Heritage Action for America

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Founded in 2010, Heritage Action for America is the political advocacy arm of the Heritage Foundation. Heritage Action's website describes the group's purpose as "hold[ing] Congress accountable to conservative principles."[1] Republicans in Congress have criticized Heritage Action, including Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who according to The Washington Post "has accused the group of “destroying the Republican Party” with its push to strip funding for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). “They’ve become a purely partisan group that never asks anybody’s opinion.”"[2]

Heritage Action played a significant role in the 2013 government shutdown, which it advocated as part of a campaign against the ACA.

A 501(c)(4) political non-profit, Heritage Action is located in Washington, D.C.

News and Controversies

Heritage Action Offers Help to ALEC State Lawmakers in ESG Fight

Heritage Action endorsed the American Legislative Exchange Council model "Eliminate Political Boycotts Act" after it was voted upon at the States and National Policy Summit at the end of 2022.[3] The policy would prevent companies that account for any "social, political, or ideological interests" in relation to fossil fuels, logging, mining, or agriculture businesses from receiving any federal contracts. If adopted, this policy would allow state governments to block contracts with companies that implement environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors or diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) into their business practices.[3]

At an ALEC workshop in December 2022, Heritage Action executive director Jessica Anderson provided lawmakers with regional lobbyists that can help in passing anti-ESG bills. Heritage is working closely with ALEC, State Financial Officers Foundation, and Texas Public Policy Foundation as part of a larger coalition committed to fighting ESG initiatives, and it expects to see up to 20 states introducing anti-ESG legislation in 2023, Anderson said.[3]

“We work with [state lawmakers] to say, ‘OK, can we bring in an expert to brief you in your caucus? Can we show up to committee hearings? Can we help bring support, media opportunities, op-eds?… There’s going to be opposition, so how can we help you fight back?'” Anderson explained.[3]

Heritage Action Joins 'School Choice' Supporters

Heritage Action joined former Florida governor Jeb Bush in voicing support for a new Florida bill, HB 1: School Choice, which would expand the Florida private school voucher program currently providing $1.3 billion in public funding to low-income families wanting to send their children to Florida private schools. This new bill proposes removing the income restrictions on who can qualify for a "voucher". The Florida Policy Institute warns that this bill would force "school districts to forfeit even more public taxpayer dollars for private education" and has potential ramifications for "teacher pay, supplemental tutoring, and STEM" programs in public schools.[4] Heritage Action, however, released a statement saying they "look forward to supporting this legislation as it moves through the Florida Legislature and makes its way to Governor DeSantis' desk".[5]

Heritage Action's Pro-Life Agenda

Heritage Action celebrated the "first pro-life victory in the 118th Congress" after the passing of the Born-Alive Survivors Protection Act. Executive Director Jessica Anderson said in a press release that they intend to "advocate for even more... pro-life policy goals" which include the Heartbeat Protection Act[6] and U.S. Representative Lauren Boebert's Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2023.[7]

Heritage Action Launches 'Election Integrity' Initiative

In 2021, Heritage Action announced its 2-year "Election Integrity Plan", which would work to combat the reintroduced "For the People Act". Among many things, this bill would expand voter registration and voting access as well as counteract gerrymandering in congressional districts.[8] Heritage Action writes, "Where Democrats hold power, we must defend against bad policy. Where conservatives and our allies are in power, we must advance changes that protect the lawful votes of Americans." They explain that Heritage Foundation's "Index for Election Readiness" will provide the guidance for determining the states with the "most vulnerable election laws", and those are the states where they will concentrate their plan. Steps of action include hiring state lobbyists, proposing model legislation for election law reform, and "educating" and mobilizing grassroots efforts for election reform. The initiative has a $24 million budget, with $3 million allotted per state.[9]

Heritage Action Draws Criticism

According to reporting by The New Republic, some former Heritage Foundation staffers feel that Heritage Action and its political work have come to drive the Heritage Foundation, rather than being subordinate to it."[10]

