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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, in San Francisco on Oct. 20, 2016.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, in San Francisco on Oct. 20, 2016.Jeff Chiu / AP file

Federal election officials clear Zuckerberg's 2020 election administration grants

The GOP has criticized the $350 million in "Zuckerbucks," prompting GOP bans on private donations to help run elections.


The Federal Election Commission unanimously voted to dismiss a complaint over the 2020 nonpartisan election-administration grants funded primarily by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.

The grants provoked significant ire among many conservatives in the aftermath of the election and was used by some to further false claims of widespread election fraud. But new documents published by the FEC show that in a 6-0 vote, the commission agreed that there's "no reason to believe" the non-profit, Zuckerberg or Chan committed any wrongdoing.

The Center for Tech and Civil Life announced in October of 2020 that Zuckerberg and Chan committed $350 million to help the group provide nonpartisan grants to election administrators dealing with the infrastructure challenges of running an election during a global pandemic.

"We should be doing everything we can to make it easier for people to cast their ballots," Chan and Zuckerberg said in a 2020 statement announcing part of the nine-figure donation.

"These funds will serve all sorts of communities throughout the country — urban, rural, and suburban — and we remain determined to ensure that every state and local election jurisdiction has the resources they need so Americans can vote."

Some conservatives blasted the grants, accusing the group of trying to juice Democratic voter turnout and the FEC complaint filed by a Texas lawyer claimed the group's contributions "appear to be designed with the intent to tilt the 2020 federal elections toward one political party."

CTCL has repeatedly defended its work as nonpartisan, and part of the FEC decision says officials found 'no reason to believe" the group "failed to organize, register and report as a political committee."

The agency, evenly divided with commissioners from both parties, regularly deadlocks instead of reaching conclusions on complaints.

According to the Associated Press, at least eight states passed bans on outside funding of election administration in 2021 amid the conservative criticism over the CTCL's grants, which were nicknamed "Zuckerbucks" by those opponents.

Earlier this year, Zuckerberg and Chan spokesperson called the gift a "one-time donation given the unprecedented nature of the crisis."