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Talent helps launch new free-market foundation

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 19, 2009 - Former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., announced today that he is honorary chairman of the American Freedom and Enterprise Foundation, which he describes as "a new organization devoted to promoting solutions to reestablish the consensus for free markets as the best means to produce jobs, economic growth, prosperity and wealth."

”Until recently, there was a consensus in Washington that government must allow Americans the resources and freedom to generate economic growth.  That consensus is now under attack in Washington,” Talent said in a statement.

UPDATE: In an interview Monday evening, Talent said he believed that the foundation would fill a nitch -- in the free-market debate and for him -- by focusing on domestic issues.

The foundation will be based in St. Louis, although Talent said he has yet to settle on office space. The executive director is Katie Smith, who worked for Talent when he was in the Senate. More recently, Smith headed the Missouri Department of Agriculture under former Gov. Matt Blunt.

The board includes several politically familiar names, notably GOP consultant Gregg Keller and Bryan Cave lawyer Philip Wright

Talent said in the interview that he expects to be more active in the foundation than the title "honorary chairman'' might indicate.

According to Talent's statement: “The American Freedom and Enterprise Foundation will serve as a resource to all Americans and public officials looking for sound solutions and information on public policy.  We will use numbers that both sides can agree on to spotlight problems, build our case and propose free market solutions that will have their roots in the philosophy of both parties.”

The foundation says it "will serve as a unique clearing house for ideas and discussion based on free market principles while promoting common sense solutions to public policy.  Among the issues the foundation will spotlight are jobs and the economy; federal spending and the debt; health care; cap and trade; and defense spending.  The foundation will be led by an outstanding board of experienced leaders from all corners of Missouri."
Talent -- who lost his Senate seat in 2006 when he was ousted by Democrat Claire McCaskill -- plans to continue his other jobs, which include his work at the conservative Heritage Foundation where he focuses on "military readiness issues and welfare reform."

Talent also serves as the vice chairman of the bipartisan congressional Commission for the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. And he is the co-author of The World At Risk: The Report of the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism.

Talent also remains as a consultant for a sister company of the Fleischman-Hillard public relations firm.

In the interview, Talent said that a new update report should be out in weeks from the congressional Commission for the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. That will be followed with a final assessment issued in January, he said,

Talent acknowledged that he plans to remain involved in public-policy issues, although he emphasized that it's too early to say whether he'll make another run for office. He won't be a candidate next year, Talent said, adding that he's happy with his new life -- in part because of the time it has afforded him with his family. His two daughters are now in their teens, and his son is already in college.

Talent just set up a Twitter account a few days ago, and said it's part of his effort to get more comfortable with "all these new media platforms."

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.