Heritage Action, the 501(c)4 political arm of the Heritage Foundation, is spending tens of millions of dollars pushing for restrictive state voting laws by hiring lobbyists, mobilizing state-based activists, and running TV and digital media campaigns.
Heritage Action was founded in 2010 amidst the Tea Party movement and closely aligned itself with the MAGA wing of the Republican Party once Donald Trump became president. The group advocates on a range of policy issues on the federal and state levels, but following the 2020 election, Heritage Action made so-called “election integrity” a top priority.
The group planned to spend $24 million in 2021-22 to push anti-voter policies in eight states, according to an internal Heritage Action plan obtained by Documented and shared with the New York Times and The Guardian.
“Heritage Action will focus on the states with the most vulnerable election laws across the country, which have the largest national political impact,” read the plan, noting that the group would be targeting Arizona, Michigan, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Nevada, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Part of Heritage Action’s strategy is to promote what it calls “model election laws,” which includes “hiring state lobbyists in crucial states,” according to the plan. Tax filings show that Heritage Action spent $5.1 million on outside lobbyists in 2021 as it worked to block federal election reform legislation and to push strict voting laws in key swing states. The prior year, the group had reported $0 on outside lobbying. Since 2021, Heritage Action staffers have also registered as lobbyists in at least 24 states, according to Documented’s review of state lobbying records.
In addition to hiring lobbyists, Heritage Action trains and deploys an army of local activists, whom the organization calls “Sentinels,” to advocate for voter suppression legislation by calling legislators, showing up at public hearings, and providing testimony.
In 2021, Heritage Action’s executive director, Jessica Anderson, boasted to donors of the group’s efforts to advance strict voting laws in states like Georgia, Iowa, and Arizona, according to a video obtained by Documented and shared with Mother Jones. “In some cases, we actually draft them for them,” Anderson said, “or we have a sentinel on our behalf give them the model legislation so it has that grassroots, from-the-bottom-up type of vibe.”
Those efforts had an impact: the New York Times, for example, found that one-third of the 68 voting bills filed in Georgia in 2021 contained policy measures and language that aligned closely with proposals from Heritage Action.
The group also spent millions on ads touting the controversial state voting bills that it helped push into law. For example, After Georgia’s restrictive voting law caused a backlash from businesses and led Major League Baseball to move the All-Star Game from Georgia to Colorado, Heritage Action spent well over $2 million on ads supporting the Georgia bill’s passage.