Campaign Legal Center Sues Heritage Action for America, Alleging Violations of Campaign Finance Law

The lawsuit follows years of FEC inaction and alleges that Heritage Action for America failed to disclose the donors who funded the group’s election spending as mandated by federal law.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed suit against Heritage Action for America, a 501(c)(4) arm of the Heritage Foundation. The complaint alleges that Heritage Action spent over $1 million on advertisements supporting Republican U.S. House of Representatives candidates during the 2018 election cycle but failed to publicly disclose its contributors in violation of campaign finance law.

CLC filed suit after more than three years of inaction by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on an administrative complaint CLC filed with the agency in 2018. CLC sued the FEC in 2021 over its delay, and a federal court found that the agency’s failure to act violated the law, triggering CLC’s right to file suit directly against Heritage Action. The lawsuit adds to the growing number of cases where a district court has authorized CLC and other watchdogs to step in to enforce federal campaign finance laws directly after the FEC fails to act.

“Wealthy special interests use secret money to rig the political system in their favor. To reduce their undue influence, we need real transparency about who is spending big money on elections,” said Adav Noti, vice president and legal director at Campaign Legal Center. “Because the FEC failed yet again to do its job and left American voters in the dark, CLC is stepping up to enforce transparency requirements and ensure 501(c)(4) organizations like Heritage Action comply with federal law.”

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled on May 3 that the FEC’s failure to act in this matter violated the law, and that CLC’s complaint against Heritage Action was “credible” and “outline[d] a legitimate threat to the health of our electoral processes.” This ruling cleared the way for CLC to take action directly against Heritage Action.

This is one of a series of cases in which CLC has stepped in to enforce federal campaign finance law — most recently, CLC filed suit against 45Committee, a dark money group that spent upwards of $38 million dollars during the 2016 cycle and Iowa Values, a dark money group supporting Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst.

Voters are entitled to real transparency about who is spending big money in elections — but repeated failures by the FEC to properly enforce campaign finance laws have only encouraged bad actors. In the absence of FEC action, groups like CLC are obligated to step up to ensure that federal campaign finance law is enforced.  

At Campaign Legal Center, we are advancing democracy through law. Learn more about our work.