Heather R Higgins

Heather R. Higgins

Credentials

  • B.A. Wellesley College, 1981 1“The Heather Report.” George. October/November 1995. pp. 174–177, 261–262.
  • M.B.A. New York University, 19872“The Heather Report.” George. October/November 1995. pp. 174–177, 261–262.

Background

Heather Richardson Higgins is president and CEO of Independent Women’s Voice (IWV), board chair of the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF),3Heather R. Higgins,” Independent Women’s Forum. Archived February 6, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/HJ7MY and president and director of the Randolph Foundation in New York City.4Heather Higgins,” Alliance for Charitable Reform. Archived February 7, 2020. Archive.ph URL:https://archive.ph/MklVK

While IWV and IWF have boasted about their “independent” and neutral viewpoints, Higgins has previously advertised their ability to appear neutral while actually injecting a conservative agenda into politics. “Being branded as neutral, but actually having people who know that you’re actually conservative puts us in a unique position,” Higgins said in an interview with Frontpage Magazine.5HEATHER HIGGINS: MOVING THE NEEDLE,” Frontpage Mag, November 30, 2015. Archived February 5, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/9g1Oh

Speaking at the David Horowitz Freedom Center in late 2015, Higgins described IWV as “what is needed in the Republican conservative arsenal” for its ability to “talk to those cohorts [non-Republican women] that would not otherwise listen, but can do it in a way that is taking a conservative message and packaging it in a way that will be acceptable and will get a hearing.”6Joan Walsh. “Meet the ‘Feminists’ Doing the Koch Brothers’ Dirty Work,” The Nation, August 18, 2016. Archived February 4, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/PCWso

Higgins is also vice chairman of The Philanthropy Roundtable, a “network of charitable donors” that, according to Yale University’s Dr. Justin Farrell, “birthed the untraceable and hugely influential donor-directed funds DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund, which some researchers have hypothesized have played a role in climate change contrarianism.”7Justin Farrell. “The growth of climate change misinformation in US philanthropy: evidence from natural language processing” (PDF)Environmental Research Letters. 14 034013 (2019).

Higgins is also co-founder of the Alliance for Charitable Reform (ACR). This project was created in 2005 by the Philanthropy Roundtable in response to pending legislation that would have restricted the non-profit sector. According to its website, the mission of ACR is “the protection of philanthropic freedom – the right of Americans to choose how and where to spend their charitable assets.”8Alliance for Charitable Reform website (acreform.org). Archived February 8, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/KvZvC

ACR’ website states that the group “educates legislators and policymakers about the central role of private charitable giving in American life and the dangers of legislative or political measures that would weaken or constrain the philanthropic freedom that makes such giving possible.”9Alliance for Charitable Reform website (acreform.org). Archived February 8, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/KvZvC

ACR also advocates in favor of “donors-advised funds,” like DonorsTrust (DT) and Donors Capital Fund, that allow donors to give huge amounts of money anonymously by cloaking the donations’ original sources.10Donor-Advised Funds,” Alliance for Charitable Reform. Archived February 7, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/aD3I9 The late Whitney Ball co-founded DT in 1999 after working in key roles at the Cato Institute and the Philanthropy Roundtable..11WHITNEY L. BALL,” Obituary at Legacy.com. Archived April 8, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/UFZGL Ball was also a board member of the State Policy Network.12Staff,” State Policy Network. Archived via Archive.today, December 31, 2014.Archived via Internet Archive December 31, 2014.

According to Heather Higgins’ profile at IWV, she previously worked as an editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal, and as assistant editor at Public Interest magazine.13ABOUT HEATHER HIGGINS,” Independent Women’s Voice. Archived February 14, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/Ehc9Z

Higgins is the daughter of Randolph (Randy) Richardson, and great-granddaughter of Vicks Chemical Company founder Lunsford Richardson.14Heather Higgins. “A Life That Made a Difference,” Ricochet, June 5, 2015. Archived Februar 12, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/31PEr

Koch Connections

In 2009, Higgins was listed as a former director and secretary of the Koch-controlled Center to Protect Patients’ Rights (CPPR), which later became American Encore. CPPR was founded by GOP strategist and Koch ally Sean Noble.

In June 2010, ThinkProgress uncovered an agenda and attendee list for a Koch gathering to be held in January 2011 at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort in Rancho Mirage, California. The list of anticipated participants included “James and Heather Higgins.”

In October 2010, ThinkProgress also obtained a memo that reportedly “sheds light on the symbiotic relationship between extremely profitable, multi-billion dollar corporations and much of the conservative infrastructure.” The memo “describes the prospective corporate donors as ‘investors,’ and it makes clear that many of the Republican operatives managing shadowy, undisclosed fronts running attack ads against Democrats were involved in the Koch’s election-planning event.” 15Lee Fang. “MEMO: Health Insurance, Banking, Oil Industries Met With Koch, Chamber, Glenn Beck To Plot 2010 Election,” ThinkProgress, October 20, 2010. Archived February 10, 2010. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/nEnrO

H. Smith Richardson Foundation & Randolph Foundation

H. Smith Richardson, Sr., grandson of Vicks Chemical Company founder Lunsford Richardson, established the Smith Richardson Foundation (SRF) in 1935. As of the late 1990s, the foundation was worth more than $500,000,000.

In his final will dated July 29, 1969, H. Smith Richardson established the Randolph Foundation with assets of about $50 million.16Randolph Foundation v. Appeal From Probate Court of Westport, No. X05CV980167903S, 2001 WL 418059 (Conn. Super Ct. April 3, 2001).

