Richard Viguerie and “America’s Right Turn”
On the mention of sites like fundrace.org making Federal Election Commission data easy to access, the FEC itself is worth looking at.
C-SPAN’s Booknotes has a fascinating interview with Richard Viguerie discussing his new book “America’s Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power”. Viguerie describes the tricks of the trade for reaching out to voters and donors – not big donors, just getting lots of small donations by writing good letters to the right segment of the population.
He tells the story of how he got some of the names:
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.
It’s rather endearing how he had stumbled on this.
The interview is also interesting because it shows how the Republicans in the 70’s pioneered new media like direct-mail. Now, he says, the Democrats are pioneering new media like documentaries. I have to say Michael Moore’s documentaries are boring me, but it seems that they have a big effect on a lot of people.