Following the contentious 2000 election of President George W. Bush, former President Jimmy Carter and Republican James Baker co-chaired the bipartisan Commission on Election Reform. It issued a 100-plus-page document called “Building Confidence in U.S. Elections,” which treated election integrity, public accountability, and transparency seriously, and as vitally important to that goal.
Following the much more contentious 2020 election, we have instead been treated to an endless stream of official apologetics which seeks to convince the general public that this election “was one of the most secure in our history,” and that anybody who questions the results is acting in bad faith.
Now we have a recently released “bombshell” report by prominent Never Trump attorneys and politicians claiming to make “The Conservative Case that Trump Lost and Biden Won the 2020 Presidential Election” (the Ginsberg Report), which seeks to assure us that even conservatives should believe that the 2020 election was beyond reproach and that there really is no useful point in continuing to discuss or debate it anymore.
The Ginsberg Report Shuts Down Dissent
Rather than attempting an objective analysis of the 2020 election, the Ginsberg Report seems to have a different purpose. It appears to be intended to shut down reasonable debate about election integrity by linking all such claims with the most extravagant and unprovable theories of election fraud that were circulated by some Trump supporters in the immediate aftermath of the 2020 election.
The objective is not to debunk the wild, baseless theories, but rather to dismiss valid election objections by tarring them with the same brush as the wildest conspiracy theories under the general rubric of “baseless claims of widespread election fraud,” and then dismiss the entire package out of hand.
By limiting its focus to select and often unprovable cases of narrowly defined “election fraud” the Ginsberg Report — like the Jan. 6 Select Congressional Committee hearings — is engaged in “a bait-and-switch presentation” designed to convince conservatives that all discussions about the conduct of the 2020 election should be dismissed as beyond the bounds of sane political discourse.
But even if there was no “widespread election fraud” in November 2020, as the Ginsberg Report implies, it does not necessarily follow that the election was not rigged to keep Donald Trump out of the White House. Stealing an election by fraud is not the only way to avoid losing, nor do election irregularities have to be “widespread” to have a decisive effect on the outcome.
Elections are rigged when systemic violations of election laws and norms occur, especially in areas that are key to an electoral victory, that strongly bias the results in favor of a certain desired outcome, which for Democrats in 2020 was defeating Donald Trump at all costs.
A Glaring Omission: The Scope and Influence of ‘Zuckbucks‘
One chief indicator of the Ginsberg Report’s disingenuousness is its dismissive stance toward one of the most significant irregularities in the conduct of the 2020 election. The report barely mentions the injection of approximately $332 million of private funds into select local election offices, mainly from Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg and the left-leaning New Venture Fund, through the Center for Tech and Civic Life’s (CTCL) notorious Covid-19 Response Grant Program.
To give an idea of the scope of CTCL’s effort at “fortifying” the 2020 election, and the breathtaking disingenuousness of omitting all but a passing mention of it from Ginsberg’s supposedly comprehensive election report, one should consider the unique and outsized role that CTCL money played alongside Democrat’s already heavy reliance on “dark money” contributions in 2020.
A recent New York Times investigation outlined the advantage that partisan “dark money” nonprofits gave Democrats in the 2020 election. Spending by Democrat-aligned nonprofits totaled about $1.7 billion while spending by Republican-aligned groups totaled about $0.97 billion.
The IRS classifies these so-called “dark money” nonprofits as 501c(4) organizations. They are permitted to promote and disclose partisan interests, but they are not required to disclose their donors. But the Democrat’s partisan money advantage was considerably greater than the New York Times suggests.
Among Democrat-aligned dark money nonprofits active in 2020, only the Sixteen Thirty Fund — which spent $410 million — outspent the Mark Zuckerberg-affiliated CTCL. According to newly available tax data, the latter’s Covid-19 Response Grant Program cost about $332 million. The largest Republican-aligned dark money nonprofit, One Nation, spent just $196 million in 2020.
The reason that the CTCL does not appear on the New York Times’ list of major nonprofits aligned with either Democrats or Republicans is that it is registered as a non-partisan 501c(3) nonprofit.
Unlike a partisan 501c(4) nonprofit, a non-partisan 501c(3) nonprofit like CTCL must not have policy and spending priorities that are aligned with any political party or policy position. CTCL claims its aforementioned $332 million in grants was a non-partisan program to help underfunded election offices faced with unprecedented challenges in the face of Covid-19.
CTCL’s claim has been hotly disputed, however, and our research shows that the consequences of its grant program are in fact inherently partisan as a result of the geographic distribution of practically all large CTCL grants.
In order to get some idea of the edge this huge amount of partisan spending gave Democrats in 2020, it must be understood that CTCL’s efforts were not a matter of Democrats outspending Republicans on an election. The funding and influencing of election administration by private actors, whether explicitly partisan or nonpartisan, was essentially unknown in the American political system prior to the 2020 election.
Big CTCL money had nothing to do with traditional campaign finance, media buys, lobbying, or other expenses that are related to increasingly expensive modern elections. It had to do with financing the infiltration of election offices at the city and county level by Democrat election activists, and coordinating the outsourcing of many election functions to conspicuously partisan, leftist non-profits.
Those offices were then used as a platform to implement preferred administrative practices, promote absentee voting, conduct ballot harvesting efforts, and enter into data sharing agreements with private election activists, as well as to launch intensive multi-media outreach campaigns and surgically targeted, door-to-door voter turnout efforts in areas that were loaded with tranches of previously untapped, potential Democratic voters.
