Jack of Spades: The Heritage Foundation: Chief Sponsor of Trump’s Big Lie, Infamous Project 2025 and efforts to undermine NATO

 

 

 

 

 

“Alarmism about election fraud in America extends at least as far back as Reconstruction, when white Southerners disenfranchised newly empowered Black voters and politicians by accusing them of corruption. After the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, some white conservatives were frank about their hostility to democracy.

Forty years ago, Paul Weyrich, who helped establish the Heritage Foundation and other conservative groups, admitted, “I don’t want everybody to vote. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

– Jane Mayer

 

“Project 2025 presents an apocalyptic vision of a United States whose dark problems can be fixed only by a minority assuming power under a strongman and imposing their values on the rest of the country.”

– Heather Cox Richardson

Heritage-led Project 25
Purpose Plan to reshape the U.S. federal government to support the agenda of Donald Trump
Location
Director
Paul Dans
Budget
$22 million[1]
Website www.project2025.org Edit this at Wikidata

Project 2025 is a plan to reshape the executive branch of the U.S. federal government in the event of a Republican victory in the 2024 U.S. presidential election.[2][3] Established in 2022, the project seeks to recruit tens of thousands of conservatives to Washington, D.C., to replace existing federal civil service workers it characterizes as the “deep state“, to further the objectives of the next Republican president.[4] Although participants in the project cannot promote a specific presidential candidate, many have close ties to Donald Trump and the Trump 2024 presidential campaign.[5] The plan would perform a swift takeover of the entire executive branch under a maximalist version of the unitary executive theory — a theory proposing the president of the United States has absolute power over the executive branch — upon inauguration.[6]

The development of the plan is led by the Heritage Foundation, an American conservative think tank, in collaboration with some eighty partners including Turning Point USA led by Charlie Kirk; the Conservative Partnership Institute including former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows as senior partner; the Center for Renewing America led by former Trump-appointee Office of Management and Budget director Russell Vought; and America First Legal led by former Trump senior advisor Stephen Miller.[7][8]

Project 2025 envisions widespread changes across the entire government, particularly with regard to economic and social policy and the role of the federal government and federal agencies. The plan proposes slashing U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) funding, dismantling the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, and eliminating the cabinet departments of education and commerce.[9] Citing an anonymous source, The Washington Post reported Project 2025 includes immediately invoking the Insurrection Act of 1807 to deploy the military for domestic law enforcement and directing the DOJ to pursue Trump adversaries.[10] Project director Paul Dans, a former Trump administration official, said in September 2023 that Project 2025 is “systematically preparing to march into office and bring a new army, aligned, trained, and essentially weaponized conservatives ready to do battle against the deep state.”[11]

Project 2025 consists largely of a book of policy recommendations titled Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise and an accompanying personnel database open for submissions. There is also an online course called the Presidential Administration Academy, and a guide to developing transition plans. Reactions to the plan included variously describing it as authoritarian, an attempt by Trump to become a dictator, and a path leading the United States towards autocracy, with several experts in law criticizing it for violating current constitutional laws that would undermine the rule of law and the separation of powers.[9] Additionally, some conservatives and Republicans also criticized the plan, for example in relation to climate change.[12]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_2025# 

 

——

Heritage Tries to Turn the Tables on Election Subversion

AP reports:

A conservative think tank that is planning for a complete overhaul of the federal government in the event of a Republican presidential win is suggesting that President Joe Biden might try to hold the White House “by force” if he loses the November election.

The Heritage Foundation’s warning — which goes against Biden’s own public statements — appeared in a report released Thursday that the group said resulted from a role-playing exercise gaming out potential scenarios before and after the 2024 election.

“The lawlessness of the Biden Administration — at the border, in staffing considerations, and in routine defiance of court rulings — makes clear that the current president and his administration not only possesses the means, but perhaps also the intent, to circumvent constitutional limits and disregard the will of the voters should they demand a new president,” the report reads.

More on this from WaPo, which includes this quotation from Mike Howell, Executive Director of Heritage’s Oversight Project: “I’m formally accusing the Biden administration of creating the conditions that most reasonable policymakers and officials cannot in good conscience certify an election.”

The AP quotes Rick’s response to the Heritage’s unfounded accusations: “This is gaslighting and it is dangerous in fanning flames that could lead to potential violence.”

How Far would Trump G0?
Eric Cortellessa
April 30, 2024
Trump’s allies don’t plan to be passive on abortion if he returns to power. The Heritage Foundation has called for enforcement of a 19th century statute that would outlaw the mailing of abortion pills. The Republican Study Committee (RSC), which includes more than 80% of the House GOP conference, included in its 2025 budget proposal the Life at Conception Act, which says the right to life extends to “the moment of fertilization.” I ask Trump if he would veto that bill if it came to his desk. “I don’t have to do anything about vetoes,” Trump says, “because we now have it back in the states.”

 

Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson

March 17, 2024

https://substack.com/@heathercoxrichardson

On Friday, journalist Casey Michel, who specializes in the study of kleptocracy, pointed out that reporters had missed an important meeting last week. Michel noted that while reporters covered  Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán’s visit to former president Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago, they paid far less attention to the visit Orbán paid to the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the Heritage Foundation on Friday, March 8. There, Orbán spoke privately to an audience that included the president of the organization, Kevin Roberts, and, according to a state media printout, “renowned U.S. right-wing politicians, analysts and public personalities.” 

Michel noted that it was “nothing short of shocking” that Orbán declined to meet with administration officials and instead went to Washington, D.C., to meet with a right-wing think tank. With Roberts’s appointment as head of Heritage in 2021, the conservative organization swung to the position that its role is “institutionalizing Trumpism.” 

Roberts has been vocal about his admiration for Orbán, tweeting in 2022 that it was an honor to meet him. At last year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Orbán boasted that Hungary is “the place where we didn’t just talk about defeating the progressives and liberals and causing a conservative Christian political turn, but we actually did it.” In January, Roberts told Lulu Garcia-Navarro of the New York Times that Orbán’s statement was “all true” and “should be celebrated.” In a different interview, Garcia-Navarro noted, Roberts had called modern Hungary “not just a [italic] model for conservative statecraft but the [italic] model.” 

Last year, Michel notes, Heritage joined the Hungarian Danube Institute in a formal partnership. The Hungarian think tank is overseen by a foundation that is directly funded by the Hungarian government; as Michel says, it is, “for all intents and purposes, a state-funded front for pushing pro-Orbán rhetoric.” The Danube Institute has given grants to far-right figures in the U.S., and, Michel notes, “we have no idea how much funding may be flowing directly from Orbán’s regime to the Heritage Foundation.” 

The tight cooperation between Heritage and Orbán illuminates Project 2025, the plan Heritage has led, along with dozens of other right-wing organizations, to map out a future right-wing presidency. In Hungary, Orbán has undermined democracy, gutting the civil service and filling it with loyalists; attacking immigrants, women, and the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals; taking over businesses for friends and family, and moving the country away from the rules-based international order supported by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). 

In the January interview, Roberts told Garcia-Navarro that Project 2025 was designed to jump-start a right-wing takeover of the government. “[T]he Trump administration, with the best of intentions, simply got a slow start,” Roberts said. “And Heritage and our allies in Project 2025 believe that must never be repeated.”

