In announcing his move to the Heritage Foundation Thursday, Sen. Jim DeMint strengthens the already tight bonds between Congress and American think tanks.
The move indicates not only the higher pay scale of top think tanks (the current head of Heritage is paid more than $1 million a year), but the growing clout these organizations have in Washington.
DeMint predicts he’ll have more power at Heritage than he ever wielded in the Senate.
One might reasonably ask whether this is because partisan paralysis has reduced the impact of one senator, particularly a conservative in a body dominated by the opposing party, or whether it’s that think tanks have increased their reach.
The answer is both.
As president of Heritage, DeMint will oversee an organization with an $80 million budget and a 40-year history of influence.
His new role will be one of 89 connections we find between prominent think tanks and former members of Congress.
Most are board or advisory positions. However, a handful involve top leadership posts comparable to DeMint’s new job:
Jane Lakes Harman (D-CA) resigned from the House to head the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Defeated in his 2010 re-election bid, former Rep. Jim Marshall (D-GA) became president of the United States Institute of Peace in September.
Former Rep. Philip R. Sharp (D-IN) is president of Resources for the Future, an environmental research group.
Current and former members of Congress also chair the boards of half a dozen think tanks. These include:
- Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) - Atlantic Council of the United States
- Former Sen. Norm Coleman - American Action Network
- Former Rep. James A. Courter (R-NJ) - Lexington Institute
- Former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO) - National Endowment for Democracy
- Rep. Ralph M. Hall (R-TX) - Free Congress Foundation
- Former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA) - Center for Strategic and International Studies; co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative