Power, Visibility Come To Heritage Foundation
Washington--In the summer of 1980, Ronald Docksai, a legislative assistant to Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, began holding planning meetings with 10 Capitol Hill colleagues--most of them also staff assistants to Republican members of Congress--to design the "blueprint'' for a new federal education policy.
Their work, Mr. Docksai explained, was to outline for members of a conservative Administration how, if selected to lead the following November, they could most effectively "carry out the Republican convention mandate to abolish the Education Department."
Mr. Docksai had been chosen by the Heritage Foundation, the conservative Washington, D.C., public-policy research organization, to write the education section of a book the foundation hoped would offer a new Republican Administration the definitive conservative perspective on--a guide to--restructuring the entire executive branch of the federal government.
That Mr. Docksai succeeded--and the mammoth 20-volume Heritage report succeeded--is widely acknowledged in the nation's capital. The now-famous 3,000-page document, Mandate for Leadership: Policy Management in a Conservative Administration, landed on President Reagan's desk at the end of his first week in office, and the then-little-known Heritage Foundation landed itself at the heart of the policy-planning councils of the new Administration.
A Washington Bestseller
Mandate, said Office of Management and Budget Director David Stockman, enabled the Administration to "hit the ground running."
In fact, the book itself seemed to hit the ground the same way. A 1,093-page condensed version was sold in paperback in bookstores. It earned a place on The Washington Post's bestseller list and was excerpted in newspapers and magazines throughout the U.S.
More important, Mandate's recommendations have been incorporated into many of President Reagan's initiatives this year, including several changes in the Education Department. Says one of the education chapter's authors: "I've seen the stuff we gave to Ed Meese used line for line" in Administration initiatives.
In addition, the Heritage Foundation presented Mr. Reagan with the resumes of numerous candidates, including several Mandate authors, for positions in the Administration. Fourteen Heritage staff members served on Presidential transition teams, and a Heritage vice president was given a temporary position in the White House personnel office to aid in the candidate-recruitment process.
If Mr. Reagan had failed to win the election, the foundation, says President Edwin J. Feulner, Jr., simply would have had to swallow the $100,000 and the work of 250 contributors it took to produce Mandate. But the money and time, as things turned out, have paid the Capitol Hill organization rich dividends. Because Mr. Reagan and his staff have given so much attention to the Heritage recommendations, the foundation's credibility and visibility on the national political scene have reached new heights.
Eight years ago, Mr. Feulner, then an aide to a Congressman, launched the foundation with $250,000 from Joseph Coors, the reputedly "ultraconservative" Colorado brewer. This year, Heritage reports it is operating on a budget of $5.3 million.
Staff members who at one time traveled around the country organizing parents'-rights groups to lobby public-school officials this year trained 250 new Congressional staff members in techniques of research, media relations, and tracking legislation on CapitolAnd Heritage--which was regarded for several years by moderates and liberals as a standard-bearer of the anti-big-government, aggressively anti-Communist "New Right"--is said by its leaders to have moved into the conservative mainstream.
Now a Prominent 'Brain Trust'
Until recently known only to conservative politicians and scholars, the foundation is now being touted as the "brain trust" of the Reagan Administration. Its influence has been compared to that of the two older Washington public-policy research organizations: the liberal Brookings Institution, founded in 1927 and most influential during the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, and the conservative American Enterprise Institute, begun in 1943 and a supplier of talent and ideas to former Presidents Nixon and Ford.
The rapidity of the Heritage Foundation's rise to prominence is attributed by observers and its own leaders to a variety of factors. Among these:
An organizational network. Mr. Feulner says his organization has placed itself at the hub of a "network of more than 1,000 organizations, that are broadly conservative on one issue or another, and academics on college campuses" throughout the U.S.
In education, affiliated organizations on the state, local, and national levels include those in support of parents' rights in educational decision-making, prayer in public schools, tuition tax credits and vouchers, and a decreased federal role in education. In addition, about 50 conservative scholars are brought by Heritage to Washington each year to testify before Congressional committees, Mr. Feulner says. And Heritage publishes a quarterly newsletter, Education Update, to keep such individuals and groups informed of federal education activities.
Public-relations activities. Heritage not only produces numerous studies, periodicals, and editorials, but the organization aggressively markets them as well, according to Herb B. Berkowitz, director of public relations.
