Holding the Heritage Foundation Accountable for Violating Campaign Finance Disclosure Laws — CLC v. Heritage Action


At a Glance

After the FEC failed to take action for over three years, CLC filed suit against the dark money group Heritage Action for America to enforce disclosure laws. Heritage Action spent over $1 million to influence federal elections in 2018 cycle without reporting its funding sources. 

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The Latest

Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed suit against Heritage Action for America, a political arm of the Heritage Foundation, which spent over $1 million in the 2018 election cycle to help elect numerous Republican candidates for Congress. The lawsuit alleges that Heritage Action failed to make mandatory disclosures of the donors who contributed to fund...

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About this Case

In 2018, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed an administrative complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), alleging that Heritage Action, a 501(c)(4) corporation, violated the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) by failing to disclose who paid for its election advertising during the 2018 election cycle.

After waiting for the FEC to take action on CLC’s administrative complaint for over 850 days, CLC sued the FEC in February 2021 for failing to enforce federal disclosure laws.

In April 2022, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in April 2021 that the FEC’s inaction was “contrary to law” and ordered the FEC to act on CLC’s complaint within 30 days. The Commission failed to comply with the court order, triggering CLC’s right to file suit against Heritage Action directly to enforce federal campaign finance law.  

What's at Stake?

Transparency about who is spending money to support or oppose federal candidates is a key component of campaign finance law and is vital to ensuring that we have a strong democracy. FECA requires that organizations that spend money supporting candidates in federal elections to disclose their donors, as well as other information about their financial activities.

In light of the political gridlock at the FEC, groups like Heritage Action are able to evade federal disclosure laws because they know the Commission is unlikely to enforce the law against them. As a result, voters are left in the dark about who is seeking to influence elections, undermining trust in the democratic process.

Voters have a right to know who is funding ads so they can weigh their credibility and cast an informed vote. Enforcing disclosure laws like the ones at issue here protect that right and ensure that accountability and transparency in the election process. 

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