Saturday, April 29, 2017

Coup at Heritage Foundation Brings Down Leader

A coup engineered by powerful voices on the Heritage Foundation's Board of Trustees has led to a decision to fire Jim DeMint as the think tank's president, just 100 days into the new Trump Administration that Heritage has helped advise and staff.  Here is more from The New York Times:

The anticipated shake-up, which was confirmed by two people with knowledge of the fraught internal dynamics, comes at an inopportune time for the group, with several major pieces of conservative legislation on the agenda in Congress. The budget, a tax overhaul and health care are all issues that Heritage has tried to influence, with varying degrees of success.
Mr. DeMint’s abrupt ouster, described by people as a “coup” against him, was the result of a larger debate among conservative donors who fund the group. One of its board members is Rebekah Mercer, a reclusive donor who has helped propel the White House chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, in his effort to dismantle aspects of the political establishment.
Ms. Mercer was described by people with knowledge of the events as helping drive the effort toward a shake-up. Another person close to the discussions, who asked not to be identified, said that Mr. DeMint was not seen as sufficiently pro-Trump by some members of the board.
A likely candidate to take over, said one person with knowledge of the situation, is Edwin J. Feulner, a former president of Heritage who has worked closely with the Trump administration.
Under President Barack Obama’s administration, Heritage shifted to become more engaged in direct political combat. After decades of producing mountains of high-fiber white papers, the think tank became more defined by a political arm that sought to hold Republican lawmakers accountable rather than just supplying them with the raw materials for legislation.
But to some Heritage board members, this shift toward activism represented a disturbing drift from the organization’s core mission as a research institution, according to two senior aides to Republican lawmakers close to Heritage and a longtime conservative public relations strategist. To these board members, the research suffered.

Politico offers some additional details, saying that some board members of the think tank think that DeMint brought in too many Senate allies and made the think tank "too bombastic and political."

Politico also notes that DeMint had been in contract negotiations, which are expected to be cut short.  DeMint, whose contract expires at the end of 2017, makes around $1.1 million per year as head of the think tank.

Politico also notes that "a handful" of staffers close to DeMint, who came over from the Senate with him, are expected to leave the think tank in what some say is a "purge."

This news has been a surprise to many, including to those within the think tank who had no idea any of this was happening under the surface.

According to the Washington Examiner, the Heritage board will meet again on Tuesday to decide the final outcome of DeMint.  Here is more:
When the board asked DeMint to step down last weekend, the fiery conservative refused and has tried lobbying board members to keep his job. If he doesn't go quietly into the dark, the board can vote him out as soon as Tuesday when they convene in Washington, D.C.

Another Washington Examiner piece says that when some junior staffers heard on the news after reading Politico, they "broke down in tears."  They also report that DeMint lost his job "in large part for crossing" Heritage Action CEO Mike Needham.  Here is more on that:
While Needham helped bring DeMint to Heritage in 2013, their relationship began to fray during the presidential election. It reached a breaking point, two separate sources confirmed, after DeMint suggested making major changes to Heritage Action or abolishing it altogether.

WND says that Heritage "is going establishment again," and notes that the think tank's board "leans heavily toward big money establishment conservatism."

Sean Davis, co-founder of The Federalist, says that DeMint transformed Heritage from "a white paper factory to an influential powerhouse."

Daniel Shuman notes that in his four years as Heritage president, DeMint earned 22.8 times the amount that a US senator did (not counting severance and benefits).