The leader of a national conservative group that is spending $ 24 million to impose new voting restrictions has told supporters he has secretly helped draft laws in Republican-controlled states across the country.
Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action, made the statement during a recent meeting with supporters in Arizona. A recording of the event was published by the liberal investigative website Documented, which made a copy available to the Associated Press for review. Heritage Action has confirmed its authenticity.
“In some cases, we write it for them,” Anderson said of legislation written for state lawmakers. “Or we have a sentry on our behalf that gives them the model legislation, so there’s that basic vibe, from the bottom up.”
Anderson’s comments shed additional light on exactly how well-funded national organizations took to bogus allegations about the 2020 election to try to tighten state election laws. While Heritage Action and several other groups are known to work with state lawmakers on the legislation, it is rare to hear a leader detail how the group masks the involvement to make the bills appear like broad political support.
Anderson gave the example of Georgia, where she said an activist affiliated with Heritage delivered a letter outlining the group’s recommendations to key lawmakers. The activist first had the proposal signed by thousands of other activists. Other states where she said the group helped draft invoices included Iowa and Texas.
In a statement Friday, Anderson said, “Heritage Action is proud of our work to make voting easier and harder to cheat. This work begins at the state level through our base and continues in state legislatures across the country. “
Heritage Action is one of many Republican-affiliated groups that first took to electoral matters after former President Donald Trump’s false claims about electoral fraud led to the Jan.6 attack on the US Capitol. The lies have also stoked deep suspicions about the integrity of the country’s voting systems among GOP activists and donors – Anderson noted that heritage activists cited it as one of the main issues in an investigation – and have led to new laws in Georgia, Florida, Iowa, Kansas and others. States.
Democrats argued that the laws made it harder for people to vote and disproportionately affected black, Latino, youth and other Democratic-leaning voters. Republicans argue that stricter rules will protect against fraud and are necessary to restore confidence in the electoral system.
Heritage Action announced its efforts in March, saying it would pass legislation in eight battlefield states based on model principles formulated by its parent organization, the conservative Heritage Foundation. Hans von Spakovsky, the foundation’s foremost voting expert and former member of Trump’s 2017 Election Fraud Commission, appeared at the event with Anderson and boasted of speaking to secretaries on a regular basis. of State Republicans. Anderson added that Heritage Action had just had a “huge” call with Secretaries of State, who often serve as an election official in a state.
Anderson also said the group on Tuesday launched a call to “give marching orders” to other conservative organizations that had just launched voting campaigns, including anti-abortion rights Susan B. Anthony List and the little one FreedomWorks government group.
Anderson took credit for an Arizona law banning donations to election offices from outside groups. The law was aimed at tackling $ 300 million in donations from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg last year. She also claimed credit for a controversial provision in Iowa that turns voters into inactive status after missing a single election.
“Iowa is the first state we got to work in, and we did it quickly and we did it quietly,” Anderson said. “We helped draft the bills. … Honestly, no one even noticed it. My team looked at each other and we were like, ‘It can’t be that easy.’ “
Republicans in Iowa who worked on election legislation said they had no contact with Heritage. In March, Republican State Representative Bobby Kaufmann, who drafted the bill, told The Associated Press he had not spoken to Heritage or any other outside group. On Friday, he reiterated this refusal.
“Heritage tells a bold lie,” Kaufmann said. When asked if claiming credit for bills was a fundraising technique, Kaufmann replied, “That’s exactly what it is.”
At the event, Anderson said there was another task besides just passing new laws. Many Republicans fear their constituents have lost faith in the system because of Trump’s claims and that in Georgia they did not vote in the two rounds of the Senate in January, which the Democrats won. Heritage wants to make sure Conservative voters know the voting rules are tightened to prevent fraud.
“It’s our job to tell them it’s been done, in the hopes that it will restore voter confidence and get people back to the polls in 2022,” Anderson said.
Riccardi reported from Denver and Izaguirre from Lindenhurst, New York. Michael Biesecker in Washington and Ryan J. Foley in Iowa City, Iowa, contributed.