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The Funding Father


Before Rush Limbaugh, there was Richard Viguerie.


Before Rush Limbaugh, there was Richard Viguerie. Many conservatives listened to, learned from, and heeded the advice articulated by the late radio talk show legend. But before Rush, conservatives looked to Richard Viguerie, the funding father of the conservative movement, for the “right word” on policy and politics. Before Mr. Limbaugh, it was Mr. Viguerie whose mail was delivered over hill and dale, through rain, sleet, and snow, to conservative donors and activists, prodding them to take action.

While he no longer funds an estimated 70 percent of the conservative movement’s revenues — a calculation made by his political enemies — Mr. Viguerie, who is currently enjoying his ninth decade, no longer has to, because Viguerie-trained acolytes are active from coast to American coast.

Mr. Viguerie pioneered political “direct mail” six decades ago as the newly hired executive secretary for Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). Shy about personally visiting contributors, Mr. Viguerie realized he could contact 1,000 or 10,000 potential donors by mail without spending any more time, effort or money than it would take to personally solicit a single contribution from one potential donor. Thus was launched a storied career as the guru of direct-mail political fundraising.

Legions of candidates, from the courthouse to the White House, have benefited from Mr. Viguerie’s expertise, and legions of others have tasted defeat as a direct result of his ability to raise money and promote action by sitting down to type.

This one-man financier of the U.S. Postal Service has mailed an estimated 4.6 billion letters during his career. Some of them have been humdingers.

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