Heritage Action Leader Says Group Drafted Model Election Bills for State Lawmakers to Use

The leader of conservative policy organization Heritage Action said the group secretly drafted model election bills for lawmakers in Republican-controlled states to use during a meeting with supporters that was recorded by liberal investigative website Documented, which provided a copy to the Associated Press.

Jessica Anderson, the head of Heritage Action, said her group's involvement with bills were in states that included Georgia, Iowa and Texas. She said Iowa was the first state the group got to work in "quickly" and "quietly" to help draft bills, but Republican Iowa state Representative Bobby Kaufmann refuted the group's involvement to AP and said on Friday that Heritage Action is telling "a bold-faced lie."

"Heritage Action is proud of our work to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat. That work begins at the state level through our grassroots and continues in state legislatures throughout the country," Anderson said Friday in a statement.

Anderson's organization is one of many conservative groups that became engaged in election issues after the January 6 Capitol riot following former President Donald Trump's repeated claims that there was fraud in the 2020 election.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Iowa State Capitol Building
Heritage Action leader Jessica Anderson said her group secretly drafted model election bills in GOP-controlled states such as Iowa, a claim Iowa state Representative Bobby Kaufmann refuted on Friday to the Associated Press. Above, the Iowa State Capitol building on October 9, 2019, in Des Moines. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Heritage Action is spending $24 million to push new voting restrictions.

Anderson made the claim during a recent meeting with supporters in Arizona. Heritage Action confirmed the authenticity of the recording provided to AP by Documented.

"In some cases, we actually draft them for them," Anderson said of legislation written for state lawmakers. "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's comments shed additional light on precisely how well-funded national organizations have seized on false claims about the 2020 election to try to tighten state voting laws. While it is known that Heritage Action and several other groups are working with state lawmakers on legislation, it is rare to hear a leader detail how the group masks involvement to give the bills the appearance of broad political support.

Anderson gave the example of Georgia, where she said an activist affiliated with Heritage had given a letter outlining the group's recommendations to key legislators. The activist first had the proposal signed by thousands of other activists.

The election fraud lies also have fanned deep suspicions about the integrity of the country's voting systems among GOP activists and donors—Anderson noted Heritage activists cited it as a top issue in a survey—and led to new laws in Georgia, Florida, Iowa, Kansas and other states.

Democrats have argued that the laws make it harder for people to vote, and disproportionally affect Black, Latino, young and other Democratic-leaning voters. Republicans argue the tougher rules will guard against fraud and are needed to restore trust in the election system.

Heritage Action announced its effort in March, saying it would push legislation in eight battleground states based on model principles formulated by its parent organization, the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Hans von Spakovsky, the foundation's top voting expert and a former member of Trump's 2017 election fraud commission, appeared at the event with Anderson and boasted of regularly talking with Republican secretaries of state. Anderson added that Heritage Action had just had a "huge" call with secretaries of state, who often serve as a state's chief elections official.

Anderson also said the group runs a Tuesday call to "give marching orders" to other conservative organizations that have just launched voting pushes, including the anti-abortion rights Susan B. Anthony List and the small government group FreedomWorks.

Anderson took credit for an Arizona law that bans donations to election offices from outside groups. The law was meant to fight back against $300 million in donations from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg last year. She also claimed credit for a controversial provision in Iowa that moves voters to inactive status after missing a single election.

"Iowa is the first state that we got to work in, and we did it quickly and we did it quietly," Anderson said. "We helped draft the bills....Honestly, nobody even noticed. My team looked at each other, and we're like, 'it can't be that easy.'"

Iowa Republicans who worked on the voting legislation have said they had no contact with Heritage. In March, Kaufmann, who wrote the legislation, told AP that he had not talked to Heritage or any other outside groups. On Friday, he reiterated that denial.

"Heritage is telling a bold-faced lie," Kaufmann said. Asked if claiming credit for the bills was a fundraising technique, Kaufmann replied: "That's exactly what it is."

At the event, Anderson said there was another task besides simply passing new laws. Many Republicans fear that their voters lost trust in the system due to Trump's allegations and then in Georgia didn't cast ballots during two January Senate run-offs, which Democrats won. Heritage wants to make sure conservative voters hear that voting rules are being tightened to prevent fraud.

"It's our job to tell them that was done, with the hope that it will restore voter confidence and let people return to the polls in 2022," Anderson said.