Mr. Berkowitz, who formerly developed media programs for the National Right to Work Committee, said the promotional program includes press conferences to announce new Heritage publications, seminars on issues currently before Congress, and the syndication of Heritage-supported editorials, many of which are adapted from the foundation's quarterly publication, Policy Review. In addition, Mr. Feulner writes a weekly column that is syndicated to 50 small-to-medium-sized newspapers, Mr. Berkowitz says.
Links with Congress. Heritage counts among its "network" several members of Congress. Senators E.J. (Jake) Garn and Orrin Hatch, Republicans of Utah, and Representative Philip M. Crane, Republican of Illinois, have signed direct-mail fundraising lettersfor Heritage. (Mr. Feulner is a former administrative assistant to Congressman Crane.)
Senators who have written for Heritage publications or participated in its seminars include Pete V. Domenici, Republican of New Mexico; Jesse A. Helms, Republican of North Carolina; and Daniel P. Moynihan, Democrat of New York. House members in the Heritage "network" include Republicans John Ashbrook of Ohio and Jack Kemp of New York.
Issues research. Heritage has earned a reputation in Washington for conducting thorough research of issues pending in Congress, for providing every member of Congress with its issue analyses, and, perhaps most importantly, for delivering its research to Congressmen before votes are taken on key issues.
Two recent examples of Heritage's timeliness: A Heritage-produced analysis of block grants was delivered to Congress on June 5, the week before House and Senate committees met to decide whether to accept the Administration's consolidation proposal in the budget "reconciliation'' bill. And on June 17, one day after the committees completed their work, a Heritage analysis of committee action reached Congressmen. Votes on the bill were taken in the Senate on June 25, and in the House on June 26.
Legislative focus. The Heritage Foundation's activities are directed primarily toward legislators. Their experience as Congressional staff members, say Heritage's two founders, convinced them of the value of locating the foundation a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol and the Library of Congress. That location, says Mr. Berkowitz, makes it easy for Heritage to keep abreast of "whatever's hot in Congress."
Conversely, its counterparts--Brookings and the American Enterprise Institute--maintain large downtown Washington offices, directing their activities toward a broad national group of policy-makers and scholars.
Such characteristics make Heritage a "think tank with a difference,'' says Mr. Feulner.
He adds that the organization was designed that way--to help conservative members ofCongress "work ideas into the political spectrum."
The idea of a conservative policy-influencing organization was conceived in 1971 by Mr. Feulner, then an assistant to Congressman Crane, and Paul Weyrich, then a staff member to former Senator Gordon Allott of Colorado and now executive director of the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress. Their work on Congressional staffs, Mr. Feulner says, led to a decision to focus Heritage studies on pending legislation.
"We knew we needed something quick and fast. A 'think tank' would deliver something to us on the sst [supersonic transport plane], but we'd say we voted on it yesterday, and the study came in today," he says.
Mr. Weyrich recalls meeting Mr. Coors at the Republican national convention in 1968. But it was not until two years later, he says, that he received a letter from a Coors employee telling him that "Mr. Coors was looking for a place to put his money." After their first two attempts to establish research organizations failed, Mr. Weyrich says, the two started Heritage with the aim of "reframing some of the issues to the point where we could move the country away from its rush to a welfare state. Liberals had framed the issues for 20 years; it was time for conservatives."
Among those liberal "elites" targeted by the organization was the ''education elite," according to Mr. Weyrich, who was the foundation's first president. "There was an automatic presumption that the more federal money, the better education would be. We wanted to have a public-policy challenge to that premise."
He was influenced, Mr. Weyrich says, by Roger Freeman of Stanford University's Hoover Institution and by the economist Milton Friedman.
Defending Parents' Rights
From the start, Mr. Weyrich asserts, Heritage was involved in securing rights for parents in controlling their children's education. "The government clashes with parental rights, and parents get the short end of the stick," he explains. "I deplore the general attitude of educators toward parents. It's a perversion of the system we believe in."
Mr. Weyrich hired an education-policy analyst named Connaught Coyne Marshner to broaden Heritage's involvement in parents'-rights organizing. She began the process of keeping in touch with parents on the state and local levels, and she monitored child-related legislation in Congress, he says.