In a 2015 essay about her late father, Randolph Richardson, Heather Higgins wrote that “in the 20 years Dad ran the Smith Richardson Foundation, SRF provided seed capital for the development of supply-side and monetarist economics and for early neo-conservative efforts, as well as supporting free-market, pro-democratic, and anti-Communist movements that led to the Reagan revolution and the end of Soviet Communism.”17Heather Higgins. “A Life That Made a Difference,” Ricochet, June 5, 2015. Archived Februar 12, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/31PEr

According to public tax filings, the Randolph Foundation, which had a federal employer identification number (EIN) of 23-7245123, was renamed in 2003 as the H. Smith Richardson Charitable Trust. That year, the Smith Richardson Foundation transferred $5,000,000 to new Randolph Foundation, which would operate under the separate EIN of 47-089297. Known nonprofit entities related to the Richardson family include:

  • The H. Smith Richardson Charitable Trust, formerly the Randolph Foundation (EIN 23-7245123), listed Heather Higgins as a trustee from 1998 to 2002, according to available tax forms.
  • The Randolph Foundation (EIN 47-089297) was formed in 2003 with $5 million taken from the former Randolph Foundation (EIN 23-7245123). Heather Higgins is president and a trustee of this Randolph Foundation. James E. Higgins is listed as a trustee and treasurer. 
  • The Smith Richardson Foundation (EIN 56-0611550) was formed by H. Smith Richardson and his wife Grace Jones Richardson in 1935.18Our Mission and History,Smith Richardson Foundation. Archived February 10, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/xfnVr

According to some sources, Higgins was also a trustee of the Smith Richardson Foundation (SRF), a which her late father Randolph (Randy) Richardson ran from 1973 to 1993.19Sally Covington. “Moving a Public Policy Agenda: The Strategic Philanthropy of Conservative Foundations,” National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, 1997. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. 20Heather Higgins. “A Life That Made a Difference,” Ricochet, June 5, 2015. Archived Februar 12, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/31PEr

SRF focused on free market “anti-Communist movements that led to the Reagan revolution and the end of Soviet Communism,” according to an article Higgins wrote about her father for the National Review. “During his tenure, Dad deliberately kept SRF’s funding anonymous wherever legally possible,” Higgins noted in the article.21Heather R. Higgins. “Randy Richardson, Committed to a Free Society,” National Review, June 3, 2015. Archived February 10, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/vWspc

In the National Review article, Higgins praised her father’s funding of “thinkers and their books” including Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve.22Heather R. Higgins. “Randy Richardson, Committed to a Free Society,” National Review, June 3, 2015. Archived February 10, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/vWspc Murray has been listed as an “extremist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center for “using racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics to argue that social inequality is caused by the genetic inferiority of the black and Latino communities, women and the poor.”23Charles Murray,” Southern Poverty Law Center. Archived February 10, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/XeCNu His controversial book also received funding from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.24Hannah Schwarz. “Bradley Foundation gives $250,000 to ‘The Bell Curve’ co-author,” Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, July 2, 2016. Archived February 10, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/f0wZY

As noted in Inside Philanthropy, the Smith Richardson Foundation is a major supporter of conservative causes, giving millions of donations to groups such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Hudson Institute, the Hoover Institution, Manhattan Institute, and others.25Philip Rojc. “The Smith Richardson Foundation’s Neoconservative Legacy,” Inside Philanthropy, June 9, 2016. Archived February 10, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/bTpTo

The Smith Richardson Foundation was among a group of private foundations that came under investigation by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, following a Boston Globe piece suggesting the foundation spent thousands of dollars on art, decor, and vehicles for its top officers.26AG in Conn. begins probe 2 foundations for charities are eyed,” The Boston Globe, November 11, 2003. Archived February 10, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/yevZW

“We are very seriously troubled by reports of excessive and lavish spending on questionable purposes by these charitable foundations, and we’re investigating to determine whether there has been misspending,” Blumenthal said in a 2003 interview, referring to both the Smith Richardson and Beinecke foundations.27AG in Conn. begins probe 2 foundations for charities are eyed,” The Boston Globe, November 11, 2003. Archived February 10, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/yevZW

Vicks Chemical Fortune

Heather R. Higgins’ family fortune is tied to the Vicks Chemical Company, famous for its Vicks VapoRub cold medicine. Her great-grandfather, Lunsford Richardson, founded the Vick Chemical Company in 1905H. Smith Richardson, Jr., grandson of Lunsford, went on to manage the family business. He became president of the chemical company in 1957 and chairman in 1961. He enlarged the company rapidly, with revenue exceeding $1.2 billion by 1985. Shortly after his retirement in 1985, the multinational consumer goods company Procter & Gamble acquired Vicks.

H. Smith Richardson, Jr. was brother to Heather Higgins’ father, Randolph Richardson.28Dana Canedy. “H. S. Richardson, 79, Dies; Heir to Vicks Cold Remedies,” The New York Times, July 31, 1999. Archived February 10, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/t2r1V

In 1938, William Preyer, a brother-in-law of the Richardson family, became president of the company. That same year it merged with the William J. Merrell Company, the oldest pharmaceutical company in the nation. The company changed its name in 1960 to Richardson Merrell, Inc. to honor the founders of its two major divisions. During the 1960s and 70s it acquired more divisions and exported products worldwide. Smith Richardson, Sr. died in 1972.29Dana Canedy. “H. S. Richardson, 79, Dies; Heir to Vicks Cold Remedies,” The New York Times, July 31, 1999. Archived February 10, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/t2r1V

In 1980, the Merrell portion of the company was sold to Dow Chemical Company. At that time the company’s name was changed to Richardson Vicks, Inc. In 1985, in response to a hostile takeover attempt by Unilever, the Richardson family sold Vicks to Procter & Gamble.30Richardson-Vicks, Inc., Records, 1885-1995,” The Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina. Collection Number 04468.