Project 2025 stands on four principles that it says the country must embrace. In their vision, the U.S. must “[r]estore the family as the centerpiece of American life and protect our children”; “[d]ismantle the administrative state and return self-governance to the American people”; “[d]efend our nation’s sovereignty, borders, and bounty against global threats”; and “[s]ecure our God-given individual rights to live freely—what our Constitution calls ‘the Blessings of Liberty.’”

In almost 1,000 pages, the document explains what these policies mean for ordinary Americans. Restoring the family and protecting children means making “family authority, formation, and cohesion” a top priority and using “government power…to restore the American family.” That, the document says, means eliminating any words associated with sexual orientation or gender identity, gender, abortion, reproductive health, or reproductive rights from any government rule, regulation, or law. Any reference to transgenderism is “pornography” and must be banned. 

The overturning of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision recognizing the right to abortion must be gratefully celebrated, but the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision accomplishing that end “is just the beginning.” 

Dismantling the administrative state in this document starts from the premise that “people are policy.” Frustrated because nonpartisan civil employees thwarted much of Trump’s agenda in his first term, the authors of Project 2025 call for firing much of the current government workforce—about 2 million people work for the U.S. government—and replacing it with loyalists who will carry out a right-wing president’s demands. 

On Friday, journalist Daniel Miller noted that purging the civil service is a hallmark of dictators, whose loyalists then take over media, education, courts, and the military. In a powerful essay today, scholar of authoritarianism Timothy Snyder explained that with the government firmly in the hands of a dictator’s loyalists, “things like water or schools or Social Security checks” depend on your declaration of loyalty, and there is no recourse. “You cannot escape to the bar or the bowling alley, since everything you say is monitored,” and “[e]ven courageous people restrain themselves to protect their children.”

Defending our nation’s sovereignty means ending the rules-based international order hammered out in the years after World War II. This includes organizations like the United Nations and NATO and agreements like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provide an international set of rules and forums for countries to work out their differences without going to war and which offer a system of principles for those abused within countries to assert their rights. 

Heritage and Orbán have stood firmly against aid to Ukraine in its struggle to fight off Russian aggression.

Securing “our God-given individual rights to live freely,” hints at religious rule but ultimately focuses on standing against “government control of the economy.” The idea that regulation of business and taxes hampered economic liberty was actually one of the founding ideas of Heritage in the 1980s. 

In the U.S. that ideology has since 1981 moved as much as $50 trillion from the bottom 90% to the top 1%.

And, as that concentration of wealth and power among a small group of people reveals, the real plan behind Project 2025 is the rule of a small minority of extremists over the vast majority of Americans. 

The plan asserts “the existential need for aggressive use of the vast powers of the executive branch”—that is, it calls for a very powerful leader—to dismantle the current government that regulates business, provides a social safety net, and protects civil rights. Instead of the government Americans have built since 1933, the plan says the national government must “decentralize and privatize as much as possible” and leave “the great majority of domestic activities to state, local, and private governance.”

We have in front of us examples of what such governance means. Because state legislatures control who can vote and how the state’s districts are carved up, Republican-dominated state legislatures have taken absolute control of a number of states. There they have banned abortion without exceptions and defined a fertilized human egg as a person; discriminated against LGBTQ+ people and immigrants, banned books, attacked public education, and gutted business regulation, including child labor laws. They have also attacked voting rights. 

Project 2025 presents an apocalyptic vision of a United States whose dark problems can be fixed only by a minority assuming power under a strongman and imposing their values on the rest of the country. And yet the authors of the document assert that it is not them but their opponents who do “not believe that all men are created equal—they think they are special. They certainly don’t think all people have an unalienable right to pursue the good life. They think only they themselves have such a right along with a moral responsibility to make decisions for everyone else.”

In 1776 the Founders were quite clear about the relationship between rights and government, and their vision was quite different than that of the authors of Project 2025. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” they wrote. 

They continued, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men,” and that those governments were not legitimate unless they derived power “from the consent of the governed.”

[Boldface added}

 

“RNC to add new lawyers focusing on claims of election fraud – including one key figure from 2020 challenges”

CNN:

The Republican National Committee, now under the control of former President Donald Trump and his campaign, is bringing on a slate of new lawyers both internally and externally who will focus intensely on election fraud, an issue Trump has remained fixated on.

The lawyers “will initiate battle on election integrity from an offensive instead of defensive posture,” Chris LaCivita, Trump’s co-campaign manager and newly instated RNC Chief of Staff, told CNN.

LaCivita will bring on Charlie Spies, an experienced GOP lawyer, to take over as chief counsel at the RNC.

Trump attorney Christina Bobb, a former correspondent at the Trump-aligned One America News Network, will join as senior counsel for election integrity. Bobb was very active in promoting Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen and authored a book called “Stealing Your Vote: The Inside Story of the 2020 Election and What It Means for 2024.”

“I’m honored to join the RNC and thrilled the new leadership is focused on election integrity. I look forward to working to secure our elections and restore confidence in the process,” Bobb said in a statement to CNN.

Bobb was directly involved in two separate Trump controversies that led to the former president’s federal indictments in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case, as well as the 2020 election subversion case. She has not been accused of any crimes.

In June 2022, while federal authorities were still trying to recover classified documents that remained at Mar-a-Lago, Bobb signed a sworn affidavit on Trump’s behalf, inaccurately telling the Justice Department that there weren’t any classified files left at the club. Special counsel Jack Smith later charged Trump with lying to the FBI and accused Trump of illegally causing Bobb to submit this false declaration even though he knew it was untrue.

She also played a key role in the Trump campaign’s fake electors scheme after he lost the 2020 election, working closely with Trump advisers to organize the plan in seven battleground states. The scheme formed the basis of parts of Smith’s election subversion indictment against the former president, which says Trump and his allies created “fraudulent slates of presidential electors to obstruct the certification proceeding” in Congress on January 6, 2021, and “disenfranchise millions of voters.”

Trump has pleaded not guilty in both cases.

Bobb was also a correspondent during the 2020 election for the fringe pro-Trump network OAN, where she promoted false claims that the election was rigged. The voting technology company Dominion sued Bobb and OAN for defamation in 2021. Some of her on-air segments were also referenced in a separate defamation case against OAN filed by Smartmatic, another aggrieved voting company. OAN and Bobb have denied wrongdoing in these civil cases.

[Boldface added]

 

A Nerve Center for the Right Wing Rises in Washington

The Conservative Partnership Institute has become a breeding ground for the next generation of Trump loyalists and an incubator for policies he might pursue. Its fast growth is raising questions.

Sign up for the On Politics newsletter.  Your guide to the 2024 elections.

In the lobby of the grand Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Fla., where a sprawling new force in Washington’s right-wing ecosystem, the Conservative Partnership Institute, was holding its winter conference, the former Trump legal adviser Cleta Mitchell was exultant.

“Did you hear the ‘War Room’ today? Bannon was on fire!” she said to a friend. She was referring to the podcast hosted by Stephen K. Bannon, the former Trump White House senior adviser who had been condemning Republican senators for supporting billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine and Israel earlier that day.

