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Former Sen. Jim DeMint forms think tank in South Carolina

  • The State (Columbia, S.C.)
  • Published Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, at 6:37 a.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, at 6:47 a.m.

— Retired U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, president-elect of one of the nation’s 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, DeMint’s former state director, will become the forum’s 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 DeMint’s 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 Haley’s 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 forum’s 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 senator’s 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.”

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