As the career of Missouri politico Jeff Roe is skyrocketing, Ed Martin is ensnared in another scandal. Now Martin is attempting to save himself by trying to drag Roe into the mess at Eagle Forum.
ST. LOUIS – Eagle Forum, founded in 1972 by Phyllis Schlafly, has spiraled out of control since the hiring of Ed Martin as its president with a majority of the board members in open revolt, demanding Martin resign.
Martin has spent the last two weeks grasping at Jeff Roe, founder of Axiom Strategies and campaign manager for Ted Cruz, blaming him for turmoil Martin says is caused by Schlafly’s endorsement of Donald Trump.
Martin reached out to various media outlets, shopping a story of inner-organizational turmoil at the hands of Roe, with the Daily Beast running a story on April 17.
“Martin said the Cruz team set its sights on Eagle Forum when Schlafly endorsed the Texan’s opponent,” reads the story “And he said Cruz supporters in the organization leaked private emails to the campaign, and that Cruz’s campaign manager, Jeff Roe, confronted him about statements in the leaked emails.”
One board member confirmed that she had passed the emails on to the Cruz campaign, but did not “point fingers” at who wrote them.
Schlafly’s son Andy emailed board members stating Schlafly “has not endorsed Trump” in January, which was leaked to Roe. Martin leaked a response to Andy from Roe to Breitbart.
The emails in question, however, were called “very ugly” about Cruz, according to the board member, Cathie Adams, who made it clear Schlafly was not the person to pen the emails, but “of course,” gave them to the Cruz campaign.
The day after Roe stated to Breitbart he did not deny the email, Martin issued a statement claiming six board members, who happen to also be Cruz supporters, were attempting a “takeover” by filing a legal complaint to remove Martin from his post. Martin again blamed Roe for the turmoil in the media.
However, it seems doubtful, and even improbable, that Roe would have time to meddle in the Eagle Forum, which has many Cruz supporters, as Roe is running a national campaign. Split endorsements within the organization are permitted by Schlafly, who told Cruz-supporting members they have the “free speech” to endorse who they wish.
“How is that possible at all?” asked Jordan Franks, a former Missouri Republican Party (MRP) employee who wished to remain anonymous for fear of professional retribution. The employee’s name has been changed. “Roe is so focused on a national campaign right now, why would he bother himself with Eagle Forum?”
However, the board members dispute any of the recent conflict having anything to do with Roe, a native son of Missouri, or the Cruz campaign, but that the conflict has been rising for months and finally climaxed on April 11. The six board members officially filed suit to remove Martin from his post April 22.
Longtime Eagle Forum supporters in Missouri are disappointed in the inner-organizational turmoil caused since Martin’s arrival, especially in the light of the longstanding reputation of the group and its founder.
“Phyllis Schlafly is a conservative legend,” said Pat Thomas, MRP secretary. “It’s a shame to see Eagle Forum damaged by the same reckless mismanagement we saw here at the state party.”
Six board members; Eunie Smith, Anne Cori (Schlafly’s daughter), Cathie Adams, Rosina Kovar, Shirley Curry, and Carolyn McLarty; voted to fire Martin on an April 11 board meeting held via phone and have now filed legal suit to remove Martin from his position. The day before the call was scheduled, Schlafly and Martin sent a cease and desist letter to the board members, who held the call regardless.
Martin blasted an email shortly after the April 11 call, sending a “Message from Phyllis Schlafly,” stating the call was “an improper, unprecedented telephone meeting.” The email message from Schlafly claimed she was muted from the call, which board members have vehemently denied.
Smith, the Alabama Eagle Forum president, told another publication that the call was not intended for Schlafly’s removal, but for Martin’s removal due to his “character and management style.”
“It’s pretty telling when your own daughter is intervening,” Franks said. “She’s ruining the organization she built in order to protect one man.”
Martin’s reputation for firing long time staff he established at the Party and as chief of staff for Gov. Matt Blunt reared its ugly head last Friday when Martin personally fired 6-year Eagle Forum veteran Glyn Wright, who was serving as executive director. She was not given a reason for her termination beyond a follow-up email from Martin telling her she had been “disloyal.”
Eighteen months of blurred legal lines of 501(c)(3)s and 501(c)(4)s caused concern for the six board members wishing to fire Martin, who is being sued for both his management of Eagle Forum and breaking state laws dictating non-profit organizational structure in Illinois. Tuesday, Martin emailed supporters with a message entitled “Phyllis Schlafly In Court to Stop Takeover Attempt.”
Regardless, Schlafly has implied that Martin is to succeed her over the last eighteen months, displeasing board members which favored Congresswoman Michelle Bachman to become the organization’s new president.
