The hard-right Heritage Foundation, one of the pillars of the conservative movement, made defeating START one of its top institutional priorities. Yet 13 Republican Senators ended up bucking Heritage and voted to ratify the START treaty. Heritage ended up so far to the right that it was unable to convince any significant number of Republicans to follow its nonsensical substantive attack on START that the treaty would lead to massive nuclear proliferation and eventually to a nuclear war.
Heritage fellows held event after event, wrote article after article, report after report, blog post after blog post, attacking the treaty. Heritage Fellow James Carafano, in columns for the Daily Caller, urged the Tea Party “tackle defense issues.” This summer, it launched a 501(c)(4) entity called Heritage Action for America and chose two issues to focus on: spending and stopping START. Josh Rogin reported in July:
Heritage Action for America was established as 501c4 organization, which means it can do direct lobbying on the Hill and broad grassroots lobbying around the country. Killing START is one of the group’s two keystone efforts, along with a drive to push a repeal of the new health-care bill in the House. The organization is now circulating a petition to its 671,000 dues-paying members featuring a video of Romney criticizing the treaty… And Heritage Action is not stopping there. The group has a detailed plan to target lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and persuading wavering senators to oppose the treaty. Votes up for grabs include moderate Republicans like Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, but also conservative Democrats like Ben Nelson, D-NE, and Evan Bayh, D-IN.
Heritage even produced a video that warned that, if START passed, it would lead to a nuclear attack in 2018.
Yet despite all this effort, a quarter of the Republican caucus bucked Heritage’s advocacy campaign and its lobbying efforts to support the treaty. As the facts came out and it became increasingly clear that none of their anti-treaty arguments held any water, Republicans increasingly relied on process complaints to oppose the treaty, rather than substance. In the end, few Senators, with the exception of Jim DeMint, really embraced the Heritage line. The pressure they exerted on Republican members was in the end outdone by the coalition of progressive groups that pressed to ratify the treaty.
Cross-posted at the Wonk Room.