Independent Women’s Voice

Independent Women’s Voice (IWV)

Background

Independent Women’s Voice (IWV) is a 501(c)(4) “advocacy” group that operates as the sister organization to the 501(c)(3) Independent Women’s Forum (IWF). According to public 990 forms, IWV and IWF also share some facility expenses and employees. [1]

According to the IWV website, IWV.org, the group works to “educate and persuade those who don’t already share our understanding of the benefits of liberty and free markets, so their policy and political choices will be based on better information and understanding.” IWV does this by targeting Independents and women with tailored messaging: “Our goal is to share conservative, free market ideas and solutions with women and Independents, while encouraging and supporting them as they decide what is right for them.” [1]

IWV formed out of “Women for Judge Thomas,” a group that formed during the testimony of Anita Hill during Clarence Thomas‘s 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearing. It was formally launched in 1992 by the late Barbara Olson and Rosalie “Ricky” Silberman. The group initially opposed the “radical feminism” of the women’s movement of the 1990s, which it argued “was pushing myths about sexual harassment, pay inequities, and discrimination in the workplace and widespread abuse on college campuses,” The Nation reported in its in-depth 2016 story on Independent Women’s Forum and IWV, with research from the Center for Media and Democracy. [2], [3]

While both Independent Women’s Voice and IWF have boasted their “Independent” label, they have also pushed a distinctly conservative message. “Being branded as neutral, but actually having people who know that you’re actually conservative puts us in a unique position,” IWV president Heather Higgins said in an interview with Frontpage Magazine. [28] Higgins also shared this value with an audience at the David Horowitz Freedom Center in late 2015: [2]

“Our value here, and what is needed in the Republican conservative arsenal, is a group that can 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.” [2]

IWV is run by president and CEO Heather Richardson Higgins. Higgins is also the chairman of the board of the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), and president and director of the Randolph Foundation in New York City. [35], [36]

Koch Ties

IWV has received at least $250,000 from the Center to Protect Patient Rights (CPPR), now American Encore, a group founded and run by Koch strategist Sean Noble. CPPR has played a role in distributing funds to a variety of organizations in the political network established by the billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and the late David Koch. Heather Higgins, who heads the Independent Women’s Forum, was formerly a CPPR director. [4], [5]

Individuals with affiliations to IWV have also been known to have connections to Koch-tied groups. Cheryl Hillen, a consultant, formerly worked as the director of fundraising for the Koch-back Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE). Nancy Pfotenhauer, who worked for several Koch-affiliated groups including Americans for Prosperity and CSE after leaving a position at Koch Industries, served as the President and CEO of the IWF from 2000 to 2005. Pfotenhauer was also listed as president of IWV on tax forms from 2004 to 2006. [6]

As of 2009, according to public tax forms, IWV‘s Heather Higgins was listed as a former director and secretary of the Koch-controlled Center to Protect Patients’ Rights (CPPR).

In June 2010, ThinkProgress uncovered an attendee list for a Koch gathering held before the 2010 election. A memo, also obtained, 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.” James and Heather Higgins were both listed as “participants” on that list. [37]

IWV Funding “War on Women” GOP Candidates

CMD‘s 2016 investigation on IWF and IWV found that, according to filed “independent expenditures” made on political ads, IWV aided “some of the most extreme ‘War on Women’ GOP candidates.” [7]

  • That included $67,242 in support of Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin in November 2012. On August 19, 2012, Akin had made a comment that rape victims couldn’t get pregnant “if it’s legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” [7]
  • $176,991 on a “Romney wants Mourdock” ad, following Indiana U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s assertion that if a woman is raped, she still carries a “gift from God” and that such a pregnancy “is something that God intended to happen.” [7]
  • $5,000 on calls and outreach for GOP Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois after he made comments that abortions to save a mother’s life are never medically necessary. 
  • CMD found, in 2014, that IWV had spent more than $850,000 on GOP candidates that received 0% NARAL ratings, plus over $5 million that year in related advocacy.

