The Foundation wields considerable influence in Washington, and enjoyed particular prominence during the Reagan administration. Its initial funding was provided by Joseph Coors, of the Coors beer empire, and Richard Mellon Scaife, heir of the Mellon industrial and banking fortune. The Foundation maintains strong ties with the London Institute of Economic Affairs and the Mont Pelerin Society.
With a long history of receiving large donations from overseas, Heritage continues to rake in a minimum of several hundred thousand dollars from Taiwan and South Korea each year.
In autumn of 1988, the South Korean National Assembly uncovered a document revealing that Korean intelligence gave $2.2 million to the Heritage Foundation on the sly during the early 1980s. Heritage officials "categorically deny" the accusation.
Heritage's latest annual report does acknowledge a $400,000 grant from the Korean conglomerate Samsung. Another donor, the Korea Foundation - which conduits money from the South Korean government - has given Heritage almost $1 million in the past three years.
The Heritage Foundation concerns itself with many issues, from missile defense to Europe to public administration, and about 20 other subject areas. It regularly publishes comprehensive articles, papers, journals, etc., expressing its strong neo-conservative opinions in these subject areas.
While the Foundation has contributed many ideas and positions on contemporary public policy, it is best known for the support generated by its foreign policy analysts in the 1980s and early 1990s to provide military and other support to anti-communist resistance movements in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Nicaragua and other nations, a policy that came to be known as the Reagan doctrine.
The Foundation ultimately succeeeded in this effort, winning both covert and overt United States support to so-called "wars of liberation" against Soviet-aligned states around the world. Critics argued that this effort led to undue bloodshed in the Third World and damaged American relations with the former Soviet Union. Supporters have argued that the cost imposed on Moscow by such efforts was huge, leading to the beginning of the end for the imperial Soviet empire. Whatever the truth, it was the first prominent example of The Heritage Foundation's ability to spark global debate and alter fundamentally the course of American policy.
The Foundation worked closely with leading anti-communist movements, including the Nicaraguan contras and Jonas Savimbi's Unita movement in Angola to bring military, economic and political pressure on Soviet-aligned regimes. Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Foundation's support for the Nicaraguan contras and Angola's Savimbi proved extremely influential with the United States government, including the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Council and other governmental agencies. The Heritage Foundation presented its case for armed support for these movements, and United States support soon followed.
But Heritage Foundation foreign policy analysts didn't just champion the Reagan Doctrine in Washington. Some were deeply intertwined players in these conflicts, visiting the front lines to provide political and military guidance to Savimbi and the contra leadership. They also provided bold and inflammatory predictions that these conflicts were tugging on the very soul of global communism and that these Soviet-supported regimes and the Soviet Union itself were on the brink of collapse. This prediction, of course, looks surprisingly accurate in retrospect, but ignores the many other contributing factors to the collapse of communism.
The Foundation also leaped to the defense of Ronald Reagan's description of the former Soviet Union as an "evil empire," a description that generated wide global rebuke as potentially inviting nuclear conflict and, at the very least, further poisoning East-West relations. But with strong support by Heritage and other influential conservatives, Reagan stood by the statement, refusing to retract it until the Soviet Union began to crumble.
In an attempt to build on its foreign policy influence, the Foundation also engages in domestic and social policy issues, but its effort in these two areas has never quite matched the influence it wielded (in the late 1980s and early 1990s) in altering the debate over American foreign policy. Yet, the Foundation continues to weigh in on these topics with varying levels of success. One of its undeniable successes has been serving as a breeding ground for many of the nation's leading neo-conservative activists and intellectuals.
The following comments by former Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey, published in the summer 1994 issue of the Heritage Foundation's Policy Review, exemplify the Heritage philosophy:
"Liberation is at hand.... A paradigm-shattering revolution has just taken place. In the signal events of the 1980s - from the collapse of communism to the Reagan economic boom to the rise of the computer - the idea of economic freedom has been overwhelmingly vindicated. The intellectual foundation of statism has turned to dust. This revolution has been so sudden and sweeping that few in Washington have yet grasped its full meaning.... But when the true significance of the 1980s freedom revolution sinks in, politics, culture - indeed, the entire human outlook - will change.... Once this shift takes place - by 1996, I predict - we will be able to advance a true Hayekian agenda, including.... radical spending cuts, the end of the public school monopoly, a free market health-care system, and the elimination of the family-destroying welfare dole. Unlike 1944, history is now on the side of freedom."
The informational web site http://www.policyexperts.org
 is a "service of The Heritage Foundation," listing many of the world's leading conservative-leaning public policy experts. Additionally, for many years, its scholarly, quarterly publication, Policy Review, was widely viewed as one of the world's leading conservative public policy journals.
The Heritage Foundation has been home to some of the nation's most influential neo-conservative voices, especially in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Foundation has since lost some of its luster, as some of its leading voices have graduated to other influential government and non-government careers. Still, the Foundation remains a conservative voice in Washington and around the world. Meanwhile, there was also a connection between Heritage and the Rev Sun Myung Moon (founder of the Moonies). This first appeared in a 1975 congressional investigation on the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) activities in the US.
The report noted, "In 1975, Ed Feulner ... was introduced to KCIA station chief Kim Yung Hwan by Neil Salonen and Dan Feffernan of the Freedom Leadership foundation".
Salonen was head of Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church in the United States. The Freedom Leadership Foundation (FLF), a political arm of Moon's Unification network, was linked to the World Anti- Communist League.
In the early 1980s, the KCIA began making donations to Heritage Foundation. In turn, Heritage established an Asian Studies Center.