Heritage Action

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Heritage Action
Type 501(c)4 organization
Purpose Lobbying and advocacy
Headquarters Washington, DC
Chief executive officer
Michael A. Needham
Chief operating officer
Tim Chapman
Affiliations The Heritage Foundation
Website heritageaction.com

Heritage Action for America, more commonly known simply as Heritage Action, is a conservative policy advocacy organization founded in 2010. It works with citizen activists nationwide to generate support for legislation in the U.S. Congress.[1] The organization has state operations in North Carolina and Pennsylvania[2] and is a sister organization of the conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation.[2][3] Heritage Action has been called a "powerhouse in a new generation of conservative groups"[4] and "perhaps now the most influential lobby group among Congressional Republicans."[5] It is led by chief executive Michael A. Needham.[6]

Background and history[edit]

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.[7] Heritage Action's goal was to expand the political reach of The Heritage Foundation and advance the policies recommended by its researchers.[8]

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.[9]

Officials at The Heritage Foundation began engaging in political advocacy following the March 2010 passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.[8][10] 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.[11]

Heritage Action began with a staff of ten, including chief executive officer Michael A. Needham and chief operating officer Timothy J. Chapman.[12][13]


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.[9] 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.[14] 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.[15] 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.[16]

Heritage Action received attention in late 2010 for its opposition to the New START treaty, an agreement between the United States and Russia to reduce nuclear weapons.[17] The organization sent out fliers to a targeted group of conservatives in Tennessee, which argued that the treaty could lead to nuclear proliferation.[18]

Heritage Action for America previously produced the radio show Istook Live!, hosted by former Oklahoma congressman Ernest Istook.[19][20]

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.[21] The organization played an instrumental role in the government shutdown of October 2013.[22][23] 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.[21] The strategy of Heritage Action in tying the ACA to the shutdown, according to Needham, was to make President Obama "feel pain" because of the shutdown.[24] Senator Orrin Hatch criticized Heritage for warning legislators not to vote for the Senate budget compromise during the government shutdown of 2013:

There's a real question on the minds of many Republicans now—I am not just speaking for myself, for a lot of people: Is Heritage going to go so political that it really doesn't amount to anything anymore? I hope not. I'm going to try to help it survive and do well. Right now I think it's in danger of losing its clout and its power around Washington, D.C.[25]

According to a New York Times March 1, 2014 editorial, since the Heritage Action successfully "urged the House to stop legislating and focus only on attacking the Obama administration" (a somewhat inaccurate description)[why?][according to whom?][neutrality is disputed] in 2013, there has been a wave of retirements from the 113th Congress, the "least productive in history". Discouraged by the "death of legislation", twenty-one House members and six senators chose retirement. Some of these retirees are described by "congressional scholar Norman Ornstein as the "problem-solving caucus",—legislators such as—Doc Hastings, Frank Wolf, Howard “Buck” McKeon, John Dingell, Henry Waxman, Carl Levin, Jay Rockefeller, Tom Harkin, Rush Holt, James Moran, Carolyn McCarthy.[26]

Criticism of Trump[edit]

On July 19, 2015, Heritage Action CEO Michael A. Needham publicly criticized then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. "Donald Trump's a clown. He needs to be out of the race," Needham said on Fox News Sunday.[27] On September 18, 2015 Trump cancelled his scheduled appearance at Heritage Action's candidate forum in Greenville, South Carolina citing a "significant business transaction."[28] 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.”[29] Trump publicly thanked Needham the following day, tweeting “Thank you for your nice words @MikeNeedham...”[30] According to a 8 March 2016 article in The Washington Post, Needham claimed "A Trump election or nomination is a complete vindication that Washington needs to change."[31]

Legislation supported[edit]

Legislation opposed[edit]

