If personnel is indeed policy, as the Heritage Foundation likes to argue, an imminent staffing change at the think tank could have significant repercussions for the conservative movement and the future of Republican presidential politics.
As RealClearPolitics first reported, Tim Chapman, the executive director of Heritage Action, will soon join the team of Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a possible contender for the presidency post-Trump.
Chapman will serve as executive director of Stand for America, Haley’s conservative policy group. Details remain unknown, as Heritage, Heritage Action, and Stand for America did not return requests for comment.
But wonks inside the behemoth Capitol Hill complex had known of the move for weeks. And the rest of Washington has long known Chapman.
Since its founding in 2010, Heritage Action has served as the lobbying arm of Heritage, pushing lawmakers to embrace their vision of conservative policy. Chapman was there since the beginning, marshalling a grassroots army from across the country to lobby Congress.
Heritage Action often directed its fire toward Republican lawmakers deemed insufficiently conservative, and the organization was both praised and scorned inside the party for its role in the government shutdown over Obamacare.
Griping aside, politicians knew the risk of crossing the organization. Vote the wrong way on legislation, and Heritage Action made sure a lawmaker’s office would be inundated with letters and phone calls from constituents demanding an answer.
With his conservative resume and organizing ability, Chapman is seen as a key hire for Haley, especially if she seeks the Republican nomination in a post-Trump world.
“Tim’s one of the most talented people in the conservative movement,” Mike Needham told RealClearPolitics. The chief of staff for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Heritage Action director added that Haley had “made a great choice” and said that “it will be exciting to watch the work they do together to advance our nation’s values.”
Haley left her post at the end of 2018, one of only a few administration alumni who walked away from the White House with an intact relationship with the president. So popular was Haley in certain Trump circles, she eventually had to quash rumors that she might replace Vice President Pence on the 2020 ticket. Speculation about her White House ambitions now abounds. By bringing in Chapman, with his sterling conservative resume, the ex-ambassador may be shoring up her right flank in advance of a presidential bid.
But Chapman and company have not said anything about 2024. His focus in his new role, according to a press statement obtained by RCP before its release, will be to “advance public policies that strengthen America’s economy, culture, and security.”
“It has been a true honor to work with some of the brightest minds at The Heritage Foundation and help turn conservative ideas into reality on Capitol Hill,” Chapman wrote. “Working together with Heritage, we have accomplished significant policy goals and made important advancements for the American people. The Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action are a powerful combination and I am confident they will continue to shape public policy issues in the future.”
Heritage has come into increased prominence during the Trump administration, betting big on the candidate when other Republicans turned their nose up at him during the 2016 primary. The payoff was significant for an organization considered “the conservative mothership.” Heritage staff packed up and joined the administration in key posts, bringing the think tank’s policy prescriptions with them.
Conservative insiders expect Chapman to do the same for Haley, and his new gig is widely seen as a big hire for a former ambassador and governor still weighing her presidential ambitions.
“As I embark on this new role at Stand for America, I am looking forward to working alongside Nikki Haley and helping her build a platform for promoting policy ideas,” Chapman wrote. “This is a passion that both of us share.
“We are excited to work with our fellow citizens to advocate policies that help everyone achieve the American Dream,” he continued.
As the political world gears up for another bruising presidential election in November, key players are keeping their eyes on life and opportunities after Trump. Chapman and Haley seem to be among them.