Saturday, May 15, 2021

Right-Wing Group Is Writing GOP's Voter Suppression Laws


State Republican legislatures across the nation are trying to pass new voter suppression laws -- laws aimed at trying to keep Democratic voters from being able to cast a ballot. But the Republican legislators aren't even writing the laws themselves. They are just trying to pass laws written for them by an ultra-right conservative group -- one that is funded largely by dark money. In other words, a few secret right-wingers are writing the laws that will affect the nation's voters. That is about as anti-democratic as it can get!

Here is part of how Ari Berman and Nick Surgey describe what is happening for Mother Jones:

In a private meeting last month with big-money donors, the head of a top conservative group boasted that her outfit had crafted the new voter suppression law in Georgia and was doing the same with similar bills for Republican state legislators across the country. “In some cases, we actually draft them for them,” she said, “or we have a sentinel on our behalf give them the model legislation so it has that grassroots, from-the-bottom-up type of vibe.”

The Georgia law had “eight key provisions that Heritage recommended,” Jessica Anderson, the executive director of Heritage Action for America, a sister organization of the Heritage Foundation, told the foundation’s donors at an April 22 gathering in Tucson, in a recording obtained by the watchdog group Documented and shared with Mother Jones. Those included policies severely restricting mail ballot drop boxes, preventing election officials from sending absentee ballot request forms to voters, making it easier for partisan workers to monitor the polls, preventing the collection of mail ballots, and restricting the ability of counties to accept donations from nonprofit groups seeking to aid in election administration.

All of these recommendations came straight from Heritage’s list of “best practices” drafted in February. With Heritage’s help, Anderson said, Georgia became “the example for the rest of the country.”

The leaked video reveals the extent to which Heritage is leading a massive campaign to draft and pass model legislation restricting voting access, which has been swiftly adopted this year in the battleground states of Georgia, Florida, Arizona, and Iowa. It’s no coincidence that so many GOP-controlled states are rushing to pass similar pieces of legislation in such a short period of time. 

Republican legislators claim they’re tightening up election procedures to address (unfounded) concerns about fraud in the 2020 election. But what’s really behind this effort is a group of conservative Washington insiders who have been pushing these same kinds of voting restrictions for decades, with the explicit aim of helping Republicans win elections. The difference now is that Trump’s baseless claims about 2020 have given them the ammunition to get the bills passed, and the conservative movement, led by Heritage, is making an unprecedented investment to get them over the finish line. . . .

To “create this echo chamber,” as Anderson put it, Heritage is spending $24 millionover two years in eight battleground states—Arizona, Michigan, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Nevada, Texas, and Wisconsin—to pass and defend restrictive voting legislation. Every Tuesday, the group leads a call with right-wing advocacy groups like the Susan B. Anthony List, Tea Party Patriots, and FreedomWorks to coordinate these efforts at the highest levels of the conservative movement. “We literally give marching orders for the week ahead,” Anderson said. “All so we’re singing from the same song sheet of the goals for that week and where the state bills are across the country.”. . .

The Heritage Foundation was co-founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich, a well-connected conservative activist on a mission to create more aggressive conservative infrastructure to rival more liberal think tanks like the Brookings Institution. Weyrich, who was also Heritage’s first president, went on to co-found the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which pairs corporations with conservative state legislators to draft model legislation, and the Moral Majority with Jerry Falwell, which mobilized evangelical voters behind GOP causes and candidates. Heritage received major funding from leading right-wing donors such as Charles and David Koch, Richard Mellon Scaife, and Joseph Coors. 

Speaking in 1980 at a meeting of evangelical leaders in Dallas, Weyrich bluntly articulated his radical views on voting rights. “I don’t want everybody to vote,” he said. “Elections are not won by a majority of the people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”. . .

It remains one of the best-funded organizations in GOP circles. It raised more than $76 million in 2020, according to its most recent annual report. More than $1.6 million of that was raised from corporations, most of which chose to remain anonymous.

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