The Heritage Foundation is an American conservative think tank. Founded in 1973, it is based in Washington, D.C. Heritage's stated mission is to "formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense." Since 1973, the Heritage Foundation has provided research and information on foreign and domestic policy issues to Members of Congress and the media. Its work influenced the development of economic and foreign policy during the Reagan administration.
In 1994, Heritage advised conservatives on the development of the "Contract with America," which was credited with helping to produce a Republican majority in Congress. In 1996, Heritage published, "Why Religion Matters: The Impact of Religious Practice on Social Stability," summarizing scientific data showing that the practice of religion reduces teen pregnancy, drug use, suicide rates, illegitimacy, and other pathologies.
The Heritage Foundation's initial funding came from political conservative Joseph Coors, co-owner of the Coors Brewing Company. Funding from Coors was later augmented by financial support from billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife. Conservative activist Paul Weyrich was its first head. Since 1977, Heritage's president has been Edwin Feulner, Jr., previously the staff director of the House Republican Study Committee and a former staff assistant to U.S. Congressman Phil Crane. Until 2001, the Heritage Foundation published Policy Review, a public policy journal, which was then acquired by the Hoover Institution. From 1995 to 2005, the Heritage Foundation ran Townhall.com, a conservative website.
Heritage's 1,000-page book of policy analysis, Mandate for Leadership, published in 1981, was a landmark in advocacy for limited government. Mandate for Leadership offered specific recommendations on policy, budget and administrative action for all Cabinet departments. Newly-elected President Reagan gave copies to every member of his Cabinet at their first meeting. Nearly two-thirds of the 2,000 recommendations contained in Mandate were adopted by the Reagan administration, including the tax cut of 1981 that stimulated the lagging U.S. economy.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, the Heritage Foundation was a key architect and advocate of the "Reagan Doctrine," under which the United States government supported anti-Communist resistance movements in such places as Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia and Nicaragua and generally supported global anti-communism during the Cold War. Heritage foreign policy analysts also provided policy guidance to these rebel forces and to dissidents in Eastern bloc nations and Soviet republics.
The foundation was instrumental in advancing President Ronald Reagan's belief that the former Soviet Union was an "evil empire" and that its defeat, not its mere containment, was a realistic foreign policy objective. Heritage also played a key role in building support for Reagan's plans to build an orbital ballistic missile shield, known as the "Strategic Defense Initiative."
Internationally, and in partnership with the Wall Street Journal, Heritage publishes the annual Index of Economic Freedom, which measures a country's freedom in terms of property rights and freedom from government regulation. The factors used to calculate the Index score are corruption in government, barriers to international trade, income tax and corporate tax rates, government expenditures, rule of law and the ability to enforce contracts, regulatory burdens, banking restrictions, labor regulations, and black market activities. Deficiencies lower the score on Heritage's Index. Since the end of the Cold War, Heritage has continued to be an active voice in foreign affairs and has been generally supportive of President George W. Bush's foreign policies. Among Heritage’s core foreign policy concerns are Africa, Asia, defense, the Middle East, and worldwide freedom. An Asian Studies Center was established in 1983, and in 1992, Heritage opened an office in Moscow.
The Homeland Defense Project, started just a few days after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, conducted a study co-chaired by L. Paul Bremer and Edwin Meese and published a report, Defending the American Homeland, in January 2002. The study recommended ways to improve U.S. security, including responses to a potential bioterror attack, and supported deploying a national missile defense (NMD) system.
The Resource Bank, a national network of conservative policy groups and experts established by Ed Feulner in 1977, has grown to encompass more than 2,200 policy experts and 475 policy groups in the U.S. and other countries.
In domestic policy, Heritage is a proponent of supply-side economics, which holds that reductions in the marginal rate of taxation can spur economic growth. Heritage examines a wide range of domestic issues, including agriculture, immigration, health care and marriage and the family.
