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Zuckerberg-Backed Election Influence Group Founder Served At Chinese State-Funded Center Pushing Beijing Propaganda.


The founder of the Center for Tech and Civic Life – a controversial election oversight group heavily backed by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg – is a former fellow at the Chinese regime-funded Ash Center, which has also advised Chinese Communist Party officials sanctioned by the U.S. government for human rights abuses.

The Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) used the hundreds of millions of dollars from the Facebook founder’s organization, the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, to overrule local election officials and increase turnout in – almost exclusively – Democratic districts. Proving the partisan conflict of interest, leaders from the CTCL overpowered and overruled local election authorities and, through coercion, accessed mail-in ballots ahead of the election.

Tiana Epps-Johnson co-founded the CTCL in 2012 with co-workers from the New Organizing Institute (NOI), described by the Washington Post as “the Democratic Party’s Hogwarts for digital wizardry.” CTCL appeared to play a similar role in the 2020 election, helping secure a victory for Joe Biden – the Chinese Communist Party’s preferred candidate.
The National Pulse can reveal, however, that Johnson is affiliated with Harvard University’s Ash Center, which has extensive financial and personnel links to the Chinese regime.

Hosted within the Harvard Kennedy School, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation is funded by several Chinese Communist Party-backed entities. Among its donors are China Southern Power Grid Corp, whose management is “directly appointed by China’s central government.”

Additional donations come from New World China Enterprises Project, a Chinese company whose board is composed of virtually all Chinese Communist Party members. Chairman and Executive Director Cheng Kar-Shun served as a Standing Committee Member of the regime’s Political Consultative Conference, an arm of the party-state responsible for conducting overseas influence operations.

As a result, the center has routinely produced studies amplified by Chinese state-run media outlets and regime officials. A July 2020 report – “Understanding CCP Resilience: Surveying Chinese Public Opinion Through Time” – contends that the Chinese Communist Party is “as strong as ever” and that “Chinese citizen satisfaction with government has increased virtually across the board.”

For two decades, the Ash Center has also hosted the “China’s Leaders in Development Program,” which describes itself as being “widely recognized by the Chinese government as one of the best overseas training programs for government officials.”

“Taught both at Tsinghua University, China, and Harvard Kennedy School, this multi weeks training program is specifically designed to help prepare senior local and central Chinese government officials to more effectively address the ongoing challenges of China’s national reforms,” the summary continues.

Beyond collaborating with a university that has attempted to hack the U.S. government, the program brings Harvard professors’ prestigious advice to senior leaders from the brutal Chinese Communist Party, handpicked by the party’s own Organization Department of the Central Committee. Several years, members of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corp, which has been identified as an “instrument of repression” against Uighurs by the Washington Post and accordingly sanctioned by former President Donald Trump, have joined the delegation.

Despite these ties, Johnson served as a Technology and Democracy Fellow at the Ash Center from 2015 to 2016. While at the center, Johnson participated in several discussions on the use of technology in American elections including a workshop titled “Rebuilding The Cornerstone of American Democracy: Leveraging Digital Tools to Reach Today’s Voter.”

Johnson also launched Election Toolkit, an “online clearinghouse of resources” for local officials administering elections across the United States.

Johnson has been involved with the Ash Center through at least 2018, as she participated in the institute’s “Getting to Eighty Percent: A Symposium Advancing Voter Participation” in her capacity as CTCL founder.

Natalie Winters

Natalie Winters is freelance reporter.

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