In March, the Iowa state legislature passed a new election law that made it harder for Iowans to vote by shortening early voting, putting restrictions on absentee ballots and changing the way the voter list is maintained–despite widespread opposition and clear evidence that the 2020 election ran smoothly and accurately.
Yesterday, Mother Jones broke a story about a leaked video of a Heritage Action donor meeting and the group’s executive director bragging about pushing restrictive voting bills in key states, including Iowa.
In the video, the executive director, Jessica Anderson, claimed she and her organization helped draft the bill and organized activists to voice their support at public hearings before its ultimate passage.
“Iowa was the first state that we got to work in and we did it quickly and we did it quietly,” she said in the video. “Honestly, nobody noticed. My team looked at each other and we’re like, ‘it can’t be this easy.'”
“We’re working with these state legislators to make sure they have all of the information they need to draft the bills. In some cases, we actually draft them 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,” Anderson said.
State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, who managed the election bill in the House, however, denied that Heritage had anything to do with the bill.
“They had nothing to do with this. I had zero conversations,” Kaufmann told Bleeding Heartland. “I have seen none, I used none, I referenced none. I wouldn’t think it was a bad thing if we did. We use model legislation all the time. This is not a circumstance when we did.”
Heritage Action for America is a right-wing think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C. and a sister organization to the right-wing Heritage Foundation, and is considered the group’s lobbying side. The organization has affiliates, so-called “sentinels,” throughout the country to push policy at the state level.
The Heritage Foundation is an organization that has long pushed conservative policies and ideas and has directly influenced conservative policy and legislation since the Reagan administration.
One slide in Anderson’s presentation showed an overview of Senate File 413, the election bill signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds in March. The slide identifies three Heritage priorities that were included in the bill: verification of the accuracy of the list, cross referencing voter records with other states and removing inactive and ineligible voters.
Iowa recently mistakenly moved thousands of registered voters to inactive status after the new bill’s passage. It also restricted the number of ballot drop boxes a county can have as well as who is allowed to drop ballots off.
The day the bill was signed, Heritage Action issued a press release praising the legislation.
“We hope Iowa will continue to enact reforms based on the Heritage Foundation’s list of best practices for election integrity,” it read in part.
Some of those “best practices” include limiting who can use absentee ballots, tightening deadlines for applying and for turning them in, limiting the use of drop boxes and strict monitoring and modifying lists of registered voters.
Heritage Action is also claiming credit for influencing bills in Georgia, Florida and Arizona.
Anderson also shared a slide titled “Save our Elections” where the stated goal is to spend $24 million over the next two years to block federal legislation and further push legislation in states. Those states included Michigan, Nevada, Wisconsin, Texas and Pennsylvania—states that were considered battlegrounds in the 2020 election.
“We are gonna take the fierce fire that is in every single one of our bellies to right the wrongs of November,” Anderson said.
Previously, news outlets like the Des Moines Register have demonstrated that other Iowa legislation, like campus free speech and school choice, have language that exactly matches that of national special interest groups.
Along with Kaufmann’s denial, records of public hearings and registered lobbyists do not show any connections with Heritage, either. Kaufmann noted that if they did indeed lobby on the issue but didn’t register on it, they could face an ethics problem.
by Nikoel Hytrek