Republican lawmaker denies Heritage Action involvement in election bill

A conservative lobbying group is taking credit for parts of Iowa's new election law, as well GOP-driven laws in other states, according to a report by Mother Jones magazine. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

A key Republican lawmaker on Thursday denied statements by the head of Heritage Action for America about the conservative lobbying group’s role in the approval of voting restrictions this year in Iowa.

Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action for America, said in a leaked video that her organization had drafted parts of and helped pass Iowa’s sweeping election bill. Anderson also said in the video the group had crafted parts of Georgia’s controversial new voting restrictions and had worked in other states including Arizona and Florida.

“We worked quietly with the Iowa state legislature,” Anderson said, according to Mother Jones, a liberal-leaning magazine that obtained the video. “… Honestly, nobody even noticed. My team looked at each other and we’re like, ‘It can’t be that easy.’”

Anderson said Heritage Action drafted three provisions of the Iowa law in addition to prompting activists to call their legislators and attend public hearings on the bill.

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, an author of the bill, said that was a “bold-faced lie.”

“They reached out to me zero times. I had zero phone conversations, zero in-person conversations, zero text messages, zero social media interactions … They had absolutely nothing to do with the bill,” Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said.

The video of Anderson came from an April donor meeting for the Heritage Foundation in Tucson, Arizona, according to Mother Jones. Heritage Action lobbies on behalf of conservative policy developed by the Heritage Foundation.

“I don’t think these folks expected people to hear (that) they’re bragging with their donors trying to take credit for the Iowa law,” Kaufmann said. “I think they got caught red-handed.”

The Iowa Legislature passed a wide-ranging elections bill in late February that shortens the absentee voting window, limits ballot drop boxes, marks voters inactive after one missed election and creates new penalties for election worker misconduct. Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the bill into law on March 8.

Lawmakers do occasionally work with interest groups to draft bills, Kaufmann said, especially when several states are addressing the same issue. But he said he had never worked with Heritage Action or the Heritage Foundation, and the election bill was not influenced by any lobbying groups. He noted that neither Heritage group registered as a lobbyist on the bill as it moved through the Statehouse — a violation of the House ethics policy, if they did lobby on behalf of the legislation.

Democratic lawmakers and advocacy groups seized on the story Thursday. Within hours of the Mother Jones story publishing, Senate Democrats created a donation page urging Iowans to “fight back against (Republicans’) voter suppression.”

Matt Sinovic, executive director of progressive lobbying group Progress Iowa, said Thursday that the group planned to submit open records requests to determine if legislative leaders worked with Heritage.

“The governor and Republicans in the Legislature must release every bit of communication they’ve had with the Heritage Foundation, so we can know the truth about their work with this shadowy group,” Sinovic said in a press release.

Sen. Roby Smith, Kaufmann’s co-author of the election bill, and a representative for Senate Republican leaders did not immediately respond to requests for comment.