DeMint expected to step down as president of Heritage Foundation

DeMint expected to step down as president of Heritage Foundation

Former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is expected to step down as president of the Heritage Foundation as it’s become clear that the think tank’s board of trustees will not renew his contract.

A source familiar with discussions inside the conservative think tank said Heritage is expected to issue a statement at the end of the day Friday announcing DeMint’s departure.

The senior leadership of the think tank, which DeMint brought over from the Senate — including Ed Corrigan, vice president for policy promotion; Wesley Denton, vice president for communications; and James Wallner, vice president for research — are expected to resign as well.

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Corrigan, Denton and Wallner have signed non-disclosure agreements as part of their severance, according to the source, and did not respond to requests for comment.


The source said that not all board members agreed with the decision to replace DeMint and that one has quit in protest.

John Cooper, a spokesman for Heritage, did not respond to a request for comment.

A GOP operative who works closely with Heritage said that sources within the organization have confirmed that the board is looking for a new president who is more focused on policy and less on politics.

“The board wanted someone who is more of a wonk,” said the source, who added that DeMint’s part-time status in D.C. contributed to the disconnect with trustees.

“He never really committed to moving to D.C. and spending all his time here. He would come in and out of town and treated it as a job that he didn’t intend to stay in for the long term. When his contract ran out, they didn’t want to renew it,” the GOP operative explained.

DeMint raised the level of the think tank’s political activism since taking over as president. It slammed the House GOP plan to replace ObamaCare as flawed policy.

He also helped President Trump staff his transition team after unexpectedly winning the election, and senior Heritage staff went on to serve in key positions within the administration, such as Paul Winfree, the deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council.

DeMint will be replaced on an interim basis by Edwin Feulner, a founding trustee of Heritage who served as president from 1977 to 2013.

Michael Needham, the chief executive officer of Heritage Action, the group’s lobbying arm, may eventually move over to the foundation to take an active role in its management.

Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action, did not respond to a request for comment.

Brian Darling, a former staffer at the Heritage Foundation, praised DeMint’s tenure as a success.

“Conservatives give credit to Jim DeMint for touring the nation to defund ObamaCare and providing a list of potential Supreme Court nominees to President Trump. The Heritage Foundation will survive the change in leadership, yet it would be wrong to look at the DeMint years as anything but successful,” said Darling, who served as a senior fellow for government studies at the think tank from 2005 to 2012. 

Trump praised DeMint on Friday for helping him select Neil Gorsuch to replace the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

“Also from Heritage, Jim DeMint, it’s been amazing. Those people have been fantastic, they’ve been real friends,” he said at the National Rifle Association leadership forum.

DeMint retired early from the Senate in 2012 to succeed Edwin Feulner as president, receiving a substantial pay increase compared to his salary in the Senate.

DeMint increased the Heritage Foundation’s revenue by 31 percent during his first year as president in 2013, for which he earned $614,000 in compensation, according to a copy of the group’s 990 tax form for that year.

Politico, citing a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, reported Friday that Feulner, the founder of Heritage, is expected to take over as interim president before DeMint’s contract runs out at the end of the year. 

The New York Times reported Friday that DeMint earned more than $1 million in 2015.

Ben Kamisar contributed. 

- Updated at 3:17 p.m.