The Heritage Foundation

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You can't call yourself a think tank if all your ideas are stupid.
Bill Maher on the Heritage Foundation[1]

The Heritage Foundation is a neoconservative "think tank" founded by Joseph Coors (of Coors Brewery), Paul Weyrich,Wikipedia Edwin Feulner,Wikipedia and Richard Mellon Scaife. As such, it advocates economic deregulation and an overtly interventionist foreign policy. It publishes the quarterly Policy Review, for many years considered the preeminent conservative publication in Washington, D.C.. Like many conservative think tanks, it is full of unbelievable amounts of hot air, as evidenced in this quote, which also serves as a window into the corrupt quixotic soul of the organization:

Liberation is at hand.... A paradigm-shattering revolution has just taken place... This revolution has been so sudden and sweeping that few in Washington have yet grasped its full meaning... the entire human outlook... will change... Once this shift takes place... we will be able to advance a true Hayekian agenda, including... radical spending cuts,[2] the end of the public school monopoly, a free market health-care system, and the elimination of the family-destroying welfare dole. Unlike 1944, history is now on the side of freedom.

—former Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey, in a 1994 issue of Policy Review

Amazing! And is Jesus rising from the dead (again), too?


The Heritage Foundation was founded with donations from the Coors and Mellon fortunes. It cut its teeth during the Reagan administration in the 1980s, when it lobbied Reagan to take a hard-line stance against the Soviet Union (they were responsible for getting Reagan to famously call the Soviet Union an "evil empire"), jeopardizing international relations in the process. It also contributed heavily to the ideals embodied in the Republicans' 1994 Contract With America. Later, the foundation became a major proponent of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Its reputation has been only slightly tarnished by the fact that all of their predictions proved wrong.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Heritage Foundation sought to turn the reconstruction efforts in New Orleans into a test bed for all its harebrained conservative ideas: suspension of all government welfare, distribution of school vouchers, and the repealing of environmental and land use regulations in the New Orleans area.[3]

In 2022, it used the Ukraine crisis to bizarrely claim that Vladimir Putin planned to annexe Belarus as part of a scheme to restore the old Soviet Union/Russian Empire.[4]

Unthink tank[edit]

As a think tank, Heritage Foundation conducts studies on socioeconomic issues. Suspiciously, their results always support whatever they are already lobbying for. In one classic example, a study they conducted found that poor people aren't actually poor.[5] They then lobbied to end welfare for the poor.

The foundation also pushed lackadaisical policies about Iraq, stating that only 40,000 troops would be needed to take over and maintain order in Iraq, that the war would be over in a couple of years at most,[6] and that the Iraqis would greet Americans with open arms (which proved true, but not in quite the way it was intended), and that the Iraqis wanted democracy.

Yes, they do pull these studies out of their ass.

Climate denial[edit]

A number of their studies on global warming also come from the PIDOOMA department. One study they cite supposedly demonstrates that global warming will have no effect on the US economy.[7] They also enjoy quote mining statements on climate research,[8] parroting denialist PRATTs,[9] and hosting other members of the denialist echo chamber, such as E. Calvin Beisner's Cornwall Alliance.[10]

They're also unrepentant treekillers; if you wind up on their mailing list, expect to be swamped by bizarre and paranoid mailings featuring names of various conservative figureheads like Ed Meese, push polls, fundraising letters from out of state candidates, and weird, pro-war criminal propaganda allegedly written by the parents of misbehaving members of the US military. It's… not pretty.


