Richard Viguerie, co-author of "America`s Right Turn," what`s the purpose of this book?
Brian, when I got involved in politics in the late 1950s, early 1960s, conservatives didn`t have access to the microphones of the country. We went up against the blockage of "The New York Times," "Washington Post," CBS, NBC, ABC. We couldn`t get our message out there. We were like the tree that fell in the forest. No one heard about our candidates, our causes, our issues.
And I got to thinking about the Catholic Charity, the Christophers, whose motto is, "Don`t curse the darkness, light a candle." So I began to think, you know, what could be our candle? And the first candle for conservatives was direct mail. And it allowed us to bypass the monopoly of Walter Cronkite and the gatekeepers out there and go right into people`s homes. So that`s what built the conservative movement in the `60s and `70s.
And I can make a case that Ronald Reagan would not have gotten the Republican nomination in 1980 without direct mail because that`s how he raised his 250,000 donors. That`s how he found them, giving him $10, $25, $50. At best, he was the fifth choice of the Republican establishment that was giving the $1,000 contributions -- Bob Dole, Howard Baker, George Bush, the 41st, John Connally. And Reagan depended upon the $10 and $25 donors then, as the Republican Party depends on them now.
You start off by talking about Martin Luther and the printing press, and then Thomas Paine. Why?
Well, the -- my church, the Catholic church, had a monopoly on using information back in the Middle Ages, and of course, long before that. And when the printing press came along, it changed everything. There were no longer gatekeepers that prevented people from getting information out there, and Martin Luther very astutely used the pamphlets to disseminate his message. And he doesn`t have to communicate with a lot of people because there were so few people that were literate in those days, but the -- it took about, you know, 50 years for the Catholic church to figure out what was happening out there.
Usually, the establishment, just like today, they avoid going with the new technology, the new means of communication, and kind of stick with what they know. And the Catholic church was late to figure out how Martin Luther King -- Martin Luther was using the printing press to change everything, in terms of religion in those days.
Thomas Paine in 1775, `76, et cetera, did the same thing. The printers in those days were small businesspeople, and they were probably the first group to really en mass go against the king of England. And through the printing press, the American revolution really was developed. And without Thomas Paine and the others out there getting that message out, there wouldn`t have been an American revolution.
One of the things you talk about in your book, the book publishing industry. And I notice that this book is published by Bonus Books, which I don`t know much about, and it`s certainly not one of the big houses. Why did you go to Bonus Books, and who are they?
I went to Bonus Books because none of the big houses were interested, quite frankly, and Bonus Books, run by a wonderful publisher, Jeff Stern (ph), based in Los Angeles and Chicago, was very interested. And they`ve been a wonderful publisher for us.
There`s a knock on publishers, Brian, which you probably have heard, that too many publishers are not really publishers, they`re printers. They just print the book and then give it to you and let life take over then. But Bonus Books has been very good to work with. They`ve been very aggressive in marketing and promoting. And it`s just kind of -- what I`ve done all my life is work with those who are not part of the establishment. We tried to go with the establishment, quite frankly, and couldn`t find any that were interested, and Bonus Books was interested in publishing it.
Who`s your co-author?
David Franke (ph). I first met David here in Washington, D.C., in the late `50s. And then David just coincidentally happened to be from Houston, where I was, and David was working up here for "Human Events," a small conservative publication in those days. And he went back to Houston, where it was his home and my home. I was chairman of the Harris County Young Republicans, and we worked together for a year or so there.
And then in 1961 -- and David, by the way, in the late `50s, early `60s was about 50 percent of the young conservative movement. He and his roommate, a fellow named Doug Caddy (ph), were starting a number of conservative organizations, and they started one called Students for Goldwater, and then that morphed into later that year Young Americans of Freedom, which was the principal conservative youth organization, founded in the fall of `60 at Bill Buckley`s family estate, Sharon (ph), Connecticut.
And I came later to -- next year to work as the executive secretary for Young Americans of Freedom. And I got the job through David Franke, so David and I have worked together for, gosh, 45 years.
What would you say was the beginning for you in political thought?
Brian, I do not remember a time in my life when I wasn`t a conservative. What Churchill says, If you`re not a liberal when you`re 20, you don`t have a heart, and if you`re not a conservative when you`re 40, you don`t have a brain. Well, I just was always a conservative. When we`re 13, 14 years old, kids in the neighborhood are playing cops and robbers and they`re shooting the robbers, I`m not. I`m shooting communists. I know that communists, at age 13, are bad people and we got to get rid of them.
What year would that have been?
That would have been `45, `46, `47, the late `40s. And of course, it was a -- you know, a great -- a time of great turmoil. The Second World War was over, and we were beginning to focus on the Soviet Union. And every conservative that I know of my generation and generations prior to me and the generation that came after, before we were concerned about social issues, before we were concerned about the role of government, taxes, first we were anti-communist. We were very concerned about the brutality, the evil of communism. And that was the glue that held the conservatives together in the `40s, `50s, `60s, `70s and through most of the `80s there.
Go almost to the end of this and list the number of things available to conservatives today that were not available when you started in this business.
Gosh, almost everything that we are involved in now, in terms of communicating our message, wasn`t available there. Of course, the mail was there, but nobody used it. And that was what I was fortunate to be able to pioneer, back in the `60s and the `70s, was using the mail to reach out to people in their homes and bypass that monopoly that the left had on the microphones of the country.