In 1994, Heritage advised Newt Gingrich and other conservatives on the development of the "Contract with America," which was credited with helping to produce a Republican majority in Congress. The "Contract" was a pact of principles that directly challenged both the political status-quo in Washington and many of the ideas at the heart of the Clinton administration. Heritage is often credited with supplying many of the ideas that ultimately proved influential in ending the Democrats' control of Congress in 1994.
In 1996, Heritage published its most popular paper ever, "Why Religion Matters: The Impact of Religious Practice on Social Stability," which summarized scientific data showing that the practice of religion reduces teenage pregnancy, drug use, suicide rates, illegitimacy, and other pathologies. The paper was reported in hundreds of newspapers and magazines around the country and ignited a call for restoring respect for religion in America.
Heritage has hosted many influential foreign and domestic political leaders since its founding, including Congressmen, U.S. Senators, foreign heads of state, and U.S. Presidents. On November 1, 2007, President George W. Bush visited Heritage to defend his appointment of Michael Mukasey to succeed Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States; Mukasey's nomination faced opposition in the U.S. Senate over the nominee's refusal to label the interrogation tactic of waterboarding as illegal. Mukasey was confirmed and became Attorney General eight days later.
Several Heritage Foundation personnel have served, or gone on to serve, in senior governmental roles, including: Richard V. Allen, L. Paul Bremer, Elaine Chao, Lawrence Di Rita, Michael Johns, John Lehman, Edwin Meese, Steve Ritchie, and others.
Heritage actively engages in promoting its policies and ideas to Members of Congress, the Executive Branch, and the news media. Almost half of its annual budget is spent on marketing initiatives. Its short policy papers are designed to convey complex topics in the format of an executive summary more likely to be read by government officials than the lengthier publications and books produced by other Washington think tanks. Heritage also distributes colored index cards summarizing the main points of conservative positions on various issues to Members of Congress. Heritage occasionally produces longer papers and books, and publishes The Insider, a quarterly magazine about public policy. It also supports a number of affiliated websites, including NationalSecurity.org, and ReagansHeritage.org.
In 1988, Heritage released its first edition of Issues: The Candidate's Briefing Book, a comprehensive guide to domestic, foreign, and defense policy issues for conservative candidates. During the 1994 elections, Heritage provided intellectual ammunition to conservatives on issues such as welfare reform, tax cuts, and congressional reform, leading to historic election victories. In 1995, Heritage hosted a New Member Conference to educate 56 newly-elected Members of Congress.
Heritage maintains a panel of approximately 60 policy experts, supported by nearly 200 staff and management personnel. The Board of Trustees includes well-known conservatives like Richard Scaife; Holly Coors, whose family provided the funding to start Heritage in the early 1970s; Midge Decter, wife of the former Commentary editor and neoconservative Norman Podhoretz; Feulner, president of Heritage; and former presidential candidate Steve Forbes.
Heritage is primarily funded through donations from private individuals and charitable foundations. Businessman Joseph Coors contributed the first $250,000 to start The Heritage Foundation in 1973. Other significant contributors have included the conservative Olin, Scaife, DeVos, Donner, and Bradley foundations.
In 2007 Heritage reported operating revenue of $48.7 million dollars. Of that, $26.4 million came from individual donors, $16.8 million from foundations and $2.2 million from corporations. As of August 2008 Heritage reported 355,000 individual donors.
In 2006, the Foundation established the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, based on a grant from the Margaret Thatcher Foundation, to promote United States/United Kingdom cooperation and to advance the transatlantic alliance between the two countries. Lady Thatcher has since been named Patron of the Heritage Foundation, her only official association with any U.S.-based group.
Headquarters for the Heritage Foundation are located at 214 Massachusetts Avenue, N.E., in the Capitol Hill section of Washington, D.C..
"We are not afraid to begin our sentences with the words "We believe," because we do believe: in individual liberty, free enterprise, limited government, a strong national defense, and traditional American values. We want an America that is safe and secure; where choices (in education, health care and retirement) abound; where taxes are fair, flat, and comprehensible; where everybody has the opportunity to go as far as their talents will take them; where government concentrates on its core functions, recognizes its limits and shows favor to none. And the policies we propose would accomplish these things."
- Excerpt from About the Heritage Foundation
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