Heritage Action's frequent, principled clashes with the Washington Establishment made headlines this week. The Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd) framed it this way:
Behind much of the lobbying group's heft are two tectonic shifts in American politics: conservative activists' growing distrust of GOP leaders and the technological innovations that allow well-organized groups and individual politicians to connect directly with pockets of supporters and donors.
"Influence is being dispersed," said Heritage Action Chief Executive Mike Needham. "The reason we're controversial is that people don't like change."
Heritage Action says it has 61,000 donors but doesn't disclose sources of its funding. It raised $5.9 million in 2012, according to figures provided by the group, a significant uptick from 2011 but still a sliver of the $82 million its parent organization raised. A number of prominent conservatives sit on the Heritage Foundation board, including billionaires Steve Forbes and Richard Mellon Scaife.
This isn't the first time [The Heritage Foundation] has sparred with GOP leaders. It was born in 1973 in part to counter what its founders viewed as then-President Richard Nixon's drift to the political center, and it notably clashed with Republicans during last decade's enactment of the Medicare prescription-drug benefit.
Mr. Needham, however, sees his group as an extension of the Heritage Foundation's legacy of challenging orthodoxy.
"There's a huge swath of the American people who feel totally unrepresented in Washington, and you have two political parties that are equally part of the problem," Mr. Needham said. "We need to have a political party that steps up and says, 'Look, it's true, the fix is in in Washington and it might be difficult, but we're going to be the party for you.'"