View a listing of IWV‘s campaign contributions, based on data exported from the Federal Election Commission: [8]

Candidate20102011 – 20122013 – 2014Grand Total
Support$155,516$834,718$589,124$1,579,359
Richard E Mourdock $176,991 $176,991
Cory Gardner  $134,408$134,408
Connie Mack $102,094 $102,094
Pat Roberts  $96,311$96,311
Tom Smith $96,117 $96,117
Joni K Ernst  $92,964$92,964
Scott Brown  $89,157$89,157
Tommy G Thompson $71,190 $71,190
Peter Hoekstra $69,700 $69,700
W Todd Akin $67,242 $67,242
William H Binnie$66,096  $66,096
Mitch Mcconnell  $46,335$46,335
George Allen $44,258 $44,258
Jeff Flake $41,851 $41,851
Francis X Jr Becker$39,493  $39,493
Josh Mandel $33,955 $33,955
Mitt Romney / Paul D Ryan $27,582 $27,582
David Perdue  $23,695$23,695
Thom R Tillis  $23,238$23,238
Timothy Raymond Burns$22,500  $22,500
Debra S Fischer $17,029 $17,029
Marilinda Garcia  $16,228$16,228
Frank Guinta  $15,938$15,938
Marshall C. Hon. Sanford  $15,049$15,049
Robert L Turner $14,350 $14,350
Jane Corwin $14,250 $14,250
Charles Edward Jr Summers $10,677 $10,677
William Cassidy  $10,136$10,136
Daniel J. Benishek$406$4,859$3,845$9,110
Nan Hayworth$1,924$2,046$1,712$5,681
Joe Walsh $5,027 $5,027
Renee Jacisin Ellmers$2,299 $2,054$4,353
Dean Heller $3,949 $3,949
John Koster $3,888 $3,888
Steve King $3,716 $3,716
Sam Caligiuri$3,412  $3,412
Richard W Muri $3,063 $3,063
Lee Terry  $3,056$3,056
Edward Scott Rigell$839$2,159 $2,998
Andrew P Harris$2,934  $2,934
(blank)  $2,888$2,888
David Schweikert$2,564  $2,564
Thomas Cotton $2,555 $2,555
Ben Quayle$2,443  $2,443
Jason Plummer $2,423 $2,423
David Alan Brat  $2,422$2,422
Frederick Stephen Upton  $2,397$2,397
David Cheston Rouzer $2,114 $2,114
Thomas Anthony Marino$2,033  $2,033
Heather A Wilson $2,020 $2,020
Barbara J Comstock  $1,935$1,935
Patrick Alan Nunnelee$1,731  $1,731
George K Phillips$1,710  $1,710
Lee I Anderson $1,681 $1,681
Lee M Zeldin  $1,642$1,642
Richard L. Jr. Hudson $1,565 $1,565
Clint Didier  $1,508$1,508
Francisco Raul Quico R. Canseco$537$964 $1,501
Roscoe G. Rep. Bartlett $1,463 $1,463
Ruth Crawford Mcclung$1,414  $1,414
Bill Johnson $1,369 $1,369
Vernon Parker $1,336 $1,336
Jonathan Paton $1,238 $1,238
Alexander Xavier Mooney  $1,139$1,139
Gary Joseph Sicard$1,084  $1,084
Bruce Westerman  $1,066$1,066
Robert Hurt$1,015  $1,015
Andrew Rocky Raczkowski$593  $593
Bill Flores$491  $491
Oppose $154,900$354,566$509,466
Thad Cochran  $209,328$209,328
Barack Obama $154,900 $154,900
Elizabeth Colbert Busch  $145,238$145,238
Grand Total$155,516$989,618$943,690$2,088,825

IWF/IWV Anti-Choice Connections

The IWF has never taken a stance on abortion,” executive director Sabrina Schaeffer told Rewire in 2015. [32]

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.” [33]

In July 2014, Heather R. Higgins did an interview for Breitbart London with conservative columnist and climate change denier James Delingpole where she said that IWV and IWF try 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. [34]

Despite their public lack of stance on abortion, Rewired reported 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.” [32]

The Center to Protect Patient Rights (CPPR)—a funder of both IWV and IWF and which previously included Heather Higgins as a board member prior to 2009—has given over $1.4 million to the Susan B. Anthony List, which has as its stated goal to “reduce and ultimately end abortion.” [32]

“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. [32]

Data from the Center for Responsive Politics shows that the IWV also contributed nearly $1 million in the 2014 elections. Rewire noted: “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.” [32]

