The national libertarian youth activism organization, Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), has assembled a network of extreme conservative state legislators as part of its Hazlitt Coalition. Pulling its members from legislatures across the country, the Hazlitt Coalition’s Colorado delegation includes Reps. Scott Bottoms (R-Colorado Springs), Ken DeGraaf (R-Colorado Springs), Brandi Bradley (R-Littleton), and Stephanie Luck (R-Penrose).

DeGraaf at the 2022 Hazlitt Summit hosted by the Young Americans for Liberty Foundation in Orlando. Photo: Gage Skidmore

In 2022, Bottoms, DeGraaf, and then-Representatives Dave Williams, Kim Random, and Patrick Neville attended the group’s Hazlitt Summit in Orlando, Florida.

The Hazlitt Coalition’s website describes the group as “a growing network of 300+ liberty legislators from nearly 40 states supported by full-time YAL staff advocating for principled policies that free markets, protect civil liberties, and promote peace,” but its members are largely engaged in conservative culture wars, pushing legislation to discriminate against trans people, restrict abortion access, and resist legislative measures to reduce gun violence.

In Colorado, Bottoms, DeGraaf, and Bradley most recently led Republican opposition in the Colorado House to two proposed name change bills, highlighted by contentious debate and anti-transgender rhetoric. Bottoms has introduced legislation for the past two years to ban abortion and charge patients and providers with murder. During a January town hall, DeGraaf and Bottoms warned against Democratic efforts to keep guns out of designated “sensitive spaces” such as public parks, community centers, rallies, protests, churches, and amusement parks.

Bottoms holding a sword.

The Colorado lawmakers are not alone. Iowa Republican and Hazlitt Coalition member Rep. Jeff Shipley introduced legislation this year to repeal civil protections for transgender people. Connecticut Hazlitt Coalition member Rep. Mark Anderson penned an op-ed earlier this month opposing trans students participation in sports and gender-affirming care for minors. Oklahoma’s Hazlitt Coalition member, Sen. Nathan Dahm, gained national attention for arguing about gun policy with Jon Stewart. Dahm has introduced legislation this year to place more monitoring requirements and financial obligations on journalists and media outlets, including licensure, $1 million in liability insurance, and an eight-hour “propaganda-free” safety training developed by PragerU. Dahm was recently described as “terroristic” by Oklahoma Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat after Dahm’s attempt to filibuster on the floor to slow down proceedings and prevent numerous bills from being heard before a midnight deadline to pass legislation.

Alaska’s Hazlitt Coalition member, Rep. David Eastman, was removed from his Judiciary Committee assignment in January. According to Alaska Public Media, “Eastman’s tenure in the House has been marked by controversy. He’s been censured by the House three times, most recently for asking in a committee meeting whether a child’s death from abuse could save the government money. Eastman argued the question was rhetorical. Eastman was also kicked out of the House minority caucus and removed from committees in 2022. Tilton, who at that time was the minority leader, said Eastman had been ‘disruptive.’ Eastman is also a lifetime member of the Oath Keepers, the militia group whose leader, Stewart Rhodes, is serving an 18-year federal prison sentence for organizing portions of the Jan. 6 attack.”

Funded by groups like the Cato Institute and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, YAL is focused on school choice initiatives. “As a $13 million organization, YAL plans to invest significant resources into the effort, mobilizing thousands of student activists and supporting key members of its Hazlitt Coalition as they advance school choice bills in state legislatures,” read a 2023 news release. “In 2023, school choice and educational freedom are two of the top policy priorities for YAL, which aims to make over 100 million Americans more free this year alone. To that end, Hazlitt members have already filed hundreds of pieces of pro-liberty legislation, and many will be passed. Last year, the Hazlitt Coalition helped make 91 million Americans more free, supporting parental and student rights in the process.”

According to a recent op-ed from Leonard Witt, the former executive director of the Center for Sustainable Journalism at Kennesaw State University, in New Hampshire, seven of the ten House Education Committee members are listed as being Hazlitt coalition members and use its talking points. YAL paid stipends to five of them to attend its conference last year outside of Orlando. One, Rep. Alicia Lekas, wrote on her expense form that part of the reason for the trip was “to learn tactics.”

This year, Bradley is sponsoring legislation to restrict the political activity of teachers unions, a longtime goal of conservative education activists. Bradley has been vocal about her opposition to the proposed Charter School Accountability bill.

“We don’t want the government telling our children where they can and cannot go to school,” wrote Bradley in response to a post from Rep. Lorena Garcia (D-Denver), a sponsor of the Charter School Accountability bill. ”Keep your hands off of our kids and their education!!!! I think you’re just mad that charter schools won’t carry your false narratives. And as a parent of two children in a charter school, I will fight you tooth and nail.”