Heritage Foundation

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Heritage Foundation
Heritage Foundation logo.PNG
President:Jim DeMint
Chairman:Thomas A. Saunders II
Year created:1973
Affiliated with:Heritage Action for America
The Heritage Foundation is one of the most prominent conservative think tanks in the United States.[1] Founded in 1973, it is based in Washington, D.C., in the United States.

Heritage's stated mission 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."[2]

The Heritage Foundation's initial funding came from political conservative Joseph Coors, co-owner of the Coors Brewing Company.[3] Funding from Coors was later augmented by financial support from billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife. Conservative activist Paul Weyrich was its first head. Since 1977, Heritage's president has been Edwin Feulner, Jr., previously the staff director of the House Republican Study Committee and a former staff assistant to U.S. Congressman Phil Crane.

Until 2001, the Heritage Foundation published Policy Review, a public policy journal, which was then acquired by the Hoover Institution. From 1995 to 2005, the Heritage Foundation ran Townhall.com, a conservative website.[4]

History and major initiatives

Mandate for Leadership

After many years of consumer rights activism against corporate responsibility advocates like Ralph Nader, Heritage's 1981 book of policy analysis, Mandate for Leadership was a landmark in advocacy for corporate rights and limited government. At 1,000-plus pages, Mandate for Leadership offered specific recommendations on policy, budget and administrative action for all Cabinet departments, as well as agencies to be staffed by political appointees in the incoming conservative administration of President Ronald Reagan. In fact, Reagan gave a copy to each of his Cabinet at their first meeting.[5]

Cold War and foreign policy involvement

In the 1980s and early 1990s, the Heritage Foundation was a key architect and advocate of the "Reagan Doctrine," under which the United States government supported anti-Communist resistance movements in such places as Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia and Nicaragua and generally supported global anti-communism during the Cold War. Heritage foreign policy analysts also provided policy guidance to these rebel forces and to dissidents in Eastern bloc nations and Soviet republics.

The foundation was instrumental in advancing President Ronald Reagan's belief that the former Soviet Union was an "evil empire" and that its defeat, not its mere containment, was a realistic foreign policy objective. Heritage also played a key role in building support for Reagan's plans to build an orbital ballistic missile shield, known as the "Strategic Defense Initiative."[5]

Internationally, and in partnership with the Wall Street Journal, Heritage publishes the annual Index of Economic Freedom, which measures a country's freedom in terms of property rights and freedom from government regulation. The factors used to calculate the Index score are corruption in government, barriers to international trade, income tax and corporate tax rates, government expenditures, rule of law and the ability to enforce contracts, regulatory burdens, banking restrictions, labor regulations, and black market activities. Deficiencies lower the score on Heritage's Index.[5]

Free market domestic policies

In domestic policy, Heritage is a proponent of supply-side economics, which holds that reductions in the marginal rate of taxation can spur economic growth.

In 1994, Heritage advised Newt Gingrich and other conservatives on the development of the "Contract with America," which was credited with helping to produce a Republican majority in Congress. The "Contract" was a pact of principles that directly challenged both the political status-quo in Washington and many of the ideas at the heart of the Clinton administration. As such, Heritage is often credited with supplying many of the ideas that ultimately proved influential in ending the Democrats' control of Congress in 1992. Heritage has also worked with Democrats on policy matters over the years, including former U.S. Senator John Breaux and other "blue dog" Democrats.[5]

Heritage's influence is due in part to its decision to publish shorter policy papers that are designed to convey usually complex topics in an executive summary format more likely to be read by governmental officials. Other Washington think tanks historically have produced lengthier publications or book-length works, which Heritage also publishes, but only rarely.

Several Heritage Foundation personnel have served, or gone on to serve, in senior governmental roles, including: Richard V. Allen, L. Paul Bremer, Elaine Chao, Lawrence Di Rita, Michael Johns, John F. Lehman, Edwin Meese, Steve Ritchie, and others.[6]


In 1973, businessman Joseph Coors contributed a quarter-million dollars to start The Heritage Foundation. Since then, money has come from the founders of Amway Corp. and the conservative Bradley, Olin and Scaife foundations. Billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife and other wealthy individuals also have been Heritage Foundation donors.

