The Heritage Foundation Soars
by Bill Berkowitz
Z magazine, June 2001
In early April, the Heritage Foundation announced its most
ambitious expansion plans in its 28-year history. Thanks to the
family of the late Thomas Johnson of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,
the foundation unveiled plans for a new 63,000 square foot building,
located next to Heritage's current headquarters, which will effectively
double its size.
With the Bush administration in office, the Heritage Foundation
has struck the mother lode. By parlaying extraordinary sums of
right-wing money, a highly developed infrastructure and the Supreme
Court's December decision, Heritage has risen to unprecedented
Despite this ascension, Edward J. Fuelner, president of the
Washington, DC-based Heritage Foundation remains in a feisty mood.
Not long after Bush's inauguration he wrote a note to supporters,
published in the American Reporter, warning conservatives to be
prepared because "conservative opportunity and liberal opposition
are about to collide like warm and cold fronts on a summer's day,
and the probability of thunderstorms is 100 percent. This will
be a take-no-prisoners war, and there are going to be winners
and losers. Make no mistake about that. "
Fuelner's bombast seems to fly in the face of President Bush's
oft-repeated refrain that while there will be disagreements with
Democrats over policy issues, the debate will be carried out amicably
and without rancor. Fuelner's rhetoric more accurately reflects
the current climate in the nation's capital. "Because the
early battles are likely to foreshadow the outcome of the war,"
Fuelner insists, "the first few months of the Bush administration
will be critical. Conservatives must win early and decisively.
Well past its first 100 days, it is clear that the Bush administration
has embarked on a program of regulation cleansing combined with
an assault on what's left of the social safety net.
Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and
one of the most influential conservative operatives, boldly and
in Bushbonic style, told the New York Times, "There isn't
an us and them with this administration. They is us. We is them."
The connective tissue between the White House and conservatives
is their relationship with Karl Rove, Bush's "political czar."
According to the New York Times' Robin Toner, "Norquist has
known Mr. Rove for 22 years, since they met when they were both
members of College Republicans." Fuelner told the Times that
he talks with Rove a couple of times a week.
The Heritage Foundation has been working closely with the
Administration. Church & State, the monthly magazine of Americans
United for Separation of Church and State, reported that in early
January, Rove told a group of right-wing leaders "that Bush
had asked the Heritage Foundation...to review all the executive
orders put in place by President Clinton during his eight years
in office and recommend which ones should be overturned.' Donald
Lambro of the Washington Times reported that Heritage had passed
its recommendations on to the White House.
During the transition period when issue-specific teams were
being formed, Heritage staffers were involved in key decision-making
positions. Toner says, "officials at the foundation passed
on 1,200 to 1,300 names and resumes to the Bush administration
and say they are quite pleased with the results so far, at the
cabinet level and at the next tier."
According to the foundation's website, Heritage staffers who
have gone from the foundation to the Bush administration include:
* Elaine Chao: formerly Distinguished Fellow, now Secretary
* Kay Cole James: (an African American women and a long time
favorite of the Christian Right) former Senior Fellow, now Director
of Personnel Management
* Stephen Yates: former Senior Policy Analyst, now Deputy
Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs
* Nina Shokrai Rees: (the education and voucher person) former
Senior Policy Analyst, now Special Assistant to the Vice President
for Domestic Policy;
* Kris Ardizzone: former Director of U.S. Senate Relations,
now Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Policy Development
* Sarah Youssef: former Research assistant, now Associate
Director, Domestic Policy
* Angela Antonelli: former Director of Economic Policy Studies,
now Chief Financial Officer, Department of Housing and Urban Development
Heritage policy wonks are contributing to the legislative
process by testifying at congressional hearings on critical economic
and social issues on a regular basis. During the last ten days
in March alone, a gaggle of Heritage representatives testified
at House and Senate hearings, including:
Todd Gaziano on Executive Orders and Presidential Directives
before the House Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative
Law, March 22
* Robert Moffit on Transcending Medicare's Regulatory Regime
before the House Subcommittee on Health, March 15
* Robert Rector on The Effects of Welfare Reform before the
House Subcommittee on Human Resources, March 15
* Gaziano again on Election Reform before the Senate Committee
on Rules and Administration, March 14
* Daniel J. Mitchell on The Economic Outlook and the President's
Budget Priorities, 2002-2011 before the House Budget Committee,
* Rector again on Means-Tested Welfare Spending: Past and
Future Growth before the House Committee on the Budget, March
Fuelner ended his Pattonesque American Reporter spiel with
another appeal for money. Why do these folks who are powering
the Bush administration and providing "expertise" to
Congress keep asking for more money? Because they can. According
to Media Transparency, a website tracking right-wing money, from
1986 through 1999, right-wing foundations doled out more than
$35,500,000 to the Heritage Foundation. Its recent multi-year
campaign celebrating the foundations 25th anniversary netted more
than $100 million.
Conservative godfather Paul Weyrich and its current president
Edward Fuelner founded the Heritage Foundation in 1973. Start-up
funds came from Joseph Coors and Richard Mellon Scaife-two names
that are synonymous with the funding of the right's social and
economic agenda. In the early 1980s, Heritage acknowledged that
"87 top corporations" were supporters. Heritage is the
largest conservative think tank and the one most frequently quoted
by the mainstream media.