CTCL awarded virtually all of its larger grants — on both an absolute and per capita basis — to deeply Democratic urban areas. This partisan pattern of funding was especially apparent in swing states. Regardless of intention, CTCL’s geographic allocation of larger grants was prima facie and de facto partisan, which goes against the terms of its 501c(3) charter.
CTCL’s top 100 grants, totaling $242 million, made up 73 percent of the organization’s total spending. CTCL awarded nearly all these larger grants to election offices in either swing states, states with close Senate races, or in Democrat-heavy jurisdictions within contested, electoral vote-rich states like Texas and Florida where Democrats were overly optimistic about Biden’s chances.
What We Discovered About the CTCL’s Top 100 Grants
Our investigation of the national scale of CTCL involvement in the 2020 Election revealed the following well-substantiated facts, based on our analysis of the top 100 grants.
The arithmetic average partisan bias in favor of Biden of the top 50 per capita grant recipients was D + 33 points, but the population-weighted partisan bias was D + 41 points, indicating that CTCL spending on a per capita basis was even more biased toward Democrat-leaning jurisdictions than a simple average of grant recipients would suggest. This means the average CTCL grant recipient was a heavily Democrat jurisdiction in which Biden/Trump vote shares were Biden 70 percent and Trump 30 percent.
Only two of the top 50 per capita CTCL grants went to Republican-leaning jurisdictions.
Georgia received the most CTCL funding on a per capita basis by far, with 10 county grants among the top 50 totaling $41 million. The top 9 Georgia grants went to heavily Democrat counties, with an average partisan bias of D + 35 points. These top per capita grant recipients received about 90 percent of CTCL funds in Georgia. There are 159 counties in Georgia, the vast majority of which received no significant CTCL funding at all. Following Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, Georgia has only voted for the Democrat presidential candidate once before 2020, when Bill Clinton narrowly won the state in 1992. Biden won Georgia in 2020 by less than 12,000 votes, or 0.3 percent.
Wisconsin received approximately $10.1 million from CTCL, but $8.5 million went entirely to “The Wisconsin 5” cities of Green Bay, Kenosha, Madison, Milwaukee, and Racine, all of which rank among the top 50 CTCL per capita grant recipients. The average partisan bias of these cities — which received 85 percent of CTCL funds in Wisconsin — was D + 37 points. Biden won Wisconsin by less than 21,000 votes, or 0.6 percent.
Pennsylvania had 5 major grant recipients, which received $18 million. Approximately $15 million went to D + 64 point Philadelphia, and the Philly metro counties of D + 27 point Delaware and D + 17 point Chester. Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), received $2.05 million. The vast majority of Democratic votes in Pennsylvania came from the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh metro areas. The average partisan bias of these 5 counties which accounted for 72 percent of CTCL spending in Pennsylvania was D + 27 points. Joe Biden won Pennsylvania by less than 81,000 votes, or 1.2 percent.
Five states received 25 of the top 50 largest per capita CTCL grants, which went to heavily Democratic jurisdictions in the swing states of Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, and the electoral-vote rich “purple” states of Florida and Texas. Heavily Democratic states that were not in play in 2020 such as Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, and “safe” Republican states such as Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming that had no electoral college significance to Democrats did not receive significant per capita CTCL funding.
Preliminary research from Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin suggests that rather than addressing general election funding shortfalls, CTCL’s grant program created two-tier election systems in states in which they invested heavily, where CTCL grants exacerbated already existing funding disparities between Democrat-leaning jurisdictions and their Republican counterparts. Combining 2020 election budget figures with CTCL grants shows Democrat jurisdictions in these states ended up with 3 to 5 times the per capita election budgets of Republican jurisdictions.
The largest grant in absolute terms was to New York City at approximately $19 million and the 100th largest was to Hillsborough County, FL at $671,280. Of the top 50 grants in absolute amounts, none went to Republican-leaning jurisdictions.
We Will Not Stop Voicing Legitimate Concerns About the 2020 Election
It is ludicrous to insist that such a carefully targeted and lavishly funded effort at pumping up voter turnout in heavily Democrat urban areas had no significant impact on Joe Biden’s vote totals. If CTCL spending did not involve “rigging” the election in favor of Joe Biden in a way that is now illegal in over 20 states (with Pennsylvania being a surprising, recent addition to the list) we do not know what to call it.
The fact that the important CTCL story was glaringly omitted from the Ginsberg Report provides a major clue to us that its main purpose was to conceal problems with the 2020 election and attempt to silence critics. Its “shock and awe” approach to bludgeoning the reader into submission with its meticulously footnoted appearance of disinterested scholarship, formidable length, and legalistic format, suggests a seriousness of purpose that unfortunately is substantively absent.
The only way we can be assured of more secure, trusted elections in the future is if we continue to debate and discuss what happened in 2020, with an eye toward preventing similar problems from occurring in the future.
Conservatives can stop talking about the 2020 election and it will be time to “move on” when the phony “debunking” sophistry stops, and the national debate returns to fixing obvious problems with the way the 2020 election was conducted. We can stop talking about the 2020 election when others stop attempting to cover its problems up in the interest of protecting a faltering Biden regime, and the establishment politicians on both sides of the aisle who have gone “all in” on supporting it.
Never Trump Republicans who are more intent on policing dissent among conservatives than supporting transparent and trustworthy elections must not be allowed to have the last word in this discussion.
William Doyle, Ph.D., is principal researcher at Caesar Rodney Election Research Institute in Irving, Texas. He specializes in economic history and the private funding of American elections.
Previously, he was associate professor and chair in the Department of Economics at the University of Dallas. He can be contacted at [email protected]
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