And then, of course, starting in the late `80s, after Reagan abolished the Fairness Doctrine, then talk radio came along. But as long as you had to -- if somebody spoke for an hour on a conservative position, then you had to give free hour time to liberals, of course, radio stations couldn`t survive if they had do that. So that there was really no talk radio worthy of the name, and it wasn`t until the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 was abolished that there was an explosion of talk radio.
And then after that, of course, cable television, and then, starting in the mid-`90s, the Internet began to take over. And there`s a new means of alternative media, Brian, that we don`t even talk about in the book because it`s happened so recent, and that`s documentaries -- Michael Moore, "Fahrenheit 9/11." And there`s another four or five anti-Bush documentaries that are in the can about to come out some time in the next couple of months.
Where is the right on the documentaries?
Zero. You know, we do a lot of things well. We do direct mail well. We do talk radio, television, the Internet. We don`t do documentaries. That`s what the left does. They do movies and...
Anybody talking about doing documentaries?
Not to my knowledge. I`m starting to give it some serious thought because just as the left forgot to think about direct mail in the `60s and the `70s, they all woke up, Brian, within a few hours of each other, election night, November, 1980. They said, A-ha, that`s what Viguerie and friends have been up to al these years. But that gave us an big advantage. It took them four or five years to catch up. So for a period of 15, 20 years there, we were building the conservative movement through direct mail.
And of course, I think everybody acknowledges that conservatives do talk radio much better, and we do very well on cable television. Internet`s probably 50/50. But if we give the left the full range on documentaries, that`s going to put us at a serious disadvantage.
You do a lot of statistical analysis in here, a lot of graphs and charts and everything in all these different areas. How did you two do this?
Well, you know, I more than David have lived the alternative media. David was there at the beginning and has been very involved with a number of alternative media companies over the years -- Phillips (ph) Publishing and newsletters and one thing and another. But in terms of the political use of the alternative media, that`s been my main background. So he and I spent, you know, hundreds of hours talking about it and reviewing all of the 45 years that we`ve both been involved in it here.
And then I did some of the writing, but David did the lion`s share of it. I had what is called a day job. And I asked David to go out and do the research and assimilate all of the charts and the graphs, do a lot of interviewing. Some of the -- we interview a lot of people in there, a lot of liberals. Many of them are friends of mine. We interviewed those together, and some of the interviews David did on his own. But a lot of the heavy lifting, in terms of the research and the graphs, the charts, David did that.
How did you get people like Roger Craver (ph) and others, the liberals in here to say what they said?
Well, Roger`s a long-time dear friend. You know, the liberals in there -- Hal Mauchau (ph), Roger Craver, Morris Dees -- are long-time friends of mine, all of them, and they`re not competitors. We work a different side of the fence there. And we`re all good friends. And there`s a fellow who I don`t know well, but Hal Warwick (ph), he`s in there. And they were just very open.
You know, and I think that`s true of people -- we`re all professionals, and I`ve been relatively open over the years. These fellows have written extensively and talked extensively about what they do, and I do the same. I -- Hal Mauchau, the principal, probably, fundraiser for the liberals these days, hosted a reception recently for me at his office among his liberal friends there. And I`ve been out to Roger Craver`s office, talked to his people. And we -- we`re trying to bring some civility back to the process. And I`m not sure if we`re making any progress, but we enjoy each other`s company.
When did you move to Washington, and where do you live now? Because I know you refer in here to a 123-acre farm.
Well, I -- when my wife and I got married 42 years ago, we first moved to New York, where Young Americans for Freedom`s office was located. And within the year, the office had relocated here to Washington, D.C., and so we lived on Capitol Hill and bought a home after a few years. And my wife has never forgiven me fully for selling the home. It`s worth 10, 20 times what we sold it for. Besides, it’s nice home.
But after a while, we moved to Maryland, and family, children came along, and we wanted to have a little space. And then we ended up maybe 30 years ago moving to Virginia and lived in McLean. But at the same time, we bought a place out in the country, Rappahannock County, and we have a couple hundred acres there, and I`m a gentleman about the whole process. I watch the weeds grow and start the morning with a couple of cups of coffee and just enjoy myself out there.
But my office for many years was in Tysons Corner, 7777 Route 7. And that was a rather well-known address among people in politics because we -- in Hillary Clinton`s words, we hatched a lot of conspiracies, in her terms, there. A lot of concerted activities took place not only in our office on Leesburg Pike, Route 7, but also at our home in McLean. We used to meet just all the time.
Let me read what Roger Craver, the liberal direct mail expert, says about you. He says, "I used to always say if we could get in, we really ought to go to one of the Viguerie or Buchanan barbecues because those right-wingers have a hell of a lot of fun, and we had these wine and cheese parties to listen to this insufferable BS" -- he doesn`t say BS -- "on the part of the liberals. And I think that translates into the media. I think every liberal commentator wants to explain how we work our way out of whatever problem`s being discussed, whereas the right-winger will just say, Well, the way we can work it out, our way out of the problem, is to kill the bastards."
Strong stuff. And he goes on to tell exactly how he feels about what liberals do right and what conservatives do right and wrong. What do liberals do wrong all the time, in your opinion? And what do they do right?
Coincidentally, Pat Buchanan and I used to be neighbors in McLean there. I don`t know if that`s why Roger said that but, there was an interesting group of conservatives that lived out in McLean when Roger said that.
The -- in terms of marketing, the liberals left the field to conservatives all through the `60s and `70s. And as I said earlier, it wasn`t until election night, November, 1980, that the left woke up. And I was kind of pleased with the progress that the conservatives made, and I said to myself -- and I wrote about it -- it would take 10, 12 years before the left would catch up with conservatives, kind of, like, you know, in the whole missile area, once you get an advantage on the opposition, then it takes them a long time to catch up.
