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Conservatives Challenge Private Grant Money For Elections In Lansing, Flint

Front of Lansing city hall

A conservative political organization is suing the cities of Lansing and Flint over the use of grant money for election operations.

The Center for Tech and Civic Life has distributed money from a $250-million dollar donation from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan. The center awarded $440,000 to Lansing. Flint got more than $475,000.

That’s now being challenged by a group called the Election Integrity Fund. The lawsuit argues that it isn’t legal to use private grant money for election operations.

Thomas More Society associate attorney Tim Griffin, via Zoom

Thomas More Society associate attorney Tim Griffin is working with the plaintiffs. He’s concerned with private money being spent by local governments to get out the vote in largely Democratic areas. Griffin says this is happening across the nation, saying “these private organizations, they’re getting involved in areas that just benefit them politically, with a clear political motive.”

That, he concludes, could trigger “an arms race," adding "if you want to run for president in the future, are you going to have to figure out what localities you need to fund your get out the vote effort in through government? I mean, that’s the fear.”

Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope says the money would be spent on new ballot drop boxes and hazard pay for election workers during the pandemic. He declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Scott Pohl is a general assignment news reporter and produces news features and interviews. He is also an alternate local host on NPR's "Morning Edition."
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