Photo: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.
Photo Credit: Lukasz Porwol / CC
Published May 14, 2021
By Jon Styf [The Center Square contributor] –
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee recently signed into law a bill that ends allowing donations to be accepted for use in elections.
The bill originated after what its sponsors said was a $475,000 donation that one unidentified Tennessee county accepted related to the 2020 election.
The Foundation for Government Accountability said it was a COVID-19 response grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative through the Center for Tech and Civic Life.
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is run by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. The couple announced $400 million in donations last year to help local governments conduct elections. The foundation said in October that 21,000 local governments had applied for the grants.
“Allowing outside groups to fund the administration of elections is like giving cash to a referee in a basketball game; it destroys the appearance of impartiality and undermines public confidence in the outcome,” Bryan Sunderland, FGA’s state government affairs director, said in a news release. “Prohibiting third-party funding of elections will restore Tennessee voters’ confidence that their elections belong to them and not private special interests.”
Some Democratic lawmakers contested whether the law was necessary and questioned the exception in the law that allows donations to be accepted if they are approved by the speaker of the House and the speaker of the Senate.
“With this $475,000, if we thought that something was inappropriate going on – and with our excellent secretary of state – there are zero examples of fraud and election fraud in Tennessee,” Rep. Vincent Dixie, D-Nashville, said. “So, I’m not sure how this is going to help or hurt what is going on. I am pretty sure, in any grant that’s going on, there are statutes that you have to meet in order to show some documentation on however this is spent.”
“The facts are that there is no accountability for this money currently,” Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville, said. “All this does is bring accountability.”