The struggle over the political legacy of legendary right-wing activist Phyllis Schlafly continues.
In the year before she died, a power struggle in the form of an ugly family feud broke out for control of Eagle Forum, the advocacy group she founded. That struggle witnessed a bitter public split between Schlafly and other Eagle Forum leaders, including her daughter Anne Schlafly Cori. Part of the issue seems to have been about Schlafly endorsing then-candidate Donald Trump when many Eagle Forum leaders were backing Ted Cruz. But it was also connected to Ed Martin, a GOP activist Schlafly had hired and with whom she sided in her final months; Martin’s critics had suggested that he was manipulating the aging Schlafly. Martin now works with Schlafly’s sons John and Andy with a group he calls Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagles; we’ve covered their work.
On Thursday, Eagle Forum and its chair Anne Schlafly Cori put out a press release slamming Martin for his “misuse of Phyllis Schlafly’s name” and for having “endorsed a pro-abortion congressional candidate in Wyoming”:
The so-called “Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle PAC” has endorsed a pro-abortion congressional candidate in Wyoming and is spending $55,000 for the election of Rod Miller. Ed Martin created this Super PAC using Phyllis Schlafly’s name on the day she died (September 5, 2016). It is shocking that Martin would use the name and work of a great pro-life leader to promote abortion. Phyllis Schlafly would never have endorsed any candidate who favored abortion rights. Ed Martin should be ashamed to be trading on her name while undermining her legacy.
“I am appalled that this is the third time that Ed Martin has misused my mother’s good name to oppose pro-life congresswomen. Ed Martin should close his Super PAC that has nothing to do with Phyllis Schlafly,” said Anne Schlafly Cori, chairman of Eagle Forum.
Eagle Forum released links to an FEC report showing Martin’s Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagles PAC reporting a $55,000 independent expenditure for candidate Rod Miller and a $27,500 independent expenditure against Elizabeth Cheney. Wyoming’s Republican primary will be held on August 21.
The issues page of Rod Miller’s campaign strikes a libertarian chord, saying as part of a section on women’s rights that women’s “[a]gency and autonomy over their own lives and bodies…should not be denied for any reason.” Miller’s page also says he does not “want the church passing laws to govern my body.”
Eagle Forum has a point. Miller’s pro-choice stance is a stunning departure from Phyllis Schlafly’s intense lifelong commitment to anti-abortion activism. At a “Life of the Party” event during the 2016 Republican National Convention, she told attendees that she endorsed Trump after he pledged loyalty to a pro-life platform. Attendees were given copies of her next-to-final book, “How the Republican Party Became Pro-Life,” a celebration of the anti-choice movement’s systematic takeover of the Republican Party. In an afterword to the book, anti-choice activist Kristan Hawkins celebrates that thanks to Schlafly and “her army,” there is today “no national Republican candidate who dares to be anything other than pro-life!”
Meanwhile, Martin’s Phyllis Schlafly Eagles announced on Friday that it would be giving what it calls the Phyllis Schlafly Award for Excellence in Leadership to “Phyllis Schlafly’s Favorite Congressman,” Rep. Steve King, at a September 15 “Eagle Council” in St. Louis.
In its release this week, Eagle Forum wants to make things perfectly clear:
Eagle Forum has no connection to Ed Martin or Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle PAC. Martin was suspended from Eagle Forum by a court order nearly two years ago. Eagle Forum was founded by Phyllis Schlafly in 1975 and has always stood for conservative, pro-family principles, including the sanctity of life. Eagle Forum PAC has no connection to the Super PAC run by Ed Martin. Eagle Forum PAC is proud of the principled conservatives that we have endorsed.
The statement links to a March 2017 letter to Eagle Forum supporters disavowing Martin and his colleagues and organizations, which says in part:
On October 20, 2016, the Circuit Court of Madison County, Illinois issued an Order suspending John Schlafly and Ed Martin from their roles as officers of Eagle Forum and ordered them to cease conducting business on behalf of Eagle Forum. The Court’s suspension was made after reviewing evidence that John Schlafly and Ed Martin had acted to harm Eagle Forum while they had a duty to protect it. Then on January 28, 2017, a lawfully convened meeting of the Eagle Forum Board of Directors voted to remove Ed Martin, John Schlafly, Andy Schlafly, and Kathleen Sullivan as directors and/or officers of Eagle Forum.
Accordingly, please be advised that the following individuals have no connection to Eagle Forum: Ed Martin, John Schlafly, Andy Schlafly, Kathleen Sullivan.
Each of these individuals were involved with creating Phyllis Schlafly’s American Eagles. These individuals established PSAE as a direct competitor of Eagle Forum, which was itself part of a larger scheme to divert and misappropriate assets and donations from Eagle Forum. These actions were undertaken while each of these individuals were still directors and/or officers of Eagle Forum and were still duty-bound to safeguard its interests.
None of these individuals speaks for Eagle Forum. They no longer conduct business on behalf of Eagle Forum. They may not represent that they are somehow connected to Eagle Forum. Any projects, meetings, events which are planned, organized or supported by these individuals has nothing to do with Eagle Forum.
Phyllis Schlafly’s final book, “The Conservative Case for Trump,” was co-authored with Martin and Brett Decker and was released a day after her death in September 2016.