Richardson-Merrell Thalidomide Controversy

The Richardson-Merrell companies were involved in early efforts to introduce thalidomide into the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, under the brand name Kevadon. At the time, the drug had not been approved for use during pregnancy. Richardson-Merrell submitted a new drug application (NDA) to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in June 1960.31About DSI,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Archived November 5, 2009. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/UiiXn

In June 1960, the U.S. Senate held hearings regarding the strengthening drug testing provisions originally set out in the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which was enacted in 1938. The hearings took place before the Subcommittee on Antitrust and Monopoly of the Committee on the Judiciary., and were chaired by Senator Estes Kefauver (D-Tenn.). During these hearings, the FDA received Richardson-Merrell’s NDA for thalidomide.32About DSI,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Archived November 5, 2009. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/UiiXn

“Despite ongoing pressure from [Richardson-Merrell], medical officer Frances Kelsey refused to allow the NDA to become effective because of insufficient safety data,” the FDA Division of Scientific Investigations noted in a brief history of the department’s creation.33About DSI,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Archived November 5, 2009. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/UiiXn

“Even though Kevadon was never approved for marketing, Merrell had distributed over two million tablets for investigational use, which the law and regulations left mostly unchecked. By 1962 thalidomide’s horrifying effects on newborns became known and the agency moved quickly to recover the supply from physicians, pharmacists, and patients. For her efforts, Kelsey received the President’s Distinguished Federal Civilian Service Award in 1962, the highest civilian honor available to government employees.”

As a result of the thalidomide scandal, on October 10, 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed the Drug Amendments of 1962, also known as the Kefauver-Harris Amendments, to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. These provisions require drug manufacturers “to prove to the FDA that their products [are] both safe and effective prior to marketing.”34About DSI,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Archived November 5, 2009. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/UiiXn

It has been estimated that about 8,000 children in the West were born with grave birth defects during the 1950s and 1960s because their mothers took thalidomide in the first trimester of pregnancy.35Settlement Ends Last Thalidomide Lawsuits in North America,” The Washington Post, July 24, 1984. Archived February 10, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/sH8kg 

“The United States narrowly escaped a major thalidomide disaster in which an estimated 10,000 children could have been born deformed,” The Washington Post reported in 1984. “Merrell had pressured the Food and Drug Administration to release the drug but was blocked by FDA medical officer Frances O. Kelsey.”36Settlement Ends Last Thalidomide Lawsuits in North America,” The Washington Post, July 24, 1984. Archived February 10, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/sH8kg

“Still, a small number of American children, reportedly about a dozen, were deformed by thalidomide after Merrell distributed 2.5 million tablets to more than 1,200 physicians for purported tests while it awaited expected FDA marketing approval.”37Settlement Ends Last Thalidomide Lawsuits in North America,” The Washington Post, July 24, 1984. Archived February 10, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/sH8kg

There were also cases of thalidomide deformation in Canada, which had authorized marketing of thalidomide based on the same information that the U.S. FDA had found insufficient. “It appears that the competent Canadian authorities did not question the objectivity and credibility of the information presented by Richardson-Merrell,” a summary by the Thalidomide Victoms Association of Canada suggested.38The Canadian Tragedy,” Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada. Archived February 10, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/3v0MT

Higgens and Opposition to Federal Nutrition Policies

While Heather Higgins led the International Women’s Forum, the group established a history of attacking the FDA and its programs, such as government-based programs on nutrition policy:

  • IWF Senior Fellow Julie Gunlock called the FDA out-of-control “food nannies.” “They are going crazy and I think we’re seeing that in last few months of the Obama Administration they’re really working hard to control how Americans eat. We’ve seen bans on trans-fat. We’ve seen some efforts to ban e-cigarettes, which in Europe they consider a smoking cessation strategy. Here in the United States they’re doing everything to make it harder for Americans to actually get access to these products.”39Rich Zeoli. “Conservative Think Tank: Americans Do Not Want Less Salt,” CBS Philly, June 7, 2016. Archived February 11, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/4qhdq
  • Gunlock also called the FDA “Food Marxists” after it suggested cutting the salt content in foods. She wrote in the National Review that  “the FDA’s authoritarian behavior isn’t just an assault on freedom of choice; these policies are also medically questionable.”
  • Appearing on the Tipping Point with Liz Wheeler, Gunlock declared that restricting salt intake was “quite dangerous” and the government had no business regulating what Americans eat and drink.40Philadelphia Enacts Soda Tax – Tipping Point with Liz Wheeler,” YouTube video uploaded by user “Independent Women’s Forum,” June 21, 2016. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

Signatory to Conservative Open Letters

Higgins, representing IWV, is a regular signatory to open letters co-signed by representatives from a wide range of conservative groups. Some examples below:

Stance on Climate Change

July 17, 2018

Heather Higgins and Carrie L. Lukas of IWF signed onto an anti-carbon-tax pledge:

