Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Is the Lobbying Arm of the Heritage Foundation Destroying the Think Tank?

The Dispatch has an important piece on the latest happenings at the Heritage Foundation:

With the Heritage Foundation’s 50th anniversary approaching, some former employees believe Dr. Kevin Roberts, president of the Heritage Foundation since December 2021, and other senior leaders have lost sight of the think tank’s original mission. Where it used to function as a haven for conservative intellectuals to shape the Republican Party’s agenda, many worry that the institution is attaching itself to a faction of the conservative movement that prioritizes partisanship over policy.

Interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees reveal restrictive workplace practices to keep scholars in line with positions favored by Heritage’s lobbying arm. With Heritage Action’s growing influence has come a wave of staff turnover from the rank-and-file to senior leadership. Fifty-one employees have departed the Heritage Foundation and 73 new employees have joined since January 1, a Heritage spokesperson confirmed. There are 275 staff members on the foundation’s payroll and 30 at Heritage Action as of Tuesday.

Several former employees cited Heritage’s departure from its foundational commitments—without the knowledge or consent of the scholars hired to translate them into policy positions—as their reason for leaving. Others pointed to one-on-one confrontations with the members of the leadership team over the organization’s ideological trajectory. 

Fights over who sets Heritage’s “one-voice policy”—which requires that all staff be publicly aligned on any given issue—have caused much of the friction.


Meanwhile, Josh Rogin, a columnist at the Washington Post has a new piece on the Heritage Foundation entitled "A Conservative Think Tank Turns Away From Reagan and Toward Trump."

Here is a response to Rogin's piece from Blaise Malley, an Associate Editor at The National Interest.

Update: Dan Drezner is now calling Heritage "the Newsweek of think tank."