The Heritage Foundation also promotes intelligent design. They have on several occations hosted lectures by people from the Discovery Institute such as Stephen Meyer[11][12] and John West.[13] They also hosted a press conference by the makers of the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed announcing their intention to use the film as a platform to pass "academic freedom" model legislation.[14]

Homophobia and transphobia[edit]

—The Heritage Foundation's thoughts on gay marriage[15]

One thing all "conservative" groups have in common is an absolute hatred towards LGBTQ+ persons, and especially trans people (and in that subset, especially trans women). The Heritage Foundation is no exception to this rule. Through its subsidiary "The Daily Signal", which has become independent since June 2024, it has published articles spouting out misinformation concerning transgender athletes, dubbing the fight for trans rights the "transgender agenda".[16]


It has a long history of ties to Big Tobacco, arguing against tobacco taxes and regulations, including tax proposals in 2007 and 2009. It received donations from tobacco company Philip Morris in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016.[17]

Friends across the sea[edit]

The organization has links to various other right-wing parties and organizations around the world. Leading figures in the UK Conservative Party have spoken at its events, including Priti Patel in 2021 and chairman Oliver Dowden in 2022.[18][19]

Institutionalizing Trumpism[edit]

Since 2021, the Heritage Foundation has been led by Kevin D. Roberts.Wikipedia Unlike many past Heritage presidents, Roberts' background was not in business. Instead, Roberts previously served on the board of the Texas Public Policy FoundationWikipedia (TPPF).[20] a Koch-funded right-wing think tank.[21] One of TPPF's primary concerns is advocating climate change denialism and shilling fossil fuels.[22] TPPF is also equally known for their advocacy of school vouchers, a favorite topic of Christian nationalists.[23] Roberts was also previously the president of Wyoming Catholic College,Wikipedia which notably declined Title IVWikipedia federal funding over concerns that accepting federal funds would prevent the college from discriminating against homosexuals.[24][25]

Reflecting the evolution of the Republican party under Donald Trump, Roberts' hiring marked a notable shift from once standard paradigms of the Heritage Foundation, such as a hawkish foreign policy and strict adherence to free market economics. Instead, the Heritage Foundation shifted to embracing Trumpism. Indeed, Roberts stated in an interview that he believes that "institutionalizing Trumpism" is his primary role.[26][27] Instead of being unapologetic advocates of the free market, the new Heritage Foundation declared that free enterprise must be "orient(ed) in support of the common good". Instead of taking a hawkish stance against Vladimir Putin's 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the new Heritage Foundation advocated isolationism.[26][27][28]

Under Roberts, members of the Heritage Foundation have praised the authoritarian government of Viktor Orbán[29]. As an example, after meeting with Orbán in November 2022, Roberts wrote the following fawning accolade on Twitter:

...One thing is clear from visiting Hungary and from being involved in current policy and cultural debates in America: the world needs a movement that fights for Truth, for tradition, for families, and for the average person.[30]

In March 2023, the Heritage Foundation signed a cooperation agreement with the Danube Institute,Wikipedia[31] a think tank / propaganda network funded entirely by the Hungarian government that seeks to provide the intellectual veneer to convert Western conservatives into adopting the Orbán model of "illiberal democracy".[32][33]

One of Roberts' core projects is Project 2025. Created in the run-up to the 2024 U.S. presidential election, the project outlines an administrative blueprint to enact should a Republican ever take over the presidency.[27] Contrary to past Heritage Foundation blueprints, Project 2025 is lighter on policy and heavier on retribution.[34] Using various bureaucratic schemes (most notably the utilization of the Schedule F appointmentWikipedia), the chief feature of the blueprint is a plan to attempt to take over much of the federal government agencies by firing large amounts of current federal employees (no matter how experienced the employee) and replace them with "conservative" "loyalists".[34] The document advocates ideological tests on federal government employees based on various bête noires of populist Republicans, such as critical race theory, woke, and climate change.[34] The blueprint deeply embraces Christian nationalism viewpoints. This includes staunch anti-abortion positions, to the point where the Heritage Foundation advocate nationally criminializing the abortion pill mifepristone,Wikipedia and also advocate setting up surveillance networks for "liberal states" that in their view had become "sanctuaries for abortion tourism". Discussions of potentially reviving the Comstock Act were even present in the document. Project 2025 also endorses anti-LGBTQ positions such as opposition of gay marriage. All of this comes on top of Heritage Foundation's usual wish list of corporate favoritism, such as favorable tax incentives for corporations and anti-environmentalism advocacy.[34][35][34][36][37] Critics called the plan a "far-right playbook for American authoritarianism" and "a threat to a multiracial, diverse democracy."[38]

