How Obama’s Geek Leakers May Have Cost Themselves Billions
In the late 1960s, I went to work for the godfather of American political fundraising. Walter Weintz (pronounced “wents”) was the circulation director of Readers Digest before he went on to start his own direct mail agency.
Not only a devoted husband and father, Walt was a hell-for-leather copywriter, amateur astronomer, yacht owner, fisherman and party animal. He never left the cap too long on a gin bottle lest the contents spoil. His clients loved him. So did I.
In 1952, Walt was ordered to take paid leave from the Digest to help get Eisenhower-Nixon elected. Using primitive data and old-fashioned direct mail testing, he revolutionized the business and philosophy of political campaigns. He not only generated votes, but—wonder of wonders—raised cash to pay for the mailings. For the first time this was cash from Joe and Jane Lunchbucket, not from rich high rollers.
When Walt left the Digest to start his own agency, his biggest account was the Republican National Committee. For years the RNC and various Republican campaign committees left their Democratic opponents in the dust because of Walt’s pioneering work in the business of vote getting and fundraising. He shared his proprietary knowledge freely with clients and staff, but never went public with it.
After 35 years, Walter Weintz Finally Revealed His Secrets
In 1987, 10 years before his death, Walt published his memoir, The Solid Gold Mailbox: How to Create Winning Mail-Order Campaigns…By the Man Who’s Done All.
In the immediate aftermath of Barack Obama’s shocking win in the 2008 election, I contacted Walt’s son, Todd. He gave me permission to excerpt Walt’s account of his breakthrough work with Citizens for Eisenhower-Nixon. The result was my December 2008 column titled “Obama’s $750 Million Juggernaut.”
If you want quick backgrounder in the genesis of direct marketing in politics, spend a few minutes with Walt. I guarantee you will find this fascinating stuff and very relevant today.