Heritage Action is committed to taking policy proposals developed by Heritage Foundation scholars and making them happen through legislative or executive action. And that, as they say in Washington, “is a process.”
A delegation of Heritage Action Sentinels relax outside the office of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, after dropping off petitions urging confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
Advancing conservative policy takes time, effort, and vision. It requires developing a winning strategy, building durable coalitions, and conducting a winning messaging campaign.
At Heritage Action, we do all that, using an “inside-outside” approach.
Inside the Beltway, our team of professional advocates, many with years of experience on Capitol Hill, meet daily with lawmakers and their staffs, educating them about the need for—and the efficacy of—adopting Heritage policy recommendations.
Outside the Beltway, we rely on our Sentinels—engaged and committed conservatives who drive home the point that the folks “back home” support the Heritage agenda whole-heartedly. In just a few short years, the ranks of Heritage Action Sentinels have grown to more than 20,000—a powerful grassroots army that wields tremendous influence in district offices and the halls of Congress.
Make no mistake. Opposition from the Left was on the rise in 2018 and will be even more insistent in 2019. But thanks to the commonsense of the American people and the hard work of Heritage Action insiders and outsiders, we were able to achieve some truly game-changing successes in 2018.
When Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement on June 21, 2018, conservatives saw an opportunity to ensure the confirmation of a justice who upholds the law and Constitution as written. The nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh got the ball rolling.
Heritage Action quickly sprang into action, educating activists and members of Congress on Kavanaugh’s judicial record. We published supportive commentaries informed by Heritage research in dozens of papers. In August alone, 13 columns written by Sentinels appeared in 13 local media outlets. Meanwhile, Heritage Action staff hit the airways to discuss Kavanaugh’s impressive credentials and Constitution-based jurisprudence on nationally syndicated radio as well as Fox News and Fox Business.
All that came before the Left launched its 11th hour smear campaign against Kavanaugh. And when they did that, our Sentinels and government relations team redoubled their efforts.
In the final weeks before the confirmation vote, Sentinels worked tirelessly to shore up support for Kavanaugh among undecided senators. They gathered 50,000 signatures for pro-Kavanaugh petitions, which Heritage Action hand-delivered to the offices of six undecided senators on the day before the vote. Additionally, 890 Alaskans signed a letter urging wavering Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, to vote for Kavanaugh. More than 100 female survivors of sexual assault wrote personal letters that we hand-delivered in the final 72 hours. Other Sentinels spent hundreds of hours lobbying their senators face-to-face in D.C. and back home.
Writing in Real Clear Politics, Heritage Action Executive Director Tim Chapman summed up the importance of confirming Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court this way:
Draining the swamp and returning power to the people means establishing a Supreme Court that honors the separation of powers and interprets the law as written. Judge Kavanaugh understands this.
Heritage Action is thrilled to have Justice Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.
It was no secret that the Left was disenchanted with the nation’s turn to the right under the Trump administration. Determined to take the nation back to the old, failed policies of the Obama era, liberals did everything in their power to retake Congress in the 2018 elections.
The Heritage Foundation cannot be involved in elections. But Heritage Action can.
For the first time ever, Action took it upon itself to launch a $2.5 million campaign to support 13 congressional candidates. Action picked the districts with two major goals in mind: to help conservatives win tough races and deny liberals control of the House. Secondarily, the campaign aimed to reach new audiences, form new relationships on Capitol Hill, and shape the narrative around the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in 2017.
Action chose tax cuts as our central issue, taking advantage of cutting-edge research produced and published by The Heritage Foundation with district-by-district and state-by-state data on just how valuable those tax reforms are. Action’s aim was to encourage hard-working Americans to go to the polls and vote to protect their paychecks from the predations of tax-and-spend liberals.
While it is impossible to take credit for any candidate’s victory, this much is clear: before Heritage Action weighed in on these races, all but one of our candidates trailed in the polls. One week before the election: six were ahead, four were behind, and there wasn’t enough polling data on the others.
Heritage Action used multiple communications channels to deliver our tax cut message. They included 12 internet microsites, ads on Facebook and Google, and old-fashioned mailers (896,612 delivered to 334,230 households). We also aired cable and broadcast TV ads in nine districts.
