The Campaign Finance Project: Who’s Playing Right Field?

Magazine cover with white text reading "North Carolina's bitterly contested 1984 US Senate race between Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt will easily go down in history as one of the meanest, ugliest, and most divisive campaigns ever. North Carolinians could not read a newspaper, watch TV, or open their mail without being bombarded by political rhetoric, mudslinging, and pleas for money."

This article originally appeared in Southern Exposure Vol. 13 No. 1, "The Jesse Helms Machine." Find more from that issue here.

The conservative organizations listed below are a sample of those backing Jesse Helms’s re-election bid in 1984. They include both “Old Right” organizations, which were fed by the anti-communist paranoia of the 1940s and ’50s, as well as examples from the “New Right” network.


Accuracy In Media (AIM) 

AIM is a media monitoring organization, established in 1969 by Reed Irvine to expose the “liberal bias” of the press. Findings are published in Irvine’s syndicated column, in a bimonthly AIM report, and in publications of Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church with which Irvine works closely. Another modus operandi of AIM is to purchase stock in publicly owned media like the Washington Post and confront executives at annual meetings. Many of AIM’s advisory board members are large contributors to Helms, including Karl Bendetsen, Shelby Cullom Davis, Robert Kreible, and Henry Salvatori. 


American Security Council (ASC) 

The Council was set up by former FBI agent William F. Carroll in 1955 to monitor “Communists” and screen employees for subscribers. At its peak the council served more than 1,500 firms as the private equivalent of the FBI with six million personnel file cards and a special subversive activities library. In 1966, the library was closed and ASC moved to Boston, Virginia; by 1983, it had become the most influential pro- Pentagon lobby. In 1982, ASC boasted some 30,000 members and a budget of $5 million for television advertising alone. In September 1984, its Coalition for Peace Through Strength program (of which Helms is a member) staged a pro-defense rally in Raleigh organized by Milton H. Croom, a $2,000 donor to Helms. ASC’s PAC contributed $10,000 to Helms’s 1984 campaign. 


Christian Anti-Communist Crusade 

This Old Right organization, under the leadership of Dr. Fred C. Schwarz, an Australian physician, held anti-communist “schools” in various cities. Schwarz specialized in the theory that Communists are Satanic and masters of intrigue. Today its newsletter is militantly anti-gay, anti-busing, anti-abortion, anti-sex education; it urges anti-communists to adopt New Right causes by linking “declining morality in the USA to increasing Soviet military strength.” Major backers in the ’60s included J. Howard Pew, the Eli Lilly family, and the Allen Bradley Company. John J. Pew gave $2,000 to Helms’s campaign and the PAC of the family’s Sun Oil Co. gave another $2,000. 


Christian Crusade 

This is the popular name for Christian Echo National Ministry, founded by the Rev. Billy James Hargis, first of the “electronic” preachers. Starting in 1951, Hargis combined conservative political principles and fundamentalist Protestantism with attacks on a Communist conspiracy threatening American society. His Christian Crusade had a circulation of over 100,000 in the early ’60s and his sermons were broadcast on over 400 radio stations. In the wake of the Goldwater campaign, the Crusade drew in close to $1 million a year from appearances and appeals on radio and in direct mail. The family of advisory committee member Gano Chance and major backer Richard Shoff are among Helms’s leading contributors. 


Christian Nationalist Crusade 

Since 1941 Gerald L. K. Smith has led this crusade, now headquartered in Los Angeles. An ally of William Dudley Pelley, head of the neo-fascist Silver Shirt Movement, and of Charles E. Coughlin, the Jew-baiting “radio priest,” Smith published The Cross and The Flag from 1942 to 1978. It was one of America’s most virulent race-hate publications. In the 1950s the Crusade spawned the Christian Nationalist Party. By 1974 Smith was earning $300,000, and his magazine had a circulation of nearly 30,000. Thousands visit Smith’s seven-story “Christ of the Ozarks” statue and view his anti-Semitic Passion play in Arkansas each year. His Citizen’s Congressional Committee, organized in the 1950s, focuses on lobbying against Israel. A number of the Crusade’s donors gave $1,000 or more to Helms’s 1984 campaign. 


Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress (CSFC) 

Formed in 1974 by key New Right strategist Paul Weyrich with funds from beer magnate Joseph Coors and Richard Viguerie, CSFC is one of the largest PACs on the right. It not only provides funds to aspiring New Right candidates, but also does cadre training and specializes in organizing at the precinct level. CSFC reported receipts totaling just under $1 million in 1983-84; $750 went to Helms, who is on CSFC’s board of advisors. Dozens of its donors, like those to Reagan’s Citizens for the Republic and Helms’s Congressional Club, also gave directly to Helms. 


The Conservative Caucus (CC) 

Howard Phillips, the Nixon appointee brought in to dismantle the Office of Economic Opportunity, launched CC in 1975 with the use of Viguerie’s mailing lists and the Helms Senate office as a base. Organized to pressure Congress to support the conservative agenda, it operates in over 250 of the nation’s 435 congressional districts. Phillips’s method is to pick a district coordinator who then organizes a steering committee composed of 30 or so leading activists from already existing groups; influence expands by bringing along such constituencies as the VFW, Chambers of Commerce, and antiabortionists. In 1984, $10,000 went to Helms’s campaign. 


Crusade for Christ 

With a consortium of conservative executives led by Nelson Bunker Hunt and Holiday Inn founder Wallace Johnson, the Crusade and its organizer, Bill Bright, are working to “save” every man, woman, and child on earth. An indication of the amount of money conservative Christians are investing in their organizations is the $30 million garnered by the Crusade by mid-1983; $15.5 million came from staunch Helms supporter N. B. Hunt. The family of now deceased Arthur DeMoss, a member of the board of directors and a chief contributor to the affiliated Campus Crusade for Christ, contributed $6,000 to Helms. His daughter is Helms’s Latin American aide, and the Arthur DeMoss Foundation paid for full-page ads in N.C. newspapers in the week before the election advocating mixing religion and politics. 


Eagle Forum 

This 50,000-member organization, established by Phyllis Schlafly as “an alternative to women’s lib,” supports a wide range of “pro-family” crusades against abortion, the ERA, gay rights, and sex education in public schools. Schlafly, a long-time conservative and premier opponent of the ERA, tightly controls the Forum but its operation is based on the volunteer labor of thousands of women nationwide. In 1984 the Eagle Forum PAC donated $2,650 directly to Helms and another $700 in independent expenditures. 


Gun Owners of America 

Former John Birch Society organizer and California state representative H. L. Richardson began this anti-gun control lobbying group in 1975. By 1983, with Viguerie as its fundraiser, Gun Owners claimed over 200,000 members; by 1976 its PAC was raising over $2 million annually. In 1984 the Gun Owners PAC contributed $2,750 to Helms’s campaign and spent over $3,000 in independent expenditures. 


The Heritage Foundation 

This most prominent think tank of the New Right has played the role of overseeing — as a “shadow government” — the Reagan administration. Formed by Joseph Coors and Paul Weyrich in 1973 (with a $250,000 gift from Coors and a large donation from Richard Scaife), the Heritage Foundation now has a $10 million budget, produces hundreds of research reports, maintains a full-time staff of 90, and runs the Resource Bank, a network of some 450 research groups and 1,600 scholars. A majority of its trustees helped fund Helms’s campaign, either directly or through their corporate PACs. 


John Birch Society (JBS) 

Established in 1958 by former candy manufacturer Robert Welch (who died in January 1985), the John Birch Society is the largest and most active membership organization of the Old Right. Its original tenet was that the Soviet Union controlled 50 to 70 percent of the US government. Welch’s denunciation of Eisenhower as a Communist agent brought the society notoriety and nearly 600,000 members. The conspiratorial specter has gone through some revision; today’s secret rulers are said to be an “inner circle” of Eastern Establishment bankers, including David Rockefeller, using communism as a means to world domination. No other group on the extreme right has printed as many books and pamphlets or sponsored as many lectures. The society’s yearly budget of over $10 million also supports bookstores, a speakers bureau, and even summer camps for youth. Birch leaders have been active in electoral politics for years, from the Goldwater and Wallace campaigns to the election of JBS chair Larry McDonald to Congress. Helms has allied himself with many Birchers including Clarence Manion, a JBS national council member and now deceased host of the radio show, Manion Forum. Helms has granted the Birch magazine, American Opinion, exclusive interviews as recently as October 1983. Dozens of Birchers appear on his list of large donors. 


