Leaked Video Shows Right-Wing Group Bragging About Creating Voter Suppression Bills Across The Nation
"My team looked at each other and we’re like, ‘It can’t be that easy,'" Executive Director of Heritage Action Jessica Anderson was heard saying on video.
May 17, 2021 at 9:55 pm
An official with a right-wing organization funded by dark money recently claimed that the group was responsible for Georgia’s new voter suppression bill and is helping craft similar bills for Republican state lawmakers.
In a recording obtained by Mother Jones, Jessica Anderson, the executive director of Heritage Action for America and a former Trump aide, said at an April 22 gathering of top foundation donors that Heritage had helped push across “eight key provisions” in the Georgia law. These include policies that restrict mail ballot drop boxes, prevent the collection of mail ballots and restrict the ability of counties to accept donations from nonprofit groups aiming to aid in the election process among other suppressive measures.
But Georgia wasn't the first to adopt the laws according to Anderson, who spoke of her intent to "right the wrongs of November."
“Iowa is the first state that we got to work in, and we did it quickly and we did it quietly,” she said. “We worked quietly with the Iowa state legislature. We got the best practices to them. We helped draft the bills. We made sure activists were calling the state legislators, getting support, showing up at their public hearings, giving testimony…Little fanfare. Honestly, nobody even noticed. My team looked at each other and we’re like, ‘It can’t be that easy.’”
She said the group was working with lawmakers to ensure they were equipped to write the bills.
“We’ve also hired state lobbyists to make sure that in these targeted states we’re meeting with the right people," Anderson said.
She added, “In some cases, we actually draft [the bills] for them, 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.”
The Heritage Foundation was co-founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich, a powerful conservative who worked to create right-wing think tanks to rival more liberal-minded organizations like the Brookings Institution. In 2010, Heritage founded Heritage Action, a clandestine group that does not typically reveal its donors. However, Mother Jones reports that the group has received at least $500,000 in financial gifts from philanthropists David and Charles Koch.
While speaking to a group of evangelical leaders in 1980, Weyrich expressed bluntly that he wanted a political system that limited the rights of those who were able to vote.
“I don’t want everybody to vote,” he said. “Elections are not won by a majority of the people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now.”
Since its inception, the Heritage Foundation has been reputed as one of the best-funded organizations in the conservative political community. Last year, it raised more than $76 million with more than $1.6 million coming from anonymous corporations, according to Mother Jones.
Jim DeMint, former Heritage Foundation President, detailed that the connection between Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action was like a “the one-two punch.” The foundation pens policy, while Heritage Action works to get its agenda carried out via legislation.
In the next two years, Heritage is spending $24 million in battleground states like Arizona, Michigan, Florida, Iowa, and Texas to drum up support for restrictive voting laws. Each Tuesday, the group organizes a call with right-wing advocacy groups like the Susan B. Anthony List, Tea Party Patriots, and FreedomWorks to strategize their efforts, according to Mother Jones.
“We literally give marching orders for the week ahead,” Anderson said. “All so we’re singing from the same song sheet of the goals for that week and where the state bills are across the country.”
The leaked video exposes the expansive nature of Heritage’s massive campaign to create and pass model legislation restricting voting access, many of which have been passed this year in the swing states of Georgia, Florida, Arizona and Iowa.
Before the Georgia bill was signed, Anderson said she met with Gov. Brian Kemp and urged him to swiftly sign it into law.
“I had one message for him,” Anderson, a former Trump administration official in the Office of Management and Budget, said. “Do not wait to sign that bill. If you wait even an hour, you will look weak. This bill needs to be signed immediately.”
The Heritage official said she delivered “the same message” to Republican politicians in Texas, Arizona, and Florida. Anderson boasted that Heritage Action crafted “19 provisions” in a Texas House bill that would make it illegal for election officials to give a mail ballot request form to a voter who hadn’t explicitly asked for one. The Texas bill would also subject poll workers to criminal punishment for removing partisan poll challengers who are accused of voter intimidation. Despite public outcry and concern, it is expected to pass within the week, according to The Texas Tribune.
“Gov. Abbott will sign it quickly,” Anderson said.
In a statement released to the media, Anderson denounced a so-called left “smear campaign” that suggested the organization was working to suppress voting rights.
“We are proud of our work at the national level and in states across this country to promote commonsense reforms that make it easier to vote and harder to cheat. We’ve been transparent about our plans and public with our policy recommendations, and we won’t be intimidated by the left’s smear campaign and cancel culture,” she said.