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GAO struggles to identify how 20% of federal grants for the 2020 vote were spent


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A federal audit found problems with 20% of Election Assistance Commission grants to help states with the 2020 vote in the midst of a pandemic.

When Congress approved the CARES Act, a COVID-19 relief plan, the EAC received $ 400 million in grants, of which $ 326 million has been accrued so far. The Government Accountability Office, a watchdog agency, looked at how the EAC spent and monitored grant money in a November report.

House Republicans first raised concerns about campaign subsidies in September 2020 over an expense in California. The GAO findings validate concerns that the issues run deeper than a single state, said Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., A leading member of the House Reform and Oversight Committee.

A Clark County election worker scans mail-in ballots at the Clark County Election Department on October 20, 2020 in North Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

“The potential for abuse is very high,” Comer told Fox News. “The EAC is supposed to be a watchdog, but it turns out to be a bad actor, spending large sums of money with little transparency.”

The audit further determined that the EAC allowed states to create an additional 60 categories to spend the money rather than allocating spending to the five allocated categories.

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“GAO has found problems with the way states and the EAC categorized spending involving nearly 20% of total reported spending nationally,” the GAO report said. “As a result, in the EAC’s annual report on grant spending to Congress, state spending for similar or identical items or activities could be included in multiple categories, making it difficult to consistently determine, by category, how states spent grant funds. “

GAO struggles to identify how 20% of federal grants for the 2020 vote were spent

A voter contemplates opening a ballot box before casting their ballot indoors on Wednesday, October 28, 2020, in Seattle. (AP Photo / Elaine Thompson)

GOP House members initially worried about how the CARES law money for election grants was being spent due to a $ 35 million contract between the California Secretary of State’s office and SKDKnickerbocker, a Democratic political consulting firm that simultaneously worked for President Joe Biden. campaign. California used $ 12 million from the EAC to pay for the contract used in the “Vote Safe California” program.

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“California, when it contracted with SKDKnickerbocker, engaged in voter micro-targeting,” Comer said. “To me, that’s what a political enterprise would do. Do we think they’re microtargeting Republican voters?”

GAO struggles to identify how 20% of federal grants for the 2020 vote were spent

A voting booth with sides taped for social distancing at the Italian Heritage Center on Tuesday, July 14, 2020 (Brianna Soukup / Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

The sheer amount of money almost certainly means similar problems existed in other states, Comer said.

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The GAO, which cannot issue subpoenas or otherwise compel the disclosure of information, has not specified problems in any other state. The audit was based on interviews with representatives of the EAC and a review of public data.

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