This first appeared in the Documented newsletter on Substack
In recent weeks, Democrats in the House have passed some genuinely positive and progressive policies. These include H.R. 1 (the For the People Act) and H.R. 5 (the Equality Act). These bills would fix many of the problems in our broken election system, and extend long overdue legal protections to LGBTQ people. Both of these bills are now with the Senate. Their chances of getting any further almost certainly rests on reforming the filibuster rule. That reform in turn probably hinges on the decision of just two Senators: Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).
Of course all of this being widely reported and discussed (see the NYT, Vox and the W.Post), so groups on the right know that maintaining the current version of the filibuster is the key to blocking everything the Democrats want to do in this Congress. That makes Senators Manchin and Sinema very important to groups like Heritage Action.
This is the context for a rally being organized and heavily promoted by a number of national and local groups at the West Virginia state capitol building this Saturday. The rally – called “TAKE A STAND” (yes, in all caps) – is aimed at pressuring Sen. Manchin to oppose legislation like HR1 and H.R. 5.
Speakers at the event will include Jenny Beth Martin (Tea Party Patriots Action), Mark Harris (Chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party), Garrett Bess (Heritage Action), Melody Clarke (Heritage Action), and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
The organizers of the rally include Heritage Action, Tea Party Patriots Action, Freedom Works, and the local and national Family Research Council groups. The groups are using their opposition to the For the People Act and the Equality Act to promote the event, but the filibuster is heavily part of the subtext for the rally.
Noah Weinrich, the National Press Secretary at Heritage Action, appeared on the WVHUAM radio station (Huntington, West Virginia) on Friday. As he promoted the rally, Weinrich made clear how much the event was about the filibuster:
“The filibuster is really the only thing standing in the way of progressive far left policies like H.R. 1, which is Pelosi’s campaign to take over America’s elections. Amnesty, which we saw passed by the House yesterday, the the Green New Deal, stuff like that. You know, the filibuster is the only thing standing in the way right now….That’s why Heritage Action is helping out with this rally tomorrow, hosted by the West Virginia Policy Council on Family Policy Council. We’re going to be at the Capitol at 1pm. with a bunch of West Virginia’s best grassroots conservatives calling on Senator Manchin to take a stand for the filibuster and against some of these radical far left policies.”
It’s not unusual for groups like Heritage Action and Tea Party Patriots Action to target Democratic Senators with ads, mailers, or other actions. But this event is on a different scale, with these national groups descending on a state capitol to target a single Senator.
At the time of this newsletter going out, I have seen zero reporting about this effort, but there is significant work being done – especially by Heritage Action – to make this an event that people attend.
The organizers have produced an ad (described as a “tv ad” on one of the sponsors websites) called “Manchin Take a Stand,” co-branded by Heritage Action and the Family Policy Council of West Virginia. It describes H.R. 1 as “the largest power grab in American history,” and calls on protestors to come to the Capitol.
An email promoting the event, sent by Heritage Action to its supporters, including those outside West Virginia, was forwarded to Documented. According to the invitation: “your presence is the most important to let Sen. Manchin know his job is to stand up for WV values!”
The organizers are also booking buses (aka the “patriot bus“) from neighboring states, with some of the buses coming from hundreds of miles from the West Virginia capitol. Really, nothing screams “WV values” less than bussing in protestors from places like Pittsburgh, PA and Cincinnati, OH. Those bus rides – and complementary boxed lunches – are also coordinated by Heritage Action.
The broader Heritage Action campaign around elections
Heritage Action recently announced a major new campaign, misleadingly called “Save our Elections,” spending millions of dollars promoting state laws that would make it harder to vote. The Brennan Center has identified 253 state bills introduced already in 2021 that would restrict voter access.
The Heritage campaign will spend an initial $10m in swing states – described by Fox News as just a “seed investment,” with more to follow. Heritage Action has been very busy in Georgia this past week backing the voter suppression legislative fight in that state. Read more about what is happening in Georgia here. This broader campaign by Heritage Action is a massive effort, and others on the right are creating their own projects and coalitions to do similar work.
Freedom Works, another of the West Virginia rally organizers has started a “National Election Protection Initiative,” and the Conservative Partnership Institute has launched an “Election Integrity Coalition,” with both of these projects being chaired by disgraced former Trump campaign lawyer Cleta Mitchell. Documented was the first to report on one of these new roles for Mitchell in this newsletter. It’s not clear if these are separate projects, or if the two groups just cant agree on a name. Either way, the right is extremely active right now in pushing for legislation that would make it harder to vote, and the full scope of this work deserves more scrutiny.
Updated on 3/20/21 to include quote from Noah Weinrich, National Press Secretary at Heritage Action.