Heritage has received support from nearly 100 major corporations, including Chase Manhattan Bank, Dow Chemical Company, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, GlaxoSmithKline, Mobil, and Procter & Gamble.[7]


Heritage Foundation lists their main issues on their website. The following is a list of some of those issues and an abbreviated summary of the foundation's position:

  • Agriculture: "Lawmakers should take a hard look at whether farm policies that were created to assist poor family farmers during the Great Depression make any sense in the current era of hugely profitable agribusinesses. They should enact policies that allow farmers to base their crop-planting decisions on market demand, not government subsidies and regulations."[8]
  • Budget and spending: "To restore fiscal health, the federal government should reduce taxes, cut wasteful spending, and reform the massive entitlements."[9]
  • Economy: "Free-market, pro-growth policies are critical to enable our economy to flourish."[10]
  • Education: "Effective education policy includes returning authority to the states and empowering parents with the opportunity to choose a safe and effective education for their children from among public, private, religious, charter, online and home school opportunities."[11]
  • Energy and environment: "Energy and environmental policy is a national priority. Lawmakers should implement a long-term plan that allows free markets to balance supply and demand, ensures reliable and competitively priced energy for the future, and creates incentives for responsible stewardship of the nation's resources and environment."[12]
  • Family and marriage: "The family, centered on marriage, is the basic unit of society. Healthy marriages and families are the foundation of thriving communities. When marriages break down, communities suffer and the role of government tends to expand. Sound public policy places marriage and the family at the center, respecting and guarding the role of this permanent institution."[13]
  • Healthcare: "America's health care financing and insurance systems need major reform. Policymakers should take decisive steps to move today's bureaucracy driven, heavily regulated third-party payment system to a new patient-centered system of consumer choice and real free-market competition. In such a system, individuals and families would make the key decisions and control the flow of dollars."[14]
  • Immigration: "The United States was established on principles that support the welcoming of new residents to our shores to learn and embrace American civic culture and political institutions through the processes of immigration and naturalization. Over the past several decades, however, immigration policy has become skewed, falsely presented as an uncompromising decision between unfettered immigration and none at all."[15]
  • Taxes: "America’s tax code needs reform. It discourages working, saving, investment, and entrepreneurship. It hinders productivity, job growth, international competitiveness, and wage increases. The New Flat Tax, the Heritage Foundation’s tax reform plan, would fix these flaws. Families and businesses would pay a one simple tax with a single tax rate under the plan."[16]
  • Homeland security: "Americans must recommit themselves to living the principles that made this nation safe, free, and prosperous while defending them against attack. The only way to reduce America's vulnerability is to provide persistent, sensible homeland security."[17]

Barred from Republican Study Committee meetings

In August 2013 it was announced that the Republican Study Committee (RSC), a group of 172 conservative House members, barred Heritage Foundation employees from attending its weekly meeting in the Capitol. The conservative think tank has been a presence at RSC meetings for decades and enjoys a close working relationship with the committee and its members. That relationship is now stretched thin, sources say, due to a series of policy disputes that culminated with a blowup over a July 2013 vote on the farm bill.[18]

RSC Chairman Steve Scalise, (R-La.), told Heritage officials of his decision in July 2013.[18]

“Not a whole lot has changed,” said Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action. “We’ll continue working with folks as we head into the fiscal fight drama stuff this year, the farm bill stuff. The big takeaway of it is really that it’s symbolic. Nothing’s really changed.”[19]

Heritage Foundation spokesman Mike Gonzalez said the decision to keep Heritage out of the meeting happened about two months ago, but that Heritage and the RSC still work well together. “By the time it happened, it was considered a non event by those involved,” Heritage Foundation spokesman Mike Gonzalez said. “Heritage Action along with the Heritage Foundation continues to have a deep and productive relationship with lawmakers both on the Republican Study Committee and off the Republican Study Committee,” he said.[19]

"The Heritage Foundation and the RSC have a longstanding relationship in developing and promoting conservative solutions to the problems facing our nation, and we are proud to continue that tradition to this day through regular joint events and briefings," said Stephen Bell, spokesman for Scalise and the RSC.[18]

2014 elections

Conservative Policy Summitt

On February 10, 2014, Heritage Action, the lobbying arm of the Foundation, held a Conservative Policy Summitt. "We wanted to do something that highlights the fact that there's a bold, conservative reform agenda," explained Michael Needham, Heritage Action CEO. Among those invited to speak on various issues were: Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID).[20]

2012 elections


According to OpenSecrets.org, the Heritage Foundation spent a total of $76,103 in the 2012 election cycle. The following is a breakdown of their contributions:[21]

  • $75,545 in contributions to candidates
  • $6,300 in contributions to leadership PACS
  • $558 in contributions to parties

Top recipients

Top 16 largest Heritage Foundation recipients in 2012[21]
Recipient Total
Mitt Romney $50,300
Forward Together (PAC) $5,000
Mitch McConnell $5,000
Ted Cruz $4,625
George Allen $3,500
Don Bongino $2,500
Rick Santorum $2,300
Evan Feinberg $1,000
Freedom Project (PAC) $1,000
John Barrasso $500
Richard Mourdock $500
Senate Conservatives Fund $500
Tony Strickland $500
Tommy Thompson $500
Heather Wilson $500

See also

External links