Washington Post Hypes 'Hard-Right' Heritage Foundation's Lobbying Division

Washington Post writer Suzy Khimm, a former reporter for far-left magazine Mother Jones, did her best to portray the Heritage Foundation's lobbying outfit, Heritage Action, as an extreme cabal in a Thursday item on the front page of the Style section. Khimm used two variations of "hardline" to label the two-plus year old group, as well as the term "hard-right."

In her article, "The right’s latest weapon: think-tank lobbying muscle," the writer ballyhooed Heritage Action's influence in the halls of Congress, particularly in the continuing budget battle. She first likened the organization to the alter-ego of a well-known superhero:

Think of Heritage Action as the Clark Kent of the conservative think tank world — as buttoned-down and statistics-laden as can be, but when the nemesis (Democrats! Liberals! Wishy-washy Republicans!) come into sight, the glasses come off and the lobbying muscles flex.

Suzy Khimm, Washington Post Writer; Screen Cap From 6 January 2013 Edition of MSNBC's Up With Chris Hayes | NewsBusters.orgKhimm then wasted little time before hyping the supposed radical nature and power of the group:

...The 31-year-old chief executive of Heritage Action [Mike Needham] — the lobbying arm of the storied Heritage Foundation — senses victory where others see defeat.

Sure, you could interpret the passage of the Jan 1. fiscal cliff deal as a crushing loss for conservatives, who were pained to see Republicans vote for their first tax increase in more than two decades. But flip the script, Needham urges, and you'll see that only 85 House Republicans supported the deal; 151 of them voted against it.

"That's a whole lot of Republicans who kept their purity on the tax issue," Needham explains. He's as confident as ever that his group will compel conservatives to hold firm in the next stage of the fiscal fight. Needham will have a partner in former senator Jim DeMint, the conservative firebrand from South Carolina who's set to become president of the Heritage Foundation in April.

If the "firebrand" label wasn't enough of a hint, the journalist dropped her first use of "hardline" two paragraphs later:

While some of its compatriots have reconsidered their hardline stances since President Obama's reelectioneven Grover Norquist gave the GOP a hall pass on the fiscal cliff's tax hikeHeritage Action has retrenched. On Wednesday, House Republicans backed down from the debt-ceiling standoff and voted to suspend it for three months without offsetting spending cuts. But Heritage Action has already settled on the next crisis point to use as leverage: rallying, cajoling, and shaming lawmakers to commit to a budget that balances within 10 years. And here, in part, is why Heritage Action calls itself the "new fangs" on the Heritage "beast": It has no qualms about holding conservative members accountable to their promises — even if it risks a government shutdown.

Get that? Khimm's spin would lead the reader to think that Heritage Action is more radical than the left's favorite bogeyman Norquist. She continued that "Heritage Action is reaching out to its allies on Capitol Hill — some of the most conservative members of Congress, who fear becoming increasingly isolated if more Republicans choose to ally themselves with Democrats. 'Heritage is really the only group that's gotten down into the trenches,' said Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.)."

The Washington Post reporter then listed two of these "most conservative" congressmen and senators: Representative Tim Huelskamp (described as leading a "failed revolt this month against reelecting John Boehner...as speaker"); and Senator Mike Lee, a "tea party favorite".

Khimm devoted much of the rest of her article going over the history of Heritage Action's "mother" organization, and how its "first true rival on the left", the Center for American Progress, apparently inspired the Heritage Foundation to set up the lobbying outfit. She picked up where she left off with her slant against the group 30 paragraphs in, as she outlined some of the criticism that the nascent group has received:

...When the group first launched its scorecard giving every legislator a conservative rating, some Republicans were livid about getting low marks....Such friction with the Republican establishment has helped Heritage Action gain a bigger following among conservative activists just as internal turmoil has torn apart the tea party's most prominent institutions. FreedomWorks — formerly run by Dick Armey — is in disarray. Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, left his own group. Meanwhile, many Beltway institutions have dismissed the tea party movement as too far out of the mainstream.

Three paragraphs towards the end, the writer asserted that "Heritage is digging its heels in at the very moment that some Republicans are rethinking their hard-line stance. While Heritage Action was urging Republicans to embrace the debt-ceiling fight head on...even the Americans for Prosperity, which was co-founded by the conservative billionaire Koch brothers, cautioned against fixating on the issue."

So, to recap Khimm's spin, Heritage Action is not only more extreme than Grover Norquist, it's also one-upped two other archvillains of the left, the Koch Brothers! She added that "liberals, for their part, believe that Heritage's hard-right positions will only alienate more moderate Republicans and push them toward compromise with Democrats." The Mother Jones alumna thus forwards the left's wishful thinking about the organization.

Speaking of Mother Jones, the Post's bio page for Khimm fails to mention her work at the far left publication between March 2010 and June 2011. Instead, it lists that she "wrote for the Economist, Wall Street Journal Asia, Slate, and the Christian Science Monitor." It makes little sense for the newspaper to hide this past occupation, given the evident slant in her Thursday article.

[Full disclosure: I worked at the Heritage Foundation between 2003 and 2006, as I pointed out on my NewsBusters bio page.]

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