Founder Turmoil at the Conservative Nonprofit Eagle Forum: Who’s in Charge Here?

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Phyllis-Shlafly

Phyllis Schlafly, Founder, Eagle Forum / Mark Taylor

April 19, 2016; Missouri Times

Founder troubles can plague all kinds of nonprofits. Founders often become founders because they have a combination of charisma and will, and the result can be both highly attractive and highly distressing.

Conservative campaigner Phyllis Schlafly claims she is still at the helm of the Eagle Forum, which she founded in 1972 to successfully oppose the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The group has more recently been active against marriage equality, abortion, gun control, and tax increases. But six of 11 of the board members (now dubbed the “Gang of Six”) claim she is out.

Schlafly says she objects to the validity of their decisions to oust her and the president Ed Martin. Making the whole scene more excruciating is the fact that Anne Cori, Schlafly’s daughter, is one of the six board members (rogue, according to Schlafly and Martin) taking the action.

Schlafly has been trying to get her daughter and the other five rogues to resign, as can be noted in the letter below:

Eagle-Forum

The imbroglio has been blamed on Schlafly’s endorsement of Donald Trump for president in January after high-ranking staff had already voiced support for Ted Cruz. Some believe the 91-year-old was manipulated into making the endorsement, a suggestion some call highly disrespectful.

Gawker reports:

Schlafly’s decision prompted Cathie Adams, a veteran Eagle Forum member and onetime chair of the Texas GOP, to claim that Trump had capitalized on Schlafly’s old age to earn her support.

“At 91, it is just totally unfair to impose upon someone who has such a beautiful legacy,” Adams said to the Dallas Morning News. “I think this was very much a manipulation. When you’re 91 and you’re not out with the grass roots all the time, it is very much taking advantage of someone.”

Schlafly is reluctant to categorize Adams’s remark as a personal insult. “We have quite a number of our members who are for Cruz. There’s no question about that,” she told Gawker. “When they did that, I didn’t say anything. I didn’t criticize them. I didn’t say they couldn’t do it. I said we have free speech, you can do whatever you want.”

The “rogue board members” deny that the issue at hand is the endorsement of Trump; rather, they claim it’s Martin’s style of management that is in question, and that he is acting as Schlafly’s mouthpiece in order to seize control of the group.

Schlafly made a video to explain her position in which she asserts that the Eagle Forum is still a “terribly important player in the whole political scene.”

“So we’re cooking, and I hope you’re with me all the way,” Schlafly said.

As a trip down memory lane, here are some quotations from the woman in question:

  • “The atomic bomb is a marvelous gift that was given to our country by a wise God.”
  • “Non-criminal sexual harassment on the job is not a problem for the virtuous woman except in the rarest of cases.”
  • “Men should stop treating feminists like ladies, and instead treat them like the men they say they want to be.”
  • “ERA means abortion funding, means homosexual privileges, means whatever else.”

—Ruth McCambridge

  • Linda gola

    Very interesting and intriguing post about a long time founder. I’m a bit confused that this group can be a c3 if they are endorsing candidates though. And that the ED somehow outranks her board members. Wow.

    • Linda:

      Good questions. Eagle Forum was recognized by the IRS in 1976 as a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization. As such, contributions are not deductible as charitable gifts and the organization may participate in partisan political activity as long as such political activity isn’t its primary activity.

      Phyllis Schlafly founded the Eagle Form and has been its spokesperson and leader from the beginning. One can argue there’s a “founder’s syndrome” situation in play. On the other hand, a one-person majority on the board is seeking her ouster. Of course, trying to replace the founder by a single vote isn’t a sign of a healthy board.

  • Scott Dixon

    Ruth, where is the respondent’s comment? Were you two telepathing? Is this not a free-thinking forum for people who read your daily updates because we have interests in nonprofit matters? I read the quarterly journal cover to cover to learn. It’s part of my profession. With all due respect, some may not agree with just every little thing you espouse, but please don’t turn this forum into a vehicle for one-way bashing.

    • Shafaq Hasan

      Hi Scott, we did not remove Tom’s comment. Rather, it appears after it was published, he edited the comment himself and erased it. However, he did not delete the comment entirely so his name still appears. We would welcome him to post his response again and allow others to respond. NPQ welcomes a lively, respectful discussion on our pieces as we often learn from the feedback our readers provide. Thank you for being so diligent in promoting that environment on our site.