Not so. Within four years or so, in my opinion, the left had caught up with the conservatives. And shortly after that, I think they surpassed the conservatives. I think that they -- generally, the left does a better job today of marketing their cause through direct mail than the conservatives do. They really do. That`s not for the Democrats, now. The Democratic Party did not move into direct mail, as the liberal organizations did.
You say by the way, you found out here and you were surprised to find out that the Democratic National Committee only had 30,000 on their list?
Who`d you find that out from?
Hal Mauchau, the horse`s mouth.
Told you for this book?
For this book, yes. And he was very frustrated that the Democratic National Committee has not been more aggressive in marketing, as the Republican Party had been.
How big is the Republican list?
Oh, they`re -- their donor list is several million, and their market, potential market, of prospect acquisition potential is probably five, seven, eight million. But interesting, since that book has been written, the world has turned over a lot, in terms of marketing. And now, through Hal Mauchau and others there, the Democratic National Committee I think is running circles around the Republicans. You never know because, Brian, it is under the radar. So you`re not sure what`s happening out there. But for all intents and purposes, it does appear that the Democrats have finally woken up in the last year. They`re using direct mail to great advantage for their cause.
In your professional life, the Richard Viguerie Company, how many letters have you sent out trying to raise money?
One, I wish I had kept accurate accounts, but it`s something over two billion.
And you get paid how?
I get paid by the letter, piece mail. But interesting enough, Brian, I developed a business model early on, first day I opened the doors for business in `65, that -- I learned and realized early on that God, in his infinite wisdom, seldom saw fit to put in a non-profit body an entrepreneur, i.e., a risk taker. So I said early on, I would take the risk. So if the program is a success, we get paid. If it`s not, we don`t.
It`s kind of, like -- I began to realize a few years ago, studying the Internet -- you don`t study the Internet very long before you come across a term called venture capitalist. And I said, Hey, that`s what I`ve been all these years, a venture capitalist for the conservative cause. A few years ago, my friend, Morton Blackwell, placed a name on me which I think may be appropriate, is the "funding father of the conservatives," because there was a time, for almost 20 years, when I was the only one raising money for the conservative cause.
So if you had to send out the perfect -- in your lifetime, the perfect letter, how long would it be? What would it say? Would it be positive or negative? And who would sign it? Based on history, not today, but based on your history of being in business.
Well, Ronald Reagan was about as good a signature as you could get. And this is counterintuitive. You talk to the average new client, the lay person, in terms of marketing, and they think a short letter is best. Not so. Morris Dees had great success raising money for George McGovern with 12 and 16-page letters. When you`ve got a cause that`s relatively unknown, people don`t know about your candidate, your organization, you can`t tell them enough information in a one, two-page letter to get a $25, $50 donation. You need to be able to tell them a lot. There`s an old sales adage, The more you tell, the more you sell. And so you need a lot of paper to tell your story, so an 8, 12-page letter is almost better than -- always than a 4-page letter.
Positive or negative?
I hate to -- it`s not popular to say it, but I`ll be honest and say the negative is what raises money, not the positive. If everything is going fine and everything is good, there`s no problems out there, people are not going to respond. When you have a lot of anger out there -- and there`s a lot to be angry about in the world today -- people respond to that. They want to know that there`s somebody out there dealing with the issue that they are concerned about, whether, in our terms, it was communism, role of government, government is too big -- Reagan said it taxes too much, governs too much, spends too much, regulates too much. And so when you talk about those issues, people respond. Yes. That`s right.
And what are you going to do with the money? So many times, people in a fund-raising mailing think it`s sufficient just to kind of what I do, say, cuss the problem. Well, that doesn`t work. What`s your solution to the problem? And you must have a solution to the problem, or else people are going to agree with you but move on.
How many people work for you today?
Oh, about 40, 45.
When were you the biggest?
We were the biggest back in the `70s. And we`d had 250 or more employees. But we put out the same volume of mail now, but we do it with 40 employees because I came late in life to realize that nobody came to us because I had a printing company or a mailing company or a list company, a computer company. They came to us because of our brain power, our creative abilities and marketing ability. So we got rid of all that and just focus on the creative part.
Ronald Reagan, Jr.`s toy box.
I wish I had that letter! What that`s about, Brian -- I went with Young Americans of Freedom in the summer of 1961 -- and I was a green kid from Texas. I didn`t know nothing. And I just was kind of thrown into this organization that had $20,000 in debt, 1,20 members, so to speak. Had a lot publicity, but we didn`t have a lot else going for us.
What did they stand for, by the way? What was...
YAF, Young Americans for Freedom. And there was a big debate whether they were going to be conservatives or Young Americans for Freedom. And the Young Americans for Freedom group won out. And we were kind of a pet project of Bill Buckley in those days. He monitored us very carefully.
And I was -- it was a great job. I was given an opportunity to kind of do what I wanted to. And when I interviewed for the job, my boss, Marvin Liebman (ph), who was head of -- he was the advertising agency, so to speak, that had the Young Americans for Freedom account -- showed me his mail room, where he kept maybe 20,00 or 30,000 donors on three-by-five index cards, who had given $100 and how often, and that type of thing. And Brian, as God is my witness, it was like a duck, like I was a duck that was 2 or 3 years old and had never seen water, but I knew what to do I was just saying, ‘My gosh, where has this thing been all my life?’