Ms. Mitchell was among some 150 conservative donors and activists who gathered in Coral Gables earlier this month to celebrate the ascendancy of a group that has become a well-paying sinecure for Trump allies and an incubator for the policies the former president could pursue if elected. The participants toted gift bags in the warm sunshine and swapped golf clothes for business attire at a dinner where they applauded as two Black speakers — Ben Carson, the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Representative Byron Donalds of Florida — extolled conservative values while condemning the racial identity politics of the left.

The group’s top executive, Jim DeMint, the former U.S. senator from South Carolina, was there, as was Mark Meadows, President Donald J. Trump’s former chief of staff, who is paid $847,000 annually as the organization’s senior adviser. More than a dozen members of the House Freedom Caucus also turned up, as did Mollie Hemingway, the editor in chief of the right-wing journalism website The Federalist, whose parent company C.P.I. helps underwrite.

The message at the conference was “taking on the Swamp” from a nonprofit with a $36 million annual budget from private donors that now operates as a full-service nerve center for right-wing activity and a breeding ground for the next generation of Trump loyalists.

Legislators can hold fund-raisers in its event rooms; send their staff members to training sessions at the group’s getaway lodge in Maryland; do their TV news hits in its studio; or be fed, by text message, follow-up questions for lawmakers to ask witnesses during congressional hearings. Donors can funnel their money through the institute into a host of conservative causes, from promoting Christian values in education to helping pay legal fees incurred by what the group calls “America First public servants.”

“We’re just doing what the other guys have been doing for decades,” Robert Bruce, a retired Texas aviation entrepreneur and C.P.I. donor, said in an interview two days after the conference. “There’s been a void in Washington, D.C., and C.P.I. has filled it by giving conservatives a refuge.”

The organization aims to be much more than a refuge. One of the groups it has staffed and funded, the American Accountability Foundation, says in its mission statement that it seeks to “advance conservative messaging” by aggressively attacking appointees for the Biden administration. Another offspring, the Center for Renewing America, aims to take on what it calls a leftist “cultural revolution” as well as a “taxpayer-funded woke federal bureaucracy.”

 

Trump allies prepare to infuse ‘Christian nationalism’ in second administration

Spearheading the effort is Russell Vought, president of The Center for Renewing America, part of a conservative consortium preparing for Trump’s return to power.

An influential think tank close to Donald Trump is developing plans to infuse Christian nationalist ideas in his administration should the former president return to power, according to documents obtained by POLITICO.

Spearheading the effort is Russell Vought, who served as Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget during his first term and has remained close to him.

Vought, who is frequently cited as a potential chief of staff in a second Trump White House, is president of The Center for Renewing America [CRA] think tank, a leading group in a conservative consortium preparing for a second Trump term.

Christian nationalists in America believe that the country was founded as a Christian nation and that Christian values should be prioritized throughout government and public life. As the country has become less religious and more diverse, Vought has embraced the idea that Christians are under assault and has spoken of policies he might pursue in response.

One document drafted by CRA staff and fellows includes a list of top priorities for CRA in a second Trump term. “Christian nationalism” is one of the bullet points. Others include invoking the Insurrection Act on Day One to quash protests and refusing to spend authorized congressional funds on unwanted projects, a practice banned by lawmakers in the Nixon era.

CRA’s work fits into a broader effort by conservative, MAGA-leaning organizations to influence a future Trump White House. Two people familiar with the plans, who were granted anonymity to discuss internal matters, said that Vought hopes his proximity and regular contact with the former president — he and Trump speak at least once a month, according to one of the people — will elevate Christian nationalism as a focal point in a second Trump term.

The documents obtained by POLITICO do not outline specific Christian nationalist policies. But Vought has promoted a restrictionist immigration agenda, saying a person’s background doesn’t define who can enter the U.S., but rather, citing Biblical teachings, whether that person “accept[ed] Israel’s God, laws and understanding of history.”

Vought has a close affiliation with Christian nationalist William Wolfe, a former Trump administration official who has advocated for overturning same-sex marriage, ending abortion and reducing access to contraceptives.

Vought, who declined to comment, is advising Project 2025, a governing agenda that would usher in one of the most conservative executive branches in modern American history. The effort is made up of a constellation of conservative groups run by Trump allies who’ve constructed a detailed plan to dismantle or overhaul key agencies in a second term. Among other principles, the project’s “Mandate for Leadership” states that “freedom is defined by God, not man.”

The Trump campaign has said repeatedly that it alone is responsible for assembling a policy platform and staffing for a future administration. In response to various news articles about how conservatives are preparing for a second Trump term, campaign advisers Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita said in a memo late last year: “Despite our being crystal clear, some ‘allies’ haven’t gotten the hint, and the media, in their anti-Trump zeal, has been all-too-willing to continue using anonymous sourcing and speculation about a second Trump administration in an effort to prevent a second Trump administration.”

Trump’s campaign declined to comment for this story.

Rachel Cauley, CRA’s communication director, said “the so-called reporting from POLITICO in this story is false and we told them so on multiple occasions.”

Trump is not a devout man of faith. But Christian Nationalists have been among his most reliable campaign activists and voting blocs. Trump formed a political alliance with evangelicals during his first run for office, delivered them a six to three conservative majority on the Supreme Court and is now espousing the Christian right’s long-running argument that Christians are so severely persecuted that it necessitates a federal response.

In a December campaign speech in Iowa, he said “Marxists and fascists” are “going hard” against Catholics. “Upon taking office, I will create a new federal task force on fighting anti-Christian bias to be led by a fully reformed Department of Justice that’s fair and equitable” and that will “investigate all forms of illegal discrimination.”

On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, Trump promoted on his social media a video that suggests his campaign is, actually, a divine mission from God.

In 2019, Trump’s then-secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, set up a federal commission to define human rights based on the precepts Vought describes, specifically “natural law and natural rights.” Natural law is the belief that there are universal rules derived from God that can’t be superseded by government or judges. While it is a core pillar of Catholicism, in recent decades it’s been used to oppose abortion, LGBTQ+ rights and contraception.

Vought sees his and his organization’s mission as “renew[ing] a consensus of America as a nation under God,” per a statement on CRA’s website, and reshaping the government’s contract with the governed. Freedom of religion would remain a protected right, but Vought and his ideological brethren would not shy from using their administration positions to promote Christian doctrine and imbue public policy with it, according to both people familiar with the matter, granted anonymity to avoid retaliation. He makes clear reference to human rights being defined by God, not man.

America should be recognized as a Christian nation “where our rights and duties are understood to come from God,” Vought wrote two years ago in Newsweek.

“It is a commitment to an institutional separation between church and state, but not the separation of Christianity from its influence on government and society,” he continued, noting such a framework “can lead to beneficial outcomes for our own communities, as well as individuals of all faiths.”

He went on to accuse detractors of Christian nationalism of invoking the term to try to scare people. “’Christian nationalism’ is actually a rather benign and useful description for those who believe in both preserving our country’s Judeo-Christian heritage and making public policy decisions that are best for this country,” he wrote. “The term need not be subjected to such intense scorn due to misunderstanding or slander.”

To ingratiate himself in conservative circles — and Christian conservative ones — Trump has often turned to operatives from them. Among those who helped was Vought.

As OMB director in the Trump administration, Vought became a disciple of the “America First” movement. He has been a steadfast proponent of keeping the U.S. out of foreign wars and slashing federal spending.

CRA is already wielding influence on Trump’s positions. His thinking on withdrawing the U.S. from NATO and using military force against Mexican drug cartels is partly inspired by separate CRA papers, according to reports by Rolling Stone.

