The late Congressman John Ashbrook and Human Events Editor-in-Chief Tom Winter founded the Conservative Victory Fund in 1969. Ashbrook was first elected to Congress in 1960. From college days to his days serving in Congress, John Ashbrook was a conservative activist and leader.
During his first campaign for Congress, John Ashbrook warned against "unbridled national power with a resultant loss of individual freedom and local autonomy" . a warning that may be even more important today. Congressman Ashbrook was always a fierce advocate for limited government, reduced spending, and a strong national defense. He set an example for Senators and Congressmen that CVF to this day looks for in choosing candidates that are worthy of support.
John Ashbrook was a conservative leader known throughout the country. He was elected Chairman of the Young Republican National Federation, enabling him to develop a network of conservative activists around the country. In his thirties, Ashbrook was also one of the organizers of the "Draft Goldwater" movement. He also helped found the American Conservative Union and served as Chairman from 1966 to 1971. John Ashbrook was known for his sharp wit. Once asked about moderates in the Republican Party, he quipped, "The only things that you find in the middle of the road are yellow lines and dead skunks."
Though John Ashbrook supported Richard Nixon's candidacy for President in 1968, he soon started opposing Nixon's lurch to big-government programs such as establishing new federal agencies, and backing more spending and more government intrusion in the economy. Once Watergate became known, John Ashbrook was quoted far and wide as saying about Nixon that "we kept waiting for the other shoe to drop but then we realized he was a centipede."
By the latter part of 1971, John Ashbrook was fed up with Nixon's overture to Communist China, Nixon's proposed expansion of welfare, and the growth of the federal government. He announced for President in 1972 because he believed that someone need to stand up for conservative principles. He was supported by Human Events, many working at National Review, and thousands of conservative activists nationwide. And although Congressman Ashbrook did not succeed in his challenge, his candidacy halted Nixon's push for the radical Family Assistance Plan to expand welfare and many students of politics believe that his example of challenging a fellow Republican for the nomination inspired Ronald Reagan to challenge Gerald Ford in 1976.
Back in Congress, John Ashbrook remained a conservative activist, stopping Big Labor's push for more power in several different bills. Though he knew the conservatives were greatly outnumbered in both houses of Congress, he put together coalitions that won and also worked with conservatives like Senator Jesse Helms in the Senate to stop bad bills and nominees. (Senator Helms, in fact, was an early recipient of CVF support.) Until his untimely death, John Ashbrook also continued his work with Conservative Victory Fund, traveling the country to help conservative candidates, speaking, advising and giving other direct assistance.
Throughout his career, he understood the importance of getting young people involved in the conservative movement. He spoke and debated on hundreds of college campuses and spoke regularly at national conservative student conferences. His weekly newspaper column was picked up by publications throughout the country.
Tragically, in 1982, while campaigning for the U.S. Senate, John Ashbrook at the age of only 53 collapsed in Ohio and died of internal hemorrhaging. One year later, President Reagan dedicated the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at Ashland University in Ohio. Reagan said of Ashbrook:
"John Ashbrook was a man of courage and principle. He served his constituents and his country with dedication and devotion, always working towards the betterment of his fellow man. His patriotism and deep belief in the greatness of America never wavered and his articulate and passionate calls for a return to old-fashioned American values earned him the respect of all who knew him."
It is to this standard, articulated by Reagan and exemplified by Congressman Ashbrook, himself, that Conservative Victory Fund seeks always to aspire. It is only conservatives dedicated to this nation's founding principles of limited government, individual responsibility and liberty, and a strong national defense, whom CVF helps to get elected and to stay in office. Every incumbent and candidate that CVF helps must meet this exacting standard and remain loyal to the tenets of John Ashbrook's conservatism to keep receiving assistance.