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DHS sued over college program that linked conservative groups to neo-Nazis

The Heritage Foundation is suing the Department of Homeland Security for withholding information about a grant of more than $350,000 it gave to a university program that linked the conservative group, Fox News and the Republican Party to militant neo-Nazis, according to a copy of the filing exclusively obtained by The Post.

Heritage filed the civil suit on Tuesday in Washington, DC, federal court, alleging that DHS failed to comply with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about $352,109 provided to the University of Dayton for research on “domestic violence extremism and hate movements.”

“DHS repeatedly failed to respond to Plaintiffs’ FOIA Request seeking information about how DHS views Heritage,” lawyers Joseph Edlow and Samuel Dewey stated in the filing.

“Plaintiffs are thus left with no remedy but this lawsuit to determine if DHS in facts [sic] believes Heritage, Fox News, and others to be worthy of being lumped in the same group as Nazis.”

The conservative group alleged two federal violations after DHS failed to provide any responsive records and withheld non-exempt records following the Heritage FOIA request on May 25, adding that the typical 30-day window for a reply had been ignored.

Heritage’s attorneys said they hope the lawsuit will determine whether the group had “been targeted by DHS” as it had been compared to “some of the most foul and noxious organizations in the United States.”

A spokesperson for DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The agency told Heritage on Aug. 9 that the FOIA search results were “voluminous” and asked for the group to narrow their request.

Homeland Security approved the funding in fiscal year 2022 as part of its Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention Grant Program, saying the money would help “develop and implement modules on the risks of and protective factors for radicalization to violence related to media literacy and online critical thinking for students.”

Dayton’s PREVENTS-OH program took the grant after holding a seminar at the university’s Human Rights Center that featured a “pyramid of far-right radicalization” connecting mainstream conservative organizations with neo-Nazis.

Heritage, Fox News, the Republican National Committee and the National Rifle Association, among others, were included on the same pyramid with known hate organizations such as the neo-Nazi paramilitary group The Base and the white supremacist website The Daily Stormer.

Breitbart News, PragerU, Turning Point USA, the Christian Broadcasting Network, the American Conservative Union and the nonpartisan outlet Quillette were also placed on the pyramid next to the far-right groups.

Michael Loadenthal, a researcher from the University of Cincinnati, presented the pyramid during a November 2021 seminar at the Ohio university’s Human Rights Center, which also featured a DHS employee discussing the agency’s Center for Prevention Programs and Partnership in a virtual gathering.

The seminar was later cited in University of Dayton researchers’ grant proposal for Homeland Security program funding, which the university received in September 2022.

A spokesperson for the agency previously stressed to The Post: “This seminar 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 rep added.

“DHS does not profile, target, or discriminate against any individual for exercising their constitutional rights protected by the First Amendment.”

The Media Research Center first obtained the documents on the seminar in May and pointed out that Dayton’s program page was “quickly scrubbed” after reports on its contents.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has made the Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention Grant Program a “high priority” of his tenure, according to another internal memo obtained by MRC.

During his time in office, President Biden has overseen more than 80 grants at DHS to combat domestic extremism, shelling out a total of $40 million in taxpayer money.