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The Heritage Foundation is a well-known conservative American think tank based in Washington, D.C.marker

The foundation took a leading role in the conservative movement during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, whose policies drew significantly from Heritage's policy study Mandate for Leadership. Heritage has since continued to have a significant influence in U.S. public policy making, and is widely considered to be one of the most influential research organizations in the United States, especially during the Republican administration of President George W. Bush.

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."

History and major initiatives


First led by activist Paul Weyrich, Heritage's president since 1977 has been Edwin Feulner, previously the staff director of the House Republican Study Committee and a former staff assistant to U.S. Congressman Phil Crane, R-Illinoismarker.

Cold War and foreign policy involvement

In the 1980s and early 1990s, the Heritage Foundation was a key architect and advocate of the "Reagan Doctrine", under which the United Statesmarker government supported anti-Communist resistance movements in such places as Afghanistanmarker, Angolamarker, Cambodiamarker and Nicaraguamarker 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", or more popularly, "Star Wars."

Since the end of the Cold War, Heritage has continued to be an active voice in foreign affairs and has been broadly supportive of President George W. Bush's foreign policies. Speaking at the Heritage Foundation in November 2007, Bush predicted that fifty years from then a future U.S. President would return to the Heritage Foundation and say, "Thank God that generation that wrote the first chapter in the 21st century understood the power of freedom to bring the peace we want."

Domestic economic policies

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.

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. As such, Heritage is often credited with supplying many of the ideas that ultimately proved influential in ending the Democrats' control of Congress in 1994.

Policy influence

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.

The Heritage Foundation was ranked fifth in Foreign Policy magazine's 2009 list of the nation's most influential think tanks.


Heritage's 1981 book of policy analysis, Mandate for Leadership was a landmark in advocacy for limited government. At 1,000-plus pages, Mandate for Leadership offered specific recommendations on policy, budget and administrative action for all Cabinet departments.

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. The Heritage Foundation also publishes The Insider, a quarterly magazine about public policy.

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, a conservative website that was subsequently acquired by Camarillo, Californiamarker-based Salem Communications.

In 2005, the Foundation published The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, a clause-by-clause analysis of the United States Constitution.

Other media

In 2009, Heritage produced 33 Minutes, a one-hour documentary film about the foreign policy challenges facing the United States, titled after the time required for a long-range nuclear ballistic missile to be fired from any distant hostile nation and deliver its payload to any American city. The film interviews numerous foreign policy experts, including former Assistant Secretary of State Kim Holmes, professor and journalist James Carafano, weapons scientist Ken Alibek, former White House Chief of Staff Edwin Meese, and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. These and other experts discuss the threat of such an attack within the context of nuclear proliferation among rogue states, along with shifting global power dynamics under an incoming Democratic Administration. The Heritage Foundation has hosted viewings of this film, followed by panel discussions.


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 and Bradley foundations.

In 2006, the Foundation established the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, based on a grant from the Margaret Thatcher Foundation, to advance the transatlantic alliance between the U.S. and Britain. Lady Thatcher has since been named Patron of the Heritage Foundation, her only official association with any U.S.-based group.

In 2007, Heritage reported an operating revenue of $48.7 million dollars. $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.


Malaysia, changing views, and business interests

Prior to 2001, Heritage had been sharply critical of Malaysiamarker's prime minister Mahathir bin Mohamad, criticizing him as anti-Semitic and condemning his human rights and anti-free market policies. However, in 2001, without any change in Malaysia's government or policies, the foundation shifted to a very pro-Malaysian view. This shift sparked a controversy over a potential conflict of interest relating to the Heritage Foundation's president, Edwin Feulner, who co-founded Belle Haven Consultants, a company with business interests in Malaysia, during the same time in which the foundation had its shift of views towards the country. Bruce R. Hopkins, an attorney, remarked that Heritage's actions were on the border of legality for tax-exempt non-profit organizations, since there were concerns of the non-profit's resources being used to advance private interests. The Heritage Foundation has denied any sort of conflict of interest, claiming that its shifting views on Malaysia unfolded following the country's cooperation with the U.S. after the September 11 attacks in 2001.

The foundation has continued to issue pro-Malaysia statements. In 2001, the foundation arranged a meeting between Mahathir Mohamad and U.S. president George W. Bush, a meeting that raised accusations of a $1.2 million payment to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, which Mahathir denied. In 2005, the foundation stated that Malaysia was "moving in the right economic and political direction with some recent bold moves".

In popular culture

The Heritage Foundation has been mentioned periodically in the NBC fictional television series The West Wing. The character Patricia Calhoun, a former member of the Office of Management and Budget and a Republican appointee to the Federal Election Commission in the fictional Bartlet administration, is identified as the former Director of the Roe Institute for Economic Policy at the Heritage Foundation. Calhoun is depicted in the series as an aggressive advocate of campaign finance reform.


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