The Heritage Foundation has approached one of the Senate’s leading anti-Trump Republicans, Ben Sasse, to gauge his interest in serving as president — an indication the influential conservative think tank may turn away from its supportive posture toward the president.
Sasse, who was elected to his first term in the Senate in 2014, has swatted down the overtures from Heritage’s board of trustees, according to two sources familiar with the recruitment effort. The Nebraska senator rose to national prominence when he announced early in the primary calendar that he would support neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton, and he has been a persistent critic of Trump ever since.
The entreaties are one sign that Heritage may be looking to change course after the May ouster of its former president, Jim DeMint. In the Senate, DeMint was a leading antagonist of establishment Republicans, and at Heritage he suffered from the perception that the organization was becoming too political — and too reflexively pro-Trump — as its focus on scholarship fell by the wayside.
Kay Coles James, a member of the Heritage Foundation Board of Trustees' Presidential Search Committee, said in a statement that the group is considering more than 200 people for the job, "many of them nationally renowned. We have engaged a professional search firm and we look forward to reviewing the candidates they suggest.”
The organization’s interest in Sasse — sources say board members have been persistent to the point of irritating the senator — indicates that it is looking for a reset. Other conservative think tanks have been less explicitly pro-Trump than Heritage was under DeMint. While American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks, for example, has sought to explain the source of Trump’s support, he has stopped short of expressing support for him.
Jim DeMint earned $1.1 million from Heritage in 2015, and US senators make $174,000 per year. If Sen. Sasse took the job, his likely salary for one year (before taxes) would be approaching his entire net worth, which is estimated to be around $1.48 million.
In related news, here is what former Mr. DeMint is up to these days.