The Heritage Foundation
FormationFebruary 16, 1973
(51 years ago)
Headquarters214 Massachusetts Avenue NE, Washington, D.C., U.S.
Kevin D. Roberts
Barb Van Andel-Gaby
Revenue (2022)
US$106 million[3]
Expenses (2022)US$93.7 million[4] Edit this at Wikidata

The Heritage Foundation, sometimes referred to simply as Heritage,[1][2] is an activist American conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1973, it took a leading role in the conservative movement in the 1980s during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, whose policies were taken from Heritage Foundation studies, including its Mandate for Leadership.[5]

The Heritage Foundation has had significant influence in U.S. public policy making, and has historically been ranked among the most influential public policy organizations in the United States.[6] In 2010, it founded a sister organization, Heritage Action, an influential activist force in conservative and Republican politics.[7][8][9][10]


Early years

The Heritage Foundation's headquarters on Massachusetts Avenue on Capitol Hill

The Heritage Foundation was founded on February 16, 1973 during the Nixon administration by Paul Weyrich, Edwin Feulner, and Joseph Coors.[11][12][13] Growing out of the new business activist movement inspired by the Powell Memorandum,[14][15] discontent with Richard Nixon's embrace of the liberal consensus, and the nonpolemical, cautious nature of existing think tanks,[16] Weyrich and Feulner sought to create a conservative version of the Brookings Institution that advanced conservative policies.[11] In its early years, Coors was the Heritage Foundation's primary funding source.[13] Weyrich was the foundation's first president. Later, under Weyrich's successor, Frank J. Walton, the Heritage Foundation began using direct mail fundraising, which contributed to the growth of its annual income, which reached $1 million a year in 1976.[13] By 1981, the annual budget grew to $5.3 million.[11]

The Heritage Foundation advocated for pro-business policies and anti-communism in its early years, but distinguished itself from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) by also advocating for cultural issues that were important to Christian conservatives"[11] But throughout the 1970s, the Heritage Foundation remained small relative to Brookings and AEI.[11]

Reagan administration

In January 1981, the Heritage Foundation published Mandate for Leadership, a comprehensive report aimed at reducing the size of the federal government. It provided public policy guidance to the incoming Reagan administration, and included over 2,000 specific policy recommendations on how the Reagan administration could utilize the federal government to advance conservative policies. The report was well received by the White House, and several of its authors went on to take positions in the Reagan administration.[17] Ronald Reagan liked the ideas so much that he gave a copy to each member of his cabinet to review.[18] Among the 2,000 Heritage proposals, approximately 60% of them were implemented or initiated by the end of Reagan's first year in office.[17][19] Reagan later called the Heritage Foundation a "vital force" in the successes during his presidency.[18]

The Heritage Foundation was influential in developing and advancing the Reagan Doctrine, a key Reagan administration foreign policy initiative under which the U.S. began providing military and other support to anti-communist resistance movements fighting Soviet-aligned governments in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Nicaragua, and other nations during the final years of the Cold War.[20]

When Reagan met with Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow in the 1980s, The Wall Street Journal later reported, "the Soviet leader offered a complaint: Reagan was influenced by the Heritage Foundation, Washington’s conservative think tank. The outfit lent intellectual energy to the Gipper’s agenda, including the Reagan Doctrine—the idea that America should support insurgents resisting communist domination."[21]

The Heritage Foundation also supported the development of a new ballistic missile defense system for the United States. In 1983, Reagan made the development of this new defense system, known as the Strategic Defense Initiative, his top defense priority.[17]

By mid-decade, the Heritage Foundation had begun emerging as a key organization in the national conservative movement, publishing influential reports on a broad range of policy issues by prominent conservative thought leaders.[22] In 1986, in recognition of the Heritage Foundation's fast-growing influence, Time magazine labeled the Heritage Foundation "the foremost of the new breed of advocacy tanks".[23] During the Reagan and subsequent George H. W. Bush administrations, the Heritage Foundation served as the brain trust on foreign policy to both administrations.[24]