Heritage's first major education-related activity, according to Mr. Feulner, was its involvement in the 1974 textbook controversy in Kanawha County, W.Va., in which schools were bombed and several people were injured. The foundation's staff attorney at the time, James McKenna, served as legal counsel to the families who disputed the use of language-arts textbooks, and he and other Heritage staff members organized a series of public hearings on the textbook issue in Charleston.
Later that year, a direct-mail promotional letter signed by Congressman Crane asked for funds to help Heritage "stop forcing pornography and other objectionable subjects all over America." Included was a survey asking parents to identify objectionable texts in their children's schools.
In 1975, Heritage organized a debate on the role of the government in education, in which speakers argued the legality of compulsory school-attendance laws and education vouchers. In addition, Ms. Marshner was dispatched to speak to parents' groups around the country, and Heritage began developing an economics-education curriculum. Another activity, the Model Citizens Program, encouraged parents to monitor the performance of "government units," including school boards, in their cities.
Mr. Weyrich and Ms. Marshner left Heritage in 1975 to start a grass-roots political organizing effort. Mr. Weyrich says he relinquished his leadership of the organization because, "I'm not a scholar; my work is in political theory." (Mr. Feulner, who had been only informally involved in the foundation up to that point, became its president in 1977.)
Mr. Weyrich and Ms. Marshner have expanded their parents'-rights organizing efforts to include four organizations under the umbrella name, Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress. That Washington-based organization is regarded as one of the most well-organized and best-funded groups in the New Right.
When he took over leadership of the Heritage Foundation, Mr. Feulner says, he planned to make the Heritage image "more clearly defined. We had to identify a target audience; we could not be all things to all people."
Mr. Feulner, who holds an mba from the Wharton School of Economics and who has studied at the London School of Economics, wanted Heritage, he recalls, to be more of a scholarly institution. An authority on international affairs, he expanded the organization's research activity to cover primarily defense, energy, foreign policy, and economic issues.
The Rights of Parents
He estimates that although Heritage currently spends only about 5 percent of its time and resources on education, its activities continue to center on the rights of parents.
Ms. Marshner's successor as education-policy analyst is Onalee McGraw, a Heritage employee since 1974. She had formerly organized a successful lobbying effort to defeat a bill sponsored by former Senators John Brademas and Walter Mondale, both Democrats, to establish federally funded child-care centers.
Ms. McGraw has published three Heritage monographs on education-related issues. These are: family choice in education; the teaching of secular humanism; and the controversy surrounding the 1980 White House Conference on Families, to which she was a delegate.
Ms. McGraw served on the Reagan transition team for education, which, she says, "gave me tremendous insights into the excessive regulations, paperwork, and overburdening of people in trying to get things done....You get a picture of this treadmill of layers upon layers of government paperwork."
A mother of three, she says that in the nation's schools, "so much time and energy has been taken up with federal programs that there isn't time for people whose normal calling is teaching."
An active member of the "pro-family movement," Ms. McGraw is the author of the Heritage newsletter, Education Update. In that and other publications, she has criticized federally-funded social-science curricula such as Man: A Course Of Study (macos)--which was developed by Education Development Center of Newton, Mass.--for its lack of traditional values. She has also argued against values-clarification textbooks, the Equal Rights Amendment, and the 1977 International Women's Year, which she says was "dominated by liberals."
Ms. McGraw, who holds a doctorate in government from Georgetown University, has also advocated the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (ferpa); the Hatch Amendment, which protects students from being used as subjects in psychological studies; education block grants; and home schooling. In one issue of the newsletter, she included a four-page supplement on textbook review by Mel and Norma Gabler of Educational Research Analysts in Texas.
She is currently working on a study of the Family Protection Act, which Senator Paul Laxalt, Republican of Nevada, first introduced in Congress last year. That bill, which she strongly supports, would, among other things, allow voluntary prayer in public schools, give local schools authority over the mixing of boys and girls in sports and other school activities, and prevent Legal Services Corporation funds from being used for court action involving school desegregation.
Support for the bill is widespread, Ms. McGraw suggests, noting that her viewpoint is confirmed by contacts "with people in the states who have a concern about government."
A contributor to the Mandate education-policy chapter, Ms. McGraw predicts that, by following the book's recommendations, the Reagan Administration will "set some different priorities and get things moving."