“Russell Vought did a fabulous job in my administration, and I have no doubt he will do a great job in continuing our quest to make America great again,” reads a Trump quote prominently placed on CRA’s website.

Trump will have a major platform to convey his vision for Christian policy in a second term when, on Feb. 22, he addresses a National Religious Broadcasters forum in Nashville. The group is the world’s largest association of Christian communicators.

Trump is also talking about bringing his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a vocal proponent of Christian nationalism, back into office. Flynn is currently focused on recruiting what he calls an “Army of God” — as he barnstorms the country promoting his vision of putting Christianity at the center of American life.

Vought’s beliefs over time have been informed by his relationship with Wolfe. The two spent time together at Heritage Action, a conservative policy advocacy group. And Vought has praised their yearslong partnership. “I’m proud to work with @William_E_Wolfe on scoping out a sound Christian Nationalism,” he posted on X, then Twitter, in January 2023.

Vought often echoes Wolfe’s principles, including on immigration. “Jesus Christ wasn’t an open-borders socialist,” Wolfe wrote for The Daily Caller in April while a visiting CRA fellow. “The Bible unapologetically upholds the concept of sovereign nations.”

While speaking in September at American Moment’s “ Theology of American Statecraft: The Christian Case for Immigration Restriction” on Capitol Hill in September, Vought defended the widely-criticized practice of family separation at the border during the Trump years, telling the audience “the decision to defend the rule of law necessitates the separation of families.”

The Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 offers more visibility into what policy agenda a future Trump administration might pursue. It says policies that support LGBTQ+ rights, subsidize “single-motherhood” and penalize marriage should be repealed because subjective notions of “gender identity” threaten “Americans’ fundamental liberties.”

It also proposes increasing surveillance of abortion and maternal mortality reporting in the states, compelling the Food and Drug Administration to revoke approval of “chemical abortion drugs” and protecting “religious and moral” objections for employers who decline contraception coverage for employees. One of the groups that partners with Project 2025, Turning Point USA, is among conservative influencers that health professionals have criticized for targeting young women with misleading health concerns about hormonal birth control. Another priority is defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides reproductive health care to low-income women.

Wolfe, who has deleted several posts on X that detail his views, has a more extreme outlook of what a government led by Christian nationalists should propose. In a December post, he called for ending sex education in schools, surrogacy and no-fault divorce throughout the country, as well as forcing men “to provide for their children as soon as it’s determined the child is theirs” — a clear incursion by the government into Americans’ private lives.

“Christians should reject a Christ-less ‘conservatism,’” he expanded in another X missive, “and demand the political movement we are most closely associated with make a return to Christ-centered foundations. Because it’s either Christ or chaos, even on the ‘Right.’”

Wolfe declined to comment.

The effort to imbue laws with biblical principles is already underway in some states. In Texas, Christian conservative supporters have pressured the legislature to require public schools to display the Ten Commandments in every classroom; targeted prohibitions on churches against direct policy advocacy and organized campaigns around “culture war” issues, including curbing LGBTQ+ rights, banning books and opposing gun safety laws.

“There’s been a tectonic shift in how the leadership of the religious right operates,” said Matthew Taylor, a scholar at the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies, who grew up evangelical. “These folks aren’t as interested in democracy or working through democratic systems as in the old religious right because their theology is one of Christian warfare.”

 

Inside the Next Republican Revolution

Paul Dans of the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank behind Project 2025, has formed a committee to recruit what he calls “conservative warriors” to assault his nemesis, the “deep state.”

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2023/09/19/project-2025-trump-reagan-00115811

[Excerpts:]

. . . The Heritage Foundation, and scores of conservative groups aligned with [Heritage director Dan’s] program are seeking to roll back nothing less than 100 years of what they see as liberal encroachment on Washington.

They want to overturn what began as Woodrow Wilson’s creation of a federal administrative elite and later grew into a vast, unaccountable and mostly liberal bureaucracy (as conservatives view it) under Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, numbering about two and a quarter million federal workers today.

They aim to defund the Department of Justice, dismantle the FBI, break up the Department of Homeland Security and eliminate the Departments of Education and Commerce, to name just a few of their larger targets. They want to give the president complete power over quasi-independent agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission, which makes and enforces rules for television and internet companies that have been the bane of Trump’s political existence in the last few years.

And they want to ensure that what remains of this slashed-down bureaucracy is reliably MAGA conservative — not just for the next president but for a long time to come — and that the White House maintains total control of it. In an effort to implement this agenda — which relies on another Reagan-era idea, the controversial “unitary theory” of the Constitution under which Article II gives the president complete power over the federal bureaucracy — Dans has formed a committee to recruit what he calls “conservative warriors” through bar associations and state attorneys general offices and install them in general counsel offices throughout the federal bureaucracy.

Along with [Mark] Meadows, one of the godfathers of the new conservative insurgency is Dans’ boss, Kevin Roberts, president of The Heritage Foundation, which came of age in the Reagan era and is now reinventing itself as the main mouthpiece of Trumpism, overseeing Project 2025.

 

“Exclusive: RNC plans to recruit army of poll watchers for 2024”

Axios:

The Republican National Committee plans to recruit and train tens of thousands of poll workers and watchers in battleground states for the 2024 election, according to plans shared first with Axios.

Why it matters: It’s part of the RNC’s ongoing push to scrutinize suspected voter fraud and mobilize on-the-ground “election integrity directors” in crucial states ahead of the 2024 election.

  • Repeated audits and reviews, including from GOP-led groups, failed to find evidence of voter fraud despite former President Trump’s claims that it was widespread during the 2020 election.

Zoom in: The RNC is continuing its expansion from a “pop-up-shop style election operation” to a year-round election integrity department this year.

 

NATIONAL SECURITY & DEFENSE

Heritage’s Top Defense Expert to Exit over Ukraine Stance

The conservative think tank has recently pivoted away from its historically hawkish position on Russia.

 

No matter the Republican, the effort has set a goal of up to 20,000 potential officials in a database akin to a right-wing LinkedIn.

 

If a Republican enters the Oval Office in 2025, whether it’s Donald J. Trump or someone else, there is a good chance that president will turn to the same electronic database to staff the White House and federal agencies.

Think of it as a right-wing LinkedIn. This so-called Project 2025 — part of a $22 million presidential transition operation at a scale never attempted before in conservative politics — is being led by the Heritage Foundation, a group that has been staffing Republican administrations since the Reagan era.

Heritage usually compiles its own personnel lists, and spends far less doing so. But for this election, after conservatives and Mr. Trump himself decried what they viewed as terrible staffing decisions made during his administration, more than 50 conservative groups have temporarily set aside rivalries to team up with Heritage on the project, set to start Friday.

 

Dark money groups push election denialism on US state officials

April 5, 2023

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/apr/05/heritage-foundation-election-voting-rights-republican-states

Three of the most prominent rightwing groups that spread election denial lies and advocate for restrictions on voting rights in the US have joined forces in a secret attempt to woo top election officials in Republican-controlled states.

Led by the Washington-based conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, the groups have created an incubator of policies that would restrict access to the ballot box and amplify false claims that fraud is rampant in American elections. The unstated yet implicit goal is to dampen Democratic turnout and help Republican candidates to victory.  [Boldface added]

Details of the two-day “secretaries of state conference” held in Washington in February were obtained by the watchdog group Documented and shared with the Guardian.