George H. W. Bush administration

The Heritage Foundation remained an influential voice on domestic and foreign policy issues during President George H. W. Bush's administration. In 1990 and 1991, the foundation was a leading proponent of Operation Desert Storm designed to liberate Kuwait following Saddam Hussein's invasion and occupation of Kuwait in August 1990. According to Baltimore Sun Washington bureau chief Frank Starr, the Heritage Foundation's studies "laid much of the groundwork for Bush administration thinking" about post-Soviet foreign policy.[25] In domestic policy, the Bush administration agreed with six of the ten budget reform proposals the Heritage Foundation proposed in its Mandate for Leadership III book, which the administration included in its 1990 budget proposal.

Clinton administration

The Heritage Foundation continued to grow throughout the 1990s. The foundation's flagship journal, Policy Review, reached a circulation of 23,000. In 1993, Heritage was an opponent of the Clinton health care plan, which died in the U.S. Senate the following year, in August 1994.

In the 1994 Congressional elections, Republicans took control of the House of Representatives, and Newt Gingrich was elected as the new House Speaker in January 1995, largely based on commitments made in the Contract with America, which was issued six weeks prior to the 1994 elections. The Contract was a pact of principles that directly challenged the political status quo in Washington, D.C. and many of the ideas at the heart of the Clinton administration.[26]

The Heritage Foundation also became engaged in the culture wars, publishing The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators by William Bennett in 1994. The Index documented how crime, illegitimacy, divorce, teenage suicide, drug use, and fourteen other social indicators had worsened measurably since the 1960s.[27]

In 1995, the Heritage Foundation published its first Index of Economic Freedom, an annual publication that assesses the state of economic freedom in every country in the world; two years later, in 1997, The Wall Street Journal joined the project as a co-manager and co-author of the annual publication.

In 1996, Clinton aligned some of his welfare reforms with the Heritage Foundation's recommendations, incorporating them into the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act.

George W. Bush administration

Following the September 11 attacks in 2001, the Heritage Foundation supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in the war on terror.[28][29] The Heritage Foundation challenged opposition to the war,[30] and defended the George W. Bush administration's controversial detention and harsh interrogation of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay.[28]

Belle Haven Consultants

Further information: Belle Haven Consultants

In 1997, Heritage Foundation president Edwin Feulner and its Asia policy expert Ken Sheffer co-founded Belle Haven Consultants, a Hong Kong-based for-profit consulting firm that represented Malaysia-based clients. Belle Haven Consultants, in turn, paid over $1 million in fees to lobbying firms, which ultimately registered with the U.S. Department of Justice as foreign agents under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.[31][32]

In April 2005, The Washington Post reported that the Heritage Foundation softened its criticism of the Malaysian government after Feulner initiated a business relationship with Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. "Heritage's new, pro-Malaysian outlook emerged at the same time a Hong Kong consulting firm co-founded by Edwin J. Feulner, Heritage's president, began representing Malaysian business interests. The for-profit firm, called Belle Haven Consultants, retains Feulner's wife, Linda Feulner, as a 'senior adviser'. And Belle Haven's chief operating officer, Ken Sheffer, is the former head of Heritage's Asia office and is still on Heritage's payroll as a $75,000-a-year consultant," The Washington Post reported.[33][34]

The Heritage Foundation responded by denying any conflict of interest, stating that its views on Malaysia changed following the country's cooperation with the U.S. after the September 11 attacks,[35] and the Malaysian government "moving in the right economic and political direction."[36][37]

Obama administration

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead speaking at the Heritage Foundation in May 2010

In March 2010, the Obama administration introduced a health insurance mandate in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, an idea the Heritage Foundation initially developed and supported in "Assuring Affordable Health Care for All Americans", a study the foundation released on October 1, 1989.[38] The mandate proposed in the Heritage Foundation study previously had been incorporated into Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's health care plan for Massachusetts in 2006, commonly referred to as Romneycare.[39] The Heritage Foundation opposed the Affordable Care Act.[7]

