The Biden administration is facing legal action after a federal anti-terrorism grant program was accused of targeting mainstream conservative groups, including the Heritage Foundation, PragerU, and the Republican National Committee.
The Heritage Foundation Oversight Project filed a lawsuit seeking to compel the Department of Homeland Security to turn over records related to the Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention Grant Program after its Freedom of Information Act requests went unanswered.
Mike Howell, the project’s director, said Wednesday it was a “sad day in America when patriotic citizens have to sue their own government for targeting them.”
The anti-terrorism grant program, which has awarded $70 million since Fiscal 2020, gave $352,019 to a University of Dayton initiative aimed at fighting “domestic violence extremism and hate movements” that linked conservatives and Republicans to neo-Nazis, according to a May report by the conservative watchdog Media Research Center.
The university’s grant application included a “pyramid of far-right radicalization” that listed the RNC, Heritage, Fox News, the Christian Broadcasting Network, the National Rifle Association and others on the bottom tier of a four-level pyramid that topped out with neo-Nazi and white-supremacist groups.
“The subversive element that has taken over the Department of Homeland Security gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to fellow travelers at a university program that labeled us as extremists but illegally refused to comply with the law and turn over documents related to their ridiculous targeting of conservatives,” Mr. Howell said. “We’ve had enough.”
The grant program was used during the Trump administration to combat terrorism, but the MRC report accused the Biden administration of expanding it to include “all forms of terrorism and targeted violence,” meaning “the entire spectrum of the political right and Christians.”
Also included in the pyramid were PragerU, Turning Point USA, Quillette, the American Conservative Union Foundation and other conservative groups, which taken together “represent tens of millions of Americans,” Heritage said.
“We’re taking the weaponized Department of Homeland Security to court,” Mr. Howell said. “They can try explaining to a federal judge why they believe themselves to be above the law and Constitution.”
Awful enough that @DHSgov paid out a $350K grant to an organization that put us and other patriots on this “hate pyramid”
Now they are in open violation of federal law by refusing to turn over records related to this targeting
— Oversight Project (@OversightPR) October 25, 2023
The complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said Heritage filed the FOIA request on May 25, but DHS has yet to produce “any records, responsive or other, in response to this request, nor has it otherwise demonstrated that the requested records are exempt from production.”
“Additionally, DHS has failed to meet the thirty business day time frame to provide a determination,” the filing said.
The department did contact Heritage on Aug. 9, telling the foundation that the search results were “voluminous” and asking it to narrow its time frame and provide additional keywords. Heritage did so, but has not heard back from DHS, the lawsuit said.
The Washington Times has reached out to DHS for comment.
A department spokesperson said in May that the seminar in which the pyramid was used “was not funded, organized, or hosted by the Department of Homeland Security.”
“Similarly, the presented chart was not developed, presented, or endorsed by the Department of Homeland Security, and was not part of any successful grant application to the Department of Homeland Security,” the spokesperson told the New York Post.
President Biden has declared that “white supremacy” is the nation’s greatest domestic-terrorism threat, while Republicans have accused the Justice Department of targeting the administration’s political foes, including parental-rights and pro-life activists.