Montanaro: On CTCL grant, we have the unique opportunity to make this right

Submitted by Joe Montanaro

To the Editor,

Lately, there have been articles published in local news outlets pertaining to the $500K donation that a private entity wants to make to Greenwich registrars in order to “enhance local elections”. Before any such money is accepted the donor must be fully vetted. We need to understand who is making the donation and why they are making it. It is not only prudent but imperative to understand this. There is no free money anywhere. It is naive to think there are no hidden agendas or strings attached.

Election integrity must always be the single most important priority. Injecting private money into any public entity (in this case a Registrar’s Office!) creates the appearance of impropriety. That alone makes it important to reject the funds.

An important check on government power is thwarted if executive agencies can secure funds outside of legislatively approved budgets or appropriation bills. If those funds come from private interests, then those interests gain the power of the purse reserved to the voter-elected legislature under both the United States and Connecicut constitutions.

Take a quick look behind the door of the donor reveals all sorts of interesting information.

The donor is The Center for Tech and Civil Living (CTCL).

CTCL’s mission statement: We connect Americans with the information they need to become and remain civically engaged, and ensure that our elections are more professional, inclusive, and secure. “We harness the promise of technology to modernize the American voting experience.” Sounds harmless, right? Look more closely.

CTCL is known for pushing for left-of-center voting policies and election administration. Though 24 states have banned accepting donations from them (and, in fact, all private funding), CTCL nevertheless, has a wide reach into local elections offices across the nation and are funded by left-of-center funding organizations such as the Skoll Foundation, the Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Tiana Epps-Johnson, Donny Bridges, and Whitney May, the founders of the Center for Tech and Civic Life, were co-workers at the New Organizing Institute (NOI) for several years before the organization dissolved in 2015. NOI, described by a Washington Post reporter as “the Democratic Party’s Hogwarts for digital wizardry,” was a major training center for left-of-center digital activists over the decade of its existence.

CTCL President is a former employee of a company called The Catalist mission: “Our commitment is to strengthen the progressive community year after year by growing and maturing this community asset and related technology and services.” These companies have all been actively pushing a political agenda (and are in the business of collecting and selling information about people). CTCL coffers increased monumentally last year with a $350M donation by Mark Zuckerburg. The previous year their donations were a mere $2.8M.

The biggest question the town of Greenwich should ask is whether a California billionaire should be allowed to waltz into town and finance aspects of their elections. It is also important to know that since the town of Greenwich has never exceeded its budget for any election it is clear that we do not need the funds. 

We have the unique opportunity to make this right. There should be an RTM re-vote on March 13th. Tell your RTM representatives TODAY that you think the gift should be rejected. To find your RTM reps go to Tell your RTM representatives that you think the gift should be rejected by signing our petition today: