After days of speculation, it’s now official: Jim DeMint is out as president of the Heritage Foundation
The Heritage Foundation’s Board of Trustees, by a unanimous vote, has asked for and received the resignation of Jim DeMint as president and CEO of the organization. The Board elected Heritage Founder Ed Feulner as president and CEO while we conduct a thorough search for his successor.
After a comprehensive and independent review of the entire Heritage organization, the Board determined there were significant and worsening management issues that led to a breakdown of internal communications and cooperation. While the organization has seen many successes, Jim DeMint and a handful of his closest advisers failed to resolve these problems.
This was a difficult and necessary decision for the Board to take. As trustees, we have governance and oversight responsibilities for this organization and our 500,000 members. We were compelled to take action.
According to Eliana Johnson and Nancy Cook of Politico, while the managerial problems were always there, some of which predating DeMint’s tenure as president, the board had lost confidence that he could correct these shortfalls. One of the projects that led to DeMint’s collapse was Heritage Action, which ended up being more focused on putting out fires among Congressional Republicans rather than crafting and selling conservative policies. Former president Ed Fuelner is taking over temporarily. There were also rumors that Heritage Action’s CEO Mike Needham had been plotting to oust DeMint, though a board member that Cook and Johnson spoke with dismissed that narrative. Needham declined to comment:
Days of speculation, tension, and internal bickering came to a close on Tuesday: The organization's board members voted unanimously to remove DeMint from his post as president, a decision first reported by POLITICO last week. Feulner, who presided over the institution for 37 years, will be named interim president and to preside over a search for a permanent replacement.
Ironically, it was Feulner’s decision in 2010 to create an advocacy organization, Heritage Action, and to install [Mike] Needham [CEO of Heritage Action] atop it, that sowed the seeds of DeMint's fall. Though the think tank and the advocacy arm are legally separate entities, several sources familiar with the institution's internal dynamics say that both organizations became increasingly focused on mediating fights among congressional Republicans rather than on generating policy ideas. The problem existed before DeMint took the helm of Heritage in 2013, but has mushroomed since, Heritage insiders said.
But if DeMint wasn’t the source of the problem, sources say, board members concluded he wasn’t the solution, either.
A senior Republican Senate aide said Needham had been laying the groundwork to overthrow DeMint for more than a year and set about to convince board members one by one.
“I think a lot of board members are being told what Mike Needham thinks they want to hear,” the person said.
Needham's allies say that DeMint was a disappointing steward who led a once-venerable but declining organization into further chaos. A member of the board insisted that, as of Tuesday, the board had no clear candidate in mind to replace DeMint, and that Needham had not engineered his removal.