Mark Zuckerberg in front of voting ballot box

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Wisconsin bans private funding of elections after Mark Zuckerberg dropped $10 million in 2020

'Goodbye, Zuckerbucks!'


Tricia Crimmins


Posted on Apr 3, 2024

In 2020, Meta and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg donated over $10 million to local election offices in Wisconsin struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Four years later, Wisconsin voters approved an amendment to the state’s constitution that bans private funding for election administration.

Wisconsin joined 27 other states that have limited or banned private funding for local election offices.

Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan’s philanthropic organization Chan Zuckerberg donated approximately $350 million to state election offices all across the country in 2020, as costs were expected to rise with the increase in mail-in ballots thanks to the pandemic. The move was met with immense conservative pushback—at the time, Thomas More Society, a right-wing legal group, filed a lawsuit against Chan Zuckerberg in eight states, including Wisconsin.

Conservative lawmakers dubbed the donations “Zuckerbucks” and accused him and others in big tech of using the money to steer the 2020 election to Biden.

In 2022, a Wisconsin judge upheld that the election grants were legal after state conservative lawmakers tried to pass a ban on them. But Wisconsin Republicans finally got their way when they got two ballot measures in front of voters yesterday, which both passed. The first amends the state constitution to ban private money to fund election administration.

The other orders that only election officials can conduct elections, pushed in response to debunked claims that a Democratic activist tampered with Wisconsin’s 2020 election results.

The Wisconsin GOP celebrated its victory on X yesterday evening.

“Goodbye, Zuckerbucks!” it tweeted. “Wisconsin has voted YES on Questions 1 & 2.”

In a statement, the state’s GOP chairman, Brian Schimming, said “elections belong to voters, not out-of-state billionaires.”

“Victory! Wisconsin has spoken and the message is clear,” Schimming said. “Thanks to the efforts by the Republican Party of Wisconsin and grassroots organizing, Wisconsinites have turned the page on Zuckerbucks and secured our elections from dark money donors.”

Other prominent digital GOP figures celebrated the state Republicans’ victory, too.

“In 2020, Zuckerberg funneled $400m to fund election officials in swing states,” @EndWokeness tweeted alongside the Associated Press’ election results for one of the ballot measures. “Tonight, Wisconsin voted to ban it from ever happening again in their state.”

Federal lawmakers seem to agree with Wisconsin and other states that private funding shouldn’t be bankrolling local election administration, Roll Call reported in February, but have struggled on how to address funding.

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*First Published: Apr 3, 2024, 12:58 pm CDT