Sen. Jim DeMint Resigning to Become Heritage Foundation CEO


December 6, 2012; Source: USA TODAY

U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) announced yesterday that he intends to resign from the U.S. Senate in January to become the new head of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative 501(c)(3) nonprofit think tank based in Washington, D.C. He is scheduled to succeed Edwin J. Feulner, the Heritage Foundation’s only president since its founding in 1973, when Feulner retires in April. The announcement came as a surprise to many, as Sen. DeMint’s current term runs through 2016 and he holds significant committee positions in the Senate. He was also the founder of the Senate Tea Party Caucus.

DeMint’s resignation from the U.S. Senate means that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, will appoint someone to serve until a special election in 2014. USA TODAY notes that South Carolina has typically been a GOP-dominated state, but Gov. Haley and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are up for re-election in 2014 and “both are vulnerable to primary challenges.” Adding a special election for South Carolina’s other U.S. Senate seat guarantees much political positioning and political spending in the coming election cycle.

DeMint has been quoted in the past as being interested in a think tank leadership position after his Senate career. He enjoys a reputation as a conservative thinker who is willing to challenge the Senate GOP leadership on policy issues. USA TODAY quotes David Woodard, with whom DeMint co-wrote a book in 2007: “… he really wants to do policy and he thinks the Heritage Foundation is the place to do that.”

As a policy expert and self-styled “citizen legislator,” DeMint will have the opportunity to influence conservative policy debates and will represent Heritage Foundation research and positions publicly. Although he won’t have a Senate vote, he will also be freed from the party-line constraints increasingly common in a polarized legislature. The new position will also likely represent a significant increase in salary. Although no starting salary was announced, the current Heritage president receives approximately $1 million annually (over half in bonuses), according to the organization’s most recently filed Form 990. In that filing, Heritage reported revenue of about $80 million and net assets of $164 million. –Michael Wyland


Michael Wyland

Michael L. Wyland, CSL, has more than thirty years of experience in corporate and government public policy, management, and administration. An expert on nonprofit governance and public policy issues, he has been featured and quoted extensively in media including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CNN, Fox News, Washington Post, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and The Nonprofit Quarterly. He currently serves as an editorial advisory board member and contributor to The Nonprofit Quarterly, with more than 100 articles published since 2012. Michael is a partner in the consulting firm of Sumption & Wyland. Founded in 1990, the firm provides board governance consulting, public speaking and training, and executive coaching to nonprofit organizations. Sumption & Wyland has assisted more than 200 nonprofits with strategic planning services from pre-retreat research to staff-level implementation assistance and effectiveness monitoring. Speaking topics include board-CEO partnerships, nonprofit executive transition issues, and overviews of the nonprofit sector of the US economy. Michael was born in Washington, DC and raised in the Northern Virginia suburbs. Prior to co-founding Sumption & Wyland, Michael managed the computer operations for an independent oil & gas investor in Dallas, Texas and served as a staff assistant to a U.S. Representative. During his college years, he spent one summer working at the US Department of Labor and one summer working at the US Department of Justice. His past volunteer service includes various leadership positions at the local, state, and national level with the Young Republicans. He has been the secretary and president of a condominium homeowners association and the treasurer of a professional association serving computing professionals. He served as a Trustee and Vice President of Sertoma Foundation, and has been elected president of his local Sertoma club twice. In 2014, Michael was elected Chair of the South Dakota Commission for National and Community Service (Serve SD), on which he has served since its founding in 2011. He is currently working as a senior advisor to establish a national charity dedicated to the elimination of prejudice, expanding the scope and reach of the 120-year old Pi Lamba Phi fraternal organization. Michael's writing for NPQ often addresses healthcare policy and governance, scandals involving nonprofits, and the governance and policy implications of nonprofit stories in the news. He was widely quoted and cited for his work analyzing the governance issues related to the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State/Second Mile scandal in 2011. More recently, he has written more than 30 pieces for NPQ relating to the IRS scandal. In addition, he presented a paper at the national 2014 ARNOVA Conference about the IRS scandal and its implications for regulation of political activity by nonprofit organizations. Michael lives in Sioux Falls, SD with his wife, Margaret Sumption, and their dog. They have one adult son. In his leisure time, he likes to read histories and biographies, play golf, cook, and be a companion to his wife.

  • Mark Bertler

    It’s all about the money

  • michael

    If it was about the money, DeMint should have slid into corporate lobbying like Liz Fowler, on of the architects of ObamaCare who moved effortlessly into a lobbying position with Johnson and Johnson. That’s where the big $$$ are.

    One suspects the Senator’s move is about influence. As a marginalized figure in a minority party he really saw a small role in the Senate. Now he’ll hold much larger sway as CEO of a named think tank.