Two Republican state senators have issued a co-sponsorship memorandum asking their colleagues to join them in sponsoring proposed legislation that would prohibit the use of private funds to administer elections within the Commonwealth.
The move comes less than a day after Broad + Liberty reported that former Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar made a one-on-one invitation to Bucks County to apply for election grant monies from the Chigago-based nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life in August of 2020.
The report, which was based on information obtained via Right-to-Know Law requests, also detailed how a governor’s office staffer worked with left-leaning nonprofits to facilitate applications from a select group of counties.
Every county that Boockvar and the staffer invited to apply has a Democratic voting history in presidential elections, bolstering an established pattern in which Democratic counties disproportionately benefited from CTCL’s grants.
The hundreds of pages of documents provided by the governor’s office, the department of state, and from county-level offices have never shown any government officers reaching out to coordinate similar grant invitations to “red” counties prior to Sept. 1.
The hundreds of pages of documents… have never shown any government officers reaching out to coordinate similar grant invitations to “red” counties prior to Sept. 1.
After Sept. 1, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg donated $250 million to CTCL, and the group made the grants an open invitation to all counties nationwide.
“Private, non-government money must not have a role in how we conduct elections in Pennsylvania,” the memo from Sens. Lisa Baker and Kristin Phillips-Hill reads. “No matter how well-intended, such outside support has the potential to unduly influence election procedures, policies, staffing, and purchasing, which in turn may unfairly alter election outcomes. Even more importantly, it stands to erode voter confidence in a pillar of our beloved democracy.”
“Further, it has been reported that this funding was only secretly vetted by certain high-ranking officials from the executive branch who identified which counties should be invited to apply,” the memo continued, apparently referring to the Broad + Liberty reporting.
“The public, county election directors, and elected officials were not afforded the privilege of examining the origins of this funding or its ties to various political affiliations and special interest groups. When only designated or preferred counties benefit from outside money, without accountability, fairness and transparency suffer. As only a few counties were granted access to private donations, this practice would also appear to contradict Article I, Section 5 of our state Constitution that declares, ‘Elections shall be free and equal.'”
The memo appears to refer to Bucks County eventually declining Bookvar’s invitation to apply for a grant because it could not determine the source of the funding passed on by the CTCL.
READ MORE: Former Sec. of State Boockvar and Gov. Wolf staffer helped selectively invite counties for election grants
The department of state has not responded to two requests for evidence that it made invitations to any Republican-leaning county prior to Sept. 1.
Even though all counties were eventually able to apply for the grants, the total funding was heavily skewed towards Democratic-leaning counties, even when averaged out on a per-registered-voter basis. Other emails suggest some of the consulting agents who were pressing the grants in July and August were advising counties on how to maximize their applications, such as suggesting asking for additional funding for drop-boxes or satellite election offices.
Other states that also saw CTCL grant money have moved to restrict private dollars for the use of election administration.
Republican Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona signed a bill in April of this year to outlaw the practice saying, “With public confidence in our elections in peril, it’s clear our elections must be pristine and above reproach — and the sole purview of government.”
He also said that the grant money used in 2020 was done with “integrity.”
Lawmakers have introduced similar legislation in 17 states, according to the website Ballotpedia.org.
Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at tshepherd at broadandliberty.com, or use his encrypted email at shepherdreports at protonmail.com.