VMI Faculty

RICHARD A. VIGUERIE

Known as the “Funding Father of the conservative movement,” Richard Viguerie helped build the modern conservative movement, mailing more than 3 billion letters and helping raise over $7 billion since 1965 for pro-freedom groups and causes.  As the acknowledged pioneer of political direct mail, Richard led the way in bypassing the mainstream media monopoly to directly reach millions of Americans, empowering them to shift the political landscape of the country. 

In fact, it was the millions of $20 and $50 donors found by his direct mail programs that ultimately paved the way for the Reagan landslide election victories of 1980 -- an event which took the media and political establishments completely by surprise -- and again in 1984.  Viguerie’s hand was clearly evident once more in 1994 with the stunning conservative sweep of Congress.

These and other historic achievements prompted the late John F. Kennedy, Jr.'s George magazine to rank Mr. Viguerie as one of the 100 most influential figures of the 20th Century -- actually ahead of several U.S. Presidents.   The Washington Times declared him “one of the 13 Conservatives of the [20th] Century.”

In the wake of these victories, the “other side” started paying very close attention to this master of marketing.  Invitations for interviews with every major television network and other national news outlets came more and more frequently.  Over the years Mr. Viguerie accepted literally hundreds of opportunities to share his conservative views with the widest possible audience, regardless of program or host bias.  His clear, consistent defense of America’s founding principles and values has since made him many grudging admirers on the Left, along with a host of enthusiastic fans on the Right.

Richard Viguerie is chairman of The Viguerie Marketing Institute™, a division of his Virginia-based marketing agency American Target Advertising.

 

DIANA BANISTER

Diana Banister serves as the Vice President and Partner of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs (SBPA), where she has been since 1997.  She oversees the daily activity of the SBPA staff and works closely with the firm’s prominent clientele including a Who’s Who of top conservative authors, journalists and broadcasters to develop and implement effective political and media relations strategies.  With a special emphasis on pro-active marketing and communications strategies, the firm is highly regarded by the national media and public opinion leaders in Washington, D.C.

Ms Banister has been involved in campaigns for more than 15 years, from the local school board level to statewide and national races.  She was a spokesperson for Proposition 174; the California school voucher initiative.  In 1993 she spoke to medical groups to help raise opposition to President Clinton’s 1993 health care proposal among the medical profession.

Starting in 1995, Ms. Banister served as Deputy Political Director for the Buchanan for President campaign, developing grassroots strategies and organizing volunteers and campaign supporters in the first Caucus State of Alaska.  The momentum gained in that first primary victory in Alaska launched the campaign into victories in Louisiana and New Hampshire and a close second place in Iowa.  Ms. Banister continued to direct field operations in the other key primary states of Iowa, Arizona, New York, California, and New Jersey.  Serving as Deputy Press Secretary during the Republican National Convention, she was able to garner major media attention for the Pat Buchanan rally.

Prior to that, Ms. Banister worked as Communications Director for the Coalition on Urban Affairs, directing daily press operations and development activities while promoting its President, Star Parker.  Ms. Banister also worked as producer for Mrs. Parker’s three-hour daily radio talk show, booking guests and developing story ideas for the program.

Ms. Banister is an occasional guest lecturer for Campaigns & Elections Magazine campaign schools, The Leadership Institute, Georgetown Journalism School, the Conservative Political Action Conference, and other venues.  She is also a freelance writer on cultural and religious issues.

An accomplished pianist and vocalist, Ms. Banister directs music for several churches in the Washington DC area. She is active in a number of ministries and non-profit organizations focusing on the sanctity and dignity of human life.

 

REBECCA HAGELIN

Rebecca Hagelin is the President and CEO of Rebecca Hagelin Communications and Marketing, LLC. Her company specializes in talk radio ad buys, comprehensive communications, public relations and marketing services, as well as education on the media industry. Hagelin is also the Senior Communications Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.   Her weekly column for The Washington Times, "How To Save Your Family" appears on Mondays in both the online and print editions of the paper. She also writes a weekly column that explores social and cultural issues for Townhall.com, PatriotPost.US, Crosswalk and other Web sites and newspapers around the country. 

Hagelin served as Heritage's Vice President of Communications and Marketing from 2002-2008 where she expanded the organization's communications, public relations and marketing practices into a 21st century media world where blogs and Web sites compete internationally with traditional newspapers, magazines, radio and television in a constant 24-hour news cycle.
 
Hagelin has more than 20 years of experience in developing and executing comprehensive public affairs and marketing strategies. In the 1990s, she began a consulting business where her clients included numerous non-profits, elected officials and businesses. She has also served as vice president of communications for WorldNetDaily.com, a "fiercely independent" news site that specializes in the investigative reporting of government waste, fraud and abuse. She joined the company in 1998 as communications director and was promoted to vice president after only six months because of her outstanding work product and strategies.
 
Hagelin began her career in 1983 as public relations director for the Center for Judicial Studies and Benchmark magazine. In 1986, she joined the national management team of Concerned Women for America as director of communications and oversaw the development of the organization's first national PR efforts, trained volunteers and spokespeople in public relations techniques, and served as one of the organization's primary spokespersons.
 
In 2006, Concerned Women for America named her one of the nation's "Top Ten Evangelical Women," and in 2007 the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute named Hagelin one of the 12 "Great American Conservative Women." She serves on the board of directors/advisors for many family related organizations and is active in her church. She is also a senior editor of Salvo magazine, a new publication that challenges young adults to think critically about the destructive/false messages of today's culture.

