Campaign Watchdog Claims Conservative Political Group Skirted Rules

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Campaign Legal Center, a good-government and elections watchdog, claims in a complaint filed with the Federal Exchange Commission that Heritage Action, the advocacy branch of the conservative Heritage Foundation, violated federal campaign disclosure requirements.

Last month, in the wake of  a federal court ruling, the commission established that so-called dark money groups must provide the names of donors when the money is being used for “political purposes” or to further an organization’s independent expenditures.

Heritage Action, which submitted its first donation report under this rule on Oct. 12, failed to report the identities of its donors, the Campaign Legal Center claims.

The center claims there is evidence to suggest that Heritage Action donors’ contributions went to 12 candidates running for House seats in the upcoming November election.

“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, the center’s lead counsel, in a press release announcing the filing. “The question now is whether the FEC will enforce the law.”

The center cites an Aug. 8 press release in which Heritage Action said it would spend $2.5 million in advertising campaigns across 12 congressional districts to “secure the conservative vote.”

It also references a McClatchy article from the same day that quotes Heritage Action’s executive director Tim Chapman, saying: “What we’re telling donors is, every dollar we raise over our budget we can effectively pour more into these races.”

Heritage Action did not immediately return an email requesting comment. But  a representative of the Heritage Foundation said in an email to Courthouse News that Heritage Action for America is “separately and independently organized from The Heritage Foundation.”

He went on to explain that the Heritage Foundation is a tax-exempt, non-profit, non-partisan public policy research organization.

Heritage Action for America is The Heritage Foundation’s sister organization, affiliated with The Heritage Foundation but organized independently and separately from it.  Both Heritage Action and The Heritage Foundation work to promote conservative values, but in different ways, he said.

Heritage Action applies direct pressure to lawmakers so Washington is compelled to adopt conservative policies, and coordinates a grassroots network of conservative citizens to apply additional pressure from constituents, he said.

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