Defending Ronald Reagan and the GOP's Brand

Reagan Foundation wants the GOP to find its way back to success.

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By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers

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"Ronald Reagan is back!" That's how John Heubusch, a former Gateway exec just tagged to run the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation, told Whispers over the weekend. What does he mean? After the GOP took another beating at the polls and after Democrats have tried to tarnish the Reagan brand name, the foundation is mounting an effort to defend the Gipper's name and ideas.

The foundation is "about to rescue the cause of Reaganism from the jaws of Obamaism," says Heubusch, a former aide in the administration of President George H. W. Bush. He called the Reagan name the "most important Republican brand" in decades and one that has to be defended as the memory of the former president fades. "One key goal is for me to make that name, Reagan, relevant in the modern sense." Another is to answer critics who are attempting to attack the Reagan brand. "We want to be the ones who answer the question: What would Reagan do?"

The foundation is mostly known for its sprawling facility in Simi Valley, Calif. The library and museum complex has several spectacular exhibits, including a full-size Air Force One and Oval Office. Heubusch said he plans to help raise a $100 million endowment and is already planning for the centennial of Reagan's birthday in 2011. No other presidential foundation has mapped such an expansive plan to influence Washington before, though the Clinton foundation, based in New York, handles outreach on its issues in Washington.

A former executive at the computer company Gateway, Heubusch has a rich political pedigree and is being brought on by Fred Ryan, the foundation's chairman who is also the force behind Politico. Readers might recall the story Ryan told us about Reagan's first day in his California retirement office. Heubusch started in Washington as a research analyst with the Air Force, then as a Republican congressional aide. His titles have included executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, chief of staff at the Department of Labor under the first Bush, and vice president of the Red Cross when Elizabeth Dole was president. He has recently headed Gateway founder Ted Waitt's foundation and an investment group called Avalon Capital Group. He has a good record in fundraising, serving as a key fundraiser for Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign. And Heubusch currently is the chief operating officer of Brahma Holdings, a technology venture based in La Jolla, Calif.

Corrected on : Corrected on 3/17/09: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation will be offering suggestions to the GOP. As a nonprofit, the foundation is barred from engaging in partisan politics.