Officials from 13 Republican-controlled states, including 10 top election administrators, participated in the event. Attendees discussed controversial “election integrity” ideas of the sort weaponized by Donald Trump.

Among the participants were nine secretaries of state and Virginia’s election commissioner, all of whom preside over both statewide and federal elections in their states including next year’s presidential contest. A list of attendees name checks the chief election officials of Indiana, Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Documented also obtained the conference agenda which lists a number of Trump associates among the speakers. They include Ken Cuccinelli who, as acting deputy secretary for homeland security, played a key role in setting elections policy for the Trump administration.

Cuccinelli now runs the Election Transparency Initiative which is fighting Democratic efforts in Congress to shore up voting rights, and has been active in pushing state-level vote restriction measures.

The keynote speech was given by Ken Blackwell, former secretary of state in Ohio. He was an early adopter of Trump’s lie about rigged elections, championing the idea in the 2016 presidential race which Trump won.

Blackwell now chairs the Center for Election Integrity at the America First Policy Institute, a rightwing thinktank led by former Trump officials. The center has been touting election-related model legislation.

Heritage was careful to organize the conference amid tight secrecy. Among the records obtained by Documented is an email from Hans von Spakovsky, a lawyer at the foundation who leads their election work.

Responding to a query about the event from a Texas official, Von Spakovsky said: “There is no livestream. This is not a public event. It is a private, confidential meeting of the secretaries. I would rather you not send out a press release about it.”

HEP is a conservative dark-money group closely tied to the Republican operative Leonard Leo who was instrumental in engineering the current conservative supermajority on the US supreme court. Reporting by ProPublica and the New York Times last year revealed that Leo has received control of a staggering $1.6bn to advance rightwing causes.

Concern about the potential of top election officials to subvert democracy intensified during the 2022 midterm elections when a number of individuals committed to Trump’s stolen election lie also ran for office. They formed the “America First Secretary of State Coalition” which became a conduit of far-right conspiracy theories linked to QAnon.

Most of those candidates failed in their bid to take over the reins of election administration in their states. But the Heritage conference suggests that the desire to deploy Republican secretaries of state as channels of voter suppression and election misinformation remains very much alive.

Though chief election officials are tasked with ensuring that ballots are fair and impartial, the Heritage conference was attended only by Republican secretaries of state.

The Guardian asked Heritage to explain why its conference was held in secret and with only Republican attendees. The group did not answer those questions.

Von Spakovsky said that the event was an “educational summit intended to provide information on current issues in elections and ensure that our election process protects the right to vote for American citizens by making it easy to vote and hard to cheat”.

He disputed the argument that security measures at the ballot box such as voter ID suppressed turnout. “The claim that secure elections somehow promote greater restrictions is outrageous and has been clearly disproven,” he said.

Von Spakovsky also pointed to Heritage’s election fraud database, which he said sampled “proven instances of election fraud from across the country”. The database records 1,422 “proven instances of voter fraud” stretching back to 1982 – a 41-year period during which billions of votes have been cast in the US.

Several of the participants at the conference have election denial and voter suppression track records. They include Florida’s secretary of state, Cord Byrd, who, soon after being appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis last spring, refused to say whether Joe Biden had won the 2020 presidential election.

Byrd runs Florida’s “election integrity unit” that was set up by DeSantis last year to investigate election crimes, even though there is scant evidence of substantial voter fraud. More than a dozen citizens accused of illegally voting have been arrested at gunpoint under DeSantis’s crackdown on supposed voter fraud.

Another attendee – Jay Ashcroft, secretary of state of Missouri – has been a leading proponent of that state’s new restrictive voting law. His office has been named in numerous lawsuits in the last year for imposing extreme constraints on voter registration, including a recent lawsuit accusing Ashcroft of illegally blocking a ballot measure.

Tennessee’s secretary of state, Tre Hargett, another listed participant, has been accused by Democratic leaders in Tennessee of purging thousands of voters from the official rolls.

Panel discussions laid out in the agenda were held on several of the core talking points of the current Republican party. The opening discussion, moderated by Von Spakovsky, was on “Auditing Expertise”.

The main speaker was Paul Bettencourt, a state senator in Texas who has sponsored several bills making it harder to vote including a measure that would deploy armed “election marshals” to oversee polling stations.

Before the conference-goers attended a cocktail reception and dinner held at an upscale restaurant in downtown Washington, day one ended with a session entitled: “Realistic Eric Fixes and Reforms”. Eric – the Electronic Registration Information Center – is a non-profit group run collectively by 28 states which is used to finesse the accuracy of state voter rolls.

In recent months it has become the target of rightwing conspiracy theories fueled by Trump who claimed falsely that it was rigged to benefit Democrats.

Ashcroft, the Missouri secretary of state, was one of the speakers in that session. Earlier this month he announced that he was pulling Missouri out of Eric, making it one of the first Republican-controlled states to quit the organization along with Alabama, Florida and West Virginia.

This article was produced in partnership with Documented, an investigative watchdog and journalism project. Jamie Corey is a senior researcher with Documented

[Boldface added]

 

Rightwing group podfurs millions in ‘dark money’ into US voter suppression bid

Tax filings reveal advocacy arm of Heritage Foundation spent $5m on lobbying in 2021 to block voting rights in battleground states

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/jan/13/heritage-foundation-voter-suppression-lobbying-election-action-plan

The advocacy arm of the Heritage Foundation, the powerful conservative thinktank based in Washington, spent more than $5m on lobbying in 2021 as it worked to block federal voting rights legislation and advance an ambitious plan to spread its far-right agenda calling for aggressive voter suppression measures in battleground states.

Previously unreported 2021 tax filings from Heritage Action for America, which operates as the foundation’s activist wing, shows that it spent $5.1m on contracting outside lobbying services. The outlay comes on top of $560,000 the group invested in its own in-house federal lobbying efforts that year, as well as registered lobbying by Heritage Action staffers in at least 24 states.

The 990 tax filing was obtained by the watchdog group Documented and shared with the Guardian. It points to the pivotal role that Heritage Action is increasingly playing in shaping the rules that govern US democracy.

The efforts help explain the unprecedented tidal wave of restrictive voting laws that spread across Republican-controlled states in the wake of the 2020 presidential election. The Brennan Center reported that more voter suppression laws were passed in 2021 than in any year since it began monitoring voting legislation more than a decade ago.

The expenditures also signal a dramatic increase in Heritage Action’s advocacy activities. In 2020, Heritage Action had reported no spending at all on outside lobbying.

Heritage Action, whose board includes the Republican mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, is set up as a 501(c)4 under the US tax code which exempts it from paying federal taxes. It operates as a “dark money” group, avoiding disclosing the sources of its total annual revenue of over $18m.

In the past two years the organization through its public messaging has echoed Donald Trump’s lie that US elections are marked by rampant fraud. A private plan prepared by Heritage Action last year set out a two-year, $24m “election integrity” strategy.

The plan, obtained by Documented, proposed a two-pronged approach that would work to block moves by Democrats in Congress to bolster voting rights while at the same time pressing Republican-controlled states to impose restrictions on access to the ballot box. It said: “Where Democrats hold power, we must defend against bad policy. Where conservatives and our allies are in power, we must advance changes that protect the lawful votes of Americans.”