In April 2010, Heritage leaders founded Heritage Action as a sister 501(c)4 organization to expand Heritage's reach in Washington, D.C.[7][40] The new group quickly, and became influential in Republican politics.[7][8]

In July 2011, the Heritage Foundation released a study on poverty in the United States[41] that was criticized by The New Republic, The Nation, the Center for American Progress, and The Washington Post, each of which criticized the study for too narrowly defining poverty and for its conclusions.[42][43][44][45]

In December 2012, Jim DeMint, then a U.S. Senator representing South Carolina, announced that he intended to resign from the Senate to head the Heritage Foundation.[46] As Heritage Foundation president, DeMint was paid $1 million annually, making him the highest paid think tank president in Washington, D.C. at the time.[47][48]

Some pundits predicted that DeMint would bring a sharper, more politicized edge to the Heritage Foundation.[49] DeMint led changes to the historical process that the foundation had utilized for publishing policy papers under which policy experts authored policy papers that were then reviewed by senior departmental staff.[50] Under DeMint, however, his team heavily edited policy papers and sometimes shelved them entirely.[50] In response to DeMint's new practice, several scholars at the foundation quit.[50]

In May 2013, Jason Richwine, who co-authored a controversial Heritage Foundation report on the costs of amnesty for migrants, resigned his position following intensive media scrutiny to his Harvard University Ph.D. thesis, authored four years earlier, in 2009, and comments he made at an American Enterprise Institute forum in 2008. Richwine argued that Hispanics and Blacks are intellectually inferior to Whites and have trouble assimilating because of a supposed genetic predisposition to lower IQ.[51][52]

The same year, in 2013, a Heritage Foundation study co-authored by senior fellow Richwine and Robert Rector was widely criticized across the political spectrum for methodology the two used in criticizing immigration reform legislation.[53] Reason magazine and the Cato Institute criticized the report for failing to employ dynamic scoring, which Heritage previously incorporated in analyzing other policy proposals.[54] The study was also criticized because of Richwine's 2009 doctoral dissertation that concluded that immigrants' IQs should be considered when crafting public policy.[55]

In July 2013, following disputes with the Heritage Foundation over the farm bill, the Republican Study Committee, which then included 172 conservative U.S. House members, reversed a decades-old tradition and barred Heritage employees from attending its weekly meeting in the U.S. Capitol, though it continued cooperating with the foundation through "regular joint events and briefings".[56]

2015 cyberattack

In September 2015, the Heritage Foundation announced that it had been targeted by hackers, which resulted in donors' information being taken. The Hill, a Washington, D.C.-based newspaper covering politics, compared the hacking to the cyberattack against the United States Office of Personnel Management a few months earlier by China's Jiangsu State Security Department, a subsidiary the Ministry of State Security spy agency, that accessed security clearance information on millions of federal government employees. The Heritage Foundation released no further information about the September 2015 hacking.[57][58]

2016 Trump candidacy

In June 2015, Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. In July 2015, appearing on a Fox News panel, the leader of Heritage Action, the foundation's advocacy arm, said, "Donald Trump's a clown. He needs to be out of the race."[59] The following month, in August, a Heritage Foundation economic writer, Stephen Moore, criticized Trump's policy positions, saying, "the problem for Trump is that he’s full of all of these contradictions. He’s kind of a tabula rasa on policy."[60] In December 2015, then Heritage Foundation executive vice president Kim Holmes, opposing Trump's candidacy, criticized Trump as "not a conservative." Holmes also criticized Trump supporters, writing that, "they are behaving more like an alienated class of Marxist imagination than as social agents of stability and tradition. They are indeed thinking like revolutionaries, only now their ire is aimed at their progressive masters and the institutions they control," he wrote.[61] Then Heritage president Jim Demint "praised both Rubio and Cruz, but said that he couldn’t 'make a recommendation coming from Heritage'."[62]

After Trump secured the Republican nomination and as the 2016 general election approached, the Heritage Foundation began emailing potential political appointees in the event Trump won the general election. "I need to assess your interest in serving as a presidential appointee in an administration that will promote conservative principles," the email said. It asked that questionnaires and a resume or bio be returned to them by October 26, roughly a week prior to the general election.[63]