It also contributed $92,965 to Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst, who was endorsed by Iowa Right to Life and “supports banning all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest, and believes abortion doctors should be held criminally responsible for performing the procedure.” [32]

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. She was one of 21 state senators who supported Senate Joint Resolution 10 in April 2013 which proposed to change Iowa’s Constitution to read “the inalienable right to life of every person at any stage of development shall be recognized and protected.” [30] 

The so-called “personhood amendment” would 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 in place. The Braley ad includes her answer. [31]

I think the provider should be punished if there were a personhood amendment,” Ernst said. [31]

Some potential effects of the personhood amendment could include outlawing abortions even in cases of incest and rape. A local TV ad by the Bruce Braley Campaign emphasized this, noting: [31]

“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.” [31]

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.” [31]

Open Letters

Both IWF and IWV are regular signatories to open letters co-signed by representatives from a wide range of conservative groups. Some examples below:

Stance on Climate Change

September 2019

Independent Women’s Voice director Tammy Bruce posted an article at IWV.org titled “Climate Change Activism: The Left’s New Power Play.” According to Bruce, “Climate activism is a new power-play by the left, taking on a fanatical religious facade making manipulation of its followers even more assured.” [9]

“Climate change fanaticism is a cynical and dangerous distraction, frightening children and adults alike, into believing that those who are opposed to the leftist agenda want the planet to die. The real crimes of asteroids, tsunamis and earthquakes are that they aren’t the fault of humans, and their solutions rely on science, not politics.

“Magically, ‘climate change’ somehow can only be solved if we implement a leftist agenda, casting us back into the stone age. Ending the use of fossil fuels won’t stop an asteroid. Banning the eating of meat won’t make a difference with tsunamis. Banning plastic straws isn’t going to stop the football field-sized asteroid from slamming into Earth. And keeping you from being able to travel on an airplane isn’t going to alert citizens of an impending earthquake.

“The reason the existential threat can only be climate change is because, as designed by its apostles, it’s our fault and requires political action aimed at controlling your entire life. In the meantime, we must decide to stop allowing Hollywood, misled adolescents and political charlatans from distracting us to death with nonsensical political theater.”

July 17, 2018

Heather Higgins of IWV and Carrie L. Lukas of IWF signed onto an anti-carbon-tax pledge (emphasis in original): [17]

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.”

It concludes: “We support the House Concurrent Resolution in opposition to a job-killing carbon tax and urge members to vote for this resolution.

On Renewables

According to its website, IWV opposes mandates or tax subsidies for renewable energy. It links to an IWF article promoting “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels” by Alex Epstein. [10], [11]

“Fossil fuels help the quality of life for all Americans, keeping energy affordable, reliable, as well as keeping down food and other costs and helping job growth. IWV supports policymakers who are committed to reducing artificial barriers to domestic energy production rather than creating costly and unworkable mandates for the usage of renewable energy sources.”

On shale fracking, IWV claims “Comprehensive studies of fracking suggest that there is minimal risk to the environment and to citizens, and that common-sense safety precautions can mitigate those risks.” This runs counter to DeSmog’s prior research on the established risks of oil and gas fracking.

On Trump

October 14, 2016

Heather Higgins wrote a blog post at The Hillsaying that despite his “reprehensible” remarks about the groping and kissing of women, she would vote for Donald Trump because “otherwise I’m stuck with Clinton.” [Heather R. Higgins. “I’m with #WomenWhoVoteTrump, otherwise I’m stuck with Clinton,” The Hill, October 14, 2016. Archived February 12, 2020. Archive.ph URLhttps://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.

In an October 19 Tweet, Higgins commented: “Which is the great disrespect: unsolicited kissing, groping, or being lied to, country corrupted?” 

Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, served on the IWV‘s affiliate IWF 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,” said Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, commenting at the 2016 filing of CMD‘s 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 FECIWV 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.” [27]

IWV versus Obamacare

IWV president and CEO Heather Higgins outlined IWV‘s key role in fighting against Obamacare in February 2012 comments at a CPAC panel. Higgins, who introduced herself as having “no background in health policy” said that “until 2009, the (c)4 wasn’t very active, but it became a vessel for several projects to push back on health care.” [12]

In 2009, IWV became involved with the Scott Brown race in Massachusetts “because we wanted to make this race about health care,” she said. They also launched the “Repeal Pledge” for Obamacare, including television ads and robocalls, as well as several related websites. Among those initiatives was 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.” [12]

IWV also launched the Repeal Coalition in 2011 designed to repeal Obamacare. Higgins suggested women join the Family Research Council, as well as the 60 Plus Association[12]

Gender and Wage Equality

IWV has opposed initiatives like The Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 7), designed to combat pay discrimination in the workplace and part of the effort to address the gender pay gap in the United States. According to IWV: [13]

Oppose the Paycheck Fairness Act IWV

^Screenshot of a call to action from the IWV website

“Leftist groups argue that legislation outlawing wage discrimination, like the Paycheck Fairness Act, is needed to close pay gaps and stop discrimination in the workplace. But that’s not what this bill would do. It is just another bill that sounds good in name only, yet hurts those it is supposed to help.” [13]

IWV claims “We all want women to be protected from workplace discrimination. But that’s not what the Paycheck Fairness Act does.” [13]

Funding

The following is based on data archived by the Conservative Transparency Project combined with review of publicly available 990 forms performed by DeSmog: [14]

View the attached spreadsheet for additional details on Independent Women’s Voice funding by year (.xlsx).

Independent Women’s Voice as Recipient

Donor2009201120122013201520162017Grand Total
Freedom and Opportunity Fund*     $2,000,000$2,000,000$4,000,000
Americans for Tax Reform   $260,000   $260,000
Center to Protect Patient Rights$250,000      $250,000
Judicial Crisis Network    $150,000  $150,000
Annual Fund $80,000     $80,000
PhRMA      $40,000$40,000
National Right to Work Committee  $25,000    $25,000
Investor Protection Inc.  $25,000    $25,000
Abstraction Fund      $1,000$1,000
Grand Total$250,000$80,000$50,000$260,000$150,000 $41,000$4,831,000

*The Freedom and Opportunity Fund was created by Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society, and Trump’s advisor on judicial picks. The group was created in 2016, and in just two years donated $4 million to IWV. The Center for Responsive Politics noted that IWV was vociferous in its defense of Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford, a Stanford professor who knew the justice while he was in prep school. [38]

Independent Women’s Voice as Donor

Recipient20042005200620092011201220132015201720162014Grand Total
American Commitment          $1,350,000$1,350,000
DonorsTrust          $950,000$950,000
Independent Women’s Voice   $250,000$80,000$50,000$260,000$150,000$41,000  $831,000
Let Freedom Ring          $493,000$493,000
Independent Women’s Forum$50,000$75,000$36,568        $161,568
The Club for Growth       $25,000 $25,000 $50,000
Grand Total$50,000$75,000$36,568$250,000$80,000$50,000$260,000$175,000$41,000$25,000$2,793,000$3,835,568
Recipient200420052006Grand Total
Independent Women’s Forum$50,000$75,000$36,568$161,568

Investigation by CMD‘s PR Watch found that, in January 2010, more than 89% of IWF‘s donors for Scott Brown’s special election in the Senate were men, with the largest reported funder identified as investment fund manager Foster Friess. [7]

990 Forms

Key People

Board of Directors

Name200420052006200920102011201220132014201520162017201820192020Description
Heather R. Higgins   YYYYYYYYYYYYCEO
Midge Decter   YYY YYYYYYYY 
Tammy Bruce           YYYYPresident
Carrie L. Lukas          YYY  Vice President
Peter Lips          YYY  Treasurer
Carol T. Crawford YYY           Director
Michelle D. Bernard YYY           President, CEO, and Director
Ron CrawfordY  Y            
Regina Truslow   Y           Secretary/Treasurer
Nancy PfotenhauerYYY            President/Director
Arianne MasseyYY             Treasurer

