Heritage Action Violates New FEC Disclosure Requirements


Enforcement of donor transparency requirements would give voters in November knowledge about who is funding election ads

WASHINGTON  - Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging that Heritage Action for America, the advocacy arm of the Heritage Foundation, violated the law by failing to disclose the contributors who funded hundreds of thousands in independent expenditures.

Following a recent D.C. District Court opinion striking down an FEC rule that had undermined legal disclosure requirements, the FEC issued new guidance clarifying that dark money groups reporting such spending must disclose all donors who gave for “political purposes” and for the purpose of furthering any of the group’s independent expenditures. The new guidance first applied to the quarterly reports due October 15, for contributions received after August 4. 

Heritage Action issued a press release on August 8 announcing its plans to “to spend $2.5 million and back 12 candidates this November,” and its executive director told McClatchy, “What we’re telling donors is, every dollar we raise over our budget we can effectively pour more into these races.” But even though Heritage Action was raising contributions for independent expenditures, it failed to report the identity of any donors.

“Heritage Action officials stated publicly on August 8 that the group would ‘raise’ money ‘to back 12 candidates,’ and then spent six figures supporting those same candidates. Under the D.C. District Court’s decision and the FEC’s guidance, Heritage Action should have disclosed at least some donors on its October quarterly report, but failed to do so,” said Brendan Fischer, director, federal reform at CLC. “The question now is whether the FEC will enforce the law.”