The following contains editorial content which is the opinion of the writer, a retired Police Chief and current staff writer for Law Enforcement Today.
HINDS COUNTY, MS– In the 2020 election, we saw tech oligarch Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan spend hundreds of millions of dollars to primarily influence the contest between Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, according to the New York Post.
This wasn’t a general donation, but was a targeted attempt to sway the election, and by all accounts, it worked. Many thought the whole deal was ripe for abuse, and it turns out that was correct, at least in Mississippi.
According to the Clarion Ledger, an election commissioner in Hinds County, Toni Johnson, along with a local businessman, were arrested last Friday and charged with fraud, embezzlement, and bribery relative to the misuse of both taxpayer and grant money, according to the Mississippi State Auditor’s Office.
For the past 15 months, we have heard chapter and verse how there was “no election fraud” anywhere in the country related to the 2020 general election. Anyone who has suggested same has been doxed, kicked off social media, and sometimes worse.
Tens of thousands of people who protested the outcome of the election at the US Capitol on January 6 have been threatened with the full force of the FBI unleashed on them, with hundreds arrested, many held in jail for a year, some in solitary confinement.
Still, with anyone with eyes wide open, something didn’t seem right. When people on the east coast went to bed, things seemed safely in hand if you supported President Trump. When they woke up in the morning, everything had changed.
Those who saw the shenanigans going on in states such as Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, and others prior to the election smelled a rat. As it turns, one of the head rats was Zuckerberg.
“These cases expose some of the dangers of private funding of our elections,” Auditor Shad White wrote in a statement. “They also represent another chapter in the story of fraud that has resulted from the massive amount of COVID-related spending in the last two years.”
Ah yes, COVID…the excuse used to completely upend election laws across the country, many in violation of Article II, Section I of the United States Constitution, which mandates that state legislatures determine how electors are chosen.
A gutless Supreme Court refused to hear any cases making an Article II argument. So election laws were changed by local election officials, governors, and in some cases, judges.
According to the Mississippi State Auditor’s Office, a portion of the moneys obtained by the two suspects in the case came from a $1.9 million grant awarded to the county by the Center for Tech and Civic Life—a nonprofit organization funded by Zuckerberg.
The Clarion Ledger said that Zuckerberg’s organization had given some $350 million to election offices across the country according to the Wall Street Journal. Some sources have that total at over $400 million, including the New York Post.
The money was scattered to election offices across the country during the 2020 election season, the Ledger said. The funds were primarily directed to so-called swing states, such as Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, and others.
“So, as a general rule, the way we think about it is, if you have a private donation to a government office, once that money hits a government bank account, that’s public money,” White explained. “It has to follow all the same rules that any other taxpayer dollar has to follow.”
“Putting that aside, though, it’s important to remember that even if that money weren’t public dollars, even if it weren’t public money, you can still commit crimes with that money.
If you submit fraudulent invoices, for instance, you’re still committing fraud, whether we would classify that money as government money, private money, whatever it may be,” White continued.
“In addition to that…you cannot use your public position, your official position, [to] take a bribe and then make a decision as a result of taking that bribe.”
White couldn’t add if additional people may be charged in the scheme, or if any other indictments were forthcoming.
According to investigators, Johnson is believed to have used county money and her position as an elected official to purchase two 85-inch televisions, as well as personal protective gear that was brought to her home. In order to hide that, Johnson purchased some smaller, less expensive televisions to replace the larger ones purchased through the election funds.
Two Vizio TVs, which were still in the original boxes, were found at Election Commission headquarters.
A demand letter filed shows she owes a sum of about $26,000 to taxpayers, the cost of the property purchased with election commission funds, investigative costs, plus interest, White’s office said.
The local businessman, Cedric Cornelius, faces similar charges to Johnson.
Investigators believe that Cornelius used his company, Apogee Group II LLC to collaborate with Johnson to provide cleaning services, COVID-19 testing, and voting machine audits for Hinds County, however those services were never performed, the auditor’s office said.
They say the company was registered as a “motion picture and video production” business.
The demand letter for Cornelius seeks $216,000 in funds he owes taxpayers, White’s office said.
WLBT-3 reports that Apogee was dissolved on November 29, 2021.
