An “Academy” for state lawmakers on voter suppression strategies run by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in July featured a veritable who’s who of the right-wing leaders behind this year’s disinformation campaign about voter fraud and assaults on voting rights across the country, documentsObtained by the Center for Media and Democracy, show.
The July 26-28 session was led by the dark money group. Honest Elections ProjectIt was organized, hosted, bankrolled, and hosted by ALECDespite Lisa Nelson, its CEO, repeatedly claiming that the group doesn’t work on voting issues, it has been found.
Nelson provided the formal welcome at the conference’s opening session, ALEC staff organized turnout, and ALEC provided two nights of accommodations at the five-star Grand America Hotel, five meals, and a $450 travel reimbursement for attendees. ALEC’s annual meeting was held at the same hotel immediately after the Academy.
An invite published by CMD in July stated that “13 legislators from across the country” would be in attendance, but the materials acquired by CMD do not include an attendance list.
Rather than email materials to ALEC lawmakers that may be subject to open records laws, ALEC distributed hard copies of the agenda at registration along with a “zip drive containing a resources document and a one-pager on your state’s election policies,” according to an email from Sarah Wall, ALEC’s manager of legislative outreach and coalitions, obtained by CMD. Wall’s email also lists Michael Bowman, president of ALEC Action, as a key contact for the event.
Nelson tipped her hand about ALEC’s voter suppression subterfuge in May at a meeting of the far-right Council for National Policy. Video of the event obtained by CMD shows Nelson speaking frankly about ALEC’s work on voting and revealing its plans to outsource model policy on the controversial topic to avert the spotlight. “We don’t have model policy. We will be developing it at the Honest Elections Project [Academy]Through them,”Nelson said.
Honest Elections Project, which ALEC chose to be the party on its voting agenda, was a dark money operation created in February 2020 to push for restrictions on voting and spread. baseless and dangerous claims about election fraud, laying the groundwork for Trump’s attempt to overturn the election. It is a project of The 85 FundThe Judicial Education Project has a new legal name, ”. It is closely linked to Leonard Leo that played a central role in Trump’s effort to pack the federal judiciary with right-wing judges.
Speakers at the Academy featured many of the key strategists and leaders on the Right spreading misinformation around voter fraud, promoting Trump’s lies around the 2020 election, and pushing sweeping new voting restrictions.
The keynote address was delivered by Todd Rokita (Indian Attorney General). A proponent of Trump’s Big Lie that the election was stolen, Rokita recently testifiedIn front of the U.S. Senate, against strengthening the federal Voting rights Act.
Rokita was among four state attorneys general who did not sign a National Association of Attorneys General. letterThe U.S. Capitol insurrection of January 6th is condemned by the member of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA). RAGA was a member of the “March to Save America” coalition that organized the Jan. 6 rally, and its policy arm, Rule of Law Defense Fund, sent out robocalls urging supporters to “march to the Capitol building and call on Congress to stop the steal.”
Agenda focuses on Election Legislation
The Academy sessions were primarily focused on legislation. This gave legislators the opportunity to discuss and debate bills that restrict voting in their states. They also heard from Republican-aligned leaders about what they think should be done.
18 states had passed by the time ALEC’s voter suppression Academy was held in July 30 lawsAccording to Brennan Center for Justice, this year voting will be harder.
The Honest Elections Project’s Executive Director Jason Snead, who worked with ALEC to organize the event, laid out “priorities for election integrity across the states” and polling results in a breakfast session and appeared on another panel on how to “shore up” legislative control over election processes with Jason Torchinsky and Lee Goodman.
The Honest Elections Project has aggressively promoted a radical legal theory called the “independent state legislatures doctrine,” which holds that state courts don’t have the authority to review state election laws and would empower heavily gerrymandered state legislatures to determine election outcomes.
Republican legislators have already introduced and passed bills in 2021 “interfering with nonpartisan local election administration and consolidating power to administer and determine elections results themselves,” the Voting Rights Lab reported.
Snead is a former senior policy analyst with the Heritage Foundation where he developed its Election Fraud Database, which the Brennan Center for Justice says “grossly exaggerated” the extent of voter fraud.
Torchinsky is general counsel for the National Republican Redistricting Trust and has been defending ALEC against CMD’s state complaintsAllegation that ALEC illegally distributed sophisticated voter management campaign software linked with the Republican National Committee to its legislators.
Goodman is an election attorney. He was also the former Republican chairman and FEC commissioner between 2013-2018.