We oppose any carbon tax,” the pledge reads. “We oppose a carbon tax because it would lead to less income and fewer jobs for American families,” the letter states, concluding: “We support the House Concurrent Resolution in opposition to a job-killing carbon tax and urge members to vote for this resolution.” (Emphasis in original.)4141 Conservative Groups Urge Support for Scalise/McKinley Anti-Carbon Tax Resolution,” MacIver Institute, July 19, 2018. Archived February 4, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/l8oak

Stance on Abortion

The IWF has never taken a stance on abortion,” executive director Sabrina Schaeffer told Rewire in 2015.42Zoe Greenberg. “Major Conservative Women’s Group Hides Anti-Choice Connections,” Rewire, January 20, 2015. Archived February 12, 2020. Archive.ph URL:https://archive.ph/GVAUU

In a 2013 interview with Glamour magazine, Schaeffer said their stance “puts IWF in an interesting place, and sets us apart from other organizations, because we don’t talk about abortion and gay marriage and some of those social issues that are in many ways are very alienating to women…

“So many people are so discouraged when you have people on the fringe saying comments that are obviously offensive, saying things about ‘legitimate rape’. I don’t know what inspires anybody to say words like that. So yes, on one hand, part of me wishes that issue would just go away, but I’m sure I’m in the minority.”43How Conservative Women are Hoping to Re-Energize the GOP in 2013 (Hint: They Aren’t Changing the Message),” Glamour, January 31, 2013. Archived February 12, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/QUZ9R

In July 2019, Heather R. Higgins was interviewed by Breitbart London‘s conservative columnist and climate change denier James Delingpole. During the interview, she said that IWV and IWF attempted not to take a stance on controversial issues. “As their president and CEO Heather Richardson Higgins explained to me, they’re not in the business of confrontation (which is why, for example, they don’t take a position on hot-button issues like abortion) but of presenting information in a way that appeals to the female way of thinking. Seduction not assault,” Delingpole wrote.44James Delingpole. “How Real Women Can Fight Back Against the Left’s Fake ‘War on Women’,” Breitbart, July 12, 2014. Archived February 12, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/w6qWG

Despite IWF’s assertions that the group did not have a stance on abortion, Rewired reported that it “found that the IWF’s behind-the-scenes relationship with anti-choice groups contradicts what its spokespeople say.” They found that much of IWF‘s revenue came from “the same groups that help underwrite extreme anti-choice organizations.”45Zoe Greenberg. “Major Conservative Women’s Group Hides Anti-Choice Connections,” Rewire, January 20, 2015. Archived February 12, 2020. Archive.ph URL:https://archive.ph/GVAUU

The Center to Protect Patient Rights (CPPR) — a funder of both IWV and IWF, and where Heather Higgins was a board member prior to 2009 — has given more than $1.4 million to the Susan B. Anthony List, which has a mission to “reduce and ultimately end abortion.”46James Delingpole. “How Real Women Can Fight Back Against the Left’s Fake ‘War on Women’,” Breitbart, July 12, 2014. Archived February 12, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/w6qWG

“Other major funders — including the John William Pope Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the National Christian Foundation — gave multi-thousand dollar donations to both the Independent Women’s Forum and the Family Research Council, a group that describes itself as ‘pro-marriage and pro-life’,” Rewire reported.47Zoe Greenberg. “Major Conservative Women’s Group Hides Anti-Choice Connections,” Rewire, January 20, 2015. Archived February 12, 2020. Archive.ph URL:https://archive.ph/GVAUU

Data from the Center for Responsive Politics shows that the IWV also contributed nearly $1 million in the 2014 elections. Rewire reported that “much of that money went to outspoken anti-choice politicians. It gave $134,408 to Colorado Senate candidate Cory Gardner, who co-sponsored an abstinence-only federal grant program and supported federal bills that would give legal personhood rights to fetuses from the moment of fertilization. It gave $96,311 to Kansas Senate candidate Pat Roberts, who proudly voted anti-choice 64 times out of 64 opportunities.”48Zoe Greenberg. “Major Conservative Women’s Group Hides Anti-Choice Connections,” Rewire, January 20, 2015. Archived February 12, 2020. Archive.ph URL:https://archive.ph/GVAUU

IWV also contributed $92,965 to Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst, who “supports banning all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest, and believes abortion doctors should be held criminally responsible for performing the procedure.”49Zoe Greenberg. “Major Conservative Women’s Group Hides Anti-Choice Connections,” Rewire, January 20, 2015. Archived February 12, 2020. Archive.ph URL:https://archive.ph/GVAUU

Iowa Right to Life, described as “one of the state’s leading foes of abortion” backed Joni Ernst as one of its preferred candidates in 2014. Ernst was one of 21 state senators who supported state Senate Joint Resolution 10 in April 2013, which proposed changing Iowa’s Constitution to read, “the inalienable right to life of every person at any stage of development shall be recognized and protected.”50William Petroski. ”Abortion foes back Ernst, Clovis, Whitaker for U.S. Senate; Jacobs not on list,” Des Moines Register, May 24, 2014. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/vy17O

The so-called “personhood amendment” was written to effectively define life as starting at conception.  During a debate in the Republican primary for Senate, Ernst was asked who should be punished for performing abortions if a personhood amendment was enacted. A local TV ad by the Bruce Braley Campaign included her answer:51Fact checker: Braley hits Ernst on abortion,” The Gazette, September 19, 2014.

I think the provider should be punished if there were a personhood amendment.” 52Fact checker: Braley hits Ernst on abortion,” The Gazette, September 19, 2014.

