Honest Elections Project (HEP) is a dark-money voter suppression organization founded in early 2020 as a legal alias for The 85 Fund. Before 2019, The 85 Fund was known as the Judicial Education Project (JEP), a nonprofit tied to conservative activist Leonard Leo, who is largely responsible for the steady appointment of right-wing judges to the federal judiciary (including the Supreme Court) during the Trump administration.
“By having a hand in both voting litigation and the judges on the federal bench, this network could create a system where conservative donors have an avenue to both oppose voting rights and appoint judges to back that effort,” Open Secrets reported in 2020.
HEP is almost entirely funded by DonorsTrust, the dark-money pass-through fund that GOP megadonors such as Charles Koch and the DeVos family use to make nonprofit contributions. Other major donors to JEP include Vanguard Charitable, a donor-advised fund sponsor, and the Ed Uihlein Family Foundation, the charity of lead GOP benefactors, Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein.
In the run-up to the 2020 election, HEP was active in the GOP’s all-out assault on voting rights and in helping to spread the Big Lie. It threatened election officials with lawsuits if they didn’t purge voter rolls and filed briefs supporting voting restrictions in Wisconsin, Texas, Virginia, and Nevada, among other places.
In 2022, HEP filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in relation to a redistricting case in North Carolina in which the plaintiff, the NAACP, alleges that the state legislature failed to take race into account when creating new congressional districts.
The Big Lie
- After Wisconsin’s primary in April 2020, HEP ran a national TV ad claiming that the results had been rigged through mail-in ballots and an expanded early voting period.
- In June 2020, HEP participated in a call organized by the American Legislative Exchange Council on mail-in voting.
- In October 2020, HEP filed lawsuits to block the expansion of voting by mail and other efforts to increase voter participation.
- In August 2020, HEP conducted a webinar for the far-right State Policy Network (SPN) focused on messaging around voter fraud.
- After the November election, HEP filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that a Pennsylvania court that ruled on pandemic-related adjustments to voting procedures had encroached on the legislature’s authority to supervise elections. While the effort didn’t succeed, one election-law professor described such moves as “‘powder kegs’ that threaten American democracy.”