Tellingly, in a New York Times interview, Roberts endorsed Trump's Big Lie, stating that he did not believe that Joe Biden won the 2020 U.S. presidential election. He also believed that Black Lives Matter "riots" were "far worse" than the 2021 U.S. coup attempt. He even offered praise for Joe McCarthy.[27]

Due to this significant policy shift, under Roberts, multiple scholars have departed the Heritage Foundation for other think-tanks.[29]

No sex, please, we're Republicans[edit]

In late May 2023 on Twitter, the Heritage Foundation, accompanied by a video from "reactionary feministWikipedia" Mary Harrington, declared that "conservatives have to lead the way in restoring sex to its true purpose", and advocated ending "recreational sex". To accomplish this goal, they also recommended ending the "senseless use of birth control pills.[39]

This anti-contraception viewpoint was echoed by Manhattan Institute fellow Christopher Rufo in February 2024 after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos should be considered as living beings,Wikipedia severely impacting in vitro fertilisationWikipedia in that state. Replying to a tweet from Michael Shermer declaring that birth control pills would be next in line, Rufo retorted (without evidence) "So what? The pill causes health problems for many women". He then declared that "'recreational sex' is a large part of the reason we have so many single-mother households, which drives poverty, crime, and dysfunction."[40] Such reflected a trend within conservative activists in the 2020s to demonize birth control pills; similar anti-contraception content were posted by Ben Shapiro, Tim Pool, Steve Bannon, Elon Musk, and others in 2023 and 2024.[40][41]

Long-running observers of Republican politics might note that the above combines common conservative pundit themes of the past — demonizing single mothers, often with strong whiffs of racist or misogynist dog whistles, was a key "conservative talking point" in the 1990s[42] — with opposition to birth control, once a fringe position held primarily by Catholic leadership (but not Catholics themselves), but increasingly a position held by hard-line evangelicals as well, due to the convergence of Catholic-evangelical politics since the Moral Majority formed in the late 1970s.[43][44][45]