Trump administration

Following Trump's victory in the 2016 presidential election, the Heritage Foundation obtained influence in his presidential transition and administration.[64][50][65] The foundation had a say in the staffing of the administration; CNN reported during the transition that "no other Washington institution has that kind of footprint in the transition."[64] One reason for the Heritage Foundation's disproportionate influence relative to other conservative think tanks, CNN reported, was that other conservative think tanks had "Never Trump" staff during the 2016 presidential election, while the Heritage Foundation ultimately signaled that it would be supportive of him.[64][50]

Drawing from a database that the Heritage Foundation began building in 2014 of approximately 3,000 conservatives who they trusted to serve in a hypothetical Republican administration, at least 66 foundation employees and alumni were hired into the Trump administration.[50] According to Heritage employees involved in developing the database, several hundred people from the Heritage database ultimately received jobs in government agencies, including Betsy DeVos, Mick Mulvaney, Rick Perry, Scott Pruitt, Jeff Sessions, and others who became members of Trump's cabinet.[50] Jim DeMint, president of the Heritage Foundation from 2013 to 2017, personally intervened on behalf of Mulvaney, who was appointed to head the Office of Management and Budget and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and later served as Trump's acting White House Chief of Staff.[50]

In May 2017, the foundation's board of trustees voted unanimously to terminate DeMint as its president. In a public statement, the board said that a thorough investigation of the foundation's operations under DeMint found "significant and worsening management issues that led to a breakdown of internal communications and cooperation." "While the organization has seen many successes," the board said, "Jim DeMint and a handful of his closest advisers failed to resolve these problems."[66] DeMint's firing was praised by some, including former U.S. congressman Mickey Edwards (R-OK), who said he saw it as a step by the foundation to pare back its partisan edge and restore its reputation as a pioneering think tank.[67] In January 2018, DeMint was succeeded by Kay Coles James as the foundation's president.

Biden administration

In February 2021, after Trump lost re-election, the Heritage Foundation hired three former Trump administration officials, Ken Cuccinelli, Mark A. Morgan, and Chad Wolf, who held various roles in immigration-related functions in the Trump administration. Cuccinelli and Wolf authored several publications in 2021 before leaving the foundation.[68][69][70]

At the same time, Heritage also hired former U.S. vice president Mike Pence as a distinguished visiting fellow. The following month, in March 2021, Pence authored and published an op-ed on a Heritage Foundation website that made false claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election, including numerous false claims about the For the People Act, a Democrat-supported bill to expand voting rights. Pence's false claims drew criticism and corrections from multiple media outlets and fact-checking organizations.[71][72][73] Pence left the foundation in 2022.[74][75]

The Heritage Foundation's positions and management under Kay Coles James drew criticism from conservatives and Trump allies, which intensified in 2020 and 2021. "In the early days of the pandemic in spring 2020, Heritage leadership under James rejected an article from one of its scholars denouncing government restrictions, two people with knowledge of the matter said. The foundation's offices stayed closed for about three months, and signs urging masking became something of a joke for many conservatives who mocked the concept", The Washington Post reported in February 2022. Conservatives also began commenting publicly that the Heritage Foundation had lost the significant intellectual and political clout that led to the foundation's ascent in the 1980s and 1990s. "People do not walk around in fear of the Heritage Foundation the way they did 10 years ago," one conservative told The Washington Post. In March 2021, in response to mounting criticism of her leadership of the foundation, James resigned from the foundation.[76]

In October 2021, the Heritage Foundation announced James would be replaced by Kevin Roberts, who previously led a state-based think tank, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and participated as a member of Texas Governor Greg Abbott's COVID-19 task force.[76][77]

Beginning incrementally in 2022, the Heritage Foundation began publicly embracing national conservatism as its guiding ideology.[78]