  • Unemployment benefits – On January 6, 2014, Heritage Action announced opposition to a bill that would extend federal unemployment benefits for three additional months.[37] The organization stated that research has shown that increasing unemployment benefits actually results in "higher unemployment," "longer unemployment," and "ineffective stimulus."[38]
  • Temporary Debt Limit Extension Act (S. 540; 113th Congress) – a bill that would suspend the United States debt ceiling until March 15, 2015.[39] Heritage Action announced its opposition of the bill and called on Senators to vote against it.[40] According to Heritage Action, while the limit is suspended, "President Obama and Congress will have a blank check to spend and borrow. This is extremely reckless given our nation’s $17.3 trillion debt. Every American household already owes more than $140,000 on the debt."[40]
  • Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013 (H.R. 3370; 113th Congress) – a bill that would reduce some of the reforms made to the National Flood Insurance Program that were passed in 2012.[41] The reforms were intended to help cut the $24 billion debt of the program by bringing insurance premiums up to more accurately reflect flood risk, but the increases made flood insurance impossible to afford for some home and business owners.[41] Heritage Action urged supporters to ask their representatives to vote against the bill. The organization criticized the bill because it "forces taxpayers to continue subsidizing high-risk development of flood-prone areas and sets a terrible precedent of never letting positive reform take effect."[42]


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.[43] 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.[44] 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.[44]


