MADISON — The millions of dollars in Mark Zuckerberg-funded grants dumped into Wisconsin’s largest and most Democrat-heavy cities had a sizeable impact on voter turnout — for Democrat Joe Biden. That’s according to a new analysis tracking the liberal activist money behind November’s polarized presidential election.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty report, “Finger on the Scale: Examining Private Funding of Elections in Wisconsin,” finds that of the “safe, inclusive, and secure” elections grants handed out to Wisconsin municipalities in 2020, the lion’s share of funding (86 percent) of approximately $10.3 million went to the so-called “WI-5” cities — Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine.
Such outsized funding totals undercut the left’s argument that the liberal Chicago-based Center for Tech & Civic Life (CTCL) generously gave to more than 200 municipalities statewide. As Wisconsin Spotlight has reported, the Republican stronghold of Waukesha, Wisconsin’s 7th-largest city, received $42,000 from CTCL. Racine, slightly larger, got a grant for $9420,000 — $900,000 more than Waukesha.
The impacts were pronounced. As WILL’s analysis finds:
Spending Increased Turnout for Joe Biden. Areas of the state that received grants saw statistically significant increases in turnout for Democrats. Increases in turnout were not seen for Donald Trump.
“For President Biden there was a statistically significant increase in turnout in cities that received CTCL grants. In those cities, President Biden received approximately 41 votes more on average,” the report states. “Given the number of municipalities in the state that received grants, this a potential electoral impact of more than 8,000 votes in the direction of Biden.”
Trump lost Wisconsin by north of 20,000 votes.
Milwaukee-based WILL sent open records requests to each of the 200-plus Wisconsin municipalities that received CTCL grants. The report’s authors say their findings represent a “comprehensive analysis of where the money was spent, and whether the distribution of funds from CTCL was equitable.”
The grant process was anything but equitable.
As Wisconsins Spotlight uncovered in its investigative series on CTCL’s involvement in and influence on the election, the center received $350 million from Faeeboook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, ostensibly to promote “safe, inclusive, and secure voting process in 2020 elections” amid the pandemic.
What emails from Green Bay, Milwaukee and the other Wisconsin 5 cities show is a coordinated effort between CTCL and its network of liberal activist partners to embed themselves in 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.
While most small towns used their smaller CTCL grants for voting equipment and COVID-related equipment, Milwaukee, Green Bay and Madison spent approximately $100,000 on ostensibly “non-partisan” voter education efforts, WILL’s report finds.
WILL received records from 196 communities that received a total $10.3 million in funding from CTCL. The grant awards ranged from a high of $3.4 million for the City of Milwaukee to $2,212 for the Town of Mountain in Oconto County. Milwaukee and Madison, the state’s two most liberal cities, received 45 percent of CTCL grant funds in Wisconsin. Communities with populations between 1,000 and 5,000 residents, more rural and more Republican, collected about 5 percent of the spending, while cities between 5,000 and 10,000 people got just 1 percent.
“The 2020 election was one of the most politically divided, polarizing events in recent American history,” WILL’s report states. “There are many factors that play into that, but one phenomenon that did not help cure the problem of polarization was the massive amounts of money pouring into swing states from organizations claiming to be ‘non-partisan.’
CTCL was such an organization, and a key player in the controversy surrounding the presidential election in Wisconsin and other swing states.
WILL is calling for reforms to ensure any election-related grant money is distributed on a per-capita basis statewide. The Republican-controlled Senate this week passed Assembly Bill 173, banning the use of private grant funds in elections, but Democratic Gov. Tony Evers appears poised to veto it.