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Heritage Foundation plays politics

By Laurie Bennett

August 21, 2013 at 8:55am

When, precisely, did the Heritage Foundation stop functioning as a think tank?

Was it in 2010, when it began lobbying Washington through its advocacy arm, Heritage Action for America?

Was it last year, when Tea Party favorite Jim DeMint resigned from the Senate to become Heritage president?

Or was it when it released an immigration report whose co-author had argued that Hispanic immigrants had lower IQs than non-Hispanic whites?

Jim DeMint
Jim DeMint

Certainly, as the organizer of a current nine-city Defund Obamacare Tour, it has crossed over into partisan politics, right?

And yet the foundation insists on calling itself a think tank - a tax-exempt institution supposedly providing “timely, accurate research on key policy issues.”

As Bill Keller of the New York Times pointed out earlier this year, Heritage is leading the way in “the transformation of Washington’s think tank culture into a more partisan archipelago of propaganda factories.”

While its conservative views have always been clear, Heritage used to be known for studies that rightly helped to shape political arguments and government policy.

In its current guise, any research of merit is overshadowed by blatant politicking.

In addition to the bus tour, Heritage Action has launched a $550,000 ad campaign. DeMint also called for the replacement of Republican members of Congress who won’t work toward defunding the president’s health care package.

The foundation’s personality change may have more than a little to do with fundraising. Foundation tax returns show losses in 2010 and 2011. (The 2011 tax return is the most recent available.)

The Muckety map above shows donors to Heritage, where revenues and expenditures have more than doubled over the last decade. The 2011 budget totaled $80 million, with $4 million spent on fundraising.

The president post, when held by DeMint’s predecessor, Edwin Feulner, paid almost $1.2 million a year. That would indicate a significant pay raise for DeMint, who made his name not as a writer and scholar, but as a politician.

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