by W.J. Kennedy
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is “wrong” in claiming that she bears no responsibility for Michigan election officials accepting millions in grants from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to underwrite the cost of the 2020 general election, an attorney representing voters in a lawsuit naming Benson says.
“Evidence confirms that Benson was aware of this private funding scheme and even encouraged election officials to participate,” Mark “Thor” Hearne, special counsel with the Thomas More Society, told Great Lakes Wire.
In an Aug. 9 brief filed with the Michigan Court of Appeals in the case of Dan Ryan, Paul Driscoll, Joellen M. Pisarczyk and Myron Zolkewsky vs Jocelyn Benson, in her official capacity as Secretary of State, Benson wrote that she had no responsibility for elections officials accepting “Zuck Bucks” since “she did not personally hand out the money.” The brief asked for the court to affirm a previous March ruling that granted summary disposition in Benson’s favor, which the plaintiffs are appealing.
The March ruling by the Court of Claims found that the four plaintiffs (the voters) lacked standing. In the Aug. 9 brief, Benson cited Court of Claims Judge Thomas Cameron’s rejection of the plaintiffs’ argument that “standing had been conclusively established or that it could not be revisited.”
“Judge Cameron noted that the earlier decision appeared to assume that Plaintiffs had standing and included a qualifying footnote regarding Plaintiffs’ allegation that their jurisdictions did not have access to grant monies, thus ‘facially meeting’ the standard for standing,” she wrote in her response.
And, she argued, that the matter is moot, writing in part:
“Plaintiffs had offered nothing to show that CTCL [Center for Tech and Civic Life] or some other organization will offer private funds to election officials again in the future, and any declaration would require the Court of Claims to speculate—not just about the existence of such private funds—but whether they might be offered in a particular way that might be unconstitutional.”
As for Benson’s claim of no responsibility, Hearne countered in an Aug. 30 reply to her brief that “she allowed an election in which Voters’ right to participate in a fair and honest election in which every Michigan citizen has an equal vote and equal access to the ballot was denied. Accordingly, Voters have standing to challenge Secretary Benson’s failure to follow Michigan law.”
And Hearne wrote that the voters’ lawsuit, originally filed in October 2020, is still relevant since “it does not seek to relitigate the results of the 2020 general election.”
“Rather,” he said, “it is about how future Michigan elections are conducted and Secretary Benson’s responsibility to conduct elections according to Michigan’s Constitution and Election Code so that every Michigan voter has equal access to the ballot.”
Thomas More estimates that Zuckerberg funneled nearly $20 million to Michigan election officials through CTCL. The funds were then granted to predominantly Democratic urban areas in a gesture to safeguard voters, principally through encouraging mail ballots, during the pandemic.
Since the 2020 elections, 24 states have either banned or restricted elections officials from accepting private donations, according to the Capital Research Center. In October 2021, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed legislation that would have banned Zuck Bucks.
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W.J. Kennedy is a reporter at The Great Lakes Wire.