Iowa Capitol Building

This photo shows a view of the Iowa Capitol Building, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

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DES MOINES — A progressive advocacy group is demanding answers about the role of a Washington-based political action group that is taking credit for writing the changes to Iowa’s election law earlier this year.

A leaked video shows the director of Heritage Action for America saying the organization worked “quietly with the Iowa state Legislature” to help draft Senate File 413.

“Iowans deserve to know who is writing their laws, and we will immediately be filing open records requests to get to the bottom of this,” said Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa.

The bill’s floor manager, Rep. Bobby Kaufman, R-Wilton, rejected Sinovic’s accusation that “Iowa’s voter suppression law is part of a national effort to undermine our democracy.”

Kaufmann, chairman of the State Government Committee, said Heritage “had literally nothing to do with it.”

“They had nothing to do with this. I had zero conversations” with anyone from Heritage, which is a sister organization to the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, said Kaufmann, who was a co-author of the bill with Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport, who also denied Heritage’s claim.

The video was reported by Mother Jones, an investigative news organization. It quoted Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage for America, as saying the group “did it quickly and we did it quietly.”

“We got the best practices to them,” she is quoted as saying. “We helped draft the bills.”

In a news release March 8, the day lawmakers gave final approval to SF 413, Anderson praised its passage, but took no credit for it other than to say she hoped “Iowa will continue to enact reforms based on the Heritage Foundation’s list of best practices.”

Kaufmann rejected her claim that Iowa lawmakers used model legislation from Heritage.

“I have seen none, I used none, I referenced none,” Kaufmann said. “I wouldn't think it was a bad thing if we did. We use model legislation all the time. This is not a circumstance when we did. Not a little bit. Not some. Not a tiny bit. Zero.”

According to its website, Heritage works with grassroots activists who leverage personal relationships with lawmakers to promote conservative principles.

“We made sure activists were calling the state legislators, getting support, showing up at their public hearings, giving testimony,” Anderson said. “Honestly, nobody even noticed. My team looked at each other and we’re like, ‘It can’t be that easy.’ ”

Both the Senate and House had subcommittee meetings on the legislation where members of the public spoke. The record of a House public hearing does not show any participation by Heritage.

Progress Iowa said it will file open records requests to gain access to all communication between GOP lawmakers, Gov. Kim Reynolds and Heritage “so we can know the truth about their work with this shadowy group.”

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

This article originally ran on globegazette.com.

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