And so I just fell in love with the whole marketing and direct mail process. And it wasn`t very long, after a year, year-and-a-half, I said, Please relieve me of all duties except marketing and mail. Let me just focus on that. And I did that. And just by three years after I went with YAF, I left, started my own business. If I`d have had the sense God gave most people, I wouldn`t have done it because I thought I knew everything. I knew less than 1 percent of what I know now.
The toy box.
The toy box! I got sidetracked. Sorry. So it`s now, oh, I guess winter of `62, February, March, something like that. And I`m trying to raise money for the organization. So I ask various celebrities if they`ll sign letters, and they all do. You know, John Wayne and Jay Howard Pugh (ph), Charles Edison, son of the inventor, et cetera. But I really wanted Ronald Reagan because he was a big TV star. This is 1962, two years before his famous speech for Goldwater, four years before he runs for governor.
What was he doing?
He was -- I guess he was still on "GE Theater," hosting a TV program there, what was it, "Death Valley Days" or something like that. But anyway, conservatives knew and loved him, and he was just an admired figure and a celebrity because he was Hollywood, TV.
So anyway, I wrote him a letter and asked him to sign the letter. Didn`t hear anything from him for weeks. And after a month, I was, you know, a little dejected and, because it was a struggle. I just didn`t -- it wasn`t -- it was hard to raise money, so I was really hoping that he would come forward. Didn`t hear anything. So after a month or six weeks, I forgot about it.
One day, I`m sitting at my desk, and I opened all the mail in those days. And this was three, four months after I wrote the letter. And when you open comment mail, sometimes people -- they love you and they tell you so, or people tell you, Go jump in the lake, or a lot stronger than that. And a lot of times they`ll mark up a letter with crayon, you know, or ink pen and say unpleasant things.
And I got one of those letters, all marked up, and it was just a mess. And so I just threw it away. Well, that`s another person telling me to go jump in the lake. But there was something caught my eye, and I literally brought it back two or three times. I kept trying to throw it away. And finally, I said, Clear your head. Something`s unusual about this. And then I realized it was the letter I had written to Ronald Reagan. And it was all marked up with crayon, and down at the bottom, the left-hand corner, it said, Mr. Viguerie, I`m so embarrassed. I just found this letter in Ronnie`s toy chest, and I`m so sorry. Of course, if you think my name would be of any help to you, please use it. Sincerely, Ronald Reagan.
And you say that Ron Reagan, Jr., was 4 years old.
He was 4 years old at the time, right. And it had been in his toy chest for three or four months when the governor found it.
So what did you do with the name?
We used it. I had sent him a sample of the letter and, you know, just started mailing that letter. The problem with the fund-raising in those days -- we had a lot of problems, but the No. 1, Brian of everything else just weren`t conservative mailing lists out there. There were just a handful of them out there. So we`d go out there and get somebody`s -- beg, borrow, whatever, to get somebody`s mailing list. But you know, 10,000 here, 20,000 there. A 50,000 mailing was a big, big deal in those days.
So what did you raise money for the first time out with Ronald Reagan?
To help Young Americans for Freedom combat the liberal influence on college campuses. In those days, the far left, SDS and others, they were very, very active, and there was a strong Marxist, left- wing radical element on college campuses. And interesting enough, over the years of 1961, `62, `63, I tried several type approaches. One, send $10, $25, and Young Americans for Freedom will go out there and help elect good candidates, like John Tower and Barry Goldwater. That was one approach. Another approach was send money and we will combat the radical left students and professors on college campuses.
It`s interesting, no contest between the results. Where we were asking money for college campus activities, we`d raise four or five times as much as when we`re were asking for political activity, which made a lot of sense. I mean, what do these 20-year-old kids know about electing someone to office? But where our expertise was, is dealing with the left on the college campuses. And they responded very strongly to that. And Young Americans for Freedom -- to this day, the conservative movement benefits greatly from Young Americans for Freedom. Probably a third or more of the conservative leaders that I work with today got their start in Young Americans for Freedom in the `60s and the `70s.
Is the organization still around?
A few places, isolated here and there, a few states. It`s a shell, quite frankly, of its former self there. One of the problems with youth organizations, the leadership turns over a lot. Usually, most successful organizations has an ongoing, permanent leadership, with a board of directors. Bill Buckley just, you know, resigned from "National Review" after 50 years. And so you really need that continuity of leadership, and you don`t get that in youth organizations.
So you made your way, at one point, to the Capitol and got your hands on some donor lists and all that. What was that story? What year was that?
This would be 1964. And I`m not sure how I heard about it, but in those days, if you ran for president, you had to file with the clerk of the House of Representatives all of the names and addresses of the people who had given you $50 or more. So I went down there one day, and lo and behold, there was this big stack of sheets of paper with Barry Goldwater`s $50-plus donors.
So I had brought a legal pad, and I started writing. And I came back the next day and wrote more. And I got to realize, Hey, you know, I`ve got a full-time day job, still working for Young Americans for Freedom, and this is -- I`m not making a lot of progress. So what I did, I went out and hired about six women to come in with three-by-five index cards and write the name and addresses and the dollar amount they had given there. And did that for about two-and-a-half, three months.
And I was just about finished. I had, I estimate, about 15,000 names there. And after I`d gotten 12,500, a nice man there didn`t know what I was doing, but it just didn`t feel right to him, said, Well, you can`t do this anymore. You got to stop this. And if I had the maturity I have now, I`d say, Talk to my lawyer. Ladies, keep writing, because it was legal. It was all very proper. You can`t do that now. They`ve passed laws in, I think it was, the 1970s that you can`t use commercially, for fund-raising, the donors that are filed with the Federal Election Commission for -- I think you have to file all your donors of $200 or more. You can go and look at those, but you can`t use them for any commercial or fund-raising purposes. But in 1964, you could.