Some potential effects of the personhood amendment included outlawing abortions even in cases of incest and rape. The local Bruce Braley Campaign ad emphasized this, noting:53Fact checker: Braley hits Ernst on abortion,” The Gazette, September 19, 2014.

“In the state Senate, Ernst sponsored an amendment to outlaw abortion, even in cases of incest or rape. And Ernst’s bill would have banned many common forms of birth control. Ernst even wants criminal punishment for doctors who perform an abortion.”54Fact checker: Braley hits Ernst on abortion,” The Gazette, September 19, 2014.

While Ernst never specifically advocated for some of these potential impacts of the personhood amendment, “Ernst supported the amendment and, therefore, everything that comes with it,” The Gazette‘s fact checkers reported, rating the Braley campaign’s claim as “true.”55Fact checker: Braley hits Ernst on abortion,” The Gazette, September 19, 2014.

Stance on Trump

October 14, 2016

In blog post for The Hill, Heather Higgins stated that despite his “reprehensible” remarks about the groping and kissing of women, she would vote for him for president, because “otherwise I’m stuck with Clinton.”56Heather R. Higgins. “I’m with #WomenWhoVoteTrump, otherwise I’m stuck with Clinton,” The Hill, October 14, 2016. Archived February 12, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/eKett

“[T]his election, to an even greater degree than most, is not about electing a candidate I like, but one that I dislike less, who will do a less-bad job as president,” Higgins wrote.

On October 19, 2016, Higgins tweeted, “Which is the great disrespect: unsolicited kissing, groping, or being lied to, country corrupted?” 

Trump for President campaign manager Kellyanne Conway served on the board of IWV‘s “sister organizationIWF until she took a leave of absence to join his campaign. 

Higgins and Conway have become leading female apologists for Trump’s outrageous behavior toward women,” commented Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), upon the group’s 2016 filing of an FEC complaint against IWV. “For years, Independent Women’s Voice has been deceiving voters by promoting itself as a nonpartisan group supporting women and families while funneling money to support GOP candidates without properly filing with the FEC. IWV is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and a key cog in the GOP’s machine intentionally designed to sell extreme policies to female swing voters.”57(Press Release). “‘Independent’ Women’s Group Backing Trump Skirts Law to Influence Elections,” The Center for Media and Democracy, November 1, 2016. Archived February 11, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/BLnEs

Key Quotes

October 31, 2018

Sexual assault needs to be taken seriously, but so does the presumption of innocence until proven guilty and questions of fundamental fairness,” said Heather Higgins, quoted in an article in Liberty Headlines.

In the wake of the divisive confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the presumption of guilt espoused by the #MeToo movement, our polling shows what many have discussed anecdotally: Nearly twice as many men would prefer to be accused of murder than sexual assault, and an equal number of men don’t know. This is truly disturbing and should come as a great concern for everyone—male and female.”58Michael Barnes. “New Poll Shows Men Would Rather Be Accused of Murder than Sexual Assault,” Liberty Headlines, October 31, 2018. Archived February 12, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/kSwM0

October 6, 2018

Higgins released a statement applauding the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, despite the allegations of sexual assault against him. Higgens stated that Senate Democrats had “unfairly re-victimized” Christine Blasey Ford, an accuser who testified to Congress about her experience with Kavanaugh, “as part of a political ploy.”59IWF Applauds Senators & President Standing Behind Presumption of Innocence, Kavanaugh Confirmed,” IWF, October 6, 2018. Archived February 12, 2020. Archive.ph URL:https://archive.ph/xPFNj

The U.S. Senate rightfully stood behind Judge Brett Kavanaugh today, but more importantly, our Senators and our President stood behind the time-honored principle of the presumption of innocence,” Higgens went on. “Today’s vote was not about Kavanaugh’s qualifications, which are undisputed, nor his judicial temperament, which was universally agreed to until it became expedient to pretend that was an issue. Today’s vote was about fairness, the importance of due process, of evidence and respect. 

“While every victim of sexual assault deserves to be heard, no one deserves to be convicted without corroboration or evidence. Furthermore, no victim of sexual assault deserves to be unfairly re-victimized as part of a political ploy, as Senate Democrats did to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. She too deserved better.”

October 14, 2016

“Trump doesn’t disrespect the women in his life, his business, on the campaign trail, or in this nation; it is Hillary who jeopardizes us, lies to us, and disrespects us, and who is the worse role model for my children,” Higgins wrote in The Hill, suggesting women should vote for Donald Trump despite his leaked remarks about groping women.60Heather R. Higgins. “I’m with #WomenWhoVoteTrump, otherwise I’m stuck with Clinton,” The Hill, October 14, 2016. Archived February 12, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/eKett

November 30, 2015

Being branded as neutral, but actually having people who know that you’re actually conservative puts us in a unique position,” Higgins said in an interview with Frontpage Magazine.61HEATHER HIGGINS: MOVING THE NEEDLE,” Frontpage Mag, November 30, 2015. Archived February 5, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/9g1Oh

September 3, 2008

Higgins offered praise for Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, then governor of Alaska, while describing then-candidate for president Barack Obama’s views on abortion as “ultra-extreme”:62Heather R. Higgins. “The Wonder of Sarah Palin,” IWF, September 3, 2008. Archived February 12, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/eW3gi

“The McCain campaign must be looking forward to contrasting Obama’s association with Tony Rezko and passive acquiescence to Chicago politics to Palin’s active refusal to compromise her ethics and track record of taking on corruption; Obama’s ultra-extreme views on abortion to Palin’s moral responsibility in not aborting her Down’s Syndrome baby (and ditto for her daughter); and his fantasy blather on the capacities of alternative fuels v. her real life achievements in energy production.

