An InterNation Story: The Heritage Foundation Goes Abroad

The Nation, June 6, 1987 | Go to article overview

An InterNation Story: The Heritage Foundation Goes Abroad


AN INTERNATION STORY

THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION GOES ABROAD

Since 1982 the Heritage Foundation, the mostinfluential conservative think tank in the United States, has channeled as much as $1 million to right-wing organizations in Britain and other Western European countries, with the aim of influencing domestic political affairs. In one case large sums have been paid through a former Central Intelligence Agency contract employee to undisclosed third parties. The transfer of Heritage funds is detailed in documents obtained by InterNation from the United States Internal Revenue Service and has been confirmed in interviews with officials of the Heritage Foundation and like-minded think tanks in Europe.

The Heritage Foundation has established itselfas a major political presence in Ronald Reagan's Washington since 1980, when it produced its "Mandate for Leadership,' a 1,093-page compendium of conservative policy proposals. But although its domestic activities have attracted widespread attention, the foundation's effort to expand its influence beyond the United States has had a much lower profile. The first opportunity to measure the scope of its international activities may come in Britain, which is preparing for a general election on June 11. The British groups financed by Heritage are closely linked to senior figures in Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's Conservative Party. In one case, where the foundation provided start-up capital and the overwhelming bulk of continued financial support, the result is a virtual Heritage satellite.

In recent years conservatives have increasinglybanded together across borders. The International Democratic Union, for example, a collection of conservative party leaders from thirty countries, was set up in 1983 to hold biannual gatherings to coordinate strategies, particularly in foreign policy. Jeffrey Gayner, Heritage's counsel for international relations, who is described in the organization's 1985 annual report as its "ambassador to the world,' says Heritage has led the effort to shape a "common international agenda' for the right, developing "a cooperative relationship' with more than 200 foreign groups and individuals, including political parties, think tanks, academics and media. Programs include information exchanges and visits, Heritage's periodic appointment of non-Americans to specific assignments and fellowships.

Heritage's international activities have been helped by itseasy entree to Reagan Administration circles. In 1982 President Reagan appointed the foundation's president, Edwin Feulner Jr., as chair of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. That commission evaluates programs of the U.S. Information Agency, including Voice of America, Radio Marti, Fulbright scholarships and the National Endowment for Democracy. Heritage's 1986 annual report boasted that in his work for the foundation, Feulner had "again logged over 100,000 miles of air travel . . . visiting numerous world capitals, and meeting with countless government officials.' Gayner, as a member of the Board of Foreign Scholarships, which supervises the U.S.I.A.'s academic exchange programs, has found the doors of foreign governments and universities wide open to him.

Nowhere have the associations been closer than with Britain.Feulner, who attended the London School of Economics and the University of Edinburgh, maintains close personal links to British conservatives. Gerald Frost, executive director of the Institute for European Defense and Strategic Studies (I.E.D.S.S.), a beneficiary of the Heritage Foundation's largesse, told InterNation, "I'm helped in some ways that Ed Feulner is an Anglophile and an admirer of English institutions.' Feulner's enthusiasm is reciprocated: in October 1983, Prime Minister Thatcher sent Heritage an effusive personal message of congratulations on its tanth anniversary. Heritage also led the attack on Unesco, which culminated when the United States withdrew from the organization, in 1984, followed by Britain a year later. …

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