The Liberty Lobby 

In 1955 Willis Carto began the Joint Council for Repatriation to deport blacks to Africa and stop what he called “the inevitable niggerfication of America.” Five years later Carto founded the Liberty Lobby which has since served as the base for his involvements in “various racist and anti-Semitic enterprises punctuated by political relationships with avowed Nazis,” according to a report by the National Anti-Klan Network and Klanwatch. The report, entitled “It’s Not Populism,” analyzes Carto’s latest attempt to inject extremism into mainstream politics: The Populist Party. With Bob Richards of Wheaties fame as its 1984 Presidential candidate and Robert Weems, an avowed Klan leader from Mississippi as its first chairman, the party fielded candidates in 16 states under the names of various parties; all received less than 1 percent of the vote. An earlier Carto creation, the Institute for Historical Review, aims to prove that Hitler’s Holocaust was a propaganda myth of the Jews. The Liberty Lobby’s weekly newspaper, The Spotlight, claims a circulation of 300,000. A sample of Helms’s largest supporters showed that up to a quarter of them read the paper or donate funds to the Liberty Lobby. 


Moral Majority, Inc. (MM) 

Largest of the new groups on the Religious Right today, the Moral Majority is led by Jerry Falwell, whose “Old Time Gospel Hour” broadcasts out of Lynchburg, Virginia, are heard by millions. Fueled by almost $1 million a week, Falwell already ran a formidable operation before his contacts with Paul Wey rich and Howard Phillips led to MM, Inc., in 1979. Now organized into state and local chapters headed by local pastors, MM supports candidates and has helped register thousands of new voters. Its numerous petition and letter writing campaigns against gay rights, the ERA, school busing, and a nuclear weapons freeze make up a determined effort, as Falwell put it, to “turn this into a Christian nation.” Falwell calls Helms “the point man” for Moral Majority’s political causes. The MM PAC, I Love America, donated $5,000 to Helms in 1984. 


National Right to Work Committee (NRTWC) 

This leading anti-union organization in the conservative labyrinth was founded in 1955 by former congressman Fred Hartley, cosponsor of the Taft-Hartley Act, and Edwin S. Dillard, an early supporter of the John Birch Society. It now claims a coalition “1,750,000 strong,” operates on a budget of $9 million, and generates 25 million computerized letters per year — enough to warrant its own zip code. NRTWC has spun off a number of interconnected anti-labor organizations, including the Public Service Research Council (PSRC) and Americans Against Union Control of Government. Many of Helms’s big donors and Helms himself serve on their various advisory boards. NRTWC’s PAC gave $5,000 to Helms in 1984; PSRC added another $10,000. 


RAVCO (Richard A. Viguerie Company) 

RAVCO is a direct-mail marketing company and hub of New Right activity. Starting with the names of 12,500 contributors to the 1964 Goldwater campaign, Richard Viguerie built a computer data bank of over 20 million names. In 1980 he raised an estimated $40 million. His past and present clients include the National Conservative PAC, Gun Owners of America, Young Americans for Freedom, the Korean Cultural Freedom Foundation (Rev. Sun Myung Moon), and numerous election campaigns, including those of Jesse Helms. Largely as a result of Viguerie’s expertise, six of the ten largest independent PACs are of the New Right, including Terry Dolan’s NCPAC, which Helms set up with aide Charles Black. RAVCO also trains scores of young conservatives in direct mail and other organizational skills, feeding them into staff positions in Congress, the Republican Party, and other conservative organizations. Viguerie and his wife each gave Helms $1,000. 


The best single source on the Right is the Group Research, which assisted with the information provided here. Its monthly newsletter is available, with index, for a $40 annual fee from Group Research, 1341 G Street, NW. 4313, Washington, DC 20005