By DAVE FIDLIN
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – A law banning the use of private funding for statewide elections has officially gone into effect in Mississippi as the second half of the year gets underway.
Mississippi is one of 20 states through the first half of 2022 that has enacted some form of legislation in response to outside funding for elections at the height of the pandemic in the 2020 presidential election, according to a report.
Capital Research Center, a Washington, D.C.-based conservative nonprofit think tank, has been keeping tabs on states’ disparate responses to private election-related funding. The effort gained steam when lockdown and stay-at-home orders were prevalent in the first year of COVID-19.
In their ongoing analysis, CRC authors Sarah Lee and Hayden Ludwig have pointed to revelations that came to light after the most recent presidential election, including the tech mogul for whom the trend has been named.
“The chief culprit was Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who poured $350 million into one sleepy nonprofit, the Center for Technology and Civic Life,” Ms. Lee and Mr. Ludwig wrote. “CTCL then distributed grants to hundreds of county and city elections officials in 47 states and the District of Columbia.”
Mississippi lawmakers responded to reports of the outside funding with legislation this spring by way of House Bill 1365.
Gov. Tate Reeves signed it into law in April at a ceremony that was broadcast on Mr. Zuckerberg’s Facebook platform.
“Like so many in Mississippi, and across the United States, I was deeply disturbed by big tech’s attempt to influence the 2020 elections,” Gov. Reeves said in his Facebook Live address. “Whether it was the attempt to silence conservative voices or suppress information they don’t agree with, California’s technology elites will stop at nothing to push their woke ideology on the American people.”
HB1365, which went into effect Friday, reads, in part, “No agency or state or local official responsible for conducting elections may solicit, accept, use or dispose of any donation in the form of money, grants, property or personal services for an individual or a nongovernmental entity for the purpose of funding election-related expenses or voter education, voter outreach or voter registration programs.”
According to the Capital Research analysis, Mississippi received $3.7 million of the $350 million CRC dolled out across the country for the 2020 elections.
Some of the country’s more purple swing states received higher CTCL contributions in the 2020 election.
Nearby Georgia, for example, received $45 million. Elsewhere in the U.S., Pennsylvania and Wisconsin received $25 million and $10.1 million, respectively, from the organization.
Ms. Lee and Mr. Ludwig have taken aim at the varied cash contributions in their report.
“Despite (CTCL’s) claims that the grants were strictly for COVID-19 relief, not partisan advantage, the data show otherwise,” Ms. Lee and Mr. Ludwig wrote.
In late 2021, CTCL issued a final report on its 2020 grant allocations and defended all of its actions. Organization officials doubled down on their assertion “2020 was the most secure election in U.S. history and voter turnout soared.”
“CTCL played a critical role in deploying various strategies to support election officials and the voting public in 2020,” the report reads. “In addition to providing timely and relevant online training, as well as accurate and trustworthy information to millions of voters, CTCL distributed … grants to local election departments to administer safe elections.”