In May 2022, the Heritage Foundation completely reversed its position supporting military aid to Ukraine in its attempt to repel the Russian invasion of the nation, which it had previously supported.[79] Following the reversal of its position on military aid to Ukraine, the foundation claimed, "Ukraine Aid Package Puts America Last".[80] In September 2022, the foundation's foreign policy director said the foundation ordered him to retract his earlier statements supporting aid to Ukraine; he subsequently left the organization.[81] In August 2023, Thomas Spoehr, the foundation's Center for National Defense director, resigned his position over the dramatic policy change.[82]

In September 2022, one Heritage employee said he had been "required by management to remove a Twitter post condemning the January 6 storming of the Capitol."[83]

In March 2023, the Heritage Foundation established a cooperative relationship with the Danube Institute, a Budapest-based state-funded think tank founded in 2013.[84]

2024 Trump candidacy

In September 2023, Heritage Foundation co-founder and former president Edwin Feulner publicly endorsed Mike Pence in the 2024 Republican presidential primaries;[85] Pence dropped out of the race the following month, on October 28.[86]


The Heritage Foundation has historically ranked among the world's most influential think tanks. In 2020, the Global Go To Think Tank Index Report, published by the University of Pennsylvania, ranked the foundation sixth on its list of "top ten think tanks in the United States", 13th among think tanks globally, and first in its category of think tanks having the most significant impact on public policy between 2017 and 2019.[87]

Policy Review

Main article: Policy Review

From its 1973 founding through 2001, the Heritage Foundation published Policy Review, a public policy journal and its flagship publication; the journal was acquired by the Hoover Institution in 2001.

Mandate for Leadership

Main article: Mandate for Leadership

In 1981, the Heritage Foundation published Mandate for Leadership, which offered specific policy recommendations on policy, budget, and administrative action for the incoming Reagan administration. Ten additional editions of Mandate for Leadership have been published since.

Asian Studies Center

Main article: The Heritage Foundation's Asian Studies Center

In 1983, the Heritage Foundation's founded The Heritage Foundation's Asian Studies Center, which publishes research studies and commentary on Asia and the Pacific Rim and U.S. policy toward the region. The center also has hosted Asia-specific lectures by Henry Kissinger (1995), Donald Rumsfeld (1988), Paul Wolfowitz (2000), Henry Paulson (2007), and others.

State Policy Network

Main article: State Policy Network

The Heritage Foundation is an associate member of the State Policy Network, founded in 1992, a network of conservative and libertarian organizations financed by the Koch brothers, Philip Morris, and other corporate sources.[88][89][90]

Index of Economic Freedom

Main article: Index of Economic Freedom

Since 1995, the Heritage Foundation has published Index of Economic Freedom, an annual publication that measures countries' state of economic freedom, using property rights, freedom from government regulation, 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 as key metrics.

In 1997, The Wall Street Journal began partnering with Heritage as co-manager and co-editor of the Index of Economic Freedom. In 2014, Charles W. L. Hill, a professor at the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington, criticized the Index of Economic Freedom, writing that, "given that the Heritage Foundation has a political agenda, its work should be viewed with caution."[91]

2012 Republican presidential debate

Further information: 2012 Republican Party presidential debates and forums

In November 2011, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) co-hosted a debate among the candidates for the 2012 Republican 2012 presidential election on foreign policy and national defense issues, which was televised by CNN[92] and was the first presidential debate hosted by Heritage or AEI.[93] Heritage fellows Edwin Meese and David Addington were among the debate's moderators.[94] Following the debate, political commentator Michael Barone wrote in The Washington Examiner that it was "probably the most substantive and serious presidential debate of this election cycle.".[95]

The Daily Signal

Main article: The Daily Signal

In June 2014, the Heritage Foundation phased out its blog, The Foundry, replacing it with The Daily Signal, a news and conservative commentary website.[96][97]