Board of Directors Emeritae

Senior Fellows

Name20182020
Beverly GossageYY
Lisa BootheYY

Staff

Name2009201020112012201320152016201720182020Description
Carrie L. LukasYYYYYYYYYYVice President
Charlotte HaysYYYYYYYYYYSenior Policy Analyst
Ashley B. Carter     YYYYYDirector of External Relations
Hadley Heath Manning     YYYYYPolicy Director
Heather N. Madden     YYYYYDirector of Operations and Policy Research
Julie Gunlock     YYYYYSenior Policy Analyst
Natalie Le     YYYYYDevelopment Associate
Victoria R. Coley     YYYYYVice President of Communications
Somerlyn Cothran       YYYSenior Vice President for Development
Casidy McMeans        YYDevelopment Associate
Patrice Lee Onwuka        YYSenior Policy Analyst
Sekayi Stephens        YYGraphic Designer
Tammy Bruce        YYPresident
Cassie Alsfeld         YSenior Digital Marketing Advisor
Jamie Whitefield         YInvestor Relations Coordinator
Amber Schwartz     YYYY Director of Outreach
Betsy Pearson        Y Communications & Staff Assistant
Caroline Phelps        Y Senior Manager of Communications
Ericka Andersen Sylvester        Y Digital Marketing Director
Celia Meyer     YYY  Communications Associate
Lauren Rubio       Y  Director of Donor Relations
Lauren Zelt       Y  Campaign Manager
Sabrina L. SchaefferYYYYYYY   Executive Director
Debbie LeHardy     Y    National Development Officer
Michele Vogt     Y    Digital Director
Hadley Heath YYYY     Policy Analyst
Nicole Neily   Y      Senior Fellow
Donna Wiesner KeeneYYY       Senior Fellow
Nicole Kurokawa YY        
Carol Eberly  Y       Director of Communications and Media Relations Strategy
Christina Jamison Y         
Allison KasicY          
Amy WatsonY          
Charlotte AllenY          
Lisa SchiffrenY          
Princella SmithY          
Heather R. HigginsYYYYYYYYYYCEO
Michelle D. BernardY         President, CEO, and Director

Highest Paid Employees

The following is according to values listed in publicly available 990 forms:

Name2004200520062009201020112012201320142015201620172018Grand TotalDescription
Heather R. Higgins   $94,375  $198,500$128,500$226,000$126,000$308,500$311,000 $1,392,875CEO
Somerlyn Cothran           $284,636$236,000$520,636Senior Vice President for Development
Carrie L. Lukas          $51,600$89,407$22,200$163,207Vice President
Lauren Rubio           $124,519 $124,519Director of Donor Relations
Peter Lips          $40,300$47,800$36,358$124,458Treasurer
Tammy Bruce           $3,000$102,916$105,916President
Michelle D. Bernard $21,448 $30,000         $51,448President, CEO, and Director
Nancy Pfotenhauer$521$18,817           $19,338President/Director
Arianne Massey $7,415           $7,415Treasurer
Regina Truslow   $1,787         $1,787Secretary/Treasurer
Grand Total$521$47,680 $126,162  $198,500$128,500$226,000$126,000$400,400$860,362$397,474$2,511,599 

Actions

February 4, 2020

IWV expressed strong opposition to the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (HR 2474), a bill that would strengthen unions and workers’ ability to organize in the United States. The bill would also create penalties for employers that violate federal labor laws by retaliating against workers attempting to unionize. IWV portrayed the bill as “not only anti-worker, but also anti-woman.” [15], [16]

June 10, 2019

IWV‘s 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 Kellyanne Conway as examples. [39]

July 19, 2018

Heather Higgins, CEO of IWV, as well as Carrie L. Lukas of IWF, signed onto an anti-carbon-tax pledge. “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) [17]

May 15, 2018

IWV signed on to a coalition letter suggesting amendments to H.R. 1136, the FDA Deeming Authority Clarification Act of 2017 in order to combat what it describes as an “onerous and retroactive FDA pre-approval process” for electronic cigarettes and other vaping products. [18]

“Changing the grandfathered date, as the Cole-Bishop bill would do, will enable the FDA to continue regulating newly-deemed tobacco products without having to take sweeping enforcement action that will remove thousands of life-saving products from the market,” the letter claims. [18]

November 28, 2017 – May 15, 2018

IWV, represented by Heather Higgins, signed a 2017 coalition letter to Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell urging for “eliminating the Schedule B form for 501(c) organizations that contain sensitive identifiable information on contributors to those 501(c) organizations.” The letter suggests these changes under the pretext of protecting “First Amendment freedoms of speech and association.” Such an action would further obscure information for the funding of groups like both IWV and IWF, making them exempt from outside scrutiny as to their funding sources. [19]