“In short, Gov. Palin does an excellent job of embodying the zeitgeist and symbolizing the change we really want – a grounded real person (think Cincinnatus), who understands politics but isn’t about making a career of it, a doer not just a talker, who has high principle, a positive vision, and embodies our best selves.”

Key Deeds

June 10, 2019

Heather Higgins appeared in a PragerU video titled “Who Does the Media Most Want to Silence?” In the video, Higgins claimed that conservative women are treated unfairly by the media, pointing to former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Trump White House aide Kellyanne Conway as examples.63Who Does the Media Most Want to Silence?” YouTube video uploaded by user “PragerU,” June 10, 2019. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

July 19, 2018

Heather Higgins, as well as Carrie L. Lukas of IWF, signed on to an anti-carbon-tax plege. “We oppose any carbon tax. We oppose a carbon tax because it would lead to less income and fewer jobs for American families,” the letter reads, concluding: “We support the House Concurrent Resolution in opposition to a job-killing carbon tax and urge members to vote for this resolution” (Emphasis in original.)6441 Conservative Groups Urge Support for Scalise/McKinley Anti-Carbon Tax Resolution,” MacIver Institute, July 19, 2018. Archived February 4, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/l8oak

November 28, 2017 – May 15, 2018

IWV, represented by Heather Higgins, signed a 2017 coalition letter to then-House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wisc.) and then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.), in support of changing tax policy to “eliminat[e] the Schedule B form for 501(c) organizations that contain sensitive identifiable information on contributors to those 501(c) organizations.” The letter suggested these changes under the pretext of protecting “First Amendment freedoms of speech and association.” This rule change would further obscure information on the funders of groups like both IWV and IWF from outside scrutiny.65Dear Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell” (PDF)Center for Individual Freedom, November 28, 2017Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

Higgens also signed a similar coalition letter to President Donald Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on May 15, 2018. “Specifically, we are asking you to do everything you can to encourage the IRS to initiate a rulemaking to eliminate the Schedule B form filing requirement for 501(c) exempt organizations,” this letter read.66“COALITION LETTER: ELIMINATION OF SCHEDULE B FORM FILING REQUIREMENT” (PDF), Center for Individual Freedom, May 15, 2018. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

November 5, 2018

Higgins was sworn in to serve on the U.S. House of Representatives Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission. Higgens was appointed by Speaker Paul Ryan to the commission. Key Coles James, president of the Heritage Foundation, served as its vice chair, which was chaired by Rebecca Kleefisch, Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin.67(Press Release). “HEATHER HIGGINS SWORN IN TO HELP LEAD EFFORT COMMEMORATING 100 YEARS OF WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE,” Independent Women’s Voice, November 5, 2018. Archived February 19, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/aY3hh

I am excited for the opportunity to work with Heather Higgins on this important work in celebrating women’s right to vote in our country,” said Kleefisch. “This group is comprised of successful and inspiring women of diverse backgrounds, and I’m optimistic about what we will accomplish together.”68(Press Release). “HEATHER HIGGINS SWORN IN TO HELP LEAD EFFORT COMMEMORATING 100 YEARS OF WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE,” Independent Women’s Voice, November 5, 2018. Archived February 19, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/aY3hh

May 18, 2016

Higgins was one of 43 signatories to a full page color advertisement in The New York Times titled “Abuse of Power.” The ad was paid for by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. It was placed in response to a number investigations by state attorneys general into whether and how Exxon had intentionally misled the public on the existence and cause of change. The ad described these investigations as affronts to free speech rights. Sabrina Schaeffer of the IWF was also a signatory.69CEI Runs “Abuse of Power” Ad In New York Times,” Competitive Enterprise Institute, May 18, 2016. Archived May 31, 2016. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.ph/TGDZK

The Climate Investigations Center reported that the letter’s signatories represented groups that had received at least $10.1 million from Exxon, ExxonMobil, or the ExxonMobil Foundation from 1997 through 2014 based on analysis from the ExxonSecrets database.70Competitive Enterprise Institute NYT Ad Signatories Got $10 Million from Exxon,” Climate Investigations Center, May 19, 2016. Archived February 11, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/tqM2t

November 2015

Higgins delivered a speech at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 2015 Restoration Weekend. The full speech can be the viewed on Vimeo, and a transcription is available at the website of Frontpage Mag.71HEATHER HIGGINS: MOVING THE NEEDLE,” Frontpage Mag, November 30, 2015. Archived February 5, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/9g1Oh

During the speech, Higgins revealed some strategy behind IWV‘s messaging and “neutral” branding:

“Branding matters. If you get a piece of mail, or you see an ad, or you get a phone call, and it’s from some group that you think you don’t like, you never pay attention to what they have to say.  You’ve hung up on it or tuned it out before you ever get a chance to penetrate.  So we have worked hard to create a branded organization that does not carry partisan baggage.  It’s called Independent Women’s Voice. Being branded as neutral, but actually having the people who know know that you’re actually conservative puts us in a unique position. Either groups are conservative or they tend to be genuinely mushy middle, in which case you have no idea where they’re going to come out on a particular policy issue.  Our value here (and what is needed in the Republican conservative arsenal) is a group that can talk to those cohorts that wouldn’t otherwise listen but can do it in a way that is taking a conservative message and packaging it in a way that will be acceptable and will get a hearing.”

