In Memoriam: Don Lambro
My friend Don Lambro, who, during the 1970s, 80s and 90s was one of America’s most
impactful journalists, passed away April 24, 2023.
Don was rightly celebrated in fond obituaries by DC political reporters, such as John Gizzi of NewsMax, who wrote of Don:
Beginning as a United Press International reporter in the 1970s, he exposed many programs funded by federal dollars that did little or nothing to address the problems with which they were created to deal.
His exposés were compiled in a critically acclaimed book titled "Fat City: How Washington Wastes Your Tax Dollars." One reader who was captivated was future President Ronald Reagan.
In 1980, candidate Reagan often quoted "Fat City" on the campaign trail. Soon after moving into the White House in 1981, he handed out copies of Lambro's book to every member of his Cabinet and told them to read it and start cutting fat from their departments.
People magazine credited Lambro "with being a crucial influence on candidate Reagan's budget promises and on the President's fiscal program."
For Lambro and "Fat City," 1981 was a banner year for other reasons. The Conservative Political Action Conference awarded Lambro its "Outstanding Journalist Award" for the book. He launched an investigative series on federal spending programs entitled "Watching Washington," and was twice nominated by UPI for a Pulitzer Prize. He was also named the Heritage Foundation's Distinguished Journalism fellow.
However, most of these well-deserved tributes seemed to overlook how Don got started in conservative politics and journalism. While he was in college Don joined Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) and soon became the editor of YAF’s monthly national magazine, the New Guard.
At the time I was Executive Secretary of YAF, having been hired by William F. Buckley, Jr. to help build the organization founded in 1960 at his estate in Sharon, Connecticut. In 1965 I left YAF to found the world’s first conservative political marketing firm and my first employee was Don Lambro – the editor of YAF’s magazine. Shortly thereafter, I hired a lovely young lady named Jacquelyn (Jackie) Killmon who later became Mrs. Don Lambro.
One of the most important tributes that I can give to Don Lambro is that he was an old-fashioned journalist, and an early founder of the modern conservative movement, and he was true to both of those passions.
Unlike many so-called journalists in today’s establishment media, Don Lambro wasn’t a political activist masquerading as a journalist. Don’s conservatism was behind his interest in reporting on government waste, but his much-lauded books on government waste and fraud were straightforward factual journalism.
Ronald Reagan recognized the truth in Don’s reporting and made it an important part of his campaign and the fiscal program of his administration. But Don wasn’t writing to advance the Reagan agenda, he was writing to get the truth about outrageous federal spending out there, and Ronald Reagan astutely adopted “Fat City” as his briefing book on waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal budget.
Don Lambro was the bane of Washington’s Big Spenders in both political parties for going on 30-years. In today’s era of $10 trillion budgets, and stimulus for this and subsidy for that, his eye for digging out the spending outrages and his ability to get the public outraged about them will be sorely missed.
Young Americans for Freedom (YAF)
The New Guard