Jessica Anderson, Heritage Action’s executive director, and Ken Blackwell (executive director of The MAGA voter suppression center at America First Policy Institute led another legislative session on “securing absentee ballots.”
Anderson bragged to Heritage donors in April that policies, “severely restricting mail ballot drop boxes” and “preventing election officials from sending absentee ballot request forms to voters” were among recommendations Heritage gave Georgia for its massive voter suppression bill.
Blackwell’s Center for ElectionIntegrity recently published a “Top 25 Common-Sense State Election Integrity Reforms” fact sheet that includes these Heritage recommendations alongside other extreme voter suppression wish-list items, such as eliminating no-excuse absentee ballots and requiring an affidavit for absentee applications.
Blackwell also moderated a panel at the Academy with state legislators “discussing election challenges they’ve faced in their own states.”
Another panel over breakfast covered “things to consider with implementation of laws” related to election day voter registration, “election observer protections,” and organizing seniors to work the polls. Donald Palmer, Trump’s appointee as Chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, was also present. Cleta Mitchell, chair of the Conservative Partnership Institute’s Election Integrity Network,Led the session.
Mitchell is a Big Lie fueler and Trump legal advisor who lost her job at Foley & Lardner following news that she participated in a January call in which Trump asked Georgia election officials to “find” enough votes to make him the winner of the state’s electoral votes.
“On Dec. 30, Cleta Mitchell wrote to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and offered to send some 1,800 pages of documents purporting to support claims of election fraud,” The Washington Post Magazine reported. Meadows is now a colleague of Mitchell’s at the Conservative Partnership Institute.
Three Republican secretaries of state, Tennessee’s Tre Hargett, Kentucky’s Michael Adams, and West Virginia’s Mac Warner, spoke on a panel about “what policies the states need to employ to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat.”
“Easier to vote and harder to cheat” has been a favored talking point of Republicans in recent years.
All three are actively involved in the Republican Secretaries of State Committee(RSSC), Hargett as chairperson and Adams as vice-chairperson. Republican secretaries of state produced a report on “Best Practices for Making It Easier to Vote and Harder to Cheat” for the Republican State Leadership Committee, obtained by CMD.
RSSC holds monthly callsCommissioner Palmer attends often. Secretary Warner and Palmer also participated in an “off-the-record” Election University session on June 21 as part of the U.S. House GOP’s “Faith in Elections Project,” as first reportedCMD.
ALEC Lawmakers Look at Litigation
ALEC’s Academy featured two panels on litigation. The first dealt with “anticipating challenges to the Voting Rights Act in Arizona,” legal challenges mounted by Democratic voting rights attorney Marc Elias, and redistricting fights, and was led by with Republican lawyers Torchinsky, Michael Thielen, and Brian Barnes.
Thielen, who is the executive director at the Republican National Lawyers Association, served as the national board member of Lawyers for Trump in 2019. Barnes was involved last fall in legal challenges to changes to voting procedures in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
Goodman and Utah’s former Solicitor General Tyler Green led the second panel on “operationalizing litigation challenges.” Noted in the description of the panel are “ways to challenge the scope of litigation attacks on new election integrity legislation (defense) as well as advance the ball on election integrity (offense).”
As of Oct. 3, “at least 43 voting cases have been filed in 12 states, and Georgia and Texas lead the way with ten new lawsuits each in 2021,” the Brennan Center reports.
Training Sessions on “the Left”
Two trainings focused on “the Left” filled out the remaining agenda at the ALEC Academy. Hans von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow and manager of the Heritage Foundation’s “Election Reform Initiative,” and Ken Cuccinelli, former Trump staffer and chairman of the Election Transparency Initiative, led a session focused on “the Left’s attack on our election system” through “state-level attacks on election integrity legislation” and HR 1, the sweeping voting rights and campaign reform bill pending in Congress.
Spakovsky was appointed by Trump as his personal secretary ill-fatedThe Presidential Advisory Committee on Election Integrity is a major mouthpiece for the voter fraud mythFor well over a decade, the Right has been available.
President of the Capital Research Center Scott Walter gave the keynote for a “Mapping the Left Lunch.” Walter and CRC received funding from the Bradley Foundation to develop an “Online Encyclopedia of the Left,” inspired by CMD’s SourceWatch, called “Influence Watch.” The site was “constructed in partnership with Berman and Company,” run by PR spin doctor Richard Berman, and in collaboration with ALEC.
Arn Pearson contributed to the report.