Republican Accepted 'Zuckerbucks' but Pushed Election Fraud Theory Anyway

A Republican candidate for Kansas secretary of state is being called out for welcoming a controversial elections assistance grant and later blasting his opponent for doing the same thing.

Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab in a tweet on Friday accused his primary opponent Mike Brown of hypocrisy for saying the Facebook-linked elections grants undermined security but earlier voted to accept the money as a county commissioner. The dust-up is the latest as 2020 grants linked to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg have continued to generate controversy in Republican politics.

"Brown says one thing but does another," Schwab tweeted. "When someone shows you who they really are, believe them. Brown has demonstrated a lack of integrity by accepting private money for election administration and hypocritically passing the buck."

Schwab's tweet was in response to a vote Brown cast in October 2020 while serving on the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners to accept a $856,245 grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life.

Ballots Cast in Kansas
Democratic candidate for Kansas' 3rd Congressional District Sharice Davids prepares to cast her ballot on November 6, 2018 in Shawnee, Kansas. Davids is running against incumbent Republican Kevin Yoder. Whitney Curtis/Getty Images

Connie Schmidt, the county's then-election officer, explained the money would be used to purchase equipment, train staff and deal with other complications from the increases in mail-in and early voting brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Nice surprise; Nice gift," said Brown before voting to accept the money. "Thank you very much. Big help."

Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have given at least $400 million to the Center for Tech and Civic Life. According to the Chicago-based nonprofit, it distributed nearly $350 million in grants to local election offices to help overcome previous underfunding and pandemic challenges.

The grants have come under scrutiny after former President Donald Trump claimed the 2020 election was marked with rampant voter fraud, a claim that has been repeatedly debunked by courts, audits and the members of the president's own administration.

With heightened concerns over voter fraud, multiple Republican-led states, including Kansas, have since banned private election grants over concerns they were used to influence how elections are carried out.

Brown's campaign has focused on election integrity, pledging to remove ballot drop boxes and tighten early voting. In a March Facebook post, he criticized Schwab for accepting $2.3 million in "Zuckerberg Money." Calling his opponent "Asleep-at-the-Wheel Schwab," Brown said he should have known who was behind the money before allowing the contribution.

Schwab's campaign told Newsweek in an email that it was up to each "county to apply for and accept Zuckerbucks."

"Brown said Kansas elections were compromised by the acceptance of Zuckerbucks, yet he led the charge to accept more than $850,000 in Zuckerberg money for Johnson County elections," Schwab's campaign said. "As a Johnson County Commissioner, Brown should have known from whom he was accepting money."

A 2021 audit found that 25 counties in Kansas received a total of $2.3 million in grants from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, which it said caused some political concerns. However, "there were no obligations associated with the acceptance of the CTCL grant," the audit concluded.

Newsweek reached out to Brown's campaign for comment.

Update 06/17/22, 8:10 p.m. ET: This article was updated with additional information and background.