GOP demands probe of federal grants to Democratic operatives to boost voting ahead of 2020

House Republicans are demanding a probe into why federal taxpayer-funded election grants were given to Democratic operatives politically connected to President Biden during the 2020 cycle. 

GOP lawmakers on the House Oversight and Reform Committee sent a letter to the inspector general of the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) requesting the probe. The EAC is a nonpartisan federal agency that helps states administer elections.

“For over a year, we have repeatedly raised questions about the lack of oversight of federal grant funds disbursed,” the lawmakers wrote in the Friday letter.

In the letter, a copy of which was exclusively obtained by The Washington Times, Republicans argued more oversight is needed into how taxpayer money was spent to boost voting during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Of particular concern is a $35 million election grant given in 2020 to SKD Knickerbocker by California’s Democratic secretary of state. 

The grant, which was to be used for educating voters about the state’s new vote-by-mail laws, raised eyebrows since SKD was one of the top public relations firms working on Mr. Biden’s presidential campaign. 

“This gross abuse of taxpayer dollars is ripe for investigation,” said Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, the top Republican on the oversight committee.

More troubling, the lawmakers said, is that when the grant was given, the California secretary of state and chief of elections was Alex Padilla. After Mr. Biden won the White House, Mr. Padilla was appointed to the Senate seat vacated by Vice President Kamala Harris.

Mr. Padilla’s Senate office did not return requests for comment on this story. 

The potential conflict of interest was significant enough that earlier this year EAC agreed to launch an audit of how California spent its election grants. Republicans say little progress has been made in that probe.

“Whenever taxpayer dollars are potentially wasted, abused, or mismanaged, an inspector general must launch an investigation and expose any wrongdoing,” said Mr. Comer. 

Joining Mr. Comer in sending the letter were Rep. Jody Hice, a Georgia Republican on the oversight panel, and Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois, the top Republican on the House Administration Committee.

California is only one of the problems they found when looking at how taxpayer money was spent to promote voting ahead of the 2020 election.

Oversight lawmakers noted that of the $400 million appropriated for the EAC last year, only $326 million has been accounted for by the agency. Furthermore, the Government Accountability Office estimated that at least 20% of the grants disbursed had irregularities that need review.

“The failure to accurately track state expenditures of federal grant funds has potentially enabled significant waste, fraud and abuse by numerous states,” wrote the GOP lawmakers.