FIRST ON FOX: Wyoming’s Republican secretary of state is sounding the alarm over potential vulnerabilities of his state’s election system to the influence of outside private groups, including groups that take funding from a Swiss billionaire known for spreading political influence in the United States.
“I am writing to warn and caution against any attempts made by third parties to fund the administration of elections in Wyoming,” Wyoming Secretary of State Chuck Gray wrote to county clerks in his state in a letter obtained by Fox News Digital.
“This is especially imperative, given the influx of millions of dollars to initiatives, including the deceptively named ‘U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence,’ that have set their sights on misleading tactics on local election offices across the country.”
Gray referred to the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence as the “latest attempt for third parties to influence election administration.” The U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence, a program launched by the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) in 2022, has been criticized by conservatives across the country for pedaling liberal election influence and was investigated by Georgia officials this year over allegations of violating state law.
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Left: Wyoming residents vote in the 2022 election. Right: Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, left, shakes hands with Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss. (Getty Images)
In the letter, Gray outlines concerns about CTCL’s involvement in the 2020 election during which hundreds of millions of dollars were funneled into various districts, some of which came from a one-time donation from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, with the stated purpose of providing COVID-19 related resources.
“While approximately $400 million was ultimately funneled to local election offices in 47 states, only small portions of grant dollars were traced to PPE (personal protective equipment) and large discrepancies remain with reporting which funds went to where,” Gray wrote. “A large portion of money did, however, go toward massive electioneering efforts which had nothing to do with COVID-19. Many of these grants came with significant strings attached, including the divulgence of elections operations, sharing of information, and being subject to ‘improvement plans’ aimed at structural change of election administration.”
Honest Elections Project Executive Director Jason Snead told Fox News Digital that much of CTCL’s operations were focused on liberal strongholds.
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Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, left, and Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss attend Oceana’s New York City benefit in 2015. (Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Oceana)
“The left-wing Center for Tech and Civic Life’s private funding of election administration has been revealed to be a turnout operation in largely Democratic strongholds,” Snead said. “CTCL’s newest operation, the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence, is more of the same: An attempt to use additional funds to lure local election offices into becoming key parts of the left’s election strategy.”
“The fact that a foreign national can have such a massive influence in our elections should alarm every American.”
“What’s worse, CTCL creates opportunities for foreign actors to influence how American elections are run,” Snead added. “A single Swiss billionaire, Hansjörg Wyss, has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars into various left-wing causes meant to influence American politics. Since 2016 he has given at least $245 million to Arabella Advisors’ dark money behemoths New Venture Fund and Sixteen Thirty Fund. In 2020 alone, CTCL received $25 million from New Venture Fund. CTCL and its new Alliance are opening avenues for foreign billionaires to pump funds directly into the heart of US elections.”
Caitlin Sutherland, executive director of Americans for Public Trust, told Fox News Digital that Wyss is the “most influential figure in politics that you’ve never heard of.”
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“Wyss has shipped nearly half a billion dollars to left-wing causes, impacting every American, largely routing his foreign money through groups in the Arabella Advisors dark money network,” Sutherland said. “The fact that a foreign national can have such a massive influence in our elections should alarm every American.”
Gray told Fox News Digital that it is “deeply disturbing” that private entities are “working to influence election administration nationwide” and “could be used as a conduit for foreign actors to improperly influence American election administration.”
“I am also disturbed that Wyoming remains especially vulnerable, given our lack of a statutory ban on private funding of elections,” Gray said. “This is why our office is leading the charge in Wyoming to ensure county clerks are aware of the complexity of strategies used to strong-arm election administration and to ensure that Wyoming adopts a ban on private funding of elections. Under our administration, we will work to make sure private funding of elections and foreign influence have no place in the Cowboy State.”
Voters cast their ballots at a polling location in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on Aug. 16, 2022. (David Williams/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Snead told Fox News Digital that every state should be taking similar steps to ensure that private and foreign election funding doesn’t happen.
“Honest Elections Project applauds Secretary Gray for moving to warn clerks in Wyoming of the Alliance’s grave risk to public confidence in elections,” Snead said.
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“For years, Congress has underfunded state and local election departments,” Tiana Epps-Johnson, founder and executive director of CTCL, told Fox News Digital in a statement. “Just last year, Congress slashed funding for election departments from $400 million to just $75 million and with 10,000 jurisdictions in the country, that is not enough to ensure election departments can prevent hacking, keep IT networks secure, make polling places ADA compliant, and ensure enough staff to keep poll workers safe.”
Fox News Digital reached out to Hansjörg Wyss’ organization but did not receive a response by time of publication.
Fox News Digital’s Aaron Kliegman contributed to this report.