Republicans in Congress have also criticized Heritage Action, including Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who according to The Washington Post "has accused the group of “destroying the Republican Party” with its push to strip funding for the ACA. “They’ve become a purely partisan group that never asks anybody’s opinion.”"[2] Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) has said, "I think Heritage Action is really hurting the foundation. […] I think they’ve lost credibility with the people that were most supportive of them.”[11]

Heritage Action Pushes for Government Shutdown

On October 1, 2013, the US federal government shut down when Congress failed to pass a budget. A group of Republicans in the Republican-controlled House pressed for a spending bill that would have delayed the implementation of parts of the ACA, while the Democratic-majority Senate refused to pass a bill with those provisions.[12] The New York Times reported that the "the confrontation that precipitated the crisis was the outgrowth of a long-running effort to undo the law, the Affordable Care Act, since its passage in 2010 — waged by a galaxy of conservative groups" including Heritage Action for America.[13]

On October 11, the Wall Street Journal credited Heritage Action's Michael Needham with playing a major role in the shutdown, stating that "Though Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is the public face of the high-risk strategy to "defund" ObamaCare [the ACA], the masterminds behind it are a new generation of young conservatives, chief among them Mr. Needham."[14] The Journal added that Needham believed the House GOP strategy had not gone badly:

"If conservative groups like Heritage Action hadn't raised the stakes on ObamaCare," he says, "we'd be debating on their side of the football field talking about tax increases, gun control, more spending and amnesty for illegal immigrants."[14]

The political strategy included pressuring Republicans in Congress to support the defunding push through attack ads, on which Heritage Action spent half a million dollars.[15] According to the New York Times, "Heritage Action ran critical Internet advertisements in the districts of 100 Republican lawmakers who had failed to sign a letter by a North Carolina freshman, Representative Mark Meadows, urging Mr. Boehner to take up the defunding cause."[13]

The shutdown ended early in the morning on October 16, 2013 when a temporary budget resolution passed both houses of Congress, with a majority of House Republicans voting against it. No significant concessions were made to those demanding changes to the ACA. According to CNN, "Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire called the House GOP tactic of tying Obamacare to the shutdown legislation "an ill-conceived strategy from the beginning, not a winning strategy.""[16] But in a discussion on Fox News on October 16, Needham seemed to hold to his commitment to repeal the ACA, saying

"The reason the government is shut down is Obamacare is unfair, it's unaffordable, it's unworkable, every single day there's more evidence of that coming out. House Republicans have remained strong in saying we are not going to let this bill go forward."[17]

However, he also conceded that repeal would not be politically possible for years:

"Well, everybody understands that we're not going to be able to repeal this law until 2017. And that we have to win the Senate and win the White House."[18]

Many of those involved in the push to use a government shutdown to defund the ACA had ties to the Koch brothers,[19] including Tea Party Patriots, Freedomworks and former Attorney General Edwin Meese III, who also sits on the board of the Koch-funded Mercatus Center and was formerly on the board of the Heritage Foundation.[13] After Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid claimed on October 8 that the Kochs were behind the shutdown, [Koch Industries]] sent a letter to Capitol Hill. The letter is focused on the corporation, stating that "Koch has not taken a position on the legislative tactic of tying the continuing resolution [for temporary government funding] to defunding Obamacare nor have we lobbied on legislation provisions defunding Obamacare."[20]

Ties to the Koch Brothers

Heritage Action has received funding from the Koch brothers, including a half million dollar donation in 2013, according to CEO Michael Needham.[21]

The Heritage Foundation received $650,000 from the Claude R. Lambe Foundation, which was one of the Koch Family Foundations before it closed in 2013. The Lambe Foundation contributed at least $4.8 million to the Heritage Foundation between 1998 and 2012.

In recent years, the Heritage Foundation has also received funding from Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, including $53,300 in 2010 and $69,850 in 2012. The Koch brothers have donated millions of dollars to Donors Trust through the Knowledge and Progress Fund, and possibly other vehicles.

