Mark Zuckerberg ends election grants


Mark Zuckerberg, who donated nearly half a billion dollars to election offices across the nation in 2020 and drew criticism from conservatives suspicious of his influence on the presidential election, won’t be making additional grants this year, a spokesperson for the Facebook founder confirmed Tuesday.

The spokesperson, Ben LaBolt, said the donations by Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Meta, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, were never intended to be a stream of funding for the administration of elections.

The couple gave $419 million to two nonprofit organizations that disbursed grants in 2020 to more than 2,500 election departments, which were grappling with a shortfall of government funding as they adopted new procedures during the coronavirus pandemic.

The infusion of private donations helped to pay for new ballot-counting equipment, efforts to expand mail-in voting, personal protective equipment and the training of poll workers.

It also sowed seeds of mistrust among supporters of former President Donald Trump. Critics referred to the grants as “Zuckerbucks” and some frequently claimed, without evidence, that the money was used to help secure Joe Biden’s victory. Several states controlled by Republicans banned private donations to election offices in response.

“As Mark and Priscilla made clear previously, their election infrastructure donation to help ensure that Americans could vote during the height of the pandemic was a one-time donation given the unprecedented nature of the crisis,” LaBolt said in an email Tuesday. “They have no plans to repeat that donation.”

The Center for Tech and Civic Life, a nonprofit group with liberal ties that became a vessel for $350 million of the contributions from Zuckerberg and Chan in 2020, announced Monday that it was shifting to a different model for supporting the work of local election administrators.

During an appearance Monday at the TED2022 conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Tiana Epps-Johnson, the center’s executive director, said that the organization would begin a five-year, $80 million program to help meet the needs of election departments across the country.

Called the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence, the program will draw funding through the Audacious Project, a philanthropic collective housed at the TED organization, the center said. Zuckerberg and Chan are not involved in the new initiative, LaBolt said.

The article originally appeared in the New York Times 

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