Published Online:

Heritage's Influence Is Rooted in Broad Network

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

By Eileen White

The Heritage Foundation--the public-policy research organization in Washington--has grown in seven years from a small "New Right" organization to a $5.3-million bastion of mainstream political respectability.

This year, with a conservative President occupying the White House, a Heritage-produced 3,000-word document called Mandate for Leadership: Policy Management in a Conservative Administration, has received considerable attention from the Administration.

That publication--which David A. Stockman, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said enabled the Administration to "hit the ground running"--has propelled Heritage to a new level of visibility and credibility in Washington.


Although the Heritage Foundation dwelt in political obscurity until last year, the organization's reputation among conservative politicians and scholars actually has been growing for several years.

What seems like "instant" success actually is the result of years of "networking"--creating a framework of contacts for the organization among a wide range of conservatives--says Heritage President Edwin J. Feulner Jr.

And the process has also worked in reverse, observers say. That is, Heritage is in some sense the logical outgrowth of a pre-existing pattern of individuals, ideas, and other organizations whose paths crossed, recrossed, and eventually converged in Washington.

The Second of Two Articles

Mr. Feulner, who has headed the foundation since 1977, said Heritage has built up a "network" that includes more than 1,000 organizations and scholars throughout the U.S.

Heritage keeps in touch with network members through its newsletters and quarterly journal, frequent seminars and workshops, and Congressional receptions and other social events. The foundation also exhibits its publications at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, which is sponsored by the American Conservative Union and the Young Americans for Freedom.

Through this process, Heritage is able to "represent and articulate the values and basic policy goals of all factions of the conservative movement," says Mr. Feulner. That group includes "traditional conservatives, the 'New Right,' the neoconservatives, and economic libertarians," he says.

Observers give much of the credit for building up the "network" to Mr. Feulner. A foreign-policy scholar, he is said to be responsible for bringing Heritage into the conservative mainstream through his personal contacts.

"Six or seven years ago, what [Heritage] said would have been a lot less respectable," says a fellow of the Brookings Institution, the liberal public-policy organization in Washington which has been associated most closely over the years with Democratic Administrations.

That official, who asked not to be identified, said recent Heritage activities, such as choosing Republican Congressional staff members to contribute to the Mandate for Leadership book, "helped [Heritage] to command more attention and respect."

Mr. Feulner's own experience--his introduction to conservative thought--illustrates the linkages among people, groups, and ideas that the Heritage Foundation draws together. Among them are:

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Mr. Feulner says he first read the works ofnservatives--such as William F. Buckley Jr.'s God and Man at Yale, and Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind--as a college student, through the efforts of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (isi). (See related story.)

Intellectual rather than political in orientation, the institute sponsors seminars and workshops on conservative thought, provides scholarships, and introduces young conservatives to a network of like-minded individuals, isi officials say. Many of those individuals are now, like Mr. Feulner, leaders of the conservative political establishment, and part of the Heritge "network."

The Philadelphia Society and the Mont Pellerin Society. Mr. Feulner says that through isi he was introduced to those two organizations, which are devoted to fostering conservative economic thought.

The Mont Pellerin Society, begun shortly after World War II, is an organization of 400 free-market scholars from 30 nations. One of the founders of the society--which is named after the Swiss site of its first meeting--was the economist Milton Friedman.

The Philadelphia Society is "a domestic version of the Mont Pellerin Society," according to Mr. Feulner, that includes 200 American conservatives who meet twice each year. That organization, like isi, was founded by prominent conservatives, including William F. Buckley Jr., editor of the conservative monthly magazine, The National Review.

The Hoover Institution and The Center for Strategic and International Studies at Stanford University in California, and at Georgetown University in Washington, respectively. Mr. Feulner received fellowships from both of these university-associated "think tanks," both of which are considered conservative in their scholarly orientation, after graduating from college.

Hoover, which was begun in 1919, is the oldest of the conservative research organizations. One of its scholars, Roger A. Freeman, is credited by Heritage's founders, Mr. Feulnerand Paul Weyrich (its first president), with influencing the foundation's education policies. Mr. Freeman is the author of a 1955 book, Federal Aid to Education: Boon or Bane?.

Another Hoover scholar, Thomas Sowell--who also serves as an adjunct scholar at Heritage--has become known recently for his views against mandatory busing to achieve school desegregation. A third Hoover official, the organization's president, W. Glenn Campbell, led the education-policy task force last year for the Reagan-Bush campaign.

Mr. Feulner's contacts at the 19-year-old strategic-studies center at Georgetown University also have contributed to building the Heritage network.

As an intern there in 1966, Mr. Feulner was assigned to the staff of then-Representative Melvin R. Laird, Republican of Wisconsin. Two Laird staff members he met then have since risen to prominent positions in the conservative establishment: William J. Baroody Jr., currently president of the American Enterprise Institute; and David M. Abshire, nowe chairman of the Georgetown center.

Republican Congressional staff positions. Mr. Feulner's contacts among conservative politicians expanded as a result of two Congressional staff positions he held during the 1970's. Those contacts were helpful to him, he said, when Heritage took on the task of producing Mandate for Leadership this year. The project required the assistance of 250 contributors; many of those chosen came from the staffs of Republican members of Congress.

During the early 1970's, Mr. Feulner was administrative assistant to Representative Philip M. Crane, Republican of Illinois. Mr.ane, a former national director of the American Conservative Union, has been active in the right wing of the Republican party.