Project 2025

Main article: Project 2025

Since August 2023, the foundation has led a constellation of groups participating in Project 2025, a collection of policy proposals to reshape the executive branch of the U.S. federal government in the event of a Republican victory in the 2024 U.S. presidential election. In addition to laying out policy proposals, the project is recruiting thousands to staff and reshape the federal government in ways closer to Heritage preferences should a Republican president be inaugurated in January 2025. Former Trump administration official Russell Vought, who is involved in the project, said, "The president Day One will be a wrecking ball for the administrative state."[98][99][100] The project's policy proposals include changes "for nearly every agency across the government", including undoing the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, shutting down the Department of Energy's Loan Programs Office, boosting the extraction and use of fossil fuels, and other measures that could have significant impact on how the administration approaches global warming and climate change.[99]

Other initiatives


The Heritage Foundation publishes The Insider, a quarterly magazine about public policy.[101] From 1995 to 2005, the Heritage Foundation ran Townhall, a conservative website that was subsequently acquired by Salem Communications.[102]

Index of Dependence

Beginning in 2002, the Heritage Foundation began publishing "Index of Dependence", an annual report on federal government programs in five areas: housing, health care and welfare, retirement, higher education, and rural and agricultural services that, in its view, constrain private sector or local government alternatives and impact the dependence of individuals on the federal government.[103] The 2010 edition of the "Index of Dependence" concluded that the number of Americans who pay nothing in federal personal income taxes and the number who rely on government services have both increased measurably,[104] and that, over the prior eight years, Americans' dependence on government had grown by almost 33 percent.[105] In February 2012, the foundation's conclusions were challenged by Rex Nutting of MarketWatch, who wrote that the report was "misleading" and "alarmist", that the percentage of Americans "dependent" upon government had remained essentially the same as it was in the 1980s, and that a small increase was attributable to the Great Recession and an aging population with proportionally more retirees.[106]

Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom

In September 2005, the Heritage Foundation established the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom named in honor of the former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.[107] Thatcher maintained a long-standing relationship with the Heritage Foundation. In September 1991, shortly after Thatcher left office, the foundation hosted a dinner in Thatcher's honor.[108] Six years later, in 1997, Thatcher delivered the keynote address at Heritage's 25th anniversary celebration.[109] In 2002, Thatcher was again honored by the foundation, which awarded her with its annual Clare Boothe Luce Award.[110]


Anti-critical race theory legislation

In 2021, the Heritage Foundation said that one of its two priorities, along with tightening voting laws, was to push Republican-controlled states to ban or restrict critical race theory instruction.[111] The Heritage Foundation sought to get Republicans in Congress to put anti-critical race theory provisions into must-pass legislation such as the annual defense spending bill.[111]

Black Lives Matter

In September 2021, a Heritage Foundation senior fellow, Mike Gonzalez, released a book, BLM: The New Making of a Marxist Revolution, that characterizes Black Lives Matter as "a nationwide insurgency" and labeling its leaders "avowed Marxists who say they want to dismantle our way of life."[112]

Climate change denial

The Heritage Foundation rejects the scientific consensus on climate change.[113][114] The foundation is one of many climate change denial organizations that have been funded by ExxonMobil, an oil and petroleum company that is the eighth-largest corporation in the world with over $413 billion in revenue as of 2022.[113][115]

The Heritage Foundation strongly criticized the December 1997 Kyoto Agreement to curb climate change, arguing that American participation in the treaty would "result in lower economic growth in every state and nearly every sector of the economy."[116] The foundation projected that the 2009 cap-and-trade bill, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, would result in a cost of $1,870 per family in 2025 and $6,800 by 2035, which varied greatly from those of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, which projected that it would cost the average family $175 in 2020.[117]

Transgender rights opposition

The Heritage Foundation has engaged in several activities in opposition to transgender rights, including hosting several anti-transgender rights events,[118][119] developing and supporting legislation templates against transgender rights,[120][121][122] and making claims about transgender youth healthcare and suicide rates based on internal research, which are contradicted by numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies.[123]


In May 2022, Heritage Action, the Heritage Foundation's political activism organization, announced its opposition to the $40 billion military aid package for Ukraine passed that month following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, completely reversing the organization's previous position of support for such aid.[124][125] The Heritage Foundation's foreign policy director at the time, Luke Coffey, said he was ordered to retract his earlier statements supporting aid to Ukraine; he subsequently left the foundation.[126]

