Richard Viguerie first collected massive mailing lists of conservatives after the Goldwater campaign. He was able to go to the Clerk of the House of Representatives, which is where, under campaign finance laws, they have the names and addresses of anyone who contributed more than $50 to a presidential campaign. He had temp workers copy down the names and addresses — which no one had really tried or thought of before — and he had thousands and thousands of them before the administrator there asked what he was doing and kind of chased them out. Very famously, those people were still getting solicitations decades later. What he ended up mastering was a rhetorical style which is very familiar to viewers of Fox News, in which the apocalypse is right around the corner, and his innovation was to intimate that you could help stop it with a, y’know, $5, $10, $50 donation. His business model, as was very soon discovered, was taking 95 percent to sometimes even more than 100 percent of the take for his own purposes and profit and giving in only a minuscule percentage of the proceeds to the ostensible beneficiary, whether it was a fund that supposedly helped FBI officers injured in the line of duty or sending Bibles to Africa or supporting something like the National Conservative Political Action Committee.

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The Sleepcoat League

Armchair anthropologist, sometime scribe, freelance philosopher, amateur artist, part-time poet, musical maven, alliteration aficionado.

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