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Heritage Foundation to launch new political arm

The Heritage Foundation is set to launch a new 501(c)4 organization Thursday called Heritage Action for America. The new group will be run by CEO Mike Needham and COO Tim Chapman, both veterans of Republican campaigns, and their new task will be to encourage Heritage donors to lobby members of Congress on key issues.

The new project was "enthusiastically" approved Thursday by the think tank's board of trustees, who are meeting in Naples, Fla.

"Heritage has an obligation to do this," said Needham. "We have 633,000 donors who care about conservative politics and want to see good legislation get passed."

Ed Feulner, the president of the 37-year old foundation -- he won't be running operations at Heritage Action -- said that donors had been clamoring for something like this.

"We've had success when we've been able to add and multiply to what the conservative movement was doing -- welfare reform in the 1990s," said Feulner. "Social Security with George W. Bush -- that did not succeed, but at least he had the guts to come out and push for it, and we had the research to use as a foundation."

Heritage Action will employ somewhere between eight and 12 staffers, who will be deployed somewhere near -- not inside -- the think tank's sprawling offices near Union Station. Organizers are looking at $1 million as an initial funding goal. The money will go to grass-roots organizing and to ads targeting House members whose district contains large numbers of Heritage donors. (Heritage Action won't endorse or donate to candidates.)

"There are 30 congressional districts where we have 2,000 members," said Needham. "In two-thirds of the districts, we have a thousand members. If you think about the way the largest employer in a district is treated when he visits a member of Congress, that's what we're going for. We plan on activating members and making sure our ideas are given the same hearing as ideas from unions and big labor."

By David Weigel  |  April 8, 2010; 3:25 PM ET
Categories:  Conservatives  
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