DeMint And Heritage: Playing Off Each Other's Strengths | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

DeMint And Heritage: Playing Off Each Other's Strengths

Play associated audio

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., shocked Washington last week when he announced that he will quit the Senate to become president of a think tank. But as the barriers crumble between policy research and partisan advocacy, the building blocks are there for DeMint and the conservative Heritage Foundation to build a powerful operation with political clout.

DeMint explained on Rush Limbaugh's show why he decided to give up his Senate seat to lead Heritage.

"It was the Heritage Foundation that inspired me to run for Congress," he said.

As Heritage guided DeMint in ideology and policy, he helped to bolster the ranks of its allies.

Ted Cruz, the newly elected Republican senator from Texas, congratulated DeMint on his new role, saying DeMint's "combination of brilliance, principle, common sense, creativity and — above all else — courage will be an ideal fit for the conservative movement's leading think tank."

Cruz got to the Senate by knocking off an establishment Republican in a primary last summer — something he did with help from DeMint.

"I've never been more excited about supporting a candidate as I did Ted Cruz," DeMint has said.

Up until now, DeMint has had an organization that offers more than just words: a leadership committee that backed candidates he endorsed, and this year a superPAC allied with DeMint that bought ads promoting Cruz.

When Cruz declared victory, he said thanks — as did Sens.-elect Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Jeff Flake of Arizona. In 2010, DeMint helped to elect five senators.

DeMint and his organization helped ultraconservatives take out more moderate Republicans in primaries.

Now DeMint will most likely have to leave that behind. Heritage is a 501(c)(3) charity, and it cannot engage in electoral politics. But Heritage offers a different path to political engagement. It has an affiliated group, Heritage Action for America, which is a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization. That means it is allowed to talk about candidates.

This is unusual among think tanks, which generally try to avoid the partisan combat. At Heritage, people believe the world of think tanks is changing.

Vice President Michael Franc, who is on the board of Heritage Action, says it's because the political parties have become more ideologically pure.

"The role is different. I think the kind of institutions that tend to get a little bit more attention in this new kind of world are the ones that are heavily engaged in the tactical side of the debate," he said.

How much more engaged?

In a recent video, Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham begins by calling President Obama's re-election devastating and later says, "We are in a war."

"In 2014, there'll be 20 Senate liberals up for re-election. A strong constitutionally conservative Senate is critical for this fight," he says. "And in 2016, with a deep bench of committed conservatives, we must choose a nominee who can best articulate our shared conservative values."

Heritage Action campaigned in seven races this year. Its candidates lost in five of them. But it appeared to be badly underfunded.

That hasn't been so much of a problem for DeMint's political operations. With his help, they raised $16 million for this year's elections.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Sandwich Monday: The Korean Steak Sandwich

For this week's Sandwich Monday, we try a sandwich with a cult following. It's the Korean steak from Rhea's Market and Deli in San Francisco.
NPR

Sandwich Monday: The Korean Steak Sandwich

For this week's Sandwich Monday, we try a sandwich with a cult following. It's the Korean steak from Rhea's Market and Deli in San Francisco.
WAMU 88.5

Witness List Released In McDonnell Corruption Trial

Among those on the witness list are Maureen McDonnell and the couple's three children, Sean, Rachel and Bobby.
NPR

It's Boom Times For Pop-Up Shops As Mobile Shopping Clicks

One-click online shopping is changing how we shop. Stores with leases as short as a day are proliferating — meaning a storefront can be a designer clothing store one day and a test kitchen the next.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.