How do they know whether you`re using them or not?
Well I guarantee you, the Federal Election Commission has got them what we call seeded, salted, and they have what we call dummy names in there. And they`ve got names in there that are unique to that file. And they will know about it if you use the file.
But as you know, you can get on the Internet and find out whether your neighbor gave money to a candidate.
Now, you don`t use those lists?
Oh, no. You can`t use them. You can`t use them commercially at all. And I guarantee you, the Federal Election Commission will know about it, and you will be in big trouble. And I`ve never heard of anybody having that problem because everybody who`s in the business knows that that`s forbidden.
The book is full of the different milestones along the way, including -- you mention the Fairness Doctrine. Let me go over that with you for a moment because a lot of people have never heard of it. How long -- you go through the series of vetoes and overriding vetoes and all that stuff. What was the Fairness Doctrine? How long was it in law? And what year was it dropped?
Some time, I think it was, in the 1940s that the Democrats instituted the Fairness Doctrine. And it could even have been in the `50s, but somewhere in the `40s or `50s. The Fairness Doctrine said -- sounded nice, in terms of the title, but we know the title of legislation sometimes does the opposite of what it really is intended to do.
And it said that if you expressed a viewpoint, if somebody had a different viewpoint, they had the right to come on give a response. So if you took an hour and talked about how bad taxes were -- high taxes, you had to give somebody to talk about lower taxes, you know, or a different position on taxes, equal time. And of course, there was a little talk radio out there back when the Fairness Doctrine was in place, but it was bland. People really avoided expressing opinions because radio stations couldn`t give away an equal amount of time.
And when Reagan was president in 1985, the FCC decided they wanted to do away with that, and they couldn`t decide whether it was to be done by an act of -- needed to be done by Congress or executive order. And finally, the courts ruled it could be done by executive order, so the FCC, with Reagan, abolished the Fairness Doctrine. And the Democrats were upset. And even, quite frankly, Brian -- I don`t talk about it in the book, but some conservatives who will be nameless, dear friends of mine, thought that it was really bad, that this would be bad for conservatives.
Reed Irvine was one of them, wasn`t he?
Well, I`m sure Reed was. Yes. Yes, Reed was.
And what would have been the reason?
Well, they just thought that it was a -- the media was so dominated by liberals that if they did away with the Fairness Doctrine, then conservatives would never have a voice out there. We were getting our opinions out there a little bit, but they could not see what the marketplace would produce, which was talk radio. And you know, Reed and other conservatives who supported his position in those days don`t talk about that anymore.
For that matter, the Nixon administration was against it.
Oh, probably so, you know, but Nixon, of course, was no conservative. He was a big-government Republican. Conservatives like to say that Johnson passed the Great Society legislation, Nixon funded it.
But on that note, before we go to more on the Fairness Doctrine, would you consider yourself a Republican or a conservative?
Oh, a conservative.
Are you a Republican?
Yes, sure. I vote Republican. I`m, you know, identified with the Republican Party. But first and foremost, I am a conservative. And I`m a Republican only because that`s the way to be effective.
You say there are two kinds of conservatives.
There are many more, but they`re -- the traditionalist...
The traditional conservatives -- well, back in the mid- `70s, Brian, there were two types of conservatives known as the old right and the new right and...
What are you?
I was definitely new right. And that term was given to us, basically, by John Fialkin (ph) of "The Washington Star" back in those days. And what -- there were just a handful of us here in Washington, Paul Weyrich, Terry Dolan (ph), Howard Phillips, Ed Fuelner, myself, and then out-of-town people like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell...
Before you -- go back with that list, though. Paul Weyrich today does what today?
Paul Weyrich, just like me, does the same thing. He organizes conservatives at the grass roots level. He`s our No. 1 perhaps conservative strategist.
Free -- he heads Free Congress PAC.
What does Ed Fuelner do?
Ed Fuelner then and now is president, chairman of the Heritage Foundation.
And when did that start?
That started around 1973, `74. Interesting, the first chairman of Heritage was Paul Weyrich, and he resigned shortly thereafter and then Ed Fuelner a little later came on, and Ed`s been head of it for 25, 30 years.
And in addition, you named -- I wrote some of these names down -- Terry Dolan is no longer alive.
Terry died in the mid-`80s. And interesting enough, each of us had our own role. I was kind of the funding person there, and Weyrich was our strategist and Fuelner with the Heritage Foundation, and Howard Phillips was grass-roots organizing. Terry was our political election person, and he headed the NCPAC, National Conservative Political Action Committee, that was enormously successful in defeating liberals and electing conservatives in the 1978 election, 1980, `82. And then after Terry died in 1985, no one stepped forward to replace him. Terry was just irreplaceable. No one stepped forward until fairly recently, when another Terry Dolan has stepped forward, and that`s Stephen Moore, with the Club for Growth. And Stephen is now filling the role that Terry did so well back in the `70s and `80s.
Another name you mentioned of the new right, Morton Blackwell, and he -- you talk about him in your book as starting a school for learning how to be a conservative.
Morton and I teamed up together back in the early `70s. He came to work for me, said that the magic words to get him to leave the think tank he was at to come work with me was I said, Morton, come and work at the Viguerie company, help me build the conservative movement. And that was what we were all focused on back in those days is building a movement because we were just kind of a hodgepodge of organizations and individuals, a lot of frustrations, but we weren`t coming together in a cohesive way.
