|Purpose||Lobbying and advocacy|
|Affiliations||The Heritage Foundation|
Heritage Action for America, more commonly known simply as Heritage Action, is a conservative policy advocacy organization founded in 2010. Heritage Action, which has affiliates throughout the United States, is a sister organization of the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation. Heritage Action has been called a "powerhouse in a new generation of conservative groups" and "perhaps now the most influential lobby group among Congressional Republicans." The organization has been led by executive director Tim Chapman since May 2018.
Background and history
Heritage Action was first announced in April 2010 by Ed Feulner, president of The Heritage Foundation. He stated the purpose of the organization was to harness "grassroots energy to increase the pressure on Members of Congress to embrace The Heritage Foundation’s policy recommendations." He also said it would not be involved in election campaigns. Heritage Action's goal was to expand the political reach of The Heritage Foundation and advance the policies recommended by its researchers.
The organization was launched primarily as a response to The Heritage Foundation's growing membership, and the fact that The Heritage Foundation is not allowed to back legislation due to its 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. Heritage Action fulfills this role and provides a link between the think tank and grassroots conservative activists.
Officials at The Heritage Foundation began engaging in political advocacy following the March 2010 passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. As a 501(c)3 organization, the think tank cannot engage in direct lobbying, so it created Heritage Action to serve as its lobbying and advocacy arm.
Heritage Action began with a staff of ten, including original chief executive officer Michael A. Needham and Timothy Chapman. Chapman become executive director in May 2018 following Needham's taking a chief of staff position for Senator Marco Rubio in April. Chapman had previously served as Heritage Action's chief operating officer and as chief of staff to Heritage Foundation President Ed J. Feulner. Jessica Anderson, formerly employed at the Office of Management and Budget, took over the Vice President roll from Dan Holler in June, 2018.
Heritage Action launched its first advocacy campaign in July 2010, targeting Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), President Barack Obama's health care reform law. By August 2010 the organization had helped to secure 170 Republican co-sponsors for a petition by Rep. Steve King to force a vote on repealing the healthcare reform. Following this, in September 2010, the group began a 10-day television and web campaign to persuade Democrats to sign onto a repeal of the law. The group opened its state operations in North Carolina and Pennsylvania in January 2011, specifically to focus on mobilizing voters against the health care law.
Heritage Action launched a campaign in August 2013 to link the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as the ACA or "Obamacare", with laws to keep the federal government open or to increase the federal debt limit. The organization played an instrumental role in the government shutdown of October 2013. While the shutdown was ongoing Heritage Action continued to urge lawmakers not to negotiate a measure to fully fund the government without dismantling the ACA. The strategy of Heritage Action in tying the ACA to the shutdown, according to then-CEO Michael Needham, was to make President Obama "feel pain" because of the shutdown. Senator Orrin Hatch criticized Heritage for warning legislators not to vote for the Senate budget compromise during the government shutdown.
Relationship with Donald Trump
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On July 19, 2015, Heritage Action's then-CEO Michael A. Needham publicly criticized then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, saying "Donald Trump's a clown. He needs to be out of the race" on Fox News Sunday. On September 18, 2015, Trump cancelled his scheduled appearance at Heritage Action's candidate forum in Greenville, South Carolina, citing a "significant business transaction." Then on November 22, 2015, Needham publicly praised Trump. "I think that part of Donald Trump's attraction is that he's provided bold leadership," Needham said on Fox News Sunday. "I think Trump is driven by people who want bold leadership." Trump publicly thanked Needham the following day, tweeting "Thank you for your nice words @MikeNeedham...” According to a March 8, 2016, article in The Washington Post, Needham said "A Trump election or nomination is a complete vindication that Washington needs to change."
Heritage Action is supported by individual and corporate donors, with its 2012 tax return indicating that 44 percent of its overall contributions came from donations of $5,000 or less that year. At a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in October 2013, Needham stated that Heritage Action was "not being transparent" with their donors. They have generally declined to disclose who their donors are. One exception to this was a donation from conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch; the Koch brothers donated half a million dollars in October 2013.
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