They also signed a similar coalition letter to President Donald Trump and 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,” that letter read. [20]

November 1, 2016

The Center for Media and Democracy filed an official FEC complaint against the Independent Women’s Voice, arguing IWV had spent millions of dollars electing GOP candidates while failing to register as a political committee. The complaint argues that IWV‘s primary purpose is to influence federal elections, which would be in violation of the rules allowing it to operate as a nonprofit. [27]

We are calling on the FEC to investigate IWV, rule that it must disclose its operations as a political committee, and impose penalties for the group’s evasion of disclosure in the past three election cycles,” said Arn Pearson, CMD’s general counsel. [27]

Specifically, the complaint alleges IWV failed to disclose $250,000 in independent expenditures on behalf of Scott Brown in the 2010 special election to fill the Massachusetts U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of Senator Ted Kennedy. [27]

Below is a summary of the complaint’s allegations, via CMD[27]

  • IWV’s spending has soared during federal election years, but the organization has only reported a relatively small percentage of its expenses to the FEC. IWV’s 2010 spending was eight times greater than 2009 spending; 2012 spending was five times greater than 2011 spending; and 2014 spending was more than double 2013 spending.
  • IWV’s president has boasted publicly about the group’s electoral purpose, political awards, and success rate, detailing how IWV’s polling and message testing operations are used to develop ads and robocalls that move targeted swing voters and win races. IWV has made reportable expenditures in dozens of House, Senate, and presidential races since 2010, but reports that it spends $0 on lobbying.
  • “In the 2010 Mark Sanford race, IWV touted its work as ‘the only independent expenditure of significant size on the winning side of the ledger’ including ‘4 days of [message testing]’ that accounted for $250,000 in spending the last week of the campaign. IWV only reported $160,287 for political advertising and live GOTV calls, but did not report its extensive message testing.
  • IWV boasted about partnering with Let Freedom Ring on a $7.4 million online ad buy targeting women against Barack Obama in 2012, but only reported spending $154,900 on the presidential race to the FEC.
  • IWV claimed it spent approximately $250,000 on radio advertisements and robocalls in support of Scott Brown in the 2010 Senate race, but failed to report any of those independent expenditures.
  • “Higgins has paid herself a $100,000 bonus in each of the last two election years, for total compensation of $226,000 in 2014, almost double the average CEO salary for nonprofits of IWV’s size.”

View the full complaint below, via CMD on DocumentCloud:

May 18, 2016

Heather Higgins was a signatory to a full page color advertisement in The New York Times titled “Abuse of Power” that was paid for by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The ad featured 43 signatories responding to state investigations into Exxon’s awareness and denial of anthropogenic climate change, describing it as an affront to free speech rights in America. Sabrina Schaeffer of the IWF was also a signatory. [40]

The Climate Investigations Center reported that signatories of the letter 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. [41]

May 9, 2016

Heather Higgins, representing IWV, signed on to an open letter to Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe urging that the EPA‘s Ozone Standard be re-written to be laxer for the benefit of industries like oil and gas. [21]

“By making the ozone standard stricter, the EPA has made it significantly harder for these counties to be in compliance and ignores their hard work at meeting the prior standard,” the letter claimed. “The ozone regulation places a tremendous burden on communities across America.” [21]

Carrie Lukas of the IWF was also a signatory, with a total of 60 conservative groups signing on. [21]

November 2015

Higgins delivered a speech at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 2015 Restoration Weekend. View the full video on Vimeo, and transcribed speech at Frontpage Mag. During that interview, Higgins revealed some strategy behind IWV‘s messaging and “neutral” branding: [28]

Heather Higgins from DHFC on Vimeo.

