Wednesday, December 29, 2021

How to Steal a Horse Race: Get to the Finish First

Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico.


Speaking of ignorant tweets by contenders for the Most Obnoxious Republican Senator title. Paul doesn't seem to notice that the process he describes as "done in a legally valid way" is done in a legally valid way, or, in short, is legal. Like, he's waxing indignant at the way Democrats win elections by getting more votes.

In reality, the article he links to, by somebody called William Doyle at Rod Dreher's American Conservative, does have a suggestion of some nefarious and possibly illegal activities, but doesn't make it very explicit, possibly because he knows he's lying, and poor Rand evidently can't follow the argument,  so he just posts this quote from it, hoping the sound of it will be scary enough.

The story Doyle is trying to convey is not what the extracted paragraph seems to be saying, that Democrats somehow cheated by successfully getting out the vote in 2020, but rather that Mark Zuckerberg, that well known radical leftist firebrand, did it:

What happened in 2020 involved a highly coordinated and privately funded “shadow campaign” for Joe Biden that took place within the formal structure of the election system itself. Through the injection of over $419 million of Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s money, laundered through the Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL) and the Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR), the professional left presided over a targeted, historically unprecedented takeover of government election offices by nominally nonpartisan, but demonstrably ideological, nonprofit organizations and activists in key areas of swing states such as Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Which sounds like something extremely illegal—a huge unreported campaign contribution. If it were true, which of course it isn't.

The money isn't exactly Zuckerberg's and Chan's, to begin with, but that of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a  fantastically endowed "philanthrocapitalist" entity structured as an LLC rather than a foundation or charity, meaning it's not tax-free but is free to engage in political advocacy and lobbying, and its priorities may reflect Chan's more specifically than Zuckerberg's thinking:

Priscilla Chan has said that her background as a child of immigrant refugees and experience as a teacher and pediatrician for vulnerable children influences how she approaches the philanthropy's work in science, education, immigration reform, housing, criminal justice, and other local issues.

I have my own suspicions of organizations like this, with their neoliberal faith in "market solutions" for every problem, but the projects this one has worked on, from $30 million for the Reach Every Reader project developing diagnostic tools for identifying reading problems very early to $3 billion for Chan Zuckerberg Science, to "help cure, manage, or prevent all disease by the year 2100", really don't seem evil, whether or not they seem likely to succeed.

They publicly list all their grants, which is why Doyle knows about the $332 million given in the runup to the 2020 election to the Center for Technology and Civic Life, which

donated the funds in the form of grants to various jurisdictions throughout the United States to help them hire more staff, buy mail-in ballot processing machinery, and other measures they deemed necessary to properly handle the election amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

These were grants for which local election authorities had to apply, and there's no evidence anybody was ever turned down, though there's been a suggestion in Pennsylvania that the secretary of state gave Democratic municipalities a heads-up about the funding before the formal announcement that it was available. The Lousiana attorney general actually sued in October 2020

“to prevent the injection of unregulated private money into the Louisiana election system and to protect the integrity of elections in the State by ensuring against the corrosive influence of outside money on Louisiana election officials.” According to the lawsuit, “private contributions to local election officials are unlawful and contrary to the methods for election funding established by law in the State of Louisiana”

A state judge ruled against the state on October 26, 2020, on the grounds that the Attorney General’s office had “no cause of action” for the lawsuit and it was dismissed.

The numbers seem to show that Biden counties got more money than Trump counties, as in these breakdowns from Arizona

  1. Maricopa (Biden): $2,995,921
  2. Pinal (Trump): $806,042
  3. Coconino (Biden): $614,692
  4. Apache (Biden): $593,203
  5. La Paz (Trump): $17,531

or North Carolina

  1. Durham (Biden): $1,466,840
  2. Wake (Biden): $1 million
  3. North Carolina Department of State: $1 million
  4. Guilford (Biden): $366,000
  5. Orange (Biden): $292,255
  6. Buncombe (Biden): $135,881
  7. Johnston (Trump): $112,054
  8. Alamance (Trump): $101,061
  9. Iredell (Trump): $96,648
  10. Catawba (Trump): $91,068

while CTCL did not apparently violate any election laws in funding county elections offices, many of its grants targeted key Democratic-leaning counties and cities in battleground states essential to Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s 2020 victory. While CTCL sent grants to many counties that Republican incumbent Donald Trump won in these states, the largest grants went to Biden counties such as Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the greater Atlanta metropolitan area.

