The Heritage Foundation is a right-wing think tank that claims to pursue an agenda of formulating and promoting conservative public policies based on the principles of "free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense."
According to National Review editor William A. Rusher, "If any conservative organization deserves pride of place, surely it is the Heritage Foundation. Launched in 1973 by Paul Weyrich, Joseph Coors, and Edwin Feulner, it set out to provide the conservative movement with an aggressive and competent think tank that would provide the sort of policy guidance... that such organizations as the Brookings Institution had long furnished for liberals." The thinking that occurs at the Heritage Foundation involves finding a saleable rationale for preconceived right-wing positions. Its resources helped engineer the success of Newt Gingrich and the Contract with America. The Heritage Foundation issues "backgrounder" reports that give a stamp of credibility to misinformation and errors of fact
The Heritage Foundation specializes in funding a vast network of right-wing "experts" and "scholars" that act as apologists for anti-labor, anti-democracy and anti-privacy public policy. Its trustees include Richard Scaife, Steve Forbes, Midge Decter and Holly Coors.
Established: In 1973 by Joseph Coors (of Coors Beer) and Paul Weyrich.
President/Executive Director: Dr. Edwin Feulner
Finances: $38 million 2000 annual budget; $107 million overall assets
Affiliated with: www.townhall.com, the Foundation's conservative internet portal
Publications: annual report, monthly newsletter “Insider,” publishes numerous detailed public policy papers for congress, average of 10 or more a month.
Heritage Foundation’s mission statement says it is “to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.”. It is the biggest right wing conservative think tank in Washington, DC. and researches, publishes, lectures on, and markets conservative public policy.
Heritage Foundation’s main role is to organize right-wing conservatives on domestic and foreign policy issues, and its publications are distributed to many thousands of people, including members of congress, congressional aides and staff, journalists, and major donors.
History and Background:
The Heritage Foundation, which officially came into being in I973, sought to influence Congress and the White House not simply over the long term, but on a daily basis. Except in the strictest legal sense, it was a lobby. It did not produce "scholarly" works initially, but quick takes on policy and op-ed pieces. And it was the coordinated expression of a political faction within the Republican Party. Yet, like The Brookings Institute, it sought to present itself as a think tank. Instead of presenting its experts as being above politics, it marketed them as a counterbalance to the views of Brookings and to prevailing "liberal" opinion in Washington.
Heritage was the invention of two Capitol Hill political aides, Paul Weyrich and Edward Feulner. In the spring of I97I, two days after the Senate had defeated the Nixon administration's plan to fund a supersonic transport plane (SST), Weyrich, who was working for Colorado Republican Senator Gordon Allott, received an analysis of the SST plan from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). When Weyrich called AEI to find out why the report had arrived late, he was told that William Baroody (the executive vice president of AEI), was still fearful of the IRS after a two year investigation of improprieties stemming from AEI's collaboration in the 1964 Goldwater campaign, and didn't want to be seen as influencing the actual vote. At breakfast the next day, Weyrich expressed his frustration to Feulner, and the two men decided the Republicans needed a research organization that would have what Feulner later called "quick response capability."
That fall, Weyrich heard from Allott that beer magnate Joseph Coors wanted to help stem the tide of "antibusiness sentiment" in the country. Coors had been "stirred," he explained later, by Lewis Powell's call to arms against the critics of free enterprise and had become convinced that business was "ignoring" a crisis. Weyrich persuaded Coors to give $250,000 to begin an analysis and research association on Capitol Hill which they creatively names Analysis and Research Inc. After a year of squabbling at the new association, Coors told Weyrich to find a new venue, and Weyrich and Feulner turned to the Schuchman Foundation, named after a young conservative who had died at age twenty-seven. Heritage was started as part of this foundation and then, when it received tax-exempt status, broke off on its own. In the process, Weyrich and Feulner also recruited a new financial angel; Richard Mellon Scaife.
Scaife, an heir to the Mellon fortune, had been a financial backer of Barry Goldwater and of AEI during the I960s. After his mother, Sarah Mellon Scaife, died in I965, he and his sister inherited control over the Sarah Mellon Scaife Foundation, the Carthage Foundation, and the Allegheny Foundation. From I965 to I973, he fought with his sister, who wanted to spend the foundations' money on art and population control, but in I973, Scaife became chairman of the Sarah Mellon Scaife Foundation and won control over the family funds, which he then used to back new right, conservative, and business organizations and publications. Scaife initially put up $900,000 for Heritage-more than triple Coors's contribution-and over the next eight years contributed at least $3.8 million.