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

Victory Media Group and Antietam Communications, for work they conducted on behalf of the Independent Women’s Voice, 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. [29]

IWV‘s work in South Carolina’s District 1 Special Congressional Election was recognized for helping push the win of Governor Mark Sanford “despite all predictions” over Elizabeth Colbert Busch. [29]

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.”[29]

Higgins herself received an award for “Campaign & Elections Most Influential People.”[29]

November 9, 2013

Higgins appeared on the Hugh Hewitt Show to discuss the launch of MyCancellation.com—a website created to collect names of people who had their health insurance cancelled under Obamacare to push for a repeal. [42]

Higgins also appeared on Fox News one day earlier to discuss the initiative: [43]

2013

The Independent Women’s Voice boasted that it played a “unique and critical role” in Mark Sanford’s win in a special election in South Carolina’s 1st District when IWV spent about $250,000 in the last week of the campaign. [22]

April 23, 2013

Heather Higgins, representing IWV, along with Phil Kerpen of American Commitment and Dean Clancy of Freedomworks, among others, signed on to an open letter supporting H.R. 1549 “Helping Sick Americans Now Act.” As the letter outlines, the acts primary purpose is the defunding of Obamacare: [23]

“We fully support repealing – and short of that fully defunding – ObamaCare, and in a perfect world that is what we’d have already done and would do again tomorrow. […] To be clear: this bill defunds Obamacare.” [23]

June 2010

James and Heather Higgins were listed as “participants” on an uncovered list of attendees of a Koch fundraising event in Aspen, Colorado. [37]

February 2010

Higgins spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). See video via C-SPAN. [44]

Projects

Contact & Address

According to the IWV website, as of 2020: [24]

Independent Women’s Voice
4 Weems Lane, #312
Winchester, VA 22601

Phone: 202.807.9986

Press inquiries are directed to Caroline Phelps, [email protected]@[email protected][24]

The above contact information is identical to that of the Independent Women’s Forum. [25]

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) offers a different address for the committee registered as the Independent Women’s Voice. Bloomberg lists this address as belonging to the Independent Womens Voice PAC. [8][26]

