Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Ultimate Guide to the Heritage Foundation Meltdown

Since news broke on Friday that Jim DeMint will likely be ousted as head of the Heritage Foundation, the situation at the think tank has been like a slow-moving train wreck as speculation about the next moves run rampant.

In order to help understand all that has happened and to update the latest news, Think Tank Watch has created this guide that we will be updating several times each day.

Friday (April 28)
  • On Friday Politico breaks the news that Jim DeMint will be ousted from the Heritage Foundation following a dispute with board members about the direction of the think tank.  Politico reports that some board members think DeMint has brought in too many Senate allies and made the think tank "too bombastic and political," while also noting a dispute between the think tank and its sister lobbying arm, Heritage Action.  It also says that a handful of staffers close to DeMint are expected to leave the think tank, and former Heritage president Ed Feulner will become interim president.
  • The New York Times says that the abrupt ouster is being described as a "coup," and mentions that billionaire board member Rebekah Mercer, a Steve Bannon ally, helped lead it.
  • The Washington Examiner reports that President Donald Trump praised Jim DeMint as news started to circulate about his likely departure from the think tank.  The newspaper also noted that the think tank's board of trustees will meet May 2 to decide the final outcome for DeMint.
  • WND says that Heritage "is going establishment again" and says the think tank's board leans heavily toward "big money establishment conservatism."

Saturday (April 29)
  • On Saturday Philip Wegmann of the Washington Examiner reports a "major shakeup" at Heritage, saying that DeMint loyalists have starting clearing their desks and the entire staff "remains officially in the dark."  He also reports that Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham had offered "an olive branch" to DeMint by offering to switch jobs with him.  He also reported that board member Todd Herrick has resigned his post.
  • John Hart wrote a piece for Forbes entitled "The Political Assassination of The Heritage Foundation's Jim DeMint." 

Sunday (April 30)
  • On Sunday Fox New's Chris Wallace asks Michael Needham if Steve Bannon will take over Heritage after DeMint leaves, and Needham remained mum.  That leads to speculation that Rebekah Mercer is trying to install Bannon as the new president of the think tank.  Heritage staffers reportedly react to the rumor with a "mix of hilarity and hysteria."
  • Philip Wegmann of the Washington Examiner reports that conservative lawmakers on Capitol Hill rally behind Jim DeMint in a new letter praising him.  He also reported that one of the branches of Heritage that DeMint founded during his tenure, the Policy Services Department, began scaling back outreach to congressional offices.

Monday (May 1)
  • Think tank watcher Daniel Drezner suggests that Michael Needham will become the next president of the Heritage Foundation.
  • Philip Wegmann reports that sources say Michael Needham didn't want to become president of the Heritage Foundation.  Sources describe the scene at Heritage Action as one of "misery and uncertainty."
  • Philip Wegmann reports that group vice president and DeMint loyalist James Wallner was placed on administrative leave without explanation on Monday evening.
  • Stephen Moore says he is not sure if Bannon will take over as president of the Heritage Foundation.

Tuesday (May 2)
  • Rosie Gray and McKay Coppins write a piece on the fight for control of the Heritage Foundation. 
  • Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist reports that millions of dollars in previous pledges and commitments to the Heritage Foundation have been rescinded.  She notes that Feulner's and Needham's strongest allies on the board are Tom Saunders (Chairman) and Nersi Nezari (also on Heritage Action board).
  • The Heritage Foundation board of trustees starts meeting at 9:30am on the 8th floor of the think tank to decide Jim DeMint's fate (without DeMint in the room).  Vote on DeMint was supposed to have occured at 10:30 but delayed until afternoon.  Around 12:30 DeMint is invited in the room (his wife has been spotted in the building) and he left the room around an hour later.
  • Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng report that a group of staffers loyal to DeMint plan to leave Heritage in anticipation of DeMint getting axed. Five staffers have reportedly pledged to leave and the eventual number could be as high as between 15 and 30.  Staffer Wesley Denton, a longtime DeMint aide, has been told to resign under threat of being fired.
  • Politico publishes piece on the "real" reason DeMint is being forced out, saying that Feulner and Needham became convinced the DeMint was incapable of renewing the think tank's place as "an intellectual wellspring" of the conservative movement.  Politico says that board members are expected to announce DeMint's removal "around mid-afternoon."
  • Ed Feulner called for a 4:30pm all-staff meeting to discuss the DeMint situation. 
  • At around 4:45pm, the Heritage Foundation board released a statement saying that by unanimous vote, it had asked for and received the resignation of Jim DeMint.  The board has elected Ed Feulner as president and CEO while it conducts a search for his successor. The reason for forcing Demint out: "significant and worsening management issues that led to a breakdown of internal communications and cooperation."
  • At 5:40pm the Daily Beast reports that several of DeMint's loyalists were purged from the think tank, including EVP Bret Bernhardt, VP of Communications Wesley Denton, VP of Policy Promotion Ed Corrigan, and Cameron Seward, DeMint's Chief of Staff.
  • In the evening, through a spokesman (and numerous bullet points), DeMint argues that be benefited the think tank greatly, reports Politico. 
  • Wall Street Journal (WSJ) editorial on how Heritage "went wrong." (And letter to the editor.)

Wednesday (May 3)
  • Ed Feulner finally breaks his public silence on Steve Bannon and says that he will not be the next president of the Heritage Foundation, and that the think tank needs a CEO who can "come in here and run a $90 million business with 350 employees."  The Examiner noted that Feulner will remain as president of the think tank for six months while a permanent replacement is chosen.
  • Washington Examiner: Heritage shows the feds how to write a press release.
  • Slate's Reihan Salam explains what is going on at the Heritage Foundation. 
  • The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin opines about what is going on at the Heritage Foundation. 
  • The Federalist's Ben Domenech writes a piece on what comes next for Heritage after the coup. 
  • Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ) considers what comes next for Heritage.
  • Tevi Troy writes a piece on how to make Heritage great again.

Thursday (May 4)
  • Vox's Andrew Prokop explains the "bitter, nasty, chair-throwing" Heritage Foundation shake-up.
  • Feulner says that the Heritage Foundation will still be Donald Trump's favorite think tank.

  •  The Weekly Standard on the Heritage Foundation's sudden shake-up.
  • Examiner: After DeMint, Heritage will develop a "much closer and tighter relationship" with lobbying arm.
  • Roll Call: Heritage touts recent fundraising.