PAUL WEYRICH DIES AT AGE 66…. I didn’t share his politics and couldn’t relate to his worldview, but it’s impossible to ignore the impact Paul Weyrich had on the conservative movement.

Paul M. Weyrich, 66, who helped found the Heritage Foundation and at one time was one of Washington’s most visible conservatives, died this morning. At his death, he was president and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.

Heritage announced this morning: “Paul M. Weyrich, chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation and first president of The Heritage Foundation, died this morning around 1 a.m. He was 66 years old. Weyrich was a good friend to many of us at Heritage, a true leader and a man of unbending principle. He won Heritage’s prestigious Clare Boothe Luce Award in 2005. Weyrich will be deeply missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, including son Steve, who currently works at Heritage.”

Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform wrote this tribute: “Paul Weyrich created institutions and networks that incubated new and old powerful policies and strategies to advance liberty. … He brought leaders of various freedom impulses together. Most of the successes of the Conservative movement since the 1970s flowed from structures, organizations, and coalitions he started, created or nurtured. Paul also lived a balanced life with work, family and his faith. We will miss his puns and wisdom and hard work.”

Norquist’s point about Weyrich’s institutions is absolutely right. Weyrich passed while serving as the chairman of the conservative Free Congress Foundation, but more importantly, he was a pioneer for far-right conservatives, having helped create both the Moral Majority and the Heritage Foundation.

In an age when some powerful conservative activists would occasionally trade principles for access, Weyrich took his ideology seriously, and refused to waver. This, to his credit, led him to help create a group called Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances, which condemned the Bush administration’s warrantless-surveillance program as an example of big government run amok.

That said, Weyrich’s far-right ideology was also unquestioned. He helped create the Arlington Group, which pushed a very conservative social agenda, and accepted a religious right worldview that was so rigid, Weyrich publicly speculated a few years ago that God personally wanted Ken Blackwell to be Ohio’s Secretary of State in 2004 so as to help Bush win a second term.

No one ever mistook Weyrich as a moderate. That was just the way he liked it.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.