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Before There Was Facebook And Cambridge Analytica Conservatives Had The Viguerie Company Part 1 of 3

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony is sure to reignite the controversy over Cambridge Analytica’s voter targeting and data collection for the Trump campaign. And Rush Limbaugh’s recent mentions of my pioneering work in this area brought to mind certain lessons for today’s conservatives that I thought were important to share.

Starting in 1965 with 12,500 three-by-five index cards with the names and addresses of Goldwater donors I Richard Vigueriebegan to develop the science of political targeting and data analytics.

Over the course of my 53 years in business we built and now own data on 12 million conservative donors and activists to whom we send hundreds of millions of letters and emails on behalf of our conservative clients, and we reach millions more through the internet and social media.

It goes without saying that the Left has hated our success in marketing conservative ideas, candidates and causes through direct mail and they have done their best to stifle our use of this tool for bypassing the establishment media, even as they have imitated our technology and today may even be ahead of most conservative organizations – certainly they are ahead of most of the Republican Party committees.

And there is an important difference between what we did and do to develop our targeted lists and what Facebook and Cambridge Analytica did – ours are legal and based on conservatives opting-in or subscribing to get information they can’t get through the establishment media and donating to conservative candidates and causes.

To paraphrase Clif White, leader of the Draft Goldwater Committee, without direct mail there would be no conservative movement worthy of the name.

Frankly, as I said in my book The New Right, We’re Ready To Lead, the conservative movement is where it is today because of targeted direct mail. A good estimate is that 90 percent of conservative organizations recruit their membership and raise the money to fund their operations through direct mail. Without direct mail, there would be no effective counter-force to liberalism, and almost certainly as Clif White said, there would be no modern conservative movement.

Conservatives raise money, sell their magazines, their books, and advocate the election of conservative candidates through the mail. We conservatives fight our legislative battles through the mail. We alert our supporters to upcoming battles through the mail. And, crucially, we identify new recruits for the conservative movement through the mail.

Today, without targeted direct marketing, most conservative activities would wither and die.

Why?

Because liberals have effective control of the mass media -- a virtual monopoly on TV, newspapers, magazines and their associated websites, and increasingly, social media.

However, there is one method of mass commercial communication that the liberals do not control -- direct mail.

Direct mail is the advertising medium of the underdog. It allows organizations or causes not part of the mainstream to get funding. Because it is so effective in bypassing the establishment filters, direct mail is the advertising medium of the non-establishment candidate and cause.

What’s more, it is all under the radar – which is one of the reasons it so infuriates Liberals.

Donald Trump’s unexpected (by the establishment media) victory is only the latest example of how conservatives have used highly targeted direct marketing to win elections. Time and again through direct marketing conservatives have gone around the mainstream media, identified and turned-out winning coalitions of voters and won.

Nobody in the establishment media knew what Trump’s team was doing with social media, direct mail and the internet until the election was over, the same goes with our direct mail for our conservative clients.

That is why, as Rush Limbaugh pointed out recently, the Left is making such a big deal out of President Trump’s use of data analysis and voter targeting.

Twice in the course of discussing the non-scandal of President Trump’s campaign using data mining to target voters, Rush Limbaugh has kindly given me credit for pioneering the use of data collection for voter and donor targeting.

On Monday, March 26, Rush said:

Well, exactly! Direct mail! Phone banks! None of this is new! That’s your point. None of this is new! Politicians, organizations, political entities have been amassing, organizing, collecting data on everybody for as long as they’ve been around, and there have been… Richard Viguerie is a big name in conservatism. One of the reasons is direct mail. Richard Viguerie found a way to find out more about people and how they’re gonna vote and how to persuade them in his era than anybody else had…

Whose head wouldn’t swell just a little if Rush called them “a big name in conservativism,” and there’s a back story here from when I started my company back in 1965 that’s very relevant to today’s politics.

When I first began my study of direct marketing (a subject I still study today with the same passion I had for it back in 1964) I didn’t set out to change the world of politics.

In 1961 William Rusher, publisher of William F. Buckley, Jr’s National Review, had hired me to be Executive Secretary of Young Americans for Freedom and the fast-growing organization needed money to operate. For me visiting and calling on donors was a difficult and time-consuming business, but I discovered that a well-written letter could get the same results and reach more prospects in less time.

After serving as Executive Secretary for a while I asked the YAF leadership to relieve me of my other duties and allow me to concentrate on direct mail and I began to learn how to market the conservative ideas, principles, and values for which we stood.

But the question always remained: Where do we find more conservatives?

The answer came in an insight that then-actor Ronald Reagan and I each came to separately.

After Barry Goldwater’s epic 1964 defeat many conservatives were downcast, seeing in Goldwater’s loss a rejection of conservative ideas.

Ronald Reagan saw it differently.

After Senator Goldwater’s defeat Ronald Reagan, found a reason to be optimistic: “Sure, we didn’t expect this . . . but take a look at the figure on our side and remember every one [voter] represents a conservative we didn’t have when we started out.”

Reagan was right; some twenty-seven million voters had voted for Goldwater in the face of the overwhelming personal attacks against him from Democrats, their enablers in the media, and from the Republican establishment.

I was similarly optimistic, because I figured that everyone who supported Senator Goldwater would support other conservative causes and candidates, and so on January 3, 1965 the Viguerie Company was formed and I set out to record the names and addresses of those donors.

In 1964 if you were a candidate for president, you had to file a list of all of your fifty-dollar-plus donors with the clerk of the US House of Representatives.

There was no prohibition against copying and using those names and addresses, and to me those individuals represented an invaluable potential source of support for the new and growing conservative movement. So, I sat in the clerk’s office, copying Goldwater donor names and addresses and building a list of those who would oppose Johnson’s programs.

I soon realized that working by myself was getting me nowhere fast, so I hired six women, who produced 12,500 three-by-five index cards with the names and addresses of the Goldwater donors.

Eventually, I went around the country doing the same thing in state capitols where the rules were favorable.

My first political campaign client was H. L. “Bill” Richardson, a candidate for State Senate in a special election in California. Using the 12,500 Goldwater donors that I had acquired, we raised fifty thousand dollars for Bill’s winning campaign.

Bill Richardson became the leader of conservatives in California, started Gun Owners of America and Gun Owners of California, and has made a huge difference for the country and the conservative movement. After the Richardson campaign I became ever more heavily involved in the marketing necessary to launch the new organizations and energize the supporters of the new conservative movement.

Before the end of the 1960s we had a million names in our files and added many millions more as the New Right remade Republican politics in the 1970s and the ground-shaking 1980 election of Ronald Reagan loomed. 

And I began to see direct mail as more than just a way to raise money – it is the first and most long-lived alternative media.

Part 2 - Direct Mail Becomes More Than Just A Way To Raise Money

Wednesday: Part 3 - Lessons For Today's Conservatives

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