4400 JENIFER ST NW, SUITE 240

WASHINGTON, DC 20015

Social Media

Resources

  1. WHO WE ARE,” Independent Women’s Voice. Archived February 4, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/tXwws
  2. Joan 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/wip/PCWso
  3. Calvin Sloan, Kim Haddow, and Lisa Graves. “Independent Women’s Forum and Independent Women’s Voice Use ‘Independent’ Brand to Push Right-Wing Agenda to Women Voters,” The Center for Media and Democracy, August 17, 2016.
  4. Kim Barker, Theodoric Meyer. “The Dark Money Man: How Sean Noble Moved the Kochs’ Cash into Politics and Made Millions,” ProPublica, February 14, 2014. Archived May 28, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttp://archive.fo/YB2Ah
  5. Brendan Fischer. “’Americans for Job Security’ Targets WI GOP Senate Race, from the Shadows,” PR Watch, August 10, 2012. Archived February 5, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/wip/C0hZx
  6. Nancy Pfotenhauer,” Americans for Prosperity. Archived May 22, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/FZrcx
  7. Lisa Graves. “The Independent “Women’s” Voice? Most Known Donors Are Men,” PR Watch, August 24, 2016. Archived February 4, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/wip/T742C
  8. INDEPENDENT WOMEN‘S VOICE (ID: C90011115), Federal Election Commission. Accessed February 5, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.
  9. Tammy Bruce. “CLIMATE CHANGE ACTIVISM: THE LEFT‘S NEW POWER PLAY,” Independent Women’s Voice. Archived February 4, 2020. Tweeted by IWV on September 25, 2019. Archive.ph URLhttps://archive.ph/wip/paJfg
  10. ENERGY POLICY,” Independent Women’s Voice. February 4, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/WdKBR
  11. Charlotte Hays. “It’s Time to Make the Moral Case for Fossil Fuels,” Independent Women’s Forum, December 2, 2014. Archived February 4, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/qkr8l
  12. IWV PRESIDENT & CEO HEATHER HIGGINSREMARKS TO CPAC PANEL ON OBAMACARE,” Independent Women’s Voice, February 2012. Archived February 5, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/Y129u
  13. Tell Your Reps the Paycheck Fairness Act Isn’t Fair and Won’t Create Equal Pay,Independent Women’s Voice. Archived February 6, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/zwQZU
  14. Independent Women’s Voice,Conservative Transparency. Search performed February 4, 2020.
  15. IWV Strongly Opposes the PRO Act” (PDF), Independent Women’s Voice, February 4, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.
  16. Congress’s most ambitious attempt to strengthen unions in years is set for a House vote next week,” The Washington Post, January 29, 2020. Archived February 5, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/tRmAw
  17. 41 Conservative Groups Urge Support for Scalise/McKinley Anti-Carbon Tax Resolution,” MacIver Institute, July 19, 2018. Archived February 4, 2020. Archive.ph URLhttps://archive.ph/l8oak
  18. COALITION LETTER: H.R. 1136, THE FDA DEEMING AUTHORITY CLARIFICATION ACT OF 2017,” Independent Women’s Voice, May 15, 2018. Archived February 6, 2020. Archive.ph URL:https://archive.ph/wip/u5flS
  19. Dear Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell” (PDF), Center for Individual Freedom, November 28, 2017. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. 
  20. COALITION LETTER: ELIMINATION OF SCHEDULE B FORM FILING REQUIREMENT” (PDF), Center for Individual Freedom, May 15, 2018. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. 
  21. 60 CONSERVATIVE ORGANIZATIONS TO CONGRESSREFORM THE EPA‘S OZONE STANDARD TO SAVE AMERICAN JOBS,” Independent Women’s Voice, May 9, 2016. Archived February 5, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/slhNr
  22. IWV‘S UNIQUE AND CRITICAL ROLE IN MARK SANFORD‘S VICTORY,” Independent Women’s Voice. Archived February 5, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/wip/38DSq
  23. LETTER TO U.S. HOUSE LEADERS SUPPORTING H.R. 1549, THE HELPING SICK AMERICANS NOW ACT,” Independent Women’s Voice, April 23, 2013. Archived February 5, 2020. Archive.ph URL:https://archive.ph/wip/v2Xu8
  24. CONTACT IWV,” Independent Women’s Voice. Archived February 4, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/mj3mi
  25. Contact IWF,” Independent Women’s Forum. Archived February 4, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/c4z3G
  26. Independent Womens Voice PAC,” Bloomberg. Accessed February 5, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/9gZ4s
  27. ‘Independent’ Women’s Group Backing Trump Skirts Law to Influence Elections,” The Center for Media and Democracy, November 1, 2016. Archived Feb 6, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/BLnEs
  28. HEATHER HIGGINSMOVING THE NEEDLE,” Frontpage Mag, November 30, 2015. Archived February 5, 2020. Archive.ph URLhttps://archive.ph/9g1Oh
  29. (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
  30. William 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#selection-855.0-855.78
  31. Fact checker: Braley hits Ernst on abortion,” The Gazette, September 19, 2014.
  32. Zoe Greenberg. “Major Conservative Women’s Group Hides Anti-Choice Connections,” Rewire, January 20, 2015. Archived February 12, 2020. Archive.ph URL:https://archive.ph/wip/GVAUU
  33. How 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/wip/QUZ9R
  34. James 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/wip/w6qWG
  35. Heather R. Higgins,” Independent Women’s Forum. Archived February 6, 2020. Archive.ph URLhttps://archive.ph/HJ7MY
  36. Heather Higgins,” Alliance for Charitable Reform. Archived February 7, 2020. Archive.ph URL:https://archive.ph/MklVK
  37. Lee 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 URLhttps://archive.ph/wip/nEnrO
  38. New ‘dark money’ group led by Trump judicial adviser tied to network promoting his court picks,” OpenSecrets.org, February 27, 2019. Archived February 14, 2020. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/wip/QZUBu
  39. Who Does the Media Most Want to Silence?” YouTube video uploaded by user “PragerU,” June 10, 2019. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.
  40. CEI Runs “Abuse of Power” Ad In New York Times,” Competitive Enterprise Institute, May 18, 2016. Archived May 31, 2016. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.ph/TGDZK
  41. Competitive Enterprise Institute NYT Ad Signatories Got $10 Million from Exxon,” Climate Investigations Center, May 19, 2016. Archived February 11, 2020. Archive.ph URLhttps://archive.ph/wip/tqM2t
  42. Higgins • MyCancellation.com Giving health cancellations a human face • Hugh Hewitt Show (11.09.13),” IWF, November 9, 2013. Archived .mp4 on file at Desmog.
  43. Higgins • MyCancalletion.com ObamaCare regulations cancel plans • Real Story (11.08.13),” YouTube video uploaded by user “Independent Women’s Forum,” November 14, 2013. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.
  44. Conservative Political Action Conference, Morning Session,“ C-SPAN, February 19, 2010.

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