Senator DeMint, and Heritage

I’ve been trying to not be quite as driven by the daily news here. I’m sure it’s not all that good for me, and likely is not for you, either, and in any case, it’s certainly not hard to find. So today will be sort of an exception. Last night I (and no doubt millions of others) received an email from Tom Saunders, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, at the Heritage Foundation. It said, in part,


The Heritage Foundation’s Board of Trustees, by a unanimous vote, has asked for and received the resignation of Jim DeMint as president and CEO of the organization. The Board elected Heritage Founder Ed Feulner as president and CEO while we conduct a thorough search for his successor.

After a comprehensive and independent review of the entire Heritage organization, the Board determined there were significant and worsening management issues that led to a breakdown of internal communications and cooperation. While the organization has seen many successes, Jim DeMint and a handful of his closest advisers failed to resolve these problems.

This was a difficult and necessary decision for the Board to take. As trustees, we have governance and oversight responsibilities for this organization and our 500,000 members.  We were compelled to take action.

Heritage has never been about one individual, but rather the power of conservative ideas. Heritage is bigger than any one person.

As Chairman of the Board, I wholeheartedly endorse this change. It will make Heritage stronger in the short term and the long run.

Heritage is a permanent policy research institution fighting for conservative ideas, as Ed Feulner often reminds us. We remain committed, as ever, to the principles that have made America great: free enterprise; limited government; individual freedom; traditional American values; and a strong national defense. This will continue under the leadership of Ed and his successor.

Feulner led Heritage for more than three decades and returns to our organization after serving on President Trump’s transition team.

Well, one thing he’s right about, they did a crappy job of keeping this mess of their making a secret. I wasn’t surprised, because a much more credible source, Mollie Hemingway, wrote of it yesterday. in The Federalist.

The narrative Politico offers, supported by quotes from a single anonymous board member, is that Heritage is in disarray as a result of DeMint’s decisions since taking over several years ago. DeMint destroyed the organization’s brand as an esteemed think tank, prioritized politics over research, and mismanaged the institution’s assets after taking control. As a result, according to this narrative, Heritage Foundation’s executive committee had no choice but to remove DeMint pending a full meeting of the board, which is scheduled to take place on Tuesday morning. DeMint’s five-year contract with Heritage runs out at the end of the year.

That’s the public narrative. The narrative offered independently by multiple sources with intimate knowledge of the ongoing turmoil, several of whom are not particularly sympathetic to DeMint, is quite different. According to these sources, the actual story is the exact opposite of what has thus far been peddled in the media, and it all starts with Ed Feulner’s creation of Heritage Action in 2010 and his decision to let Mike Needham, a brash former Rudy Giuliani operative, control the new operation. Contrary to the media narrative floated last week that DeMint needlessly politicized Heritage and turned it into a brass-knuckle political combat group instead of a policy-focused think tank, these sources say Needham bears much of the blame for politicizing Heritage.

Rather than pushing to make Heritage more political and less focused on producing high-quality policy research, DeMint actually tried to rein in Heritage Action in recent years, as the 501(c)(4) group began racking up enemy after enemy on Capitol Hill without actually putting any congressional policy points on the board. Multiple sources told The Federalist that Needham bristled at DeMint’s repeated attempts to assert control over the splinter organization and began plotting to overthrow DeMint once it became clear that the former South Carolina senator had no desire to outsource control of the think tank to the 30-something political operative with no policy background. At one point, a high-placed source told The Federalist, Needham personally confronted DeMint and his team and told them that DeMint was done, that Needham himself would be taking over the organization.

To be sure, nobody thinks DeMint was blameless. Sources indicate he was slow to develop relationships with board members, arguably reorganized the building too quickly, and didn’t see the threat that Heritage Action posed to the Heritage brand until it was too late. While there is much blame to go around for the failure of Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare, some critics wished Heritage had a successful plan ready to go when the 115th Congress convened.

On Monday afternoon Feulner, who regained effective operational control of Heritage late last week, placed James Wallner, the widely respected head of research at Heritage, on administrative leave after Wallner publicly defended Heritage researchers and the organization’s research projects in the wake of last week’s coup rumors going public. According to a senior official in the Heritage human resources department, Wallner was told to leave the premises immediately and was never given a reason by Heritage brass for its decision.

The reason I became an email subscriber to Heritage years ago was because of its reputation for solid research, and a non-partisan approach, while maintaining a conservative view. I had noticed in the last year that this was subtly changing, and it concerned me. Well, now it is done, and as far as I am concerned so is the utility of Heritage, it is simply another lobbyist group, run by Trump partisans, not conservatives.

A very sad day.


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5 Responses to Senator DeMint, and Heritage

  1. the unit says:

    Oh, you noticed his forehead slant too? 🙂 Just kidding! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Yep, sure did! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • the unit says:

        I didn’t know this about the cartoonist.

        Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:


          Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          Nor did I.

          Liked by 1 person

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