A Wisconsin judge ruled Wednesday it was lawful for a private group funded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to help Madison run its elections in 2020.
Dane County Circuit Judge Stephen Ehlke said state law does not prohibit cities from accepting private funding to help run elections. He also said no community that applied for money from the Zuckerberg-funded group, The Center for Tech and Civic Life, was turned down so he did not think it unfairly benefited Democrats.
Plaintiffs who filed suit over the so-called “Zuck Bucks” highlighted the fact money went to Madison and four other Democratic strongholds — Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha and Green Bay — that chose President Biden over Donald Trump in the 2020 election.
“There is nothing in the record demonstrating that the CTCL money was used to disadvantage certain populations over others,” Judge Ehlke said in an oral opinion from the bench, according to The Associated Press.
Mr. Biden won Wisconsin by fewer than 21,000 votes and the controversy around private Zuckerberg funding has fueled claims by Mr. Trump and conservatives that election deceit tainted the 2020 contests.
Courts tossed a number of election-related changes during the Trump-fueled sparring over the process and results.
The Madison lawsuit was filed by Erick Kaardal, a former secretary and treasurer for the Republican Party of Minnesota. He is an attorney for the conservative Thomas More Society based in Chicago.
Cases involving the other Wisconsin cities that received Zuckerberg money are still pending.
Wisconsin’s Republican legislature recently passed a bill to make it illegal for private money to be used to run elections, though Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vetoed it.
Judge Ehlke said the mere existence of the bill bolstered his reasoning.
“Quite obviously, the legislature introduced this bill because nothing in existing Wisconsin law prohibited these things,” he said.