One of President Obama’s most outspoken critics is quitting the U.S. Senate to take over the reins at the Heritage Foundation, the nation’s preeminent conservative think tank.
As first reported by the Wall Street Journal, Tea Party movement-supported Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said he is leaving public office in order to help the conservative movement regain the upper hand in the war of ideas. Replacing Heritage co-founder Ed Feulner, DeMint expects to take over as president at Heritage early next year.
“This is an urgent time because we saw in the last election we were not able to communicate conservative ideas that win elections,” said DeMint, a market researcher before he entered public life.
“This really gets my blood going again thinking about the possibilities. This is the time to elevate the conservative cause.”
The three-term senator who frequently clashes with Republican leadership in the Senate said he wants to use Heritage’s research along with those of state think tanks and “translate those policy papers into real-life demonstrations of things that work.” He added, “We want to figure out what works at the local and state level” and promote those policy solutions nationally.
DeMint addressed 200 Heritage staffers yesterday.
“This organization is in a position to do more to save our country than any other organization I’m aware of,” he said. ”I believe that we have put together here the power, the muscle, the ideas to turn things around.”
The Heritage Foundation reportedly has an annual budget of $80 million so DeMint’s fundraising expertise will come in handy. The foundation itself is a nonprofit educational institution recognized under section 501c3 of the Internal Revenue Code. Its sister 501c4 organization, Heritage Action for America, is an advocacy group. Donations to the 501c3 group are tax-deductible to the donor but donations to the 501c4 entity are not.
DeMint founded the Senate Conservatives Fund, an important political action committee that has raised more than $25 million to help elect eight limited-government GOP candidates to the Senate in 2010 and 2012. Among them are Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania), Marco Rubio (Florida), Mike Lee (Utah), and Ron Johnson (Wisconsin), along with Senators-elect Ted Cruz (Texas), Jeff Flake (Arizona), and Deb Fischer (Nebraska). DeMint cut his formal ties to the fund earlier this year, making it a non-affiliated, multi-candidate PAC.
SCF Executive Director Matt Hoskins said DeMint “has consistently fought for conservative policies and he’s helped elect a new generation of conservatives who will continue this legacy.”
DeMint’s “new role puts him in a powerful position to fight for conservative principles for many years to come,” Hoskins said. “This is a win-win for the conservative movement.”
With Mitt Romney’s shocking loss last month in the presidential election, it is clear that the conservative movement needs help getting its message out. At times during the campaign Romney struggled to articulate conservative ideas.
In addition to hitting Democrats, conservatives, including DeMint, have been harshly critical of leading figures in the Republican Party, accusing them of being too willing to compromise with President Obama.
Right now Republicans are losing the political battle over the so-called fiscal cliff, a potentially toxic combination of steep tax hikes and deep spending cuts scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2013. Negotiations aimed at avoiding the cliff are not going well.
Polling suggests most Americans would blame congressional Republicans — not congressional Democrats and President Obama — if the country goes over the metaphorical cliff.
Meanwhile, Republicans will have 43 members in the incoming Senate, down from 45 in the current Congress. DeMint’s departure should have no effect on GOP standings in the Senate because his home state governor is a Republican who will presumably appoint another Republican to the seat.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will soon decide whom to appoint to succeed DeMint. Of course it’s early in the process but so far talk has centered on Congressman Tim Scott (R-S.C.), a black conservative with the enthusiastic backing of the Tea Party movement as a potential replacement.
Unlike President Obama, Scott has an inspiring life story that happens to be true. Unlike Obama he was not a “red diaper baby” surrounded by Marxists from his first breath. Scott was actually born poor and unlike the president embraced the American Dream, running a business and achieving upward mobility before entering politics.
If appointed Scott would be the first African-American senator from the South since Reconstruction.
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