And so Morton was kind of my ambassador without portfolio to the conservative movement, to kind of bring it all together. And he worked at the office for six, seven years, was at all of these meetings and organized a lot of activity. In the `70s, he began to form an organization called Leadership Institute. And no one is in Morton`s category or class of organizing and training young people. Doesn`t matter what you want to do. You want to work on Capitol Hill, he`ll train you how to get a job and be effective there. You want to run for office, he`ll train you how to run for office.
But as a conservative?
As a conservative. Exactly.
How`d he get into that? And how old do you have to be to get into his leadership...
Well, he takes people at all age. My son, Ryan (ph), went to several of his classes and was youth coordinator for a congressional campaign in Utah, successful, back in `96.
Do you pay him?
He -- it`s a very, very modest amount. Morton is a master conservative fundraiser. And he`s done a masterful job of raising lots of money to subsidize the training. I think these young people sometimes pay a modest amount.
You also talk about a national journalism center, where you had people like Ann Coulter and John Fund and others graduate from.
Who does that?
Well, for many, many years, that was done by M. Stanton Evans, who was one of the founders of the entire conservative movement back in the `50s and the `60s. Stan, when he was 27 years old, was the youngest editorial writer, editorial editor, editorial page editor, in the country, the Indianapolis newspaper. And so Stan ran a journalism center, training young people to go out into the marketplace and work for the networks, become a syndicated columnist. And many -- John Fund at "The Wall Street Journal" was one of his graduates in the early 1980s.
And so interesting enough, as I said, we began to think about the movement. We wanted to train people to be effective as journalists, as political operatives. Robert Reich of -- Bill Clinton`s first secretary of labor, had a very interesting and widely talked about op-ed piece in "The New York Times" in January of this year, where he talked about the serious mistake that the left has made, that the left has no gone out and built a movement. They have thought of this as a spring and, Our goal is to defeat Reagan or defeat Bush, that type of thing. But the conservatives, early on, we thought of this as a marathon, and we`re going to be doing this for decades and decades, and we`re about the business of building a movement.
By the way, would you represent a client you didn`t agree with?
Oh, no. Not at all.
In other words, if some liberal comes in, say they want you to raise money for them, direct mail, you won`t do it.
No. But interesting, I`ll tell you a little -- no, I would not do it. But I did raise money, and excitedly, enthusiastically for somebody four years ago that I never thought I would, and that was former mayor Rudy Giuliani. And I was excited and enthusiastic about raising money for him. He was running against Hillary Clinton, and it was just no contest. Conservatives who were very opposed to Giuliani before he ran for the Senate there in `79 and 1980 -- excuse me -- in `99 and 2000, found themselves very -- all of a sudden, big fans of Rudy Giuliani.
Back to the Fairness Doctrine again, though. Rush Limbaugh comes along in, what, 1988?
Yes, because the Fairness Doctrine was done away in late `87, so he comes along in `88.
So right before that, how many times did the FCC repeal the Fairness Doctrine, and what happened to it in the Congress?
Well, the -- when Clinton came into office -- I forget if it was `93 or `94, but the -- he wanted to repeal it and the Democrats wanted to repeal the Fairness Doctrine. And the conservatives organized a campaign. This was a "hush Rush" effort. They wanted to abolish Rush Limbaugh and the conservatives. So we were able to prevent Clinton from doing this, and the Democrats, in `93, `94. But when the Democrats had Congress in `88, `89, they tried again to legislatively abolish the Fairness Doctrine, and Reagan vetoed it and his veto was upheld.
So both Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush vetoed...
... the attempt to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. Is it safe to say, then, that Rush Limbaugh and all the conservative talk show hosts would not exist today if that Fairness Doctrine were still in...
Absolutely. A radio station couldn`t economically put on Rush Limbaugh for three hours and give away free three hours of time for an Al Franken to try to refute what he`d just said. The economics wouldn`t -- interesting enough, John Kerry has made it clear that if he`s elected president, he would like to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine and put into effect the gatekeepers, in a way, and silence the talk radio show hosts in this country. So he`s made it very clear he wants to bring back the Fairness Doctrine, which puts the -- all the talk show hosts, right and left, out of business.
How -- in your opinion, how liberal has the television anchors and the networks been over the years? Because a lot of -- we get a lot of people call our call-in shows say that they`re all a tool of the corporate leaders.
Well, corporate leaders are not all that conservative, by the way.
You talk about that in your book, too.
Yes. Absolutely. That`s a -- sometimes we find ourselves on the same side of the fence. But when we were getting started as the new right in the mid-`70s, late `70s, we had to oppose the big corporate interests as much as we did the Democrats because the big corporate people are not concerned about the social issues. They`re not concerned about over-regulation of government, because that helps them continue to be a big boy and girl and keep the little boys and girls as little boys and girls.
But the networks out there, Brian, since the `50s, have been liberal. Every poll that I`ve ever seen shows that when they cast votes in presidential election, they vote for the Democrat candidate 10 to 1. Bernard Goldberg`s book, "Bias," documents the liberal media`s bias very well. And the three major anchors out there on the three major networks are definitely left of center. We`ve seen just fairly recently Walter Cronkite come out and make no bones about it, he`s a liberal. But we`re supposed to believe that his liberal views had no influence on his reporting back in the `50s and the `60s. Well, that`s very hard to believe. And he`s very open about his liberal beliefs now.
How did Fox network, in your opinion, make it?
