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Richard Viguerie's fight for the soul of the GOP

| Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Political direct mail pioneer Richard Viguerie is chairman of ConservativeHQ.com, an organization devoted to relaunching America's conservative movement and diminishing the influence of Republican beltway insiders.

Viguerie, 79, spoke to the Trib about his recently announced $10,000 Liberty Prize contest. The competition will reward the best ideas that might enable the GOP's conservative arm to first take control of the party, then take control of the nation:

Q: What prompted your offering of the Liberty Prize?

A: I'm very frustrated, as are most all limited-government and constitutional conservatives, with the direction of the Republican Party leadership. I've been a lone exponent of the idea that conservatives are like biblical Jews who aren't going to get to the promised land until we get new leaders. The biblical Jews had to walk through the desert for 40 years until that generation of failed, fallen leaders had passed from the scene. We are not going to get to the political promised land until we get new leaders, people different from Karl Rove and George Bush and John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. And so I'm writing a book called “Takeover” — and an important part of the book is a plan for conservatives to take over the leadership of the Republican Party at the national, state and local levels.

Q: How do you think that might happen?

A: I have my own plan, but I want to reach out to thousands and thousands of conservatives and get their input. We've already had a tremendous response from people with plans and ideas of their own.

Q: Is the Liberty Prize a counter- to Rove's new anti-tea party super PAC, the Conservative Victory Project?

A: No, I've been battling Karl Rove for about 42 years, when he was executive director of Virginia's Republican Party back in the early '70s. I thought he was a liberal then and I think he is a big-government Republican today. If this (Liberty Prize initiative) is successful, it will minimize Rove's effect, but I'm not doing it (directly) to counter him.

Q: Are you concerned with critics who would contend that what you are doing is perpetuating a sort of civil war within the party?

A: There is a war going on. The only way to not have this war would be to surrender to the big-government Republicans — and Americans don't like big-government Republicans. They rejected them in 2006, they rejected them in 2008, they rejected them in 2012. The only time in recent years Republicans have done well was when the big-government Republicans were not the face of the opposition to the Democrats. In 2010, the face of the opposition was not Karl Rove, George Bush, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell — it was Rush Limbaugh, (Sean) Hannity, the tea party, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio.

Q: Would you say the future of the party is at stake with what you're attempting to accomplish?

A: Absolutely. This is all about the future of the Republican Party and the future of America, because if conservatives are not successful in taking control of the party from the big-government Republicans, then I think our country is lost. The two (major) political parties right now, ideologically and philosophically, are not that different. They are both about expanding the power of government and reducing the power of the individual.

Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or eheyl@tribweb.com.

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