The Heritage Action plan, which was first reported by the New York Times, is being published by the Guardian for the first time.

Part of Heritage Action’s two-year strategy is to promote what it calls “model election laws”, focusing initially on eight battleground states: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, Texas and Wisconsin. In a private meeting with donors in Tucson, Arizona, in 2021, the group’s executive director, Jessica Anderson, boasted about the role Heritage Action had played in pressing Republican-controlled legislatures to impose strict restrictions on voting, including limits on mail-in voting and early voting days.

In a video of that meeting obtained by Documented, Anderson told the donors that the group acted “quickly and quietly”, bragging that “honestly nobody noticed” their behind-the-scenes influence. Heritage Action staff have registered to lobby in at least two dozen states.

The laser-like focus on key swing states like Georgia appears to have had an impact. The New York Times 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 has publicly claimed that it had a hand in advancing 11 voting bills in at least eight states in 2021, though in some cases legislation was passed in only one chamber or went on to be vetoed by the state’s governor.

Heritage Foundation, under the auspices of its elections supremo Hans von Spakovsky, curates an “election fraud database”. It claims to expose the errors, omissions and mistakes made by election officials, but it presents incomplete and misleading information and underscores how exceptionally rare fraud is within the US system.

Its records stretch back 40 years, a period in which billions of votes have been cast. Yet the database records only 1,402 “proven instances of voter fraud” – a “molecular fraction” of votes cast nationwide, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

The newly disclosed tax filings also show that Heritage Action ramped up its spending on advertising as it sought to influence lawmakers and the public around its controversial voting agenda. In 2021, the organization reported paying $6.1m to outside contractors for “marketing and advertising” – a sharp rise from $1.8m the previous year.

Among the top contractors employed by Heritage Action was CRC Advisors, the consulting firm tied to Leonard Leo, a chairman of the Federalist Society who is best known for his decades-long campaign to pack federal courts with rightwing judges. CRC Advisors was paid over $797,000 for “marketing and advertising” in 2021.

Some of that ad spending was targeted in Georgia. After that state’s 2021 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 nearly $1m on TV ads defending the law aired on CNBC and local TV stations.

The group also spent nearly $500,000 on Georgia TV and digital ads during the MLB All-Star Game, and spent at least $700,000 more on ads supporting the Georgia bill’s passage.

On the federal level, Heritage Action also ran ads in West Virginia, Arizona, Montana and New Hampshire urging the Democratic senators in those states to oppose reforming the filibuster to pass democracy reform legislation with a simple majority. “It’s an all-hands-on-deck moment,” Anderson said of potential filibuster changes at the April 2021 donor summit.

Heritage Action was formed in 2010 out of the rightwing policy empire embodied in the Heritage Foundation, which dates back to 1973. The foundation was created by Paul Weyrich, a richly networked conservative who wanted to inculcate small government, anti-regulation ideology at both federal and state level.

From the start, restricting access to voting was a core part of Weyrich’s mission. In 1980 he infamously articulated his thinking by saying: “I don’t want everybody to vote … Our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

This article was produced in partnership with Documented, an investigative watchdog and journalism project. Brendan Fischer is a campaign finance specialist with Documented

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Documents Show Heritage Actions Activities to Make Voting and Registration Harder

The Guardian:
The 990 tax filing was obtained by the watchdog group Documented and shared with the Guardian. It points to the pivotal role that Heritage Action is increasingly playing in shaping the rules that govern US democracy.

The efforts help explain the unprecedented tidal wave of restrictive voting laws that spread across Republican-controlled states in the wake of the 2020 presidential election. The Brennan Center reported that more voter suppression laws were passed in 2021 than in any year since it began monitoring voting legislation more than a decade ago.

The expenditures also signal a dramatic increase in Heritage Action’s advocacy activities. In 2020, Heritage Action had reported no spending at all on outside lobbying.

Heritage Action, whose board includes the Republican mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, is set up as a 501(c)4 under the US tax code which exempts it from paying federal taxes. It operates as a “dark money” group, avoiding disclosing the sources of its total annual revenue of over $18m.

In the past two years the organization through its public messaging has echoed Donald Trump’s lie that US elections are marked by rampant fraud. A private plan prepared by Heritage Action last year set out a two-year, $24m “election integrity” strategy.

The plan, obtained by Documented, proposed a two-pronged approach that would work to block moves by Democrats in Congress to bolster voting rights while at the same time pressing Republican-controlled states to impose restrictions on access to the ballot box. It said: “Where Democrats hold power, we must defend against bad policy. Where conservatives and our allies are in power, we must advance changes that protect the lawful votes of Americans.”

The Heritage Action plan, which was first reported by the New York Times, is being published by the Guardian for the first time.

Part of Heritage Action’s two-year strategy is to promote what it calls “model election laws”, focusing initially on eight battleground states: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, Texas and Wisconsin. In a private meeting with donors in Tucson, Arizona, in 2021, the group’s executive director, Jessica Anderson, boasted about the role Heritage Action had played in pressing Republican-controlled legislatures to impose strict restrictions on voting, including limits on mail-in voting and early voting days.

In a video of that meeting obtained by Documented, Anderson told the donors that the group acted “quickly and quietly”, bragging that “honestly nobody noticed” their behind-the-scenes influence. Heritage Action staff have registered to lobby in at least two dozen states.

The laser-like focus on key swing states like Georgia appears to have had an impact. The New York Times 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 has publicly claimed that it had a hand in advancing 11 voting bills in at least eight states in 2021, though in some cases legislation was passed in only one chamber or went on to be vetoed by the state’s governor.

Heritage Foundation, under the auspices of its elections supremo Hans von Spakovsky, curates an “election fraud database”. It claims to expose the errors, omissions and mistakes made by election officials, but it presents incomplete and misleading information and underscores how exceptionally rare fraud is within the US system.

 

NYT on “2000 Mules”/True the Vote Nonsense; Come for the Part Where Greg Phillip Says His Method to Track Supposed Voter Fraud is a “Trade Secret”; Stay for the Von Spakovsky Lie About Federal Law and Ballot Collection

NYT:

The film, directed by the conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, is based in part on an erroneous premise: that getting paid to deliver other people’s ballots is illegal not just in states like Pennsylvania and Georgia where True the Vote centered its research and where third-party delivery of ballots is not allowed in most cases, but in every state.

What’s more, the film claims, but never shows in its footage, that individual “mules” stuffed drop box after drop box. (Mr. Phillips said such footage exists, but Mr. D’Souza said it wasn’t included because “it’s not easy to tell from the images themselves that it is the same person.”) Those claims are purportedly backed up by tracking cellphone data, but the film’s methods of analysis have been pilloried in numerous factchecks. (True the Vote declined to offer tangible proof — Mr. Phillips calls his methodology a “trade secret.”)

More broadly, Ms. Engelbrecht has said that the surge of mail-in voting in 2020 was part of a Marxist plot, aided by billionaires including George Soros and Mark Zuckerberg, to disrupt American elections, rather than a legitimate response to the coronavirus pandemic….