  1. ^ May, Caroline (June 17, 2010). "Heritage spin-off targets ObamaCare in first grassroots campaign". The Daily Caller. Retrieved January 20, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Rob Christensen (January 11, 2011). "Heritage Foundation sinks its roots in N.C.". The News & Observer. Retrieved October 11, 2013. 
  3. ^ Weber, Joseph (August 24, 2010). "Hybrid groups using freedom, cash clout; Conservatives purchase ads,start petitions". The Washington Times. Retrieved February 23, 2017. 
  4. ^ Fineman, Howard (October 9, 2013). "Heritage Action Bails On Debt Ceiling Fight". The Huffington Post. 
  5. ^ Martin, Jonathan; Rutenberg, Jim; Peters, Jeremy W. (October 19, 2013). "Fiscal Crisis Sounds the Charge in G.O.P.’s ‘Civil War’". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ Hopkins, Christopher Snow; Khan, Naureen (October 9, 2010). "People; Interest Groups". The National Journal. 
  7. ^ Ed Feulner (April 9, 2010). "Morning Bell: Heritage Action for America". Morning Bell. The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved January 20, 2011. 
  8. ^ a b Suzy Khimm (January 25, 2013). "Heritage Action's Distinct Lobbying Plan". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 23, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Smithwick, Benjamin (July 5, 2010). "The Fight to Repeal Obamacare". Human Events.com. Retrieved January 17, 2011. 
  10. ^ Matea Gold and Lori Montgomery (September 5, 2013). "Heritage's New Tactics a Hit with Base, but Not Hill GOP". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 28, 2014. 
  11. ^ Bethany Mandel (December 6, 2012). "Jim DeMint and the Heritage Identity". Commentary Magazine. CommentaryMagazine.com. Retrieved May 23, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Heritage Launches Grassroots Advocacy Group". States News Service. April 8, 2010. Retrieved May 23, 2014. 
  13. ^ bsmithwick (July 5, 2010). "The Fight to Repeal Obamacare". Human Events. The Human Events Group. Retrieved May 23, 2014. 
  14. ^ Gizzi, John (August 27, 2010). "Sen. Chuck Hagel Strikes Again". Human Events.com. Retrieved January 17, 2011. 
  15. ^ Arsenault, Mark (September 11, 2010). "GOP focus is jobs, not health care; Candidates mostly avoid issue party pledged to hammer". The Boston Globe. Retrieved February 24, 2017. 
  16. ^ Budoff-Brown, Carrie (January 7, 2011). "Anti-Reform Dems Cool to Repeal Vote". The News & Observer. Retrieved February 24, 2017. 
  17. ^ "Right wing group uses fear to fight New START". RT.com. November 9, 2010. Retrieved January 17, 2011. 
  18. ^ Theobald, Bill (December 12, 2010). "Corker Faces Political Dilemma on Nuclear Treaty". The Tennessean. 
  19. ^ "Tuesday, July 10, 2012". Talkers. July 10, 2012. Retrieved January 15, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Heritage Action for America Launches 'Istook Live!' Radio Show". Entertainment Close-Up. July 13, 2012. Retrieved October 15, 2012. 
  21. ^ a b Moody, Chris (October 9, 2013). "Meet one of the conservative advocacy groups behind the GOP's government shutdown strategy". Yahoo! News. 
  22. ^ Joseph, Cameron (October 9, 2013). "Heritage Action leader: Paul Ryan's shutdown offer off-target". The Hill. 
  23. ^ Miller, Zeke J (September 30, 2013). "Hidden Hand: How Heritage Action Drove DC To Shut Down". Time. 
  24. ^ McCormack, John (October 9, 2013). "Heritage Action's Shutdown Strategy". The Weekly Standard. 
  25. ^ Taylor, Jessica (October 17, 2013). "GOP senator: Heritage in danger of not amounting to ‘anything anymore’". MSNBC. 
  26. ^ "The Dying Art of Legislating". March 1, 2014. Retrieved March 2, 2014. 
  27. ^ "Fox panel dines out on Trump comments," by Evan McMurry, Mediaite, July 19, 2015, retrieved November 30, 2016.
  28. ^ Parker, Ryan (September 18, 2015). "Donald Trump Cancels Campaign Appearance Over "Significant Business Transaction"". Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on September 18, 2015. Retrieved February 9, 2017. 
  29. ^ "How would President Rubio wage the war on terror?; Exclusive: Rush Limbaugh talks terror attack, refugee crisis,” transcript, Fox News Sunday, November 22, 2015. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  30. ^ @realdonaldtrump (Tweet), via Twitter, November 23, 2017, retrieved February 9, 2017.
  31. ^ Viebeck, Elise (March 8, 2016). "Michael Needham was stoking fear in Republicans long before Donald Trump". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on October 24, 2016. Retrieved February 24, 2017. 
  32. ^ DeSantis, Ron (February 14, 2013). "Federal pay freeze bill paves way for reduced spending". The Hill. Retrieved April 5, 2013. 
  33. ^ Lunney, Kellie. "House to Vote on Fed Pay Freeze". goveexec.com. Retrieved April 5, 2013. 
  34. ^ "H.R. 273 – Congress.gov". United States Congress. Retrieved April 5, 2013. 
  35. ^ "H.R. 6 – Summary". United States Congress. Retrieved June 25, 2014. 
  36. ^ a b c "Key Vote: "Yes" on Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act (H.R. 6)". Heritage Action for America. June 24, 2014. Retrieved June 25, 2014. 
  37. ^ Mascaro, Lisa; Parsons, Christi (January 7, 2014). "Jobless benefits bill takes small step in an uphill climb". Los Angeles Times. 
  38. ^ ""No" on Unemployment Insurance Extension". Heritage Action. January 6, 2014. Retrieved January 9, 2014. 
  39. ^ Kasperowicz, Pete (February 11, 2014). "House approves clean debt hike". The Hill. Retrieved February 14, 2014. 
  40. ^ a b "Vote "no" on the clean debt limit suspension (senate)". Heritage Action. February 12, 2014. Retrieved February 14, 2014. 
  41. ^ a b Kasperowicz, Pete (March 4, 2014). "House retreats from 2012 flood reforms". The Hill. Retrieved March 6, 2014. 
  42. ^ Minor, Jack. "Email your representative to oppose the homeowner flood insurance affordability act of 2013 (H.R. 3370)". Heritage Action for America. Retrieved March 6, 2014. 
  43. ^ "More than Kochs, Small Donors Fueled Heritage Action in 2012 - OpenSecrets Blog". Opensecrets.org. 2013-10-24. Retrieved 2017-05-17. 
  44. ^ a b Mohseni, Saad (2013-10-09). "Koch Bros. donate to Heritage Action". Politico. Retrieved 2017-05-17. 

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