She has been a commentator for Salem Radio Network and a guest co-host of "Point of View" as well as a guest host for Washington, DC's 630 WMAL radio, an ABC affiliate. She is the  also author of the acclaimed book, Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture That's Gone Stark Raving Mad, published in 2005 by Thomas Nelson, and 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family which quickly became both an Amazon and Washington Post best seller when it was released by Regency Publishing in April of 2009.

 

BEN HART

Ben Hart's letters, ads and websites have generated more than $500,000,000 in donations, sales, and membership fees during his 20 years in the direct marketing field.  Ben's books on marketing include:

  • The Internet Money Explosion
  • How To Write Blockbuster Sales Letters
  • Automatic Marketing
  • Fund Your Cause With Direct Mail

Ben graduated in 1982 from Dartmouth College, where he majored in English literature and was one of the founders of The Dartmouth Review, one of the first and most famous of the independent conservative student newspapers that started springing up on college campuses across the country at that time. 

During his senior year at Dartmouth, Hart wrote his first book, Poisoned Ivy.  Becoming a bestseller when published in 1984, Poisoned Ivy was the first book to identify the "political correctness" problem infecting academia.  Hart’s second book, Faith & Freedom: The Christian Roots of American Liberty (1988), refutes the ACLU’s notion that religious faith threatens our civil liberties, demonstrating that our Judeo-Christian tradition is in fact the source of those liberties.

Hart has written speeches for many famous political figures. He worked on President Ronald Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign and George H.W. Bush's first (1988) presidential campaign. Hart has written scores of articles for The Wall Street Journal, National Review, Policy Review and many other publications.  His pioneering direct marketing work has been featured in Direct Marketing Magazine, DM News, Who's Mailing What and numerous highly regarded textbooks on direct mail marketing.
 
Ben helped deliver a serious blow to the Left in the 1990s by using his direct marketing skills to build the two-million-member mailing list of the Christian Coalition -- the organization perhaps most credited with the conservative sweep of Congress in the 1994 elections. 
 
Hart, who served as President of Richard Viguerie’s American Target Advertising from 1999 to 2004, now serves as Senior Advisor there.  He also runs an Internet marketing consulting firm (BenHartMarketing.com) and an online marketing training school (DirectMarketingInstitute.com).

 

ERIC NIELSEN

Eric Nielsen was Youth Coordinator for the successful Ken Cuccinelli for Attorney General of Virginia campaign in 2009.  In this capacity, he oversaw a thirty-one point swing from Democrat in 2008 to Republican in 2009 for voters under age thirty.  Prior to that Nielsen served as campaign manager for a 2008 congressional race in North Carolina.  Nielsen graduated from Elon University in North Carolina in 2004 where he served as Chairman of College Republicans, and as a volunteer on many political campaigns.  He was also a new media intern at the 2000 Republican National Convention.
 
Nielsen currently serves as Manager of Course Development at Viguerie Marketing Institute™ in Manassas, Virginia.

 

GARY MEREDITH

For three decades Gary Meredith has provided marketing strategies and creative direction for some of the nation’s leading non-profit and commercial organizations.   He is a recognized expert in developing “Big Idea” marketing strategies using a full range of media with direct response, advertising and public relations disciplines.
 
Mr. Meredith started in 1980 as an account supervisor at the west’s then-largest direct response agency, Smith Hemmings Gosden in Los Angeles.  He spent the next 15 years on major accounts for direct marketing and general ad agencies.  During that time he helped found and lead a network of grassroots groups from over 60 California cities, earning widespread media attention for effectively tackling issues involving quality of life and unresponsive governments.

In 1995, Mr. Meredith moved to Virginia to work for Richard Viguerie, followed by ten years heading the creative department of SCA Direct, an Omnicom agency.  There he helped create over a billion pieces of highly successful mail for Easter Seals, Paralyzed Veterans of America, VFW and other nationally renown clients.  He also served as creative director on breakthrough video-driven capital campaigns for The Heritage Foundation, Mount Vernon, Media Research Center, and the Telly Award-winning Reagan Ranch campaign.  Mr. Meredith's interview of Michael Reagan at the Reagan Ranch ran on FOX News for two nights following the former president’s death.  Other filmed interviews include Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Senators Coburn and Santorum, and many other national figures.  

Meredith now serves as the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Development at American Target Advertising, Inc.

 

MARK J. FITZGIBBONS

Mark J. Fitzgibbons is President of Corporate and Legal Affairs for American Target Advertising. Since 1993, Mr. Fitzgibbons has litigated constitutional cases and battled excessive and unreasonable government regulation of the direct marketing industry.  He has been a guest on numerous radio talk shows and his work on fundraising law has been featured in national publications, including the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Mark’s commentaries have appeared in Politico, The National Law Journal, DM News, The Nonprofit Times, Philanthropy Monthly, The Washington Times and FoxNews.com.  Working with such organizations as the Free Speech Coalition, he has been a leader in the fight to protect the First Amendment rights of charitable organizations.

Mr. Fitzgibbons is a member of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia Bars, and is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th and 10th Circuits, and the United States District Courts for the District of Columbia and Virginia.  According to The Nonprofit Times, state regulators have described him as “very litigious, “contemptuous,” and “a royal pain.”