In 2022, a poll from FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos found that 90% of Americans believe that birth control pills should be legal in "all" or "most" cases.[46] It is unclear how the Heritage Foundation and other conservative activists reconcile their opposition to "recreational sex" with Donald Trump's frequent extra-marital porn star fucking.[47]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  2. It's amazing how they advocate to boost military spending while saying this.
  3. How power profits from disaster, Naomi Klein, The Guardian, July 6, 2017
  4. Russia’s Real Goal Might Not Be Ukraine: A Takeover of Belarus?, Heritage Foundation, Feb 11, 2022
  5. Understanding Poverty in America, January 5, 2004, by Kirk Johnson & Robert Rector
  6. In reality the initial invasion was about 90,000 troops, and the troop numbers were mostly between 100-150,000 peaking at about 170,000 in mid 2007 Also keep in mind, there were combat troops in Iraq for the better part of 7 years, with continued presence for another year and a half
  7. Unequivocal faith from the climate change quibblers, DeSmog Blog
  8. Heritage Gate, NRDC
  9. Heritage Foundation vs. Reality: Global Warming Edition, Political Correction
  10. Evangelicals Push Back Against Global Warming Doom, Christian Post
  16. NBC News
  17. Free-market groups and the tobacco industry - full database, The Guardian, 23 Jan 2019
  18. Priti Patel's speech to Heritage Foundation, UK Government website, 22 November 2021 (speech delivered 19 November 2021)
  19. Decadent ‘woke’ ideology putting west in danger, claims Tory party chair, The Independent, Feb 15, 2022
  20. "Texas Public Policy Foundation", Board of Directors
  21. "Revealed: The Corporations and Billionaires that Fund the Texas Public Policy Foundation" by Forrest Wilder, Texas Observer, 2012 August 24
  22. "The Texas Group Waging a National Crusade Against Climate Action" by David Gelles, New York Times, 2022 December 4
  23. "Texas politicians rake in millions from far-right Christian megadonors pushing private school vouchers" by Mike Hixenbaugh and Kate Martin, NBC News, 2022 November 6
  24. [ "Understanding Wyoming Catholic College's Decision To Forgo Federal Funds"], Wyoming Catholic College
  25. "To Keep Free of Federal Reins, Wyoming Catholic College Rejects Student Aid" by Jack Healy, New York Times, 2015 April 11
  26. 26.0 26.1 "Hitting 50, Heritage Foundation looks to move past ‘Conservatism Inc.’" by Emily Brooks, The Hill, 2023 May 2
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 "Inside the Heritage Foundation’s Plans for ‘Institutionalizing Trumpism’" by Lulu Garcia-Navarro, New York Times, 2024 Jan 21
  28. "Free Enterprise and the Common Good: Economic Science and Political–Economic Art as Complements" by Alexander Salter, Heritage Foundation, 2023 April 11
  29. 29.0 29.1 "Why is the Heritage Foundation Embracing Viktor Orban?" by Jacob Heilbrunnm, National Interest, 2023 December 11
  30. "Republicans in Congress are getting advice from Viktor Orbán's office about Ukraine: report" by Gabriella Ferrigine, Salon, 2023 December 11
  31. "Heritage Foundation and Danube Institute Sign Landmark Cooperation Agreement" by Lili Zemplényi, Hungarian Conservative, 2023 March 16
  32. "Does Hungary Offer a Glimpse of Our Authoritarian Future?" by Andrew Marantz, New Yorker, 2022 June 27
  33. "The Danube Institute is Trying to Bring Orbánism to Tennessee", Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, 2023 April 26
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 34.3 34.4 "The Blueprint" by Harold Meyerson, American Prospect, 2023 November 27
  35. "Inside the MAGA Plan to Attack Birth Control, Surveil Women and Ban the Abortion Pill" by Tessa Stuard, Rolling Stone, 2023 December 22
  36. "The right's Project 2025 wants to make faith the government's job" by Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, MSNBC, 2023 September 8
  37. "‘Project 2025’: plan to dismantle US climate policy for next Republican president" by Dharna Noor, Guardian, 2023 July 27
  38. "Analysis Exposes Trumpian Project 2025 as 'Far-Right Playbook for American Authoritarianism'" by Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams, 2023 November 13
  39. "The Republican assault on sexual freedom is underway" by Ja'han Jones, MSNBC, 2024 February 29
  40. 40.0 40.1 "The Right Is Cracking Down on Abortion and IVF. Is ‘Recreational Sex’ Next?" by Nikki McCann Ramirez, Rolling Stone, 2024 February 23
  41. "Conservative influencers are pushing an anti-birth control message" by Kat Tenbarge, NBC News, 2023 July 1
  42. "The Consequences of Single Motherhood" by Sara McLanahan, The American Prospect, 1994 July 1
  43. "How birth control became part of the evangelical agenda" by Tara Isabella Burton, Vox, 2017 October 7
  44. Lipson, Gerald, and Dianne Wolman. “Polling Americans on Birth Control and Population.” Family Planning Perspectives, vol. 4, no. 1, 1972, pp. 39–42. JSTOR, Accessed 6 Mar. 2024.
  45. "The Strange Bedfellows of the Anti-Contraception Alliance" by Amelia Thomson-Deveaux, American Prospect, 2014 March 17
  46. "How Americans Feel About Abortion And Contraception" by Geoffrey Skelley and Holly Fuong, FiveThirtyEight, 2022 July 12
  47. "This kind of idea is so at odds with Donald Trump’s personal behavior that it’s hard to take seriously, but these are the people who are doing the policy work that he is too lazy for." by Matthew Ylesias (@Mattyglessias), Twitter, 2024 February 21, archived on 2024 March 6