Well, Fox has had a profound impact on cable television not only because it is, I guess, the No. 1 watched program of cable television stations out there, even though they don`t have as many stations as CNN, but they`ve also forced the other cable television stations to put on more conservative hosts and pay attention to the conservative market out there. So the other cable televisions are more conservative today because of Fox.
You run an excerpt with an interview with "Broadcasting and Cable" magazine and Roger Ailes. Roger Ailes -- how long have you known him? What kind of impact has he had on this discussion over the years?
I`ve known Roger only very casually. You know, I`ve talked to him a few times. I like him very much. I think he`s just a masterful professional. And he`s -- also could make a very good living, I`m sure, in my profession, you know, direct marketing because he knows marketing. He saw a niche and moved in and occupied it. And one of the first rules of marketing is the first mover owns the market there, and he was the first cable television to come into -- and you know, as he would -- if he were sitting here, he would say, We`re not conservative, we`re not moderate, we`re not liberal, just fair and balanced.
But for conservatives, we hadn`t had that. All of, you know, the 45 years I`ve been involved, we`ve never had both sides presented. Interesting enough, David Halberstam wrote a book years ago called "The Powers That Be," where he looked at the five major media properties out there. And in this wonderful book, he talks about how media bias evidences itself. It doesn`t evidence itself because people are distorting information or lying or working the numbers, it comes in the selection of the news stories. And it`s very, very, very true. So that over the years, the networks are talking about waste, fraud and abuse in the military budget. Well, that`s all true. There`s nothing maybe wrong. There is that waste, fraud and abuse in there. But they chose that subject rather than waste, fraud and abuse in the Welfare program. And all Fox is doing is giving both sides of the story.
I just want to read what Roger Ailes said in this interview. The question from "Broadcasting and Cable" magazine is, "You didn`t grow up as a journalist?" Roger Ailes says, "I`ve had a broad life experience that doesn`t translate into going to the Columbia journalism school. That makes me a lot better journalist than some guys who`ve had to listen to some pathetic professor who has been on the public dole all his life and really doesn`t like this country much and hates the government and hates everybody and is angry because he`s not making enough money."
You agree with that?
I do. In fact, I reread that yesterday, and I said, Good for you, Roger! You know, and I grew up in Houston, Texas, graduated from the University of Houston, and I think that I understand marketing and am able to communicate with the conservative marketplace out there because I have had that experience, because I worked in an oil refinery for six or seven summers. Bill Buckley famously said years ago that he was a conservative, but he was not of the breed. Roger Ailes and I am of the breed. That`s where we come from.
Well, "Broadcasting and Cable" says, "So if Fox News is fair and balanced, then why do so many other people not believe it?" Ailes says, "Because they`re getting their ass beaten." And then "Broadcasting and Cable" says, "What do you get your back up if anybody says you -- why do you get your back up when anybody says you run a right-wing Republican network?" Ailes then says, "The more they call us that, the more viewers watch us because the American people think the rest of the media is too liberal. Most injuries in journalism are caused by journalists falling off their egos onto their IQs" -- "emphasis added" you say in the book. "The concept that journalism knows and the public knows nothing and they`re idiots is wrong."
Again, you agree with that strong language?
Oh, sure. Sure. Sure. The network anchors, they know what they`re doing, and that`s -- they`ve made a conscious decision to do it, even though they`re losing audience. They`re losing audience -- they have 50 percent of the audience that they had a few years ago. And the same is true in Hollywood. Study after study after study, Brian, has shown that G and PG-rated movies make a lot more than the R-rated movies, but they`re just derned and determined that they`re going to produce the type of movies that they want, even though the marketplace doesn`t want them.
By the way, back to the direct mail for a moment. What`s a success for direct mail, what percentage of returns?
Ah! Very interesting question, Brian. It depends on what your goal and objective is. I caught, quite frankly, a lot of grief in the 1970s because I would go out there for a campaign, maybe spend $1 million and maybe $700,000, $800,000 would come back. And the national media was saying, Viguerie is ripping off the conservatives. As if they cared!
But I understood something that not a lot of people then and now in the non-profit community understand, and the left didn`t understand it then, and I think the Democrats are beginning to get it now. And that`s lifetime value of a donor. Every successful businessperson comes into this world understanding the lifetime value of a customer. Amazon is Amazon and AOL is AOL because they gone and spend a dollar $1 and bring in 20, 30 cents, knowing that over the next three or four years that they would make that up as a loss and have a profit from those customers for years to come.
And the same for the conservatives. Again, I was building a movement. And while we might have lost $300,000 on a mailing, within six months or a year, that loss would be made up, and those people would support that cause and organization for years and sometimes decades to come. And our purpose many times, if not most of the times was, not fund-raising but to pass legislation, to defeat legislation.
And David Broder came to my office in the late `70s, and he was perplexed, genuinely so, and he said...
"Washington Post" political reporter.
Yes. But in -- yes. In those days, he might have still even been with "The Washington Star." But anyway, David was then and now the dean of political reporters. And he said, Richard, I`ve been all over Capitol Hill. I`ve been to the vice president`s office. And you know, Clinton -- excuse me, Jimmy Carter is president of the United States. The Democrats have almost a two thirds majority in Congress, but all the legislation they want is not getting through -- the Consumer Protection act, you know, this is not happening, that`s not happening. Why, with the strong majorities in Congress and a White House sympathetic to these programs, why isn`t it happening?