In August 2023, newly installed Heritage president Kevin Roberts stated in an op-ed that Congress was holding victims of the 2023 Hawaii wildfires hostage "in order to spend more money in Ukraine". The op-ed was followed by a public messaging campaign with the same message and with a tweet by a Heritage vice president, who argued, "It's time to end the blank, undated checks for Ukraine." This, in turn, led the foundation's second senior official, Lt. Gen. (Ret) Thomas Spoehr, director of Heritage's Center for National Defense, to submit his resignation.[82][127]

Voter fraud claims

The Heritage Foundation has promoted false claims of electoral fraud. Hans von Spakovsky, who heads the Heritage Foundation's Election Law Reform Initiative, has played an influential role in elevating alarmism about voter fraud in the Republican Party, despite offering no evidence of widespread voter fraud.[128][129] His work, which claims voting fraud is rampant, has been discredited.[130]

Following the 2020 presidential election, in which President Donald Trump made baseless claims of fraud after he was defeated for reelection, the Heritage Foundation launched a campaign in support of Republican efforts to make state voting laws more restrictive.[131][132]

In March 2021, The New York Times reported that the Heritage Foundation's political arm, Heritage Action, planned to spend $24 million over two years across eight key states to support efforts to restrict voting, in coordination with the Republican Party and allied conservative outside groups, including the Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, American Legislative Exchange Council, and State Policy Network. Almost two dozen election bills introduced by Republican state legislators in early 2021 were based on a Heritage letter and report.[133] Heritage also mobilized in opposition to H.R. 1./S. 1, a Democratic bill to establish uniform nationwide voting standards, including expanded early and postal voting, automatic and same-day voter registration, campaign finance law reforms, and prohibiting partisan redistricting.[131][132]

In May 2021, Heritage Action spent $750,000 on television ads in Arizona to promote the false claim that "Democrats...want to register illegal aliens" to vote, even though the Democrats' legislation creates safeguards to ensure that ineligible people cannot register.[132] In April 2021, Heritage Action boasted to its private donors that it had successfully crafted the election reform bills that Republican state legislators introduced in Georgia and other states.[134]

On January 21, 2024, after three years of silence on Trump's position that Biden was an illegitimate president and that Trump actually won the 2020 election, Lulu Garcia-Navarro, a reporter for The New York Times, presented the question to Heritage president Kevin Roberts. "Do you believe that President Biden won the 2020 election?" Garcia-Navarro asked. "No," Roberts replied.[135]


In 1973, businessman Joseph Coors contributed $250,000 to establish the Heritage Foundation and continued to fund it through the Adolph Coors Foundation.[136][137] The foundation's trustees have historically included individuals affiliated with Chase Manhattan Bank, Dow Chemical, General Motors, Mobil, Pfizer, Sears, and other corporations.[138]

Heritage is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization and BBB Wise Giving Alliance-accredited charity funded by donations from private individuals, corporations, and charitable foundations.[139][140][141] It is not required to disclose its donors and donations under the current laws that guide tax-deductible organizations.[140]

In the 1980s, the Heritage Foundation reportedly received a $2.2 million donation from South Korea's National Intelligence Service, South Korea's intelligence agency, then known as the Korean Central Intelligence Agency.[142]

As of 2010, the foundation reported that it had 710,000 individual financial contributors.[143]

For the fiscal year ending December 31, 2011, CharityWatch reported that Edwin Feulner, the Heritage Foundation's past president, received the highest compensation in its top 25 list of compensation received by charity members. Two years later, in 2013, according to CharityWatch, Feulner received $2,702,687, which included investment earnings of $1,656,230 accrued over 33 years.[144]

As of 2013, the foundation was a grantee of Donors Trust, a nonprofit donor-advised fund.[145][146][importance?][147]

In 2022, the foundation's total revenue was $106 million and its expenditures were $93.7 million, according to ProPublica.[148]

Notable board of trustees members


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