The 2020 election was not stolen by fraudulent ballots stuffed into boxes on Election Night while the security cameras were mysteriously “off-line.” Instead, it was rigged beginning a year earlier by some powerful people.
That is the main conclusion of journalist Mollie Hemingway’s latest book, “Rigged: How the Media, Big Tech, and the Democrats Seized Our Elections.” Mollie joins Peter and Eric on TheDrillDown to talk about the book and share her thoughts on how we can make elections safer, more secure, and less susceptible to outside influence.
The 2020 election happened at a fraught time, while the COVID virus canceled most public gatherings. As a result, states eased their normal restrictions on absentee balloting. Some states mass-mailed ballots to their entire voter rolls without first checking they were accurate, and they limited in-person voting. It was to keep the people safe, they said. But it led to various shenanigans in key states. These may not have been illegal, but as Mollie explains, states have since learned about them and are making them illegal.
That’s a big charge, but it sits in the middle between those who claim that nothing whatsoever went wrong in 2020 and those who allege a “James Bond-like” conspiracy of hacked voting machines and stuffed ballot boxes that denied Donald Trump a second term. Neither claim is correct, Mollie’s book argues. It was more like a modern Tammany Hall, greased by massive amounts of money from tech billionaires, legal efforts by Democratic operatives, and partisan de-platforming by corporate media, all compounded by lax enforcement by state election regulators that helped Joe Biden win the election from the comfort of his basement.
“People describe all sorts of problems in elections as ‘fraud’ when that’s really just one small part of what was a very fragile, unstable election process,” Mollie tells Peter and Eric.
“People are fighting over what actually happens in the voting booth and they should because that stuff is very important,” Mollie says. “But it’s probably nothing compared to the level of meddling that we experienced in our country, thanks to these powerful tech oligarchs.”
She recalls the 2016 election, when large segments of the media decided that they couldn’t let people know what Donald Trump was saying in an unfiltered way, and they threw out all their usual journalistic norms. Trump took his message to social media – Facebook and Twitter and others – and had great success. The whole media establishment was shocked and appalled that people didn’t do what they were supposed to do, she says.
Tech CEOs at Google, Twitter, and Facebook said they would never let it happen again then ramped up their already pretty significant election meddling methods. Google suppressed certain information in its search algorithms. A month before Election Day, Twitter censored news stories by the New York Post about Hunter Biden’s laptop that potentially implicated his father’s involvement in his business dealings. Facebook used its user knowledge to deliver voter registration reminders to users its data identified as Democrats, but not to Republicans. “This is a massive, powerful tool,” Mollie tells Peter and Eric.
Eric Eggers, GAI’s vice president of research who wrote his own book in 2018 called “FRAUD: How the Left Plans to Steal the Next Election,” asks Mollie about the efforts of the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) and what happened with the “Zuck bucks.” Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, spent $419 million on voter registration efforts in 2020. This money, which was supposed to go to things like purchasing protective equipment for election workers, instead mostly funded Democratic political operatives who embedded into the election system and focused their voter registration efforts on Democrat-leaning areas.
He notes that when you have the big tech companies so solidly behind one candidate it has an enormous effect on American society and American behavior. “When you are getting the messaging that [Americans] are going to cast more mail-in and absentee ballots than ever before and so it is going to take a while, and then the same messaging outlets shut down questions about the accuracy of that counting, it’s insane that that’s a thing that happened, and we’re all okay with it,” he tells Mollie and Peter.
Mollie reports details such as how In election workers in Philadelphia funded by Zuck bucks helped “cure” early ballots cast there, but that happened nowhere else in the state.
Mollie and Eric mention two well-known examples of outright frauds that occurred in 2020 in the Patterson, New Jersey election and, once again, in Philadelphia, where an elections judge admitting taking bribes to stuff ballot boxes.
Returning to the discredited “Russia collusion story” of the 2016 election, Mollie points out that argument boiled down to claiming that Russians ruined the 2016 elections by buying about $100,000 worth of Facebook ads for both Trump and Hillary Clinton. In 2020, however, Big Tech billionaires spent hundreds of millions of dollars in a much more subtle, sophisticated, and “brilliant” way to do the same thing.
Peter asks, “Imagine if Exxon announced they were going to give free gas to one political campaign. That would not be acceptable because corporations cannot make in-kind contributions like that. Yet you have Facebook and Google giving something much more valuable than free gas or free advertising… These big tech companies are literally distorting the lens through which people get their information. That is a massive in-kind contribution. Why is there not an outcry about this in Washington at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and by members of Congress about this? He notes that a paid political ad must have a statement that “this message is brought to you by…” Why is this none of this considered a violation of election law?
So, what did the “Zuck bucks,” the $419 million spent by Mark Zuckerberg through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, go to? Did Republicans just get out-organized by the Democrats?
“This is not about spending on campaigns, but spending to take over government election offices,” Mollie says. It’s a brilliant strategy.” She notes the Chan Zuckerberg foundation hired former Obama campaign staffer David Plouffe, who pledged a “street fight” in cities like Detroit and Phila and then helped to win that fight. The $419 million was ostensibly to help with COVID protection for election workers, but just 1 percent of it went to that, with the rest going to things such as to allot design efforts, targeted voter registration efforts, hiring marketers to target historically underrepresented areas which tend to be heavily Democratic, and these people were all embedded into the election system itself, able to access to street level data to help their cause.
Eric ends with a sum-up quote from page 206 of Mollie’s book:
“What made 2020 different was that for the first time ever the groups that supported Democrats were allowed on a widespread basis to cross that bright red line that separates government officials who administer an election from political operatives. In 2020, funded by Zuckerberg and directed by a former Obama campaign official, that line was crossed and everyone was just sort of okay with it.”