Association profile: The Missouri Family Network
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — For almost 30 years, Kerry Messer has been a fixture in the state Capitol. Messer and his organization, the Missouri Family Network, are a conservative group that lobbies legislators in the Capitol on behalf of the “traditionally conservative pro-family community.”
“I represent the interests of those dozens of groups around the state in a more formal way in the Capitol, and it’s just expanded and expanded,” Messer told The Missouri Times.
The Missouri Family Net- work doesn’t have fancy of- fices or any high-profile lob- byists. Messer said the reason is simple — money isn’t im- portant to him. Messer does not actively fundraise for his non-profit network and he and his family live off the small but continuous flow of donations, largely from pri- vate citizens.
“There’s no job security, no health or life insurance, and I’m comfortable with that,”
Messer said. “Nor do we be- lieve in taking any govern- ment handouts. We’ve never collected a penny of govern- ment money on a personal or professional level, and we have qualified at one time or another for many.”
Messer said the Missouri Family Network was designed to go through public policy point-by-point and identify the way new laws and rules would directly impact the traditional, “nuclear” family in Missouri. Messer said it started because he realized that groups and industries all had firm and well-paid repre- sentation in the Capitol, but that traditionally conserva- tive family values didn’t.
“Individual lawmakers have always sought to bear in mind what’s good for the general public,” Messer said. “But there wasn’t always this focus on asking them- selves ‘how does this impact family life and holding nu- clear families together?’”
Messer and the Missouri Family Network, which also now employs his son, Abram, were instrumental in the fight for conceal and carry permits in the state and worked closely with Repub- lican lawmakers during the seven-year battle to add a constitutional amendment in the state defining marriage as being between one man and one women. On all those is- sues, Messer says, he took a position that would benefit traditional families.
“It’s not debatable that the traditional nuclear family is the best environment for a child,” Messer said. “Now, are some two-parent homes unhealthy? Yes. And are some single-parent homes very, very good? Yes. But ultimate- ly, we’ve all seen the data and the traditional family is still the best bet at raising a child who contributes to society, who works and doesn’t turn to crime or drugs.”
Messer said that after almost 30 years, his role is largely educational. He spends much of his time compiling raw data and conducting his own polling and research to show legislators. During the concealed weap- on debate, Messer said the Missouri Family Network was concerned that liber- al lawmakers and activists were tying pro-gun votes to anti-Christian behavior. Messer’s Family Network conducted a statewide poll of legislators and found some- thing interesting.
“We heard all these people say that being pro-gun was somehow not a moral or re- ligious position, but what we found was that people who claimed the most conserva- tive theology and the most strict adherence to their re- ligion also were the most pro gun,” Messer said. “Mean- while, the people who were the most anti-gun were the people most likely to claim no religion whatsoever.
Messer is a recognizable face in the Capitol and says term limits are largely why legislators frequently request he “educate” them on an is- sue. Citing a lack of institutional knowledge, Messer said he believes people like himself actually have too much influence.
“It’s terrible,” Messer said. “I shouldn’t be able to dom- inate a legislative discussion as a lobbyist, and there is just too much power and influence with bureaucrats and lobbyists now that these lawmakers can’t stay. We have term limits, they happen at the ballot box.”