Koch Wiki

Charles Koch is the right-wing billionaire owner of Koch Industries. As one of the richest people in the world, he is a key funder of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on Charles Koch and his late brother David include: Koch Brothers, Americans for Prosperity, Stand Together Chamber of Commerce, Stand Together, Koch Family Foundations, Koch Universities, and I360.

Ties to ALEC

Heritage Action for America partners with ALEC to help support the model policy that the group produces.[3]

About ALEC
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our ExposedbyCMD.org site.


Heritage Action for America was founded in April 2010. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published to introduce the organization, Edwin J. Feulner and Michael A. Needham wrote that Heritage Action was formed "to spend money to push legislation […] without the obstacles faced by a nonprofit like the Heritage Foundation."[22] Heritage COO Phillip Truluck told The Atlantic that while research is still the focus of the Heritage Foundation, "Heritage Action is a way to exert a little more pressure and get [Congress] members’ attention."[15]

According to the New Republic, the impetus to form Heritage Action came from Thomas A. Saunders III, a major donor to the GOP and member of the Heritage Foundation's board of directors. After he was elected chairman of the board in April 2009, "he made the case that the think tank would be foolish not to take advantage of the moment and pursue the activist option."[10] Michael Needham, whose father had been a donor to Heritage, "had been a proponent of ramping up the foundation’s lobbying efforts" and was brought on to run the new Heritage Action.[10]

Ahead of former Heritage president Edwin J. Feulner's retirement in 2013, former Republican Senator Jim DeMint reportedly began to lobby for the position. According to the New Republic, "[t]here had been resistance at Heritage to hiring a former member of Congress rather than a Ph.D., but Saunders, the chairman of the board, predictably liked the idea of a more activist president."[10] DeMint became president of the Heritage Foundation in 2013. Based on an interview with him later that year, NPR reported that his goal in that position "is to make Heritage the most influential public policy organization in the country."[23]


Heritage Action for America's website displays a "Scorecard" to "measure[e] votes, co-sponsorships, and other legislative activity to show how conservative Members of Congress are." The "scorecard" is updated "weekly while Congress is in session."[24].

Heritage Action runs the "Sentinel Program," which its website states "is designed to be a movement of conservatives holding Congress accountable 24/7" by "leading their circles of influence and communicating with elected officials."[25] It encourages program participants to attend town hall meetings, write to their Congressional representatives, and advocate online for conservative causes. As reported by Rolling Stone, the Sentinels are part of

"a sophisticated strategy – modeled, surprisingly, after the Obama campaigns – to turn up the heat on Washington lawmakers. The big idea, says Mike Needham, Heritage Action's 31-year-old CEO, is to keep members of Congress "enveloped in our message" – both on the Hill, "where he's hearing it from our six lobbyists," and at home, "where he's hearing it from a well-informed Sentinel who is a Tea Party leader."[26]


As a 501(c)(4), Heritage Action is not required to disclose its donors. However, records provided by donor organizations reveal some of the sources of Heritage Action's budget.

  • The 85 Fund: $50,000 (2020)
  • America First Works: $994,000 (2020)
  • American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers: $30,000 (2017-2019)
  • BGR Foundation: $4,000 (2016)
  • Brian & Joelle Kelly Family Foundation: $178,058 (2017-2019)
  • Buckelew Family Foundation: $113 (2017)
  • Deborah J. and Peter A. Magowan Family Foundation: $1,000 (2018)
  • Donald & Ruth V. Malvern Foundation: $250 (2015)
  • Donna L. Elliott Family Foundation: $100 (2020)
  • Dorbarleo Foundation: $1,000 (2015)
  • Glen & Carmel Mitchell Foundation: $100 (2019)
  • Goldbaum Family Foundation: $1,500 (2013-2014)
  • Grace and Li Yu Family Foundation: $200 (2018)
  • Grogan Family Foundation: $100 (2015)
  • Heritage Foundation: $900,000 (2020-2022)
  • Irving Rothlein Foundation: $1,800 (2017-2019)
  • Jackson Howard Foundation: $1,500 (2015-2016)
  • John J. Creedon Foundation: $100 (2019)
  • Judicial Crisis Network: $2,860,000 (2020-2021)
  • Liberty University: $300,000 (2018)
  • Liptak Family Foundation: $150,000 (2020)
  • Manloy Heritage Foundation: $100 (2020)
  • Pat Boone Foundation: $200 (2017-2018)
  • Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America: $37,500 (2018)
  • Stand Together Chamber of Commerce: $675,000 (2012-2014)
  • Tessie Grosby Charitable Foundation: $200 (2020)
  • Thomas A. and Joan M. Holmes Foundation: $1,000 (2016)
  • Wiseheart Foundation: $11,000 (2017)

