Although Allott lost his Senate seat in 1972 to liberal Democrat Floyd Haskell, Weyrich was rolling. He darted around Capitol Hill like a hummingbird, working out of the office of conservative Nebraska senator Carl Curtis, even commandeering then-vice president Spiro Agnew's digs for late-night political organizing and campaign fundraising. Weyrich persuaded Joe Coors to start spending money in D.C. After a couple of abortive attempts, they established a think tank called the Heritage Foundation, along with what later was known as the Free Congress Foundation. In a 1975 Washington Post series on Joe Coors's growing political clout in Washington, Weyrich strongly denied that Coors ran the Heritage Foundation, but he did admit that when the organization first got started, its internal correspondence was bundled up at the end of each day and sent to Coors in Golden. (Joe's son Jeff serves on the board of the Free Congress Foundation. Another son, Grover, is on the Heritage board, but Weyrich is no longer officially connected with that foundation.)

Together Coors and Weyrich also set up Television News Inc. to counter what they saw as the national networks' liberal bias. But TVN, the CNN of its day, was too far ahead of its time. Facing the difficulties and expense of transmission before the days of satellites, the network lasted only a few years and never went national. When TVN officials tried to convince Joe Coors to hang on because advanced technology was right around the corner, the brewer thought it sounded too much like "Buck Rogers," Weyrich recalls.

But if TVN was a failure, there were many successes. Other conservative millionaires, such as Gulf Oil heir Richard Mellon Scaife, had begun supporting Weyrich's projects. Fellow conservative Richard Viguerie brought his direct-mail genius to bear on Washington, resulting in a plethora of organizations and sophisticated mailing lists of contributors. Weyrich set up regular study groups for conservative members of the House and Senate, stoking young firebrands like Representative Bill Armstrong (later a Colorado senator and progenitor of Amendment 2, and currently a Free Congress boardmember). In March 1975, Armstrong and others received special permission to use an hour on the House floor to discuss an alternative federal budget proposed by Heritage staffers. Liberals had spent decades building up their own network of foundations, think tanks and academicians. Weyrich simply borrowed these techniques.

"I always look at what the enemy is doing and, if they're winning, copy it," he said at the time. "You know, conservatives are notoriously difficult to organize." So he backed up his words with action, helping to set up such groups as the Council for National Policy, Coalitions for America, the International Policy Forum, the National Council for Democracy and the American Legislative Exchange Council, each of which issued reports, held conferences and attracted young zealots from college campuses to the Capitol.

They weren't like the student leftists. They were young men in suits who hung out on the Hill. "We are different from previous generations of conservatives," Weyrich declared. "We are no longer working to preserve the status quo. We are radicals, working to overturn the present power structure of this country."

Observers labeled them the "New Right."
That was fine with Weyrich. The "old right" believed in the idea of "live and let live," he wrote, but that idea "is not reflective of Christian social teachings. A common assumption of New Right activists is that government should support certain moral truths...It is basic to my philosophy that God's truth ought to be manifest politically." Weyrich's Christian soldiers were on the march by the late Seventies. While evangelicals stewed over Brother Jimmy Carter's liberal heresies, Weyrich, Viguerie and their allies mounted a campaign to get conservative preachers such as Jerry Falwell into national politics.

One day in 1979 Falwell sent his plane to fetch Weyrich and other conservative activists for a meeting. As they waited for one more expected guest, Weyrich recalls, he laid out his pitch to Falwell: "I said, `Well, there's a majority that believes in traditional values, what you might call a moral majority.' And I went on and Falwell says, `Stop, stop, go back. What was it you said?' I said, `Moral majority.' He turned to his assistant and said, `That's it. That's what we'll call it.'"

The Moral Majority exploded on the scene. During the Reagan years, the Heritage Foundation and all the other conservative organizations Weyrich had helped to create gained access to power. Young, Weyrich-trained congressmen climbed into prominence--Dan Quayle among them. By the late Eighties the Heritage Foundation was a respected institution, albeit one with a distinct rightward tilt. Newly elected conservatives in Congress attended Weyrich's training sessions on how D.C. works. (They still do.) After Mikhail Gorbachev loosened the Soviet Union's reins, Weyrich conducted seminars in Eastern Europe for budding Soviet democrats--that's with a small "d". Weyrich's own beliefs became even more conservative. In 1990 he was ordained a deacon in the Melkite version of Catholicism, which follows Eastern Orthodox rites but still recognizes the Pope as its leader. Some evangelical Protestants--especially those who think the New World Order is a papal plot--are wary of Weyrich and other Catholic conservatives, including Pat Buchanan and William Bennett. But Weyrich himself takes a broader view of the political coalition between conservatives of all faiths.

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help