I said, Well, David, I don`t know. But let me tell you what I`m doing and some other conservatives are doing, and maybe that could shed some light on it. And I began to talk to him about the 100 million letters that we were mailing on this project and that, and all of the under-the-radar activities that were going on out there. And I think it helped David understand what was happening out there. Again, it was all under the radar, all this alternative media. It`s a lot less under the radar now, but it was really under the radar in those days.
So what`s the number of conservatives out there that you could get to through direct mail today that might give money to a cause?
If you put all of the conservative donor lists out there together, I would say maybe eight million.
OK, let`s say you send out a letter to eight million. What`s the optimum number that will come back to you? And just on a -- from your experience.
Sure. Well, you know, not all those eight million people would respond to the same signature. Some would respond to Wayne LaPierre at the NRA, you know, for his signature, and some for James Dobson and some for Tom DeLay. And so it -- but if you had the optimum signature for each one, you get a 3 percent response, you`ve had a real good success.
What`s the best response you`ve ever had?
Oh, for Rudy Giuliani, you know, sometimes you get 8 percent, 10 percent response.
Does that bode well, if he wants to run for president in the future?
No, that doesn`t say anything about his success in the future because he was running against Hillary. And I believe I could have mailed the telephone book and made money on the first prospect mailings.
As you sit there looking at 2008, in the event that she were to run for president, do you smile when you think of using her name?
Well, you know, she`s a lightning rod, just like Jesse Helms and Ronald Reagan and Tom DeLay, or George Bush, Karl Rove are all lightning rods for the left now. And a lot of people out there are very afraid of Hillary as president.
By the way, one of the dirty little secrets seems to be comes out in your book is that if you lose, you win.
Well, from a -- those of us in the marketing business, yes. We always do better if the other side is in power. But as a good American, you know, I`ll do everything I can do help George Bush get elected. But my business would do better if Kerry were. But I -- it`s not what I want.
On page 287, you start to list ideological Web sites. And somebody would have to get your book to completely understand what you`ve done here, but what`s the bottom line that you learned from political Web sites, ideological Web sites? Who`s winning?
There are two types of activities on the -- on the Web. One is information, education, et cetera. The other is political activity. In terms of the Web sites that provide information, material for people`s use, education, et cetera, the conservatives do far better than the left.
Let me list the first four. And what you`ve done is, you`ve gone to Alexa.com, which is on Amazon, to see the success of these Web sites. And you determined that the 264th Web site is the first ideological Web site, which the Drudge Report. And then it`s Worldnetdaily, Newsmax and Lewrockwell.com. How big a deal are those first four that you mention? Salon, which is not a conservative site, is No. 5 on your list.
Right. Well those -- it`s -- you know, it`s just very, very important because that`s how conservative -- the conservative movement is thriving and prospering today, with that news and information that we can get instantaneously to our people out there. In terms of organizing our activities, it`s just critical.
How did Drudge do it?
Drudge did it by accident. He was a clerk out in Los Angeles, working for one of the film studios out there, and every morning, he`d come to work and look in the trash can and find that they had the Nielsen ratings in the trash can for overnight. And he said, Wow, this is a gold mine. So he began to -- he sat up a little Web site and began to put some of this information out there and began to attract a following. And of course, his big break was when he got the information about Monica Lewinsky, that the networks and the big media outlets, they all had that information weeks before he did, but they had spiked it. And he put it out there.
You talk about Joe and Elizabeth Farah, who have Worldnetdaily. And that`s the second one on the list. How did they get started?
Joseph, who is a -- and his wife, Elizabeth, are friends of mine, and Joseph was an old-line newspaper man. He`s not that old, but he`s been in the media, a journalist, for a long time in California, and a very successful journalist there. And then he set up an on-line newspaper, in essence, called Worldnetdaily. And there are two principal conservative on-line newspapers, Worldnetdaily and Newsmax.
Townhall.com, which I looked on this morning, is -- I guess it belongs to Heritage.
And you say that there are 67 different conservative columnists on there. They get a lot of traffic for that?
I assume so.
I mean, they`re way up there. They`re -- like, on this list, they`re 1,351 from the top, but on your list, they`re the No. 6 on there.
But you know, those conservative columnists, we promote them -- or they`re promoted other places, too. ``The Conservative Chronicle`` publication has, you know, 35 or 40 of these syndicated columnists. And that`s another area that the conservatives have outperformed the left on, is syndicated columnists.
Are you surprised that "The Economist," which is a British magazine, is ahead of "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page?
Yes, that is surprising, yes, because I don`t think of "The Economist" as certainly -- I think of it as establishment, center, left of center publication.
By the way, I wondered if it was mistake when I saw Antiwar.com in bold face because that is not a conservative site, and you suggested it might be here.
Well, Brian, remember that there`s a lot of conservatives that are not happy with Bush`s position on the war. So there`s a lot of conservative anti -- war sites out there.
We have a minute, and I wanted to ask you about that. I wrote down that you say that conservatives are starting to think it would be better if George Bush were defeated.
That`s not a majority, but there`s a lot of conservative activists out there that are very disillusioned with George Bush`s presidency. He said he was a compassionate conservative, as his father did. His father said he was a conservative. He didn`t govern as a conservative. And George Bush, the 43rd, has been a much better conservative president -- president for conservatives than his father was.
But there`s still -- growth of government is out of sight. And a Republican president always moves left in his second term. And we`re seeing nothing out there to give us comfort that he would govern more to the right in a second term than he would to the left.
Here`s the cover of the book. Our guest has been Richard Viguerie, co-author of "America`s Right Turn." Richard Viguerie of the Richard Viguerie Company, a direct-mailing activity for the ideological right. Thank you very much.
My pleasure, Brian.