Ronald G. Shaiko
Throughout the last decade, the world of nonconnected ideological PACs has changed significantly. This change has had a disproportionate effect on conservative ideological committees. Today, conservative PACs are feeling the pinch of the economy like most political enterprises. However, there is an additional burden felt by many organizations that are heavily dependent on direct mail as a means of organizational maintenance.
Perhaps the best example of the volatility of the conservative political market dependent upon direct mail is the rise and fall of the National Security PAC (NSPAC). At first glance one might expect this organization to represent prodefense interests. In this case, the name is a bit of a misnomer. While the names of several retired military officers are featured prominently on the PAC's letterhead, the organization's major project in the 1988 presidential election was known as "Americans for Bush." This PAC was responsible for the most controversial aspect of the 1988 campaign--the Willie Horton advertisement.
NSPAC was founded in April of 1986. During its first twenty months of operation, it raised and spent approximately $800,000. Then the direct-mail explosion hit. While most conservative PACs had experienced their peak direct- mail fundraising efforts in the early 1980s, NSPAC was quite successful in mobilizing conservative support on the issue of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). The Reagan message of "Peace through Strength" continued to be a marketable idea. In the election year 1988, NSPAC generated $9.5 million, largely through massive direct-mail expenditures. Unfortunately for the PAC, by