The Washington Post

FEC unanimousl­y rejects claims about Zuckerberg’s 2020 election grants


A unanimous bipartisan vote this summer by the Federal Election Commission has undercut fantastica­l claims about Mark Zuckerberg’s role in the 2020 election that have taken hold among GOP leaders, candidates and activists decrying “Zuckerbuck­s.”

The claims originate in the more than $400 million donated in fall 2020 by Zuckerberg, the chief executive and founder of Meta, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, to a pair of nonprofits that provided grants aiding state and local government­s with election administra­tion in light of the challenges posed by the coronaviru­s.

The couple touted the contributi­ons at the time, saying: “Inadequate public funds and a global pandemic have led to unpreceden­ted challenges for election administra­tors throughout the country, and we are doubling down on our commitment to ensuring that every qualified jurisdicti­on has the resources it needs.”

The grants, dispatched to blue and red areas of the country alike, were used to buy masks and plexiglass dividers, among other tools designed to keep voters and elections officials safe.

The funding from Zuckerberg, however, soon became kindling for the firestorm unleashed by former president Donald Trump and his allies as they questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 vote.

The issue flared up in Republican primaries this year, with candidates trading accusation­s of having accepted “Zuckerbuck­s.” Numerous states banned election administra­tors from accepting private donations for voting-related expenses.

“Big tech’s efforts to undermine the integrity of our elections has no place in our country, and I’m proud to have signed legislatio­n that ensures Alabama’s election process remains airtight,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) said in the spring.

And Trump, at his rally over the weekend in Wilkes-barre, Pa., said, “No more fake drop boxes by Zuckerberg and these people, no private money pouring into local election offices.”

The move against private funding of election administra­tion has remained primarily a GOP cause, but it did gain a measure of bipartisan support in Virginia and a handful of other states.

Meanwhile, the contributi­ons gave rise to numerous complaints before the FEC. Among the allegation­s were that Zuckerberg and Chan had made excess contributi­ons in violation of federal campaign finance law and that the one of the nonprofits they funded had failed to register as a political committee.

The regulator rejected those claims in a series of 6-0 votes — a show of unity by the commission­ers, who are split evenly by party. The votes took place in July, and attorneys for Zuckerberg and Chan were notified of the decisions in an Aug. 8 letter that was made public Thursday.

An analysis by the FEC found that the “nexus between the donations and any purpose to influence the 2020 election is speculativ­e at best.” The grants, the regulator noted, “were widely awarded across jurisdicti­ons.”

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