Several of Mr. Feulner's colleagues on the Congressman's staff subsequently became Heritage staff members. One of them, Connie Marshner, was Heritage's education-policy analyst until 1975; she currently works for the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress (csfc). Willa Johnson, formerly Mr. Crane's legislative assistant, is now a Heritage vice president.

Subsequently, Mr. Feulner became executive director of the House Republican Study Committee, an ad hoc consortium of 150 Congressmen that includes some of the most conservative members.

Some of his associates there came with him when he took over as president of Heritage in 1977.

Ms. Johnson, previously the assistant to Mr. Crane, also worked for the study committee under Mr. Feulner. And two former senior research associates of the committee workedr Heritage: Phillip N. Truluck, who is currently the foundation's executive vice president; and Donald J. Senese, a contributor to Mandate who is now assistant secretary for educational research and improvement in the Education Department.

Well-Known Contributors

The list of the Heritage Foundation's private contributors, who provide 76 percent of its budget, include several donors well known for their support of conservative causes. These include: Colorado brewer Joseph Coors, J. Robert Fluor, an industrialist from Orange County, Calif., the Samuel Robert Noble family of Oklahoma, and Richard Mellon Scaife of Pittsburgh.

Smaller private contributions are raised through direct-mail promotional campaigns; such efforts in 1980 drew 120,000 contributions.

An addtional 20 percent of the budget comes from corporate contributions, including funds from 87 Fortune-500 corporations such as Getty Oil Co., Bechtel Corp., Dow Chemical Co., and Readers Digest Association.

Among conservative organizations, Heritage has quickly become one of the most nationally visible of all.

Spawned Other Groups

But two other highly successful conservative groups actually are offshoots of the original Heritage Foundation: The Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, in Washington, and the Congressional Club, in North Carolina, are operated by two of Heritage's founders.

csfc's executive director is Paul Weyrich. After leaving Heritage in 1975, he began csfc, a bi-partisan "New Right" political action committee that provides conservative candidates with technical assistance, money, campaign workers, and, if they are elected, assistance in selecting staff members.

The Congressional Club, a conservative fund-raising organization that also sponsors candidates, was begun by James Lucier, also a Heritage founder, to support the candidacy of Jesse A. Helms, now a Republican Senator of North Carolina. The club provides financialcking for candidates throughout the U.S.

Other organizations in the Heritage network include:

The American Enterprise Institute, a research organization that is described by many as having a "big-business" orientation. Because the institute has also experienced a recent spurt of growth--its budget grew from $1 million to $10 million in 10 years--it has been compared to Heritage.

Mr. Feulner says, however, that the difference between the two is "like Adam Smith versus Lee Iacocca."

An aei official responds that Heritage is "looking for dramatic, revolutionary solutions to problems, and opposed to large-scale bureaucracies and large-scale government intervention. They're not very far from left-wing libertarians."

The Institute for Contemporary Studies in San Francisco, founded in 1972 by a group of associates of President Reagan, including Presidential counselor Edwin Meese III.

The Center for Constructive Alternatives at Hillsdale College in Michigan. The president of Hillsdale College, George C. Roche III--a member of Heritage's network of scholars--became a celebrity in education circles when he announced that his college would refuse to accept federal education dollars. The center sponsors lectures and conferences for American and foreign scholars each year.

The International Center for Economic Policy Studies. That organization, in New York, is headed by George Gilder, author of the best-selling book, Wealth and Poverty. Mr. Feulner is the organization's vice chairman.

The Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation in Washington. The institute, of which Mr. Feulner is currently president, was until recently headed by Norman B. Ture, one of the founders of supply-side economic theory.

Mr. Ture, who was the author of the chapter on the Treasury Department in Mandate for Leadership, currently is the Treasury Department's undersecretary for tax policy.

The Alternative Educational Foundation in Bloomington, Ind. That foundation is the publisher of The American Spectator, the magazine for young conservatives edited by R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. The magazine's former co-publisher, John A. Van Kannon, is a currently Mr. Feulner's assistant at Heritage.

wqln-tv in Erie, Pa. The Heritage Foundation serves as a consultant to wqln, the only public television station that takes conservative editorial positions.

wqln has produced: Milton Friedman's series, "Free to Choose"; a documentary on U.S.-Soviet relations,"The War Called Peace"; and a satire of federal spending, "The Federal Budget Review."

Staff members from the station recently shared Heritage's Capitol Hill headquarters while working on a television program about government waste and mismanagement.

The American Legislative Exchange Council in Washington. The council is said by its promotional literature to be "devoted to serving the daily legislative needs of elected representatives committed to fundamental American principles." The organization offers sample bills, reflecting positions supported by conservative organizations, to Congressmen and state legislators.

The council's former executive director, George Archibald, is now deputy assistant secretary for legislation in the Education Department.

He was a contributor to the education chapter of Mandate for Leadership.

The National Legal Center for the Public Interest. The center--which was founded to combat the efforts of liberal public-interest legal firms--is an umbrella group of six conservative public-interest legal foundations located around the country. Its members meet monthly at the Heritage Foundation.

The former president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation--one of the center's member organizations--is James G. Watt, Secretary of the Interior.

Web Only

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories

Viewed

Emailed

Recommended

Commented