The Heritage Foundation Soars


Bill Berkowitz


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 political prominence.

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 from the
foundation to the Bush administration include:

  • Elaine Chao: formerly
    Distinguished Fellow, now Secretary of Labor
  • 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, March 7
  • Rector again on
    Means-Tested Welfare Spending: Past and Future Growth before the House
    Committee on the Budget, March 7

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 anti- abortion 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 voices.

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 Replacement Bill.”

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 whe- ther 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 (3/27)
  • 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 (3/28)
  • 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
and members.

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 Reform.

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 extensive links.

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 interns.

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 Aministration’s team remains to be appointed, expect many more
Heritage staffers to make that short journey to the White House.
                              Z


Bill Berkowitz is an Oakland, California-based writer covering the religious
right and related conservative issues.