COLUMBIA, S.C. — Retired U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, president-elect of one of the nations prominent conservative think tanks, has formed a conservative think tank in South Carolina.
DeMint, a Greenville Republican who spent 13 years in House and Senate, is investing $300,000 from his remaining campaign money to establish the Palmetto Policy Forum. He also will serve as chairman.
In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, DeMint said, All over the country states are becoming the innovators of bold public policy on topics including education, energy development and tort reform.
The muscle behind these ideas is often coming from very innovative...policy groups at the state level, DeMint said. South Carolina can be one of those policy innovators.
The Heritage Foundation, where DeMint is president-elect, is working with state-based policy groups around the country, he said.
Oran Smith, director of the Palmetto Family Council, will serve as a senior fellow contributing to legislative research at the Palmetto Policy Forum. Education, healthcare and infrastructure will be the first topics the forum tackles, Smith said.
Ellen Weaver, DeMints former state director, will become the forums president and chief executive on March 4 after helping with the transition of U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, a North Charleston Republican whom Gov. Nikki Haley appointed to fill DeMints seat last month.
Other board members are:
Former U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, now the stewardship director of NewSpring Church
Michael Brenan, state president of BB&T and Gov. Nikki Haleys appointee to the S.C. State Board of Education
Michael McBride, chairman of Anderson-based HMR Veterans Services Inc.
C. Dan Adams, president and chief executive of Greenville-based The Capital Corp.
Stu Rodman, founder and the forums vice-chairman
House Speaker Bobby Harrell shared the news with the House GOP caucus Tuesday.
They will be a very positive force for us pushing conservative ideals, something that a lot of us enjoyed a few years back looking forward to enjoying that right now, he told lawmakers. I am thrilled Sen. DeMint has decided to step up and help us get these kinds of ideas in front of the General Assembly.
S.C. Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian said state lawmakers should not rely on DeMint or a think tank to do their thinking and criticized the former senators limited government philosophies.
Obviously he wants to tout himself as the guy with all the great ideas, Harpootlian said. He could never convince anyone in Washington they were great ideas.