Fantastical claims about Mark Zuckerberg’s influence on the 2020 election that have gained traction among GOP leaders, candidates, and activists criticizing “Zuckerbucks” have been refuted by a unanimous bipartisan vote this summer by the Federal Election Commission.
The allegations stem from the $400 million in grants given to two nonprofit organizations in fall 2020 by Zuckerberg, the chief executive and founder of Meta, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, to help state and local governments manage elections in light of the difficulties caused by the coronavirus.
“Inadequate public funds and a global pandemic have led to unprecedented challenges for election administrators throughout the country,” the couple praised the donations at the time. “We are doubling down on our commitment to ensure that every qualified jurisdiction has the resources it needs to allow every eligible citizen to vote safely and have their vote counted.”
The donations, which were distributed to both blue and red regions of the nation, were used to purchase measures to protect voters and election workers, including masks and plexiglass partitions.
However, the funds provided by Zuckerberg quickly served as fuel for the raging controversy started by former president Donald Trump and his friends as they questioned the validity of the election on November 3, 2020.
Numerous states forbade election managers from accepting private donations for voting-related expenses, which sparked the controversy during the Republican primaries this year as candidates traded accusations of having collected “Zuckerbucks.”
In the spring, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) declared, “Big tech’s attempts to compromise the integrity of our elections have no place in our nation. I’m delighted to have signed legislation that assures Alabama’s election process stays impenetrable.
According to a nearby NBC affiliate, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) declared that he was “quite happy of having prohibited ‘Zuckerbucks’ in the state of Florida.”
And Trump proclaimed, “No more false drop boxes by Zuckerberg and these folks, no private money flooding into local electoral offices,” during a rally over the weekend in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
Although it has remained predominantly a Republican concern, the movement against private funding of election administration has seen some bipartisan support in Virginia and a few other states.
As a result of the contributions, the FEC received numerous complaints. Allegations raised against Zuckerberg and Chan included breaking federal campaign finance laws by making excessive contributions and failing to register one of the charities they financed as a political committee.
A series of 6-0 votes by the commissioners, who are evenly divided by party, were used by the regulator to reject those assertions. The votes were cast in July, and the results were communicated to Zuckerberg and Chan’s lawyers in a letter dated August 8 that was made available to the public on Thursday.
The FEC stated that the funds “were widely granted across jurisdictions,” and that the “nexus between the donations and any purpose to influence the 2020 election is speculative at best.”
According to Brian Baker, a spokesman for the couple, Michael Toner, a Republican election lawyer and former FEC commissioner who was hired by Zuckerberg and Chan to review how the funds were distributed, discovered that more of the jurisdictions that received funding had historically favored Republicans than had favored Democrats.
According to Baker, a longtime Republican strategist, “the FEC’s unanimous bipartisan 6-0 decision confirms that the donations from Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan to help support voting in 2020 during the unprecedented conditions of the pandemic were apolitical and intended only to ensure that all Americans could vote safely and have their vote counted.” He said that the contributions “were made in complete conformity with the law to two nonpartisan groups that assisted cities and states in making sure that individuals could cast their votes regardless of their party or candidate preference.”