April 2014

In recognition for work conducted on behalf of the Independent Women’s Voice, Victory Media Group and Antietam Communications took home Campaigns and Elections’ 2014 Reed Awards for their outstanding work in Best Automated Phone Call Statewide or Special Election Campaign and Best Automated Phone Call Independent Expenditure, Public Affairs Advocacy, or Ballot Initiative.72(Press Release). “IWV TAKES HOME BEST AUTOMATED PHONE CALLS AWARDS AT THE 2014 REED AWARDS,” Independent Women’s Voice, April 2014. Archived February 11, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/KZrpG

IWV‘s work in South Carolina’s District 1 Special Congressional Election was recognized for helping push Gov. Mark Sanford to victory over Elizabeth Colbert Busch “despite all predictions.”73(Press Release). “IWV TAKES HOME BEST AUTOMATED PHONE CALLS AWARDS AT THE 2014 REED AWARDS,” Independent Women’s Voice, April 2014. Archived February 11, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/KZrpG

Heather R. Higgins said, “It is an honor for our team to be recognized for our messaging work. Through innovative, non-advocacy, factual, interactive calls, we made voters aware of relevant facts on issues they care about, like ObamaCare repeal, and why turning out to vote is so important. Victory Media Group and Antietam Communications are top notch and help take IWV messages into the field to move the needle and win races. We are thrilled they are being recognized with Reed Awards.”74(Press Release). “IWV TAKES HOME BEST AUTOMATED PHONE CALLS AWARDS AT THE 2014 REED AWARDS,” Independent Women’s Voice, April 2014. Archived February 11, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/KZrpG

Higgins herself received an award for “Campaign & Elections Most Influential People.”75(Press Release). “IWV TAKES HOME BEST AUTOMATED PHONE CALLS AWARDS AT THE 2014 REED AWARDS,” Independent Women’s Voice, April 2014. Archived February 11, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/KZrpG

November 8, 2013

Higgins appeared on the Hugh Hewitt Show to discuss the launch of MyCancellation.com — a website created to collect names of people whose health insurance plans had been cancelled once the Affordable Care Act took effect. The goal was to push for the law’s repeal.76Higgins • MyCancellation.com Giving health cancellations a human face • Hugh Hewitt Show (11.09.13),” IWF, November 9, 2013. Archived .mp4 on file at Desmog.

November 7, 2013

Higgins appeared on Fox News to discuss the MyCancellation.com campaign:

February 2012

Higgins outlined IWV‘s key role in opposing Obamacare in February 2012 comments during a panel at the Conservative Political Action Coalition conference. Introducing herself as having “no background in health policy,” Higgins said that “until 2009, the (c)4 [IWV] wasn’t very active, but it became a vessel for several projects to push back on health care.”77IWV PRESIDENT & CEO HEATHER HIGGINS’ REMARKS TO CPAC PANEL ON OBAMACARE,” Independent Women’s Voice, February 2012. Archived February 5, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/Y129u

During the speech, Higgins suggested women join the Family Research Council, as well as the 60 Plus Association.“IWV PRESIDENT & CEO HEATHER HIGGINS’ REMARKS TO CPAC PANEL ON OBAMACARE,” Independent Women’s Voice, February 2012. Archived February 5, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/Y129u

According to Higgins, in 2009, IWV became involved with Scott Brown’s run for senator in Massachusetts, “because we wanted to make this race about health care.”

The group also launched a “Repeal Pledge” campaign, including television ads and robocalls, as well as several related websites. These initiatives included SavingOurHealthCare.org, which hosted a petition to “protect religious freedom” from “Obamacare’s […] bullying decree that violates the religious conscience of employers by requiring them to provide birth control coverage.”78IWV PRESIDENT & CEO HEATHER HIGGINS’ REMARKS TO CPAC PANEL ON OBAMACARE,” Independent Women’s Voice, February 2012. Archived February 5, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/Y129u

IWV also launched the Repeal Coalition in 2011, designed to build support for repeal of the Affordable Care Act.79IWV PRESIDENT & CEO HEATHER HIGGINS’ REMARKS TO CPAC PANEL ON OBAMACARE,” Independent Women’s Voice, February 2012. Archived February 5, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/Y129u

June 2010

James and Heather Higgins were listed as “participants” on a list of attendees at a Koch fundraising event in Aspen, Colorado.80Lee Fang. “MEMO: Health Insurance, Banking, Oil Industries Met With Koch, Chamber, Glenn Beck To Plot 2010 Election,” ThinkProgress, October 20, 2010. Archived February 10, 2010. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/nEnrO

February 2010

Higgins spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). See video via C-SPAN.81Conservative Political Action Conference, Morning Session,“ C-SPAN, February 19, 2010.

January 30, 2010

Higgins appeared on a panel with Fox News host Sean Hannity. She contended that BP‘s Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico did not suggest a need to rethink energy policy. She stated that oil drilling in the Gulf should not be suspended as it would be “economically hurtful to the region.”826-25-2010 FOX News: Heather R. Higgins on Hannity,” Youtube program uploaded by user “Independent Women’s Forum,” June 30, 2010. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

”[BP‘s poor safety practices] is not an excuse to exploit this worst environmental disaster ever and try to use that as an excuse to re-create our energy policy and radically jack up energy prices,” Higgins said.836-25-2010 FOX News: Heather R. Higgins on Hannity,” Youtube program uploaded by user “Independent Women’s Forum,” June 30, 2010. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

May 24, 2006

Alliance for Charitable Reform (ACR) co-founders Dan Peters and Heather Higgins wrote an op-ed for The Hill, discussing tax proposals:84Dan Peters and Heather Higgins. “Don’t erect barriers to charity,” The Hill, May 24, 2006. Archived October 6, 2014. Re-archived by Archive.is June 30, 2007.

