Bob Heghmann, 70, filed a lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court, saying the national and Virginia Republican parties and some GOP leaders raised millions of dollars in campaign funds while knowing they weren’t going to be able to overturn the law also known as Obamacare.
The GOP “has been engaged in a pattern of Racketeering which involves massive fraud perpetrated on Republican voters and contributors as well as some Independents and Democrats,” the suit said. Racketeering, perhaps better known for use in prosecuting organized crime, involves a pattern of illegal behavior by a specific group.
The lawsuit lists as defendants the Republican National Committee and Virginia’s two national GOP committee members, Morton Blackwell and Cynthia Dunbar, as well as the Republican Party of Virginia and state party Chairman John Whitbeck.
In an email, Blackwell dismissed Heghmann’s complaint as a “frivolous, nuisance suit that should be thrown out of court by any judge.”
In a separate email Dunbar sent to Blackwell that was forwarded to The Virginian-Pilot, Dunbar referred to it as “ridiculous.”
But at the same time, both said they understood where Heghmann was coming from. Blackwell said the suit is a “sign of conservative anger that the Republican-controlled Congress has not yet repealed and replaced Obamacare.”
He argued that “progressives” had taken over the Democratic Party and seemed to lament that “conservatives” had not yet taken over the Republican Party.
“Too few conservatives are willing to invest their time, talent, and money and personally participate inside the Republican Party,” Blackwell said. “A Republican majority will mean a conservative majority if and when a sufficient number of conservatives figure out why the success of their principles depends on their personal involvement in local, state and national Republican Party committees and in party nomination contests.”
A spokesman for the state party did not respond to a request for comment.
Heghmann’s suit comes a week after the Senate failed by one vote to approve a bill to repeal the ACA.
It argues that the national GOP raised more than $735 million and Virginia’s party more than $20 million from 2009 to 2016 in large part by promising to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Heghmann said he has standing to sue the GOP because has been a contributor. Federal Election Commission records show he gave a total of $875 to New Hampshire’s GOP, but no donations were noted for the national party or Virginia. He was a Granite State resident for more than a decade – and a Trump campaign volunteer there – before moving to the Beach last year.
He wants the party to either return campaign contributions to donors or exert pressure on Republican legislators to repeal the law under threat of losing GOP financial support. He acknowledged that members of the House of Representatives and Senate cannot be sued for failing to abide by campaign promises but argued that political parties don’t have the same protections.
“If the candidates don’t deliver, it’s incumbent on the RNC to go to the candidate and say, ‘You can’t do this,’ ” Heghmann said before filing the suit, referring to the Republican National Committee.
Heghmann’s suit contends that Republicans knew the GOP wouldn’t be able to repeal the health care law after President Barack Obama’s re-election in November 2012 but continued to raise money on the promise it would.
As evidence, he pointed to comments by then-House Speaker John Boehner just after Obama’s re-election.
“It’s pretty clear that the president was re-elected. Obamacare is the law of the land,” the Ohio Republican said when asked if the GOP-controlled House would push again for a repeal of the 2010 health care law. “There certainly may be parts of it we believe need to be changed. Maybe we’ll do that. No decisions at this point.”
Heghmann’s suit states: “In making this statement Speaker Boehner was sending a message to House Republicans and others that Repeal was not going to happen. He was trying to put the issue to rest. … Nevertheless, the Republican Party continued to use the mails, wires and interstate commerce to solicit donations and votes to secure House and Senate majorities and ultimately the Presidency.
“Now that the Republican Party has won the House, the Senate and the Presidency the effort it is making to Repeal and Replace Obamacare is itself a Fraud upon Republican Voters and Donors.”
The “pattern of racketeering” extended to the party’s response to Trump’s candidacy, his suit states. The GOP units raised money to push the health care repeal or Trump’s promises but “never intended to implement the Trump Agenda or fulfill the promises of the Republican Platform.”