Earlier this week, I wrote about the urgent need for the legislature to convene an unprecedented special veto override session to address John Bel Edwards’ recently vetoed bills. Of course, the Governor had already cast the usual petty vetoes of projects located in the districts of hostile legislators (the very real needs of their citizens being of no consequence to him). However, two vetoes in particular have awakened the passions of the great majority of Louisiana’s voters.
They are, in order of precedence, the vetoes of Sen. Beth Mizell’s SB156, which restricted women’s sports to biological females, and Sen. Jay Morris’ SB118, which gave law-abiding citizens the right to carry a weapon in the increasingly lawless world in which we live.
Now to be sure, the Governor has always resorted to undisguised displays of naked power by personally bullying individual legislators and threatening to veto their bills. We should have expected his behavior to become worse as he prepared to enter the final quarter of his eight years of office. Every Louisiana governor’s power begins to wane at this point, but as a liberal Democrat governor in a red state with a heavy preponderance of Republican legislators, John Bel’s power will diminish more rapidly and more completely than that of his predecessors. This may partially explain why he is now in such great peril of having his vetoes overridden.
Unfortunately, with all the recent anger and exasperation surrounding the demise of the aforementioned bills, I overlooked one more veto, in fact a very important one. My apologies for the oversight, because this veto has grave implications for the very survival of democracy in Louisiana, and in America.
I am speaking, of course, of the veto of Rep. Blake Miguez’ HB20, the “Zuckerbucks bill,” which would have made it illegal for election officials to accept private money to help run public elections. Private money to help run public elections- does that sound suspicious to you? Well, it certainly should, and here’s how one of the most dangerous scams in American political history was foisted on the American public:
It is September 2020, and a presidential election is looming as a worldwide pandemic sweeps the nation. Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, announce that they are donating $250M to the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), a left wing non-profit advocacy group founded in Chicago in 2012. CTCL’s founders have very close ties to the Democratic Party, and the organization has a history of promoting election practices which strongly favor the turnout of Democrat voters. The plan is that the CTCL will then make grants of this money to local election officials to help them deal with pandemic’s effects on the upcoming election.
The grant money begins flying out the door, but only to select local election officials in areas approved by CTCL operatives. Just a few weeks later, the Zuckerbergs donate an additional $100M to the same organization. They state at the time that they are donating this money “… to local election jurisdictions across the country to help ensure that they have the staffing, training, and equipment necessary so that this November every eligible voter can participate in a safe and timely way and have their vote counted.”
In other words, the whole scheme was marketed as special private funding to help public election officials conduct a presidential election in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sounds well intentioned, doesn’t it? But I must digress at this point to note that the CTCL had no expertise whatsoever in epidemiology (the branch of public health medicine which deals with pandemics), or pandemic control or mitigation measures. Nor did it have any expertise in the use or distribution of personal protection equipment such as masks, face shields or plastic germ barriers.
As you may have guessed by now, precious little of this huge sum of money was ever spent on personal protection equipment. Instead, several thousand election jurisdictions, most of them heavily Democratic, received the money under the so-called CTCL COVID-19 response program. The money was then spent to conduct highly partisan get-out-the-vote efforts. Democrat political machines used it to hire and train huge voter turnout-out staffs, create and distribute vast quantities of print and social media, establish drive-by voting sites, place ballot drop-off boxes in heavily Democrat areas, etc., etc.
Did the Zuckerberg money alter the presidential election result? Well, Joe Biden “won” the following states by very slim vote margins: Georgia (11,779 votes), Arizona (10,457 votes), Wisconsin (20,682 votes), Pennsylvania (80,555 votes ), and Nevada (33,596 votes). Those states collectively have 63 electoral votes. Joe Biden received 306 electoral votes and Donald Trump received 232. 270 electoral votes are needed to win, so a flip of only 38 electoral votes would have done the trick for Donald Trump. Considering the relatively small number of voters required to change the election result, I think the Zuckerberg’s $350M might very well have made the difference in the 2020 Presidential election!
Forty-eight states ultimately received grants from CTCL. I am pleased to report that Louisiana was not one of them. For this fortunate result we owe a debt of gratitude to two men: Attorney General Jeff Landry and Rep. Blake Miguez. You see, when it was learned that local Democrat election officials had been contacted by CTCL operatives and that nearly $8M dollars in CTCL grants were being considered for Louisiana, these two officials acted to stop the grant money from being given out.
In the special legislative session held in September and October of 2020, Rep. Blake Miguez filed a bill, HB51, to outlaw private money for public elections in Louisiana. The bill passed both chambers of the legislature and was on its way to becoming law when John Bel vetoed it. At that point Jeff Landry sued to stop these grants from being given out- if it wasn’t readily apparent to some Republicans, he foresaw that private financial aid to select public election officials would corrupt the entire election process. (That is exactly what would happen on November 3, 2020, by the way.)
The suit was ultimately dismissed by a judge over a preliminary matter (which is now being appealed), but not until October. By then early voting had already begun and CTCL had moved on to more corruptible pastures. Thanks to Attorney General Landry’s lawsuit, no “Zuckerbucks” were handed out in Louisiana in 2020.
In the just concluded 2021 regular legislative session, Rep. Miguez again filed his bill, now re-numbered as HB20, to outlaw private money for public elections. True to form our Governor once again vetoed the bill, even with full knowledge of the damaging impact of the Zuckerbucks on the American presidential election. And that is where we are today, awaiting a likely veto override session which threatens the very core of John Bel Edwards’ power.
Much has lately been written about the importance of overriding the Governor’s vetoes of Sen. Mizell’s SB156 and Sen. Morris’ SB118. These are hugely important bills which must become law. Yet I submit to you that the veto of Rep. Miguez’ HB 20 is every bit as damaging to American democracy as the Governor’s other vetoes are to American society.
We Republicans must push every bit as hard to override the Governor’s veto of HB20 as any other bill. Because if HB20 isn’t restored before the next election, we will have more Zuckerbucks (and other woke corporate money) corrupting our elections, and our Republic can ill afford any more such strain. Corrupt corporate money selectively given out to Democrat officials and their intensely partisan hanger-on non-profits likely affected the result of one presidential election. This cannot be allowed to ever happen again!
On behalf of the LAGOP, I would once again like to express our thanks to Attorney General Jeff Landry and Rep. Blake Miguez. Without their foresight and courage, about $8M in unaccounted for Zuckerbucks would have been sloshing around in the midst of our 2020 election. Well done, gentlemen!
LOUIS GURVICH, Chairman
Republican Party of Louisiana