Republicans would like you to think there was something underhanded in these different amounts, but it's pretty well known that Biden voters tend to live in more densely populated areas than Trump voters, and that's pretty much all there is to it. 

As to the Center for Education Innovation and Research, it 

initiated the Voter Education Grant Program to support states’ efforts to provide nonpartisan, accurate, and official voting information to the public. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the states were in need of this sort of support; the pandemic only served to increase demand as additional, wide-sweeping changes were enacted to address public health and logistical concerns. This grant program was specifically targeted at helping states provide voters information about voting options, polling places and hours, and how to successfully cast their ballot during this year’s general election. 

—sending invitations to 50 states and the District of Columbia and making grants totaling around $65 million in Chan Zuckerberg funds to all the states that responded:

Those states are home to nearly 120 million registered voters. Among the states, there was a fairly even partisan and geographic balance, including states such as Missouri, South Carolina, Washington, and New York. Out of the 23 states that applied for grant funds in September 2020, 11 of the states voted for Donald Trump and 12 of the states voted for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election. And of those 23 states, seven were led by Republican chief election officials, 10 were led by Democratic election officials, and six were led by non-partisan or bipartisan boards of elections.

What the CEIR grants paid for.

It's almost comical how even-handed this turned out, between Democrats and Republicans. Though it seems clear that, on the whole, Republican administrators were less likely to want help than Democratic ones, both in the cases of the CCTL and CEIR, as if what animates Republicans is the belief that more people voting "in a legally valid way"—any sort of legitimate higher turnout—will hurt their chances, or as Trump put it in March 2020  with reference to one set of Democratic reform proposals,

"The things they had in there were crazy," Trump said of the voter protection and expansion proposals in the bill. "They had things—levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again."gain."

Levels of voting. Not fraud, just proportions. Every once in a while, he blunders into saying what he actually thinks.

Though at the same time he's wrong: Ironically, CEIR is at the forefront of research showing that improved vote turnout is not a death knell for the party: it's good for both parties, as was demonstrated in the 2021 gubernatorial contests in Virginia and New Jersey

“One myth that both parties completely agree on is that high turnout always benefits Democrats,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Research and Innovation. “It is an article of faith among both Democrats and Republicans that this is true and yet it is completely false.”

“We see repeatedly that it’s completely false in places like Florida and Ohio, which had extensive mail, early in-person, and Election Day voting, record turnout in 2020, [and] record margins for Republicans,” Becker continued. “In places like Virginia and New Jersey yesterday, [where it was] easy to early vote, easy to mail vote, [there was] record turnout [and] over performance by Republicans.”

And for that matter that groundless claims of voter fraud really do depress Republican turnout, as seen in a survey just after this November's election:

The Center for Election Innovation & Research (CEIR) released a new poll of Republican voters today, conducted by Echelon Insights, detailing what Republicans believe about 2020 election integrity, and revealing how this might affect their future voting behavior. 

“This poll confirms that the campaign to discredit elections has grievously injured Republican voter confidence,” David Becker, JD, Executive Director and Founder of CEIR.  “One out of every six Republican voters say that they are less likely to vote in the midterms unless “forensic audits” are conducted across the country, which is both completely unnecessary and highly unlikely.”

In reinforcing the Trumpy idea that there was something illegitimate, though "in a legally valid way", in the 2020 election, Rand Paul is probably contributing to a less successful outcome for Republicans in 2022 than they have a right to expect. Don't tell him I said so!

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