In October 2013, CEO Michael Needham confirmed that the Koch brothers had given a $500,000 donation to Heritage Action. While he did not reveal any other donors, he also "confirmed that Heritage Action does take corporate contributions but said that it made up less than 5 percent of its overall donors."[21] Heritage Action also received a $270,000 donation in 2011 from a Koch-linked group, Free Enterprise America, which was headed by Koch network member Sean Noble.[27]

Google reports having made a "substantial" contribution to Heritage Action, making it part of what the Center for Media and Democracy describes as "a growing list of groups advancing the agenda of the Koch brothers" that are receiving funding from Google.[28]

The Center for Responsive Politics reports that in 2012, about 44% of Heritage Action's budget came from small donations (under $5,000), and it received only 11 donations of $100,000 or more, suggesting that it may have "a large donor base compared to other notable nonprofits active in politics."[27]

Core Financials


  • Total Revenue: $20,906,989
  • Total Expenses: $21,985,466
  • Net Assets: $4,968,549

Grants Distributed

  • Sentinel Action Fund: $4,250,000


  • Total Revenue: $18,461,249
  • Total Expenses: $21,853,746
  • Net Assets: $5,096,000


  • Total Revenue: $15,897,373
  • Total Expenses: $15,564,208
  • Net Assets: $8,497,632


  • Total Revenue: $11,685,980
  • Total Expenses: $9,336,753
  • Net Assets: $8,150,798


  • Total Revenue: $11,320,527
  • Total Expenses: $10,995,704
  • Net Assets: $5,804,637


  • Total Revenue: $10,239,032
  • Total Expenses: $10,340,577
  • Net Assets: $5,495,844


  • Total Revenue: $5,930,423
  • Total Expenses: $4,177,693
  • Net Assets: $3,694,656


  • Total Revenue: $4,600,406
  • Total Expenses: $4,140,701
  • Net Assets: $1,915,283


  • Total Revenue: $3,159,377
  • Total Expenses: $1,674,901
  • Net Assets: $1,484,476


As of August 2022:[30]

Staff Members

  • Jessica Anderson, Executive Director
  • Garrett Bess, Vice President
  • Ryan Walker, Director of Government Relations
  • Mary Claire Couch, Director of Development & Strategics
  • Janae Stracke, Grassroots Director
  • Ian Artinger, Director of Digital Communications
  • Randall Gibson Jr., Manager of Senate Relations

Former Staff Members

Board of Directors

  • Jessica Anderson
  • William J. Hume
  • Nersi Nazari, Ph.D.
  • Sean Fieler
  • Rebekah Mercer
  • Jerry Grossman

Contact Information

Employer Identification Number (EIN): 27-2244700

Heritage Action for America
214 Massachusetts Ave NE, STE 400
Washington D.C. 20002-4958

