American Conservative Union

Founded by William F. Buckley in 1964, the American Conservative Union (ACU) is one of the nation's oldest lobbying groups on the Right. It is best known for its annual ratings of Congress and its sponsorship of the annual Conservative Political Action Convention (CPAC), a gathering of Washington insiders, right-wing pundits and grassroots activists from across the country.

American Conservative Union
1007 Cameron Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Websites: or

Founders: William F. Buckley, Jr.: L. Brent Bozell: Frank S. Meyer; John Chamberlain; Jameson Campaigne, Sr.; John Ashbrook; Katherine St. George; and Robert E. Bauman
Chairman: David A. Keene
Established: December 1964
Finances: American Conservative Union [501(c)4] - $3,810,745 (2004) and American Conservative Union Foundation [501(c)3] - $1,068,592 (2005)
Board members include: Senator Jesse Helms; Grover Norquist, Morton Blackwell, also on the Conservative Leadership PAC and Free Congress Foundation boards; and Becky Norton Dunlop, also serves on boards of the Heritage Foundation, the Family Foundation and Century Communications
Frequent Donors: The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation; the Bill and Berniece Grewcock Foundation; and the William E. Simon Foundation
Affiliated with: American Conservative Union Foundation, American Conservative Union PAC, Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC)
Publications: Battle Line quarterly newsletter, along with reports and legislative guides for Congress

Read the latest news on the American Conservative Union on the group's Right Wing Watch index page

Principle Issues

  • The American Conservative Union (ACU) defines itself as the nation's oldest conservative lobbying organization.
  • ACU is a multi-issue, umbrella organization that specializes in grassroots organizing as well as organizing and supporting conservative leadership.
  • The organization's mission statement describes its commitment to "a market economy, the doctrine of original intent of the framers of the Constitution, traditional moral values, and a strong national defense."


  • Since 1971, the American Conservative Union (ACU) has published Congressional member ratings on a scale of zero to 100, according to their conservative standards.
  • Since 1974, ACU has hosted the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). CPAC is the largest conservative conference in the United States. CPAC speakers have included: Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft, Pat Robertson, Pat Buchanan, Dick Armey, Jesse Helms, Tom DeLay, Trent Lott, Senator Sam Brownback, Bob Barr, Phyllis Schlafly, Beverly LaHaye, William Bennett, Ralph Reed, columnist George Will, Gary Bauer, Alan Keyes, Grover Norquist, Charlton Heston of the NRA, Condoleezza Rice, Ann Coulter, David Horowitz, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Oliver North, Rev. Lou Sheldon of Traditional Values Coalition, and many other conservative pundits, writers, and politicians.
  • ACU claims its "most significant efforts," include "fighting to keep OSHA off the backs of small businesses; opposing the Panama Canal giveaway; challenging the SALT treaties; supporting aid to freedom fighters in communist countries; promoting the confirmation of conservative justices to the Supreme Court; advocating near-term deployment of strategic defenses; and battling against higher taxes and wasteful government spending."
  • In 1992, the ACU Board of Directors endorsed Patrick Buchanan's presidential candidacy.
  • During the Clinton presidency, ACU remained a strong, vocal critic on issues such as health care. ACU's director Donald Devine led a country-wide bus tour, called the "National Health Care Truth Tour." Hillary Clinton herself stated that ACU's activities were largely responsible for the defeat of the administration's health plan proposal in 1993.
  • ACU opposes the Patriot Act and in March 2005, joined the "Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances," coalition which includes groups ranging from the Americans for Tax Reform and the American Civil Liberties Union.


  • In 1974, ACU established and sponsored the first Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
  • Reagan was a "long-time friend and ally" of ACU. In 1975, ACU asked Ronald Reagan to run for president, and has since assumed credit for the success of his ultimate election in 1980.
  • ACU and its state affiliates established one of the first independent campaigns on behalf of a presidential candidate. ACU orchestrated the campaign to elect Reagan, running hundreds of radio and newspaper ads comparing candidate Reagan to President Ford, labeling Reagan a conservative visionary and Ford a liberal.
  • ACU launched "Project One Million" in 1981, seeking at least one million backers of a "Petition of Support" for Reagan's economic plan.

Quotes about ACU

"The ACU doesn't rate presidents, but a president can rate you. This is a fine group of decent citizens, principled citizens, and tonight I am proud to stand with the ACU."
– President George W. Bush, 2004 (ACU website)

"ACU is the key to my plans to change the direction of government."
– President Ronald Reagan (ACU website)

"Conservatives all across America can be proud of what ACU has accomplished over the years. Moreover, its future promises a vital role in the struggle to return our nation to the principles upon which it was founded."
– Senator Jesse Helms (ACU website)

Quotes from ACU

"A body turned up on Capitol Hill this past week— beaten to a pulp, almost unrecognizable. Its name: Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). That's the bill that would have granted amnesty to 12 million illegal aliens and invited the world to come UNINVITED to our house and bring the kids. The death of CIR is a victory for our side. But sadly, like the Frankenstein monster, CIR will probably rise from the dead after the fall elections."
ACU Action Alert, September 28, 2006

"We MUST demand — NOW — that a united Republican delegation bring ALL conservative nominees to the floor for an up-or-down vote! Some of the best judges in the nation have been left twisting in the wind — literally for years — while conservatives bicker among themselves. The time to break the back of liberal judicial obstruction once and for all is NOW!"
ACU Action Alert, August 29, 2006

Updated: December 2006

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