Mr. Phillips, whose firm OpSec does data analysis for True the Vote, is perhaps best known for making a fantastical claim in 2017 that more than three million illegal immigrants voted in the 2016 election, which was amplified by Mr. Trump but never backed up with evidence. Mr. Phillips is also an adviser to Get Georgia Right, a political action committee that received $500,000 from Mr. Trump’s Save America PAC this past March 25, the day after Mr. Phillips and Ms. Engelbrecht advanced their 2020 vote-fraud theories to a legislative committee in Wisconsin. Mr. Phillips said he had “received zero money” from Get Georgia Right, which backed Mr. Trump’s favored and failed governor-primary candidate, David Perdue.

Mr. Phillips and Ms. Engelbrecht have become controversial even within the hard-right firmament. They are embroiled in litigation with True the Vote’s largest donor, and Ms. Engelbrecht has feuded with Cleta Mitchell, a leading Trump ally and elections lawyer. John Fund, a prominent conservative journalist who was once a booster of Ms. Engelbrecht, has implored donors to shun her, according to videotape provided to The New York Times by Documented, a nonprofit news site.

“I would not give her a penny,” Mr. Fund said at a meeting of members of the Council for National Policy, a secretive group of right-wing leaders, in the summer of 2020. “She’s a good person who’s been led astray. Don’t do it.”…

The group has not presented any evidence that the ballots themselves — as opposed to their delivery — were improper. “I want to make very clear that we’re not suggesting that the ballots that were cast were illegal ballots. What we’re saying is that the process was abused,” Ms. Engelbrecht said in Wisconsin. In an interview, she backtracked, but when asked to provide evidence of improper votes, she only pointed to previous accusations unrelated to the 2020 general election.

A repeated contention of the documentary is that getting paid to deliver other peoples’ ballots is illegal in every state. Mr. D’Souza emailed The New York Times a citation to a federal statute that outlaws getting paid to vote — and does not discuss delivering other people’s ballots. Hans von Spakovsky, a Heritage Foundation fellow, appears in the movie agreeing that the practice is outlawed nationwide, but in 2019 he wrote that it was “perfectly legal” in some states for “political guns-for-hire” to collect ballots. (Asked about the discrepancy, Mr. von Spakovsky said he believed the practice is illegal based on federal law.)  [Boldface added]

 

The Big Money behind the Big Lie

August 2, 2021

By Jane Meyer

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/08/09/the-big-money-behind-the-big-lie

Excerpt:

It’s a surprisingly short leap from making accusations of voter fraud to calling for the nullification of a supposedly tainted election. The Public Interest Legal Foundation, a group funded by the Bradley Foundation, is leading the way. Based in Indiana, it has become a prolific source of litigation; in the past year alone, it has brought nine election-law cases in eight states. It has amassed some of the most visible lawyers obsessed with election fraud, including Mitchell, who is its chair and sits on its board.

Two other Public Interest Legal Foundation lawyers—its president, J. Christian Adams, and another board member, Hans von Spakovsky—served in George W. Bush’s Justice Department, where they began efforts to use the Voting Rights Act, which was designed to protect Black voters, to prosecute purported fraud by Black voters and election officials. Both men have argued strenuously that American elections are rife with serious fraud, and in 2017 they got a rare opportunity to make their case, when Trump appointed them to a Presidential commission on election integrity. Within months, after the commission was unable to find significant evidence of election fraud, it acrimoniously disbanded.

Adams and von Spakovsky, who are members of what Roll Call has termed the Voter Fraud Brain Trust, have nevertheless continued their crusade, sustained partly by Bradley funds. Von Spakovsky now heads the Heritage Foundation’s Election Law Reform Initiative, which has received grants from the Bradley Foundation.

At Heritage, von Spakovsky has overseen a national tracking system monitoring election-fraud cases. But its data on Arizona, the putative center of the storm, is not exactly alarming: of the millions of votes cast in the state from 2016 to 2020, only nine individuals were convicted of fraud. Each instance involved someone casting a duplicate ballot in another state. There were no recorded cases of identity fraud, ballot stuffing, voting by non-citizens, or other nefarious schemes. The numbers confirm that there is some voter fraud, or at least confusion, but not remotely enough to affect election outcomes.

Even Benjamin Ginsberg, a Republican lawyer who for years led the Party’s election-law fights, recently conceded to the Times that “a party that’s increasingly old and white whose base is a diminishing share of the population is conjuring up charges of fraud to erect barriers to voting for people it fears won’t support its candidates.”

The Voter Fraud Brain Trust lent support to Trump’s lies from the time he took office. In 2016, when he lost the popular vote by nearly three million ballots, he insisted that he had actually won it, spuriously blaming rampant fraud in California. Soon afterward, von Spakovsky gave Trump’s false claim credence by publishing an essay at Heritage arguing that there was no way to disprove the allegation, because “we have an election system that’s based on the honor system.”

 

As Republican legislatures seek to usher in a raft of new voting restrictions, they are being prodded by an array of party leaders and outside groups working to coordinate the efforts.

In late January, a small group of dedicated volunteers from the conservative Heritage Action for America met with Republican legislators in Georgia, delivering a letter containing detailed proposals for rolling back access to voting. Within days, bills to restrict voting access in Georgia began flooding the Legislature.

Of the 68 bills pertaining to voting, at least 23 had similar language or were firmly rooted in the principles laid out in the Heritage group’s letter and in an extensive report it published two days later, according to a review of the bills by The New York Times.

The alignment was not coincidental. As Republican legislatures across the country seek to usher in a raft of new restrictions on voting, they are being prodded by an array of party leaders and outside groups working to establish a set of guiding principles to the efforts to claw back access to voting.

Heritage, for instance, has claimed credit for a new Arizona law, signed last week by Gov. Doug Ducey, that requires the secretary of state to compare death records with voter registrations. The state representative who sponsored the bill thanked one of the Heritage volunteers in a Facebook post after it passed.

Party leaders and their conservative allies are planning to export successful statutory language from one state to others, like the text of Alabama’s voter ID law. They are also drafting what they describe as “best practices” principles for completely new legislation, with the impetus often coming from outside groups like the Heritage Foundation.

And the Republican National Committee has created an “election integrity’’ committee, a group of 24 R.N.C. members tasked with developing legislative proposals on voting systems. The committee is populated with officials who were deeply involved in the “stop the steal” effort to overturn former President Donald J. Trump’s election loss last year and who have refused, more than two months after President Biden’s inauguration, to admit publicly that his victory was legitimate.

The widespread coordination underscores the extent to which the dogma of voter fraud is embedded in the Republican Party, following Mr. Trump’s campaign of falsehoods about the 2020 election. Out of power in both Congress and the White House, the party views its path to regaining a foothold in Washington not solely through animated opposition to Mr. Biden’s agenda, but rather through an intense focus on re-engineering the voting system in states where it holds control.

To head its election integrity committee, the Republican National Committee tapped Joe Gruters, the Florida Republican Party chairman who in January used a #stopthesteal hashtag and advertised ways for Republicans to attend the Jan. 6 rally that ended with a riot at the Capitol.

“No matter where I go as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, it’s basically the only thing everybody is talking about among the base,” Mr. Gruters said. Like nearly all of the Republicans involved in the party’s voter integrity efforts, Mr. Gruters declined to characterize Mr. Biden’s victory as legitimate, despite there being no evidence of widespread fraud and multiple state audits reaffirming the results. “There are a lot of people who have a lot of questions about the 2020 race.”