Both suspects have been booked at the Raymond Detention Center, the auditor’s office said. They are looking at lengthy prison sentences in, as well as thousands of dollars in fines. The Hinds County District Attorney’s Office will carry out the prosecution.
“The Hinds County District Attorney’s Office looks forward to working with the State Auditor Shad White and his dedicated team to end public corruption in Mississippi,” District Attorney Owens said.
“The misuse of government funds designed to aid the citizens of Hinds County will not be tolerated by our office and those who break the law will be prosecuted.”
When the accusations came forth last July, Johnson resigned as chair of the commission before she could be removed, however she referred to the accusations as a “witch hunt.” Meanwhile, she has remained an election commissioner and helped preside over a special election last fall as well as a runoff race for sheriff.
This is a shining example and a small part of why it is so vitally important to find the underlying cause of the fraud that took place both in November 2020 and the lead up to that election. Whether or not it was enough to sway that election is not of primary importance, although obviously it’s still critically so.
Because if a large number of the American people no longer have faith in our elections, that is a problem…a major one.
In this case, it’s not just a “few” Americans who have lost confidence in our elections…it’s tens of millions. Free and fair elections are the bedrock of our Republic and simply put, a lot of people no longer have faith in them.
Law Enforcement Today reached out to True the Vote, a voter integrity organization founded in 2009. The organization was founded in order to work at keeping elections “free and fair.” The mission of the group is “to train citizens to protect election integrity at the polls, and to help ported all voters’ rights.”
Further, the organization believes that:
“As American citizens, we share a civic responsibility to participate in this essential foundation of self government…not just by voting, but by engaging in every stage of the electoral process to ensure our elections are administered legally and fairly. So that we may have confidence in the results.”
Catherine Engelbrecht, President of True the Vote told us in a statement:
“In the 2020 General Election, Mark Zuckerberg funneled over $400 million in privately funded ‘grants’ directly to counties so that he could engineer election outcomes. Now, in 2022, the shock isn’t that county officials pocketed the money; we all saw the scheme, we knew it was happening all over the nation.
The shock is that while most politicians go along to get along, one courageous state official had the tenacity to pursue this investigation until justice was served.
Here’s a huge ‘Thank You’ to Mississippi State Auditor Shad White for his stalwart defense of election integrity. Our country needs more elected officials to follow in his footsteps.”
Meanwhile, Gregg Phillips, Managing Partner of OPSEC Group also gave us a statement:
“OPSEC’s election intelligence work around the country has revealed a sickening but common thread; we see direct links to Mark Zuckerberg and multinational crime syndicates willing to spend hundreds of millions to subvert free and fair elections.
I’ve worked in politics for 40 years; Mississippi has always been dirty. I’m proud of State Auditor Shad White and Secretary of State Michael Watson for cleaning this mess up. Lock her up.”
Election integrity experts have long questioned Zuckerberg’s influence on the 2020 election, including former Federal Election Commission official Hans von Spakovsky, a move he calls a “carefully orchestrated attempt” to influence that election, the New York Post reported.
He noted that Zuckerberg’s donations to two nonprofits that handed out money to nearly 2,500 counties in 49 states “violated fundamental principles of equal treatment of voters since it may have led to unequal opportunities to vote in different areas of a state.”
“My reaction is that this was a carefully orchestrated attempt to convert official government election offices into get-out-the-vote operations for one political party and to insert political operatives for one political party and to insert political operatives into election offices in order to influence and manipulate the outcome of the election,” von Spakovsky said.
He now runs Heritage Foundation’s Election Law Reform Initiative.
In one example of the effectiveness of Zuckerberg’s spending spree, one researcher, William Doyle, found the spending added somewhere in the area of 200,000 votes to Biden’s tally in Texas, not nearly enough to overcome Trump’s total, however still eye-opening.
Likewise, according to a report in The Federalist, results showed “similar impact” on voting in the crucial swing states of Wisconsin and Georgia, both carried by Biden by the slimmest of margins; 21,000 votes in Wisconsin and less than 12,000 votes in Georgia.
While the Mississippi incident involving fraudulent use of the money didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things (Trump got 57.5% of the vote) in the state, it shows how easy it was (at least initially) to commit fraud using Zuckerbucks. Perhaps (and hopefully) it’s just the first of many chips to fall.
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