Former Congressman and Heritage Foundation Distinguished Fellow Ernest J. Istook

Former Congressman and Heritage Foundation Distinguished Fellow Ernest J. IstookErnest J. Istook served 14 years in the U.S. House of Representatives before joining Heritage in 2007 as a Distinguished Fellow.

In Congress, representing Oklahoma’s 5th District, he engaged in a wide and robust range of issues as a member of the Appropriations Committee –where he chaired multiple subcommittees– and the Homeland Security Committee.

Istook delved into budget and spending issues in general as well as subjects such as transportation, trade, defense, health care, education, labor, financial services, homeland security and religious liberty. He was a founder of the re-established Republican Study Committee, the principal conservative caucus in the House.

Istook, a frequent fill-in host for several major national talk radio programs, writes weekly opinion columns for outlets that include Newsmax, Human Events and The Daily Caller. His daily radio commentaries are heard on more than 80 radio stations. He is a regular guest on network and cable news and commentary programs.

In 2010, Istook was selected as a Fellow for the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

Istook is a former practicing attorney whose background also includes journalism. He served 25 years in elected office –from city council to the Oklahoma state legislature to the U.S. House. He first won public office after moving to Oklahoma in 1972 from his native Fort Worth, Texas.

Istook, the grandson of Hungarian immigrants, successfully sought the Republican nomination for Oklahoma governor in 2006 rather than an eighth term in Congress. He lost his challenge to the Democratic incumbent.

The first college graduate in the Istook family tree, he holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Baylor University and a law degree from Oklahoma City University. His community activities include the Boy Scouts of America, where he served several years as a scoutmaster.

Istook and his wife, Judy, have five adult children and are active in church work. They live in Alexandria, Va., though he still considers himself an Oklahoman.

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