In I973, Heritage was incorporated with Weyrich as its director and Forrest Rettgers of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) as its chairman. Weyrich only lasted a year. In I977, Feulner was persuaded to leave the House Republican Study Group, of which he was the director, to become the president of Heritage. Edward Feulner was like William Baroody: an extraordinary promoter and fund-raiser who appreciated the power of ideas. In his first eighteen months at Heritage, he raised its annual budget from less than one million dollars to $82.8 million. Feulner was not only able to lure foundations like Smith Richardson and Olin, but also Fortune 500 corporations and banks, including General Motors, Ford Motors, Procter and Gamble, Chase Manhattan Bank, Dow Chemical, the Reader’s Digest Association, Mobil Oil, Pfizer, Sears and Smith Kline Corporation. One of Feulner's biggest catches was oilman Edward Noble and his Samuel Robert Noble Foundation. When Noble later became the head of the Synthetic Fuels Corporation in the Reagan administration, Heritage suddenly fell silent about the waste generated by this ill-begotten agency.
Feulner also established Heritage's political style. Unlike the AEI, it defined itself openly as a "conservative" organization. With few exceptions, Heritage did not hire recognized scholars, but Ph.D. candidates and aspiring journalists and publicists to produce "backgrounders" on current legislative battles and foreign policy issues, which were then mailed (and later faxed) to politicians, public officials, and journalists. The backgrounders were article-length. Heritage vice president Herb Berkowitz later explained that Feulner "wanted products to meet a briefcase test, so a busy executive can throw it into his briefcase and read it in an hour or less." Unlike the AEI legislative analyses, Heritage's backgrounders took sides and recommended action. Journalist Burton Pines, whom Feulner made director of research and later vice president, said, "We're not here to be some kind of Ph.D. committee giving equal time. Our role is to provide conservative public-policy makers with arguments to bolster our side."
In Feulner's first years, Heritage was probably more successful at marketing itself than marketing its recommendations. It was less important than AEI in altering the debate over business and the economy in Washington. Other organizations, such as Paul Nitze's Committee on the Present Danger, played a more decisive role in attacking the Carter administration's foreign policy toward the Soviet Union. But when the Reagan administration and Senate Republicans took power in I980, Heritage, with its backlog of backgrounders, which it synthesized into a large volume, Mandate for Leadership 1980, was best positioned of all the new institutions to play a decisive role in Congress and the White House. By I985, its annual budget would equal that of AEI and Brookings.
In 1980 the Heritage Foundation published a 3000-page, 20-volume set of policy recommendations, Mandate for Leadership, which was presented to Attorney General Ed Meese a week after Reagan's election. Meese was quoted as saying that "the Reagan Administration will rely heavily on the Heritage Foundation.” These recommendations included: rollback of minority programs, dramatic increase in military spending, and cutting taxes. In 1985 Heritage claimed that the Reagan administration’s policy reflected 60 to 65 percent of HF’s policy measures.
In 1984, Heritage published "Mandate for Leadership II," which recommended privatization of social security and denial of special educational funding for the handicapped.
More recently Heritage has organized in opposition to “Earth Day” on April 23rd. Heritage takes credit for much of President Bush’s policy, both domestic and foreign, referring to Bush’s policies as “straight out of the Heritage play book.”
Prominent Past and Present Heritage Foundation Personnel
- Richard V. Allen
- Stuart Butler
- James Carafano
- Elaine Chao
- Lawrence Di Rita
- Edwin J. Feulner
- Michael J. Gerson
- John Hillen
- Scott A. Hodge
- Robert Huberty
- Michael Johns
- Antonio Martino
- David M. Mason
- Edwin Meese III
- Terrence Scanlon
- Henry D. Sokolski
- Ronald Utt
- Bridgett Wagner
- Walter E. Williams
- List of Heritage Foundation personnel, namebase.org, 1986.
- Ed Meese was Reagan’s Attorney General.
- William Bennett was Reagan’s Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and Secretary of Education, and President Bush Sr.’s "drug czar."
- Ed Feulner was a consultant for the Reagan administration, serving as chairman of the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.
High profile right wing board members
- Richard Scaife
- Joseph Coors
- Holland “Holly” Coors
- Steve Forbes
- Jay Van Andel (co-founder and senior chairman for Amway Corporation)
- Barb Van Andel-Gaby (the vice president of corporate affairs for Amway Corporation).
- Midge Decter
Former Heritage Foundation employees working in the current Bush Administration
- Elaine Chao, Depart of Labor Secretary, formerly a Heritage Distinguished Fellow
- Kay Coles James, Director of the Office of Personnel Management, formerly Heritage’s Citizenship Project director
- Angela Antonelli, Chief Financial Officer of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, formerly Heritage’s director for Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies
- Mark Wilson, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor, formerly HF’s Reseach Fellow
- Alvin Felzenberg, Rumsfield’s “team” at the Department of Defense, formerly HF’s Visiting Fellow
- Gale Norton, Sec. of the Interior, Founder and the National Chair of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (heavily funded by the Heritage Foundation)