Friday, September 13, 2013

Heritage Wants to be Feared, Not Loved

Tim Mak of the Washington Examiner has just written a fairly long piece on the Heritage Foundation.  The conclusion: Heritage has decided to be feared rather than loved.

Here are some interesting excerpts from the article:

  • The conservative think tank conducted private market research on Capitol Hill between 2008 and 2009, asking respondents whether they were ever worried about being on the wrong side of Heritage’s position.  “Overwhelmingly, nobody cared,” said Tim Chapman, now the chief operating officer of Heritage Action, the organization’s three-year-old advocacy arm.
  • Sen. Jim DeMint wasn’t the board’s original choice for the post of president.  Heritage’s Board of Trustees initially had doubts about whether choosing a politician would be the right move for a think tank that had for decades been led by a former Hill staffer with a Ph.D., outgoing president Ed Feulner.
  • In the first half of 2012, Heritage offered the presidency to Larry Arnn, the president of conservative Hillsdale College and a member of the board. After considering it, Arnn declined the job, deciding instead to remain in academia.
  • The search to replace [Ed] Feulner took the better part of three years, during which 18 candidates were interviewed. Academics, “two or three” politicians, staff from other think tanks, and even media figures were considered for the position, Heritage Executive Vice President Philip Truluck said.
  • Former Sen. Jim Talent, an adviser to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and rumored to be a favorite for secretary of defense had Romney won the election, was seriously considered, according to multiple board members. Others considered for the post included Heritage insiders David Addington and Matt Spalding.
  • After President Obama was elected to a second term, there was a sense among the board that Heritage needed to become more aggressive. And American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks, who consulted with the Heritage board during its search, said he recommended they “not try to clone Ed Feulner.”
  • When it comes time to determine which key votes and co-sponsorships should be included on Heritage Action’s scorecard, [Tim] Chapman, [Michael] Needham, Political Director Russ Vought, Communications Director Dan Holler and their relevant registered lobbyists – Heritage Action employs six – huddle to decide.
  • Heritage Action and Heritage Foundation staffers communicate regularly and share a building, but staffers in both groups insist that Heritage Action only suggests topics for scholars to write about, and never influences the work itself.
  • Three years in, Heritage Action has proven to be an experiment whose success remains uncertain.  Heritage Action’s targeting of Republicans has upset the think tank's relations with Capitol Hill. In fact, it’s difficult to overstate the anger of top congressional aides and many Republican members of Congress.

Despite all the uproar, Heritage still has lots of money rolling in.  In fact, the think tank just announced that it received a gift of $26 million.

The Heritage Foundation was recently ranked as the 18th best think tank in the world by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was rated the 9th best think tank in the US.  It was also rated as the #1 think tank in the world in terms of best use of social media and the Internet.  Heritage was also rated as the 10th best think tank in the world in terms of most significant impact on public policy.