The Heinz Family Foundation is a private charitable organization that gives grants and awards primarily to left-wing individuals and causes in the areas of education, the environment and social justice. It was established in 1984 by the late U.S. Senator H. John Heinz III (R-Pennsylvania) and his wife Teresa Heinz (later Teresa Heinz-Kerry). The Foundation was incorporated in 1992, one year after Sen. Heinz, heir to the Pittsburgh-based Heinz foods dynasty, died in a plane crash. Teresa inherited a personal fortune worth an estimated $1 billion.
In 1995, Teresa married then-Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) after meeting him at successive Earth Day Summits. Heinz-Kerry remained a registered Republican until Sen. Kerry launched an unsuccessful presidential campaign to unseat incumbent President George W. Bush in 2004.
The Heinz Family Foundation is one of three charitable foundations known collectively as The Heinz Family Philanthropies. The others, which technically run through the Heinz Family Foundation, are the H. John Heinz III Foundation and the Teresa and H. John Heinz III Foundation. All three are controlled by Heinz-Kerry. She is also the former longtime chair (now chair emeritus) of the $1.5 billion Heinz Endowments.
The Heinz Family Foundation is widely known for sponsoring the annual Heinz Awards. Established in 1993 to honor the memory of the late H. John Heinz III, the awards are given to selected individuals in the areas of the arts and humanities, the environment, the human condition, public policy, technology, the economy, and employment. Each honoree receives an unrestricted cash prize of $250,000.
In 2016, Heinz Awards winners included Hal Harvey. Past winners include Obama administration healthcare official and failed Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Donald Berwick (D), Head Start program architect Edward Zigler, environmentalist Peggy Shepard, and population control activist Paul Ehrlich.
In 2004, the Heinz Family Foundation, under Teresa Heinz-Kerry, was listed as a “silver benefactor” by the Democratic National Convention for a cash donation of $250,000 to $500,000. John Kerry, Heinz-Kerry’s husband, was the Democratic nominee for President. The donation was awarded during a DNC funding shortfall and raised questions about the tax-exempt Foundation’s 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. Under Internal Revenue Service rules, 501(c)3 organizations are prohibited from participating in political campaigns for elective public office.
Heinz-Kerry also invited criticism for saying in a news interview that former First Lady Laura Bush was less experienced than she was, and never had a real job. “But I don’t know that she’s ever had a real job — I mean, since she’s been grown up,” Heinz-Kerry said. Laura Bush had in fact worked in the Texas public school system for a decade. Heinz-Kerry later apologized.
The Heinz ketchup heiress also made disparaging remarks about conservative U.S. Rep. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) during his successful U.S. Senate bid for the late John Heinz’s former seat. Heinz-Kerry said Santorum “does not deserve diplomacy,” and called the future two-term senator and Presidential candidate “Forrest Gump with an attitude.”