Richter slams down conservative group’s claim that ‘sugar bucks’ are bribes

A Wisconsin judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a conservative rights group that argues that an electoral assistance grant partially funded by Facebook is bribery.

Dane County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Ehlke on Wednesday dismissed the challenge brought by Thomas More Society attorney Erick Kaardal. The lawsuit was challenged with a grant from the Chicago-based Center for Tech and Civic Life to help the city of Madison, a Democratic stronghold in a key swing state, conduct its elections during the pandemic.

The ruling is the latest setback for conservatives, who have argued private grants, some funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, are being used to shore up polling stations to undermine election requirements and invite fraud.

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway welcomed the judge’s decision in a statement, saying using grant funds to conduct an election during the coronavirus pandemic is clearly legal.

Vote County in Dane County, Wisconsin
Election funding related to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been the subject of legal battles in Wisconsin. Representatives for President Donald Trump (left) look at a ballot during the President’s recount vote for Dane County, Wisconsin on November 20, 2020.
Andy Manis/Getty Images

“Buying hand sanitizer and masks during a global pandemic and paying poll workers was the only way to ensure voters could vote and poll workers could work safely,” she said. “It’s also evident that our employees, encouraging Madison residents to vote is not illegal — it’s part of their job.”

Kaardal filed a complaint with the state Elections Commission on behalf of a Wisconsin voter in March, alleging that the grant to Madison — totaling more than $1.2 million — to facilitate in-person and mail-in voting violated anti-corruption laws have violated. Kaardal described the Chicago-based Center for Tech and Civic Life as driven by partisan goals, staffed by Democratic activists, and funded by Zuckerberg.

Ehlke confirmed the Commission’s earlier dismissal of the complaint, reports the Wisconsin State Journal. Ehlke had previously described the complaint’s claims as “ridiculous”.

The ruling is the latest defeat for Kaardal, who has continued to challenge Wisconsin cities and counties by accepting grants from the nonprofit, the organization said diary.

Courts have previously upheld the legitimacy of more than $10 million in grants awarded by the Center for Tech and Civic Life to 214 communities in 39 of Wisconsin’s 70 counties, including many won by former President Donald Trump diary reports.

After the 2020 election, Republican-led states moved to ban private grants to support local polling stations. Critics have ridiculed them as “sugar bucks” for their connection to the tech mogul and say the grants bring outside political clout to polling stations.

Kaardal, a former Minnesota Republican Party official, filed a lawsuit in 2020 asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to stop certifying the 2020 election and grant the Republican-controlled state legislature the power to override their group of to appoint presidential electors at the Electoral College.

news week reached out to the Thomas More Society and the Center for Tech and Civic Life for comment. Richter slams down conservative group’s claim that ‘sugar bucks’ are bribes

Rick Schindler

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