While conservative and Republican direct-mail programs have been in a slump, the picture on the Democratic and liberal side is much more complex.
Roger Craver, of Craver, Matthews, Smith and Co., said Democratic Party direct-mail fund-raising "has been bleak as hell. I have never seen that much drop-off after an election."
Craver handles both the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and, until recently, the Democratic National Committee (DNC). He said that the DNC experienced the sharpest decline -- a 60 percent falloff.
For a number of liberal is- sue groups, however, "it's been a banner year," according to Craver.
Common Cause had "its best year since Watergate," Craver said. Frederick M. Wertheimer, president of the group, which advocates political and congressional reform, said membership reached a record high two years ago, and has remained firm.
While abortion is generally considered by conservative fund-raisers as a weak issue for contri- butions, among liberals "it is hot," according to Craver, who is gener- ally viewed as the left's answer to Richard A. Viguerie, the pre- mier conservative direct-mail specialist.
Liberal fears of antiabortionists has resulted in strong support for such groups as Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Rights Committee, Craver said.
"Everything on the social agen- da is doing very well," Craver said. Viguerie, in contrast, said "most of the social issues are not working well as they have in the past."
While the Moral Majority is attempting to regain public confidence by changing its name, People for the American Way, the group most directly opposed to the Moral Majority, is growing as fast or faster than any liberal group, according to Craver.
Art Kropp, director of membership for People for the American Way, said that on a gamble, his group experimented with lists of donors to conservative causes and to Republican candidates, and, he added, the prospecting drives have proven highly successful.
Craver suggested that just as success may have lulled the political right's donor community, the conservative revival has served to inspire increasingly strong re- sponses from liberals asked to give money to fight the conservative agenda.
"Jimmy Carter was such a good environmentalist that he damn near killed the environmental movement," Craver said in explaining the phenomenon. "Then along came salvation with Jim Watt," President Reagan's first secretary of the interior.