Although Heritage's founders and many of its funders come
directly out of the right's homophobic auxiliary, the foundation's
stock-in-trade is bedrock free-market issues including opposition
to government regulation and support for privatization, welfare
reform, school vouchers, and state's rights. While the foundation
doesn't place a heavy emphasis on either gay issues or reproductive
rights per se, its Town Hall website promotes the work of several
virulently anti-gay and antiabortion groups. Town Hall, which
features up-to-date news
from a network of conservative organizations, advances the
work of such groups as the Family Research Council, Concerned
Women for America, and Lou Sheldon's Traditional Values Coalition.
Town Hall's featured columnists represent the nation's most reactionary
Although the foundation hasn't directly been involved in campaigns
opposing same-sex marriage, most of Heritage's social policy emphasis
is centered on the so-called sanctity of marriage. In policy papers
and testimony before Congress, Heritage operatives make the case
that the preservation of the traditional family is the most important
answer to solving America's social problems-from welfare to teenage
pregnancy. Another area where gay and lesbians are discounted
is the question of sex education. Heritage supports abstinence-only
education, opposing gay positive references in schools or open
discussions of AIDS and other issues of particular importance
to gay youth.
A Media Transparency profile documents that Heritage was one
of the primary initiators of Newt Gingrich's 1994 Contract with
America. No friend to labor, Heritage has published a number of
anti-union policy papers and reports including "Beware of
the Union Label," "The Case for Plant Closures, "
and "Upsetting the Balance of U.S. Labor Law: The Striker
If you want to understand the Bush administration's so-called
"common sense" environmentalism, look no further than
the think tank's "Issues 2000: The Candidate's Briefing Book,"
where Angela Antonelli spells out the foundation's environmental
philosophy. She writes: "The plethora of laws it has instituted
during the past three decades to address water, air, public land,
and endangered species relies on the stick instead of the carrot
to protect the environment. Rather than providing incentives to
promote environmentally beneficial behavior, the federal government
has empowered bureaucrats to force people-regardless of whether
they in fact are harming the environment- into restrictive behaviors.
The result is a conundrum of rules and regulations that everyone
has an incentive to violate or manipulate, and the continued funding
of outdated programs that cannot address either current or future
causes of pollution effectively. "
These days, Heritage is the best investment right-wing foundations,
conservative philanthropists and corporate lobbyists can make.
In a ten-day period in early Spring, Heritage published reports
and articles on:
* Health Care: "Taking the Scare Tactics Out of Medicare
Reform (Op-ed, 3/28) and Using the Breaux-Frist Medicare Proposals
to Craft Solid Medicare Reform (3127)
* Patients' Rights? Try Prisoners' Rights (Op-ed, 3/28)
* National Security: Citizens & Soldiers: Don't Widen
the Gap (Op-ed, 3/29) and Guidelines for Modernizing America's
Armed Forces (03/28/01)
* Asia and the Pacific: Time for Expanded Trade Relations
with India (3/29); Taxes: Why Congress Should Renew Its Efforts
to End the Marriage Penalty (3128)
* Family: Encouraging Marriage and Discouraging Divorce (3/26)
The Foundation is the right's primary engine for new ideas
and online innovation. Check out the Heritage Foundation's newly
reconstructed and incredibly expansive web site (www.heritage.org),
unveiled in late March.
The site is crafted to move public policy, shape political
debate, respond to the specific needs of targeted groups, and
trumpet new and developing issues. The front page provides a road
map linking visitors to areas designed specifically to meet the
needs of lawmakers, journalists, researchers, coalitions, scholars
Lawmakers can keep up with the status of significant bills
and find in-depth reports on current issues before Congress like
the so-called Marriage Penalty, the Budget, and Campaign Finance
Heritage simplifies life for journalists by providing recent
foundation press releases, access to recently published opinion
pieces, as well as a "What's Hot Today" section. Heritage
boldly asks: "Need a quote? Contact an analyst. On a deadline?
Reach Heritage PR. Stay Informed. Join the press list. Radio Broadcast?
Use our studios."
Researchers receive the Daily Briefing (tax cuts and the budget,
for example), access to Heritage's voluminous publications library,
and a "Research Tools & Resources" section with
Coalition building is supported by the foundation's "Policy
Experts 2000," a "searchable online database of more
than 2,250 conservative, free-market experts, and over 500 public
policy organizations providing contact data, areas of expertise,
and mission statements." There's also a job bank for unemployed
conservatives and ample opportunities for young folks to become
In March, the Washington Post reported, "President Bush
is quietly building the most conservative administration in modern
times, surpassing even Ronald Reagan in the ideological commitment
of his appointments." Bush may be leading the band, but the
Heritage Foundation is the playing many of the instruments. Since
so many of the Administration's team remains to be appointed,
expect many more Heritage staffers to make that short journey
to the White House.
Bill Berkowitz is an Oakland, California-based writer covering
the religious right and related conservative issues.
Propaganda and Media Control