The national committee is coordinating with the Republican State Leadership Committee, the organization that works to elect Republican state legislators and secretaries of state. The Heritage Foundation, a leading conservative organization in Washington, is teaming up with grass-roots social conservative outfits, like the Susan B. Anthony List, to mobilize supporters and lobbyists in state capitals to enact new restrictions on voting access.

Heritage, through its politics arm Heritage Action for America, is planning to spend $24 million across eight states: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, Texas and Wisconsin. An internal document described a “two-year effort” to work closely with allies like American Legislative Exchange Council (known as ALEC) and the libertarian State Policy Network to “produce model legislation for state legislatures to adopt” and hire lobbyists in “crucial states.” (A copy of the plan was obtained by Documented, a watchdog group, and reviewed by The New York Times.)

Much of the Heritage goals are laid out in a report published to their website earlier this year, ticking off a host of proposals including limiting who can vote by mail, preventing ballot collection, banning drop boxes, enacting stricter voter identification laws, restricting early voting and providing greater access to partisan election observers. Last week, the group began a $600,000 television ad campaign in Georgia, urging citizens to support the effort to roll back voting access.

The policies, according to Jessica Anderson, the Heritage Action executive director, are largely rooted in the work of Hans von Spakovsky, a lawyer who has worked on voting battles for decades, including a voter identification law in Georgia that was ruled discriminatory in 2005. He also helped to run the now-defunct voter-fraud commission that Mr. Trump created after the 2016 election. Other Heritage officials, such as John Malcolm, have helped craft the proposals.

The Heritage planning document also calls for Republicans to recruit their own army of poll workers, and not just partisan observers, to take jobs working local elections. The document calls for placing 800 poll workers “in key states and precincts” for the 2022 midterm elections.

Ms. Anderson said Heritage’s role in passing the Arizona bill would serve as a template for other efforts. “We will have that same sort of playbook for Texas and Florida,” she said. “So I would put Georgia, Arizona, Texas, Florida as kind of the first wave of seats. And then we’ll turn to looking at Wisconsin, Michigan and potentially Nevada.”

She called the volunteer who was thanked by the bill’s sponsors “one of our sentinels.’’

The election committee housed within the Republican State Leadership Committee, comprising secretaries of state and state lawmakers, meets roughly once a week by phone, according to John Merrill, the secretary of state of Alabama and one of the group’s presidents. Smaller subgroups are in more frequent contact.

The goal, he said, is to provide a clearinghouse for best practices in amending voting laws, and for the transporting of the “statutory language” of current voting policies to other states, if they are deemed a good fit.

Referring to Alabama’s requirement that in-person voters present a photo ID, a law that critics claim disproportionately affects Black voters, Mr. Merrill said: “This is the only voter ID law that I’m aware of has been challenged in court that is still the same today as it was when we’ve passed it in 2011. And so we have it prepared, so that if people wanted to adopt that language, then they could adopt it.”

Mr. Merrill’s group has been compiling an e-notebook of more “gold standard” policies, he said, including vote-by-mail statutes from Washington and Colorado.

Mr. Gruters boasted about Florida’s election system, which provides ample opportunities for voting by mail and in-person early voting, and said other states should seek to emulate it. But other members of the Republican election committees said explicitly that it should be more difficult for people to vote.

Both “integrity committees” at the R.N.C. and the R.S.L.C. are filled with members who backed the false conspiracies about the 2020 election and have publicly called for some of the most severe voting restrictions.

On the R.N.C. committee, Drew McKissick, the Republican chair in South Carolina, tweeted false accusations by the Trump campaign in November about dead voters and vans full of Biden ballots. Lenar Whitney, a R.N.C. committee member from Louisiana, repeated conspiracies about Dominion voting machines at a party meeting.
Among the R.S.L.C. committee members, Karen Fann, an Arizona legislator, had issued calls for an audit of Dominion voting systems and shared a false conspiracy theory that the Postal Service was throwing away Trump ballots. Mike Shirkey, a Michigan legislator, said in a leaked audio clip that the Jan. 6 insurrection was a hoax, claiming that Mitch McConnell was in on it, then apologized and then was caught on a hot mic saying he meant it. Bryan Cutler, the speaker of the Pennsylvania House, was one of the signatories of the letter sent to members of Congress urging them to reject the election results from Pennsylvania and reject the slate of electors.

But several of the members of the R.S.L.C. committee were publicly critical of efforts to undermine faith in the 2020 election, and have been proponents of vote by mail and other forms of expanding voter enfranchisement. Michael Adams, the secretary of state of Kentucky, worked earlier this year with Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, to further expand access to the ballot box.

Kim Wyman, the Republican secretary of state of Washington, joined the group to make sure that an election official with deep experience with vote by mail would have a voice in shaping the eventual recommendations from the group.

“I just thought my perspective in that organization’s probably a little different, because my state is so progressive in the laws that we’ve enacted for voter registration and elections,” Ms. Wyman said. “And I’m really proud of the way we’ve enacted them, and how we’ve put in the security measures that I do think address some of the concerns a lot of conservatives have about things like same day registration. So I wanted to be part of that discussion.”

But a majority of the R.N.C. and R.S.L.C. members have sown doubts about the 2020 election. Jason Thompson, a Republican National Committee member from Georgia, praised efforts in his state to end no-excuse absentee voting and curtail early-voting on Sundays, which has been used for decades to help Black voters get to the polls after church services.

Opposition to the Georgia proposals, Mr. Thompson said in an interview, was a fund-raising technique for the state’s voting rights organizations.

“Most Black folks are probably in church on Sunday,” he said. “Why would this hurt them for voting?”

 

The real reason Jim DeMint got the boot

Even as his alliance with Donald Trump boosted Heritage’s influence, old-timers saw a more fundamental problem taking shape.

By Eliana Johnson and Nancy Cook 

May 2, 2017

 https://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/02/why-jim-demint-was-ousted-from-heritage-237876

Excerpts:

Jim DeMint’s ouster from The Heritage Foundation came as a shock to the hundreds of scholars and staffers who’ve seen the organization’s political influence grow thanks to DeMint’s controversial decision to align the leading conservative think tank closely with Donald Trump.

But interviews with over a dozen sources at the center of the drama suggest Heritage’s stewards — particularly DeMint’s predecessor, Ed Feulner, and Feulner’s sharp-elbowed protégé, Mike Needham — became convinced that DeMint was incapable of renewing the foundation’s place as an intellectual wellspring of the conservative movement.

“When DeMint went in, Heritage became very political. It changed from a highly respected think tank to just a partisan tool and more ideological — more of a tea party organization than a think tank,” said Mickey Edwards, one of the organization’s founding trustees and a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma. “Hopefully, Feulner, if he takes over, can help reestablish Heritage as what it used to be during the Reagan years.”  [Emphasis added].

The Needham camp insists that, despite his bombastic public profile, both he and Feulner grew increasingly concerned with the decline of The Heritage Foundation’s role as the brain trust of the Republican Party.

“Misinformation can be a cognitive burden. It can have a lingering effect on our reasoning, even if it has been corrected. It can be used to craft false beliefs and memories that affect our behavior — for example, what foods we will eat, or how we remember the news.”

— Sara Fischer and Alison Snyder