Lastly, Heritage Action employed a savvy new technology called “peer-to-peer texting,” which allowed Sentinels to remind huge numbers of voters to show up at the polls and vote. In the final stretch of the campaign, they sent 220,000 texts to swing voters in the targeted districts. These voters—not yet members of the Sentinel community—will be the building blocks of tomorrow’s activism.
By the end of this campaign, Heritage Action had reached over 20 million Americans in the 13 battleground districts. Our preferred candidate won seven of those races—giving us a winning record in some of the toughest environments on the map.
While Heritage Action prioritized defending at-risk allies, we also used the influence of independent expenditures to forge relationships with new parts of the conservative caucus. These relationships will be important to us as we seek to implement conservative policy victories in years to come—especially in a divided government.
Heritage Action exists to cultivate an environment in Washington, D.C., favorable to enacting conservative policies. But the spadework for that effort begins locally, all across America, with Heritage Action Sentinels holding their members of Congress accountable.
Building on this mission, Katherine Hudgins is creating a culture in Tennessee politics that has helped the state’s congressional delegation become increasingly and instinctively conservative. Backed with a large network of fellow activists and elected officials—and years of in-the-trenches political experience in campaigns and state politics—Katherine’s hard work is paying dividends at an impressive scale all across the Volunteer State.
Katherine has been a Sentinel since 2014. Several years ago, she began holding regular meetings for her fellow Sentinels, where they enjoy food and fellowship, discuss the pressing policy issues of the day, and build plans of action. These days, one can expect to find up to 50 politically smart and engaged Sentinels from Middle Tennessee at each monthly meeting. And their community of Sentinels is not going unnoticed.
Elected officials—federal, state, and local—often stop by to hear from Sentinels. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., always has staff in attendance and has attended several in person. The group has also built relationships with Reps. Mark Green and Tim Burchett, as well as Sen. Lamar Alexander and a staffer of Tennessee’s newest senator, Marsha Blackburn.
Reliable conservatism was once the exception to the rule in Tennessee’s congressional delegation. Now the ideology of Tennessee’s representation in both the House and the Senate has shifted decidedly to the right—a direct result of our Sentinels’ efforts.
Sentinels in Katherine’s group have begun running for office themselves. As a result, some now serve in local elected office as well as on the GOP’s state executive committee. Katherine is seen as a vital grassroots voice to be heard, and she frequently hears from members of Congress or their staff seeking her input.
The success of Katherine’s group has inspired other Tennessee Sentinels to follow her example. Katherine has been there for them, too, mentoring Sentinels in four other congressional districts who are starting similar groups. Thanks to her hard work and that of her fellow Tennessee Sentinels, the state’s political landscape and congressional representation have changed for the better—a change that will endure for years to come.
For years, conservatives have worked to increase choice and decrease health care costs. Since our inception in 2010, Heritage Action has recognized that to accomplish this goal, we must get rid of Obamacare. Yet once again in 2018, we found ourselves having to beat back efforts to further entrench the failed health system.
When attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare fell short in 2017, reports began to circulate that congressional Republican leadership was preparing to bail out Obamacare in the March omnibus funding bill.
Heritage Action’s Dan Holler promptly teamed up with Heritage Domestic Policy Director Marie Fishpaw to pen a cautionary column in The Hill:
Bailing out Obamacare with taxpayer money will do nothing to mitigate the underlying cause of Obamacare’s damage. Congressional Republicans should keep their focus on providing a real down payment toward larger reforms, starting by returning to efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.
With our Sentinels ramping up the pressure and our government relations team making the case to Capitol Hill, the March omnibus was introduced without any bailout funds included.
This allowed Heritage to focus in June on introducing the Health Care Choices Proposal, which would give states flexibility to begin to heal their broken private markets, lower health care costs, and improve coverage choices for all Americans.
Most recently, the December ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas confirmed what conservatives have known all along: Obamacare is unconstitutional. While the Texas case will likely get appealed to the 5th Circuit and then to the Supreme Court, conservatives still have opportunities to roll back this damaging law and give Americans greater access to affordable health care.
Portions of this publication were provided or relate to, and were paid for by, Heritage Action for America.