Articles and Resources

IRS 990 Filings








  1. Heritage Action for America, About, organizational website, accessed June 17, 2014.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Matea Gold and Lori Montgomery, "With new grass-roots muscle, Heritage Foundation stirs the base and alienates allies," The Washington Post, September 4, 2013. Accessed June 10, 2014.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 David Armiak, ALEC Doubles Down on Punishing ESG Firms, Exposed by CMD, December 9, 2022.
  4. Danielle J. Brown, Jeb Bush, others weigh in on plan to allow rich families to use public dollars for private schools, Florida Phoenix, January 20, 2023.
  5. Jessica Anderson, Florida Moves to Expand Education Freedom with ESA Legislation, Heritage Action for America, January 19, 2023.
  6. Heritage Action for America, Born-Alive Survivors Protection Act is the First Step in a Bold Pro-Life Agenda for the 118th Congress, press release, January 11, 2023.
  7. Lindsey Toomer, Rep. Boebert introduces bill to defund Planned Parenthood, Colorado Newsline, January 20, 2023.
  8. 117th Congress, For the People Act of 2021, Congress.gov, accessed January 23, 2023.
  9. Heritage Action for America, Election Integrity Plan 2021, Heritage Action for America, 2021.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Julia Ioffe, "A 31-Year-Old Is Tearing Apart the Heritage Foundation," The New Republic, November 24, 2013. Accessed June 10, 2014.
  11. Anna Palmer and Manu Raju, "Jim DeMint back at war with Republicans," Politico, June 18, 2013. Accessed June 10, 2014.
  12. Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane, "Senate rejects House amendments to spending bill as shutdown looms," Washington Post, October 1, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2014.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Mike McIntire, "A Federal Budget Crisis Months in the Planning," New York Times, October 5, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2014.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Stephen Moore, "Michael Needham: The Strategist Behind the Shutdown," Wall Street Journal, October 11, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2014.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Molly Ball, "The Fall of the Heritage Foundation and the Death of Republican Ideas," The Atlantic, September 25, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2014.
  16. Tom Cohen, Greg Botelho and Holly Yan, "Obama signs bill to end partial shutdown, stave off debt ceiling crisis," CNN, October 17, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2014.
  17. Jed Lewison, "[1]," Daily Kos, October 16, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2014.
  18. Andy Kroll, "Heritage Action CEO: "Everybody Understands" We Can't Repeal Obamacare Until 2017," Mother Jones, October 16, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2014.
  19. Mary Bottari, "A Field Guide to the Koch O’ Nuts Behind the Near Government Default," Center for Media and Democracy, October 17, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2014.
  20. Jacob Fischler, "Koch Company Denies Responsibility For Shutdown," Buzzfeed, October 9, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2014.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Anna Palmer, "Koch Bros. gave $500k to Heritage Action," Politico, October 9, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2014.
  22. Edwin J. Feulner and Michael A. Needham, "New Fangs for the Conservative 'Beast'," Wall Street Journal, April 12, 2010. Accessed June 10, 2014.
  23. David Welna, "Outside The Senate, DeMint Appears More Powerful Than Ever," NPR, September 26, 2013. Accessed June 10, 2014.
  24. Heritage Action for America, Heritage Action Scorecard, Heritage Action Official Website, accessed October 18, 2013.
  25. Heritage Action for America, Sentinel, organizational website, accessed June 17, 2014.
  26. Tim Dickinson, "Inside the Republican Suicide Machine," Rolling Stone, October 9, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2014.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Robert Maguire, "More than Kochs, Small Donors Fueled Heritage Action in 2012," Center for Responsive Politics, October 24, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2014.
  28. Nick Surgey, "The Googlization of the Far Right: Why is Google Funding Grover Norquist, Heritage Action and ALEC?," Center for Media and Democracy, November 27, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2014.
  29. Heritage Action for America, 2022 IRS 990 Filing, organizational IRS filing, June 28, 2023.
  30. 30.0 30.1 Heritage Action for America, IRS 990 2021, organizational IRS filing, August 1, 2022.
  31. Heritage Action for America, IRS 990 2020, organizational IRS filing, July 22, 2021.
  32. Heritage Action for America, IRS 990 2019, organizational filing, June 23, 2020.
  33. Heritage Action for America, IRS 990 2018, organizational filing, 2019.
  34. Heritage Action for America, IRS 990 2017, organizational filing, June 28, 2018.
  35. Heritage Action for America, 2012 Form 990, organizational IRS filing, August 12, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2014.
  36. Heritage Action for America, 2011 Form 990, organizational IRS filing, July 3, 2012. Accessed June 17, 2014.
  37. Heritage Action for America, 2010 Form 990, organizational IRS filing, May 16, 2011. Accessed June 17, 2014.