally Democratic voters in “areas with predominantly minorities.” CTCL partners were literally given the keys to absentee ballots, with one long-time Democratic operative offering to “cure” ballots. The complaints allege CTCL, its partners and city officials usurped authority solely granted to local and state elections officials under state law and the U.S. Constitution.
State Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls) says she is indebted to Fitzgerald, Grothman and Tiffany for calling on CTCL to release their financials. Brandtjen chairs the Assembly committee investigating the 2020 elections, particularly the outside groups’ involvement.
“Congressmen Fitzgerald, Grothman and Tiffany realize how third-party money has damaged voter confidence in Wisconsin. CTCL grant dollars were a quid pro quo, inserting democrat operatives into election offices such as in Green Bay,” she said. CTCL then had the ability to claw back dollars if they were not satisfied with the municipalities’ cooperation,” said Representative Brandtjen.