Some of the think tank’s leading figures—past & present
When we started out, Heritage was routinely referred to as an “ultra-conservative,” “far right” or “extreme right wing” organization. Today our ideas—which are based on the same philosophical principles as they were two decades ago—are considered mainstream.
—Heritage Foundation Annual Report, 1993
Paul Weyrich: Co-founder and first Heritage president, Weyrich was a long-time associate of the John Birch Society. Weyrich left Heritage in 1974 to found the Free Congress Foundation, an activist group that still works closely with Heritage. Convicted Nazi war criminal Lazlo Pasztor works out of FCF’s Washington office, maintaining links to Eastern European organizations with roots in wartime pro-Nazi organizations (Russ Bellant, The Coors Connection). In 1993, Weyrich launched the right-wing cable TV channel National Empowerment Television.
According to formerly conservative journalist Michael Lind (Dissent, Winter/95), Weyrich recently circulated a proposal to fellow right-wingers “that the federal government secretly lace illegal drugs with substances like rat poison and release them into the black market.”
Joseph Coors: The beer tycoon is billed as a co-founder of Heritage for footing $250,000 of the foundation’s first-year budget. Coors and his like-minded family members have aided such rightist causes as apartheid South Africa, the Mozambican terrorists RENAMO and the Nicaraguan contras (Coors Connection). On the home front, Coors family members have funded the John Birch Society, James Watt’s Mountain States Legal Foundation and the right-wing Christian group Campus Crusade for Christ (Business Month, 7/90).
Richard Mellon Scaife: Though Coors is labeled Heritage’s co-founder, Scaife contributed three times as much money in the group’s founding year, some $900,000. Scaife’s three foundations—Sarah Scaife, Carthage and Allegheny—-provided Heritage with more than $1 .6 million in 1993 alone (Wall Street Journal, 10/12/95). Scaife—who has donated more than $200 million to right-wing causes since the ‘70s—is most recently notable for funding conspiracy theorists obsessed with Vincent Foster’s suicide.
Himself the owner of local news outlets, Scaife once responded to a reporter who asked him about his contributions to the right, “You fucking Communist cunt, get out of here” (Columbia Journalism Review, 7-8/81).
Ben Blackburn: Chair of Heritage from 1973 to 1982. An ex-member of the House of Representatives, Blackburn reportedly told a congressional hearing in 1972 that public housing tenants who fall behind in their rent should be hanged (Coors Connection).
Ed Feulner: President of Heritage since 1977, Feulner’s appetite for self-aggrandizement is demonstrated by Heritage’s 1994 annual report, which features 26 photos of Feulner in 40 pages. In 1976, Feulner edited a monograph by eugenicist Roger Pearson defending Taiwan’s one-party dictatorship. The next year, when Feulner became Heritage’s president, Pearson joined the editorial board of Heritage’s magazine Policy Review (Summer/77).
Roger Pearson: Pearson is best known today for publishing the journal Mankind Quarterly, a major outlet for eugenicists’ claims that blacks are genetically inferior to whites and Asians (Stefan Kuhl, The Nazi Connection). Before joining Policy Review’s board, Pearson co-founded the Northern League, a pagan fascist organization whose other co-founders included Hans Gunther, a noted Third Reich “racial scientist” (Robert Wistrich, Who’s Who In Nazi Germany). In 1978, Pearson was removed from Heritage’s editorial board following a Washington Post article (5/28/78) on his role as a principal organizer of an antisemitic conference of the World Anti-Communist League (Anderson & Anderson, Inside the League). Heritage’s current director of domestic policy studies, Stuart Butler, remained an advisor to another of Pearson’s journals until the mid-’80s.
Ernest Lefever: At the time a Heritage boardmember, Lefever’s 1981 nomination for assistant secretary of State for human rights was withdrawn after an article by Lefever in Policy Review showed he was opposed to the idea of diplomatic human rights efforts. During his unsuccessful confirmation hearings, Lefever’s own brother called him a racist. While Lefever considers himself an ethicist, his own organization, the Public Policy Center, took financial support from apartheid South Africa (Washington Post, 3/6/81) and supported the white minority government of Rhodesia (Wall Street Journal, 6/2/76).
Sam Francis: Heritage’s former expert on international terrorism saw his column terminated by the right-wing Washington Times in 1995, when it was revealed that he had called for whites to “reassert our identity and our solidarity, and we must do it in explicitly racial terms through the articulation of a racial consciousness as whites” (Washington Post, 9/24/95, 10/19/95).
Eileen Gardner: In 1985, Heritage education expert Eileen Gardner briefly worked at the Department of Education under William Bennett. She left the department after a 1983 issue of Heritage Backgrounder surfaced in which Gardner had written that laws mandating special education “selfishly drained resources from the normal population.” Disabled people, she wrote, have “summoned” their disabilities, because “a person’s external circumstances fit his level of inner spiritual development.” Heritage welcomed Gardner back to her old job (Washington Post, 5/17/85).
Dinesh D’Souza: Editor of Heritage’s Policy Review from 1985 to 1987, D’Souza is still a contributing editor at the magazine. D’Souza first gained notoriety as editor of the collegiate Dartmouth Review, which published under his leadership “Dis She Ain’t No Jive,” a racist parody of black students, and a puff interview of white supremacist David Duke, accompanied by a depiction of a hanging black man (John K. Wilson, The Myth of Political Correctness).
Research Assistance: Corrina Mullin