“The ACR believes that every dollar of tax increases on foundations is to the federal government rather than a dollar to charities, and the ACR is troubled by that notion,” they wrote. We cannot adopt a one-size-fits-all solution that disadvantages smaller organizations. We must do everything possible to encourage philanthropy and not create barriers to charitable giving.85Dan Peters and Heather Higgins. “Don’t erect barriers to charity,” The Hill, May 24, 2006. Archived October 6, 2014. Re-archived by Archive.is June 30, 2007.

February 16, 2005

Higgins was a panelist at a symposium on “vision and philanthropy” hosted by the Hudson Institute‘s Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal. Other panelists included Steven Hayward, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute; David Keen, chairman of the American Conservative Union; Leonard Leo, executive vice president of The Federalist Society; Stephen Moore, president of the Free Enterprise Fund; Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform; and others.86“Symposium on Vision and Philanthropy” (PDF)The Hudson Institute, February 16, 2005. Transcript by: Federal News Service, Washington, D.C. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

Higgins suggested during the symposium that attendees should be “deeply concerned” about a draft white paper by the Senate Finance Committee regarding regulation of charitable organizations:87“Symposium on Vision and Philanthropy” (PDF)The Hudson Institute, February 16, 2005. Transcript by: Federal News Service, Washington, D.C. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

“I would just make a pitch at this point that one of the themes that we have heard today is how important the diversity of the projects which we fund are – the diversity of funders because of the wealth and variety of their interests, and the diversity of organizations large and small which are the recipients of these funds.

“And to that end, I would urge you to all be deeply concerned about the draft White Paper that has come out of the Senate Finance Committee that the Alliance for Charitable Reform is trying to address, which would do terrible damage to the capacity of there to be small and mid-sized, nonbureaucratic, innovative foundations that are laboratories for innovations and ideas of citizenship, and would be terribly crippling to particularly the small platoon organizations – the entities that aren’t in a position to engage armies of accountants and lawyers to fulfill this bureaucratic topdown assumption that we all are pernicious players waiting to go over the edge into deep wells of self-dealing if only we are not adequately regulated.”88“Symposium on Vision and Philanthropy” (PDF)The Hudson Institute, February 16, 2005. Transcript by: Federal News Service, Washington, D.C. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

January 2005

The Philanthropy Roundtable launched the Alliance for Charitable Reform (ACR), a 501(c)(3) non-profit group that would oppose regulations on philanthropic groups. Heather Higgins was the group’s co-founder. “Our mission is to promote the right of Americans to choose how and where to spend their charitable assets and to defend that right amidst legislative or political processes that weaken it,” the ACR‘s website states.89Heather Higgins,” Alliance for Charitable Reform. Archived February 7, 2020. Archive.ph URL:https://archive.ph/MklVK

ACR‘s executive director, Sandra Swirski, was formerly a partner at the lobbying firm Venn Strategies, LLC and co-founder of Urban Swirski & Associates, LLC. Sean Parnell, vice president of public policy for The Philanthropy Roundtable, also serves on the staff of ACR.90Staff,” Alliance for Charitable Reform. Archived April 12, 2019. Archive.fo URL:  https://archive.fo/YZc8u

According to its history page:91History,” Alliance for Charitable Reform. Archived April 12, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/jYU9Z

In January of 2005, The Philanthropy Roundtable founded the Alliance for Charitable Reform (ACR). ACR was formed as an emergency advocacy initiative to respond to legislative efforts on Capitol Hill targeted at the charitable community and help bring common sense to the charitable reform debate protecting philanthropic freedom in America – particularly from the perspective of smaller, family foundations.”92History,” Alliance for Charitable Reform. Archived April 12, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/jYU9Z

The group’s early efforts included opposition to what it describes as “potentially harmful policy changes” including “accreditation requirements on tax-exempt organizations, mandatory five-year reviews of tax-exempt status, and limits on types of organizations that foundations could support.”93History,” Alliance for Charitable Reform. Archived April 12, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/jYU9Z

The ACR has also boasted of fighting in the California state legislature in 2008, against bills that “would have significantly increased onerous reporting requirements for foundations and their grantees.”94History,” Alliance for Charitable Reform. Archived April 12, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/jYU9Z

1995

Time reported that Higgins was a co-host with Newt Gingrich on The Progress Report, a political talk show on National Empowerment Television (NET).  Time noted that NET relied on conservative sponsors like the Coors Brewing Company.95Gina Bellafante and Tresa Chambers. “The Network That Newt Built,” Time, January 9, 1995. Archived December 1, 2010. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/tV6Y4

Affiliations

Wholly Owned LLCs

According to IWV‘s 990 forms, IWV pays two limited liability corporations owned by Higgins for management and messaging services:

  • Ashdown Forest Strategies, LLC
  • Suasion Insights, LLC

Social Media

Publications

Below is a list Higgins’ writing, media appearances, and quotes obtained from the Independent Women’s Forum. Note that Higgins also has over 200 publications listed at IWV. View a complete listing in the attached spreadsheet for Heather Higgins’ IWV publications by year (.xlsx)

Blog

Media Appearances/Mentions

News

Resources

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