Cover Story: Political Direct Marketing 2004
What’s more, the GOP began working on its integrated national-voter database as early as 1990, giving it a considerable edge in reaching core constituencies through the mail. But the Democrats caught up in 2002, when they introduced their DataMart, a national database similar to the GOP voter file that includes voter history, U.S. Census data, commercial behavior and geographical information.
Richard Viguerie, political copywriter and chairman of American Target Advertising, has observed how “the left has certainly caught up,” and adds that many right-wing organizations have not done nearly enough professional, sophisticated list segmentation and targeting for this election cycle.
“It has been a shock and an unpleasant surprise to Republican leaders nationwide that the advantage they have enjoyed over many years has basically been erased by the Democrats’ success in direct mail fundraising this year,” says Viguerie, who is widely regarded as the “funding father” of the conservative movement. Shortly after GOP presidential candidate and staunch conservative Barry Goldwater lost the election in 1964 to Lyndon B. Johnson, Viguerie copied the names and addresses of roughly 12,500 Goldwater donors available at the Library of Congress and used the information to launch direct mail appeals.
The Republican party soon attracted millions of grassroots donors through the mail — by appealing to their conservative instincts on taxes, national security and social issues.
“For a time, wealthy, old money wasn’t the only funding source for the Republican party,” Viguerie figures. “It was the $25 dollar rancher from Wyoming and the $50 dollar small-business person from Texas. It changed the party far more than putting money in the coffers.”
Today, the GOP relies less on grassroots fundraising and more on special events. (At June’s end, Bush had raised a total of $131 million through events, with an average contribution of $129.)