Martin’s start at Eagle Forum started long before he took the position as president, beginning while he was still chairman of the MRP. He camped out in Schlafly’s Clayton office to fundraise for the organization, meeting with various operatives in his capacity as party chairman in the Eagle Forum offices. When Bachman flew to St. Louis to visit with Schlafly to be considered for the position, Martin reportedly voiced concerns to Schlafly that Bachman was too big of a political figure without organizational experience to be affordable.
Bachman simply asked to maintain her congressional salary: $175,000.
Martin beat Bachman for the job and now draws an annual salary of $225,000.
Of that, $150,000 comes from the Eagle Forum 501(c)(4) and $75,000 from the Eagle Forum 501(c)(3), according to the legal complaint.
Martin was elected president without a full vote of the board, which violates the organization’s charter. Several members were not present for various reasons, but Schlafly wanted Martin as president. So, members fell in line and recognized Martin as the organization’s president.
On February 2, 2015, Martin sent an email titled “Big Changes – New Challenges,” which announced his decision to step down from his role at the MRP.
“Over two years ago, I ran to be Chairman of the Missouri Republican Party,” Martin wrote. “At the time, the party seemed fractious and out of touch. Many felt the party was not listening to ‘We The People.’ They were seen as taking the votes and support of patriotic grassroots Republicans for granted. I knew we could do much better.”
Upon his arrival to Eagle Forum, Martin fired the staff and brought in his own.
“It’s similar to how he left MRP,” Franks said. “He left acting like he left on top, but he didn’t. He wouldn’t have won re-election. He clearly knows he’s going be let go and he’s trying to grasp on to anything. Choosing to place blame for what he’s done on Roe is laughable. I almost feel bad for Ed.”
MRP had north of $315,000 in their accounts when Martin took office, but when he left, they were down to $57,631 in their state account with many more bills unpaid. In the last quarter of his tenure, $1,135.53 was received by the state committee, leaving the MRP to head into an election year with many bridges burned.
Martin’s failure as a state party chairman was predicted by the Twitter legend My Lawyer Hal, who once wrote a column for the Missouri Times about Martin looking at Martin’s impact as the chairman for the Victory Committee, a state-based national party operation.
“Last year, Ed proved that he could deliver stunning results for our statewide elected candidates as our Victory Committee Chairman, while simultaneously campaigning for Attorney General in a decommissioned ambulance,” Hal wrote. “Impressive! It is true that under Ed’s leadership, almost all of our statewide candidates lost in 2012.”
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder was the only statewide candidate to win in 2012, winning his second re-election bid. The House gained seats, but it was due to a well-oiled machine in the House Republican Campaign Committee (HRCC), run then by Scott Dieckhaus, who served the organization from 2011-2015. Since Martin served as chair of MRP, HRCC has developed its own internal resources and exists without MRP support.
Before Victory and MRP, Martin experienced defeat in his bid for the 3rd Congressional District in 2010 to Russ Carnahan and for attorney general in 2012. Martin also flirted with running for Congress in the 2nd Congressional District (after redistricting) before bowing out to Ann Wagner, who succeeded in her bid for the office, and deciding to run for attorney general.
“Dare we refuse this elevated station to a man who, after enduring repeated vicious, embarrassing beatings, continues to return for more vicious, embarrassing beatings (in real elections)?” Hal asked. “After all, given Ed’s body of work, the fact that he continues to seek office must mean that he possesses what Brian Nieves might refer to as ‘¡huevos muchos grandes!’”
Before Victory, Martin touts a long resume of organizational experience, serving as president and/or founders of Roundtable for Life, the American Issues Project and Term Limits for MO after leaving his post as chief of staff for Gov. Matt Blunt.
“Where are they today? After he got done with an organization, they’re gone,” said Franks. “Leech.”
Martin’s arrival to Eagle Forum began just gracefully as he has been forced to leave it. He sent sporadic emails as president of the organization, which allegedly sits on over $20 million, from his personal Gmail account through iContact, sometimes as a personal email with his own logo, sometimes without any banner, and sometimes with the Eagle Forum banner, signed “President, Eagle Forum.” Sometimes, the emails had no signature, particularly in the case of his first email regarding Donald Trump’s campaign during Martin’s tenure as president. Other times, he used his organizational email.
The Missouri Times has not seen any emails with a funding disclosure, but emails feature a footer sharing Martin’s Hampton Avenue mailing address until September 2015. The email footer for Eagle Forum emails sent from his personal email account was updated with a personal mailing address located in Ballwin two months after the $500,000 home was purchased in July 2015, seven months after he assumed the Eagle Forum position. The Hampton property sold in Dec. 2015 for $112,000. Other emails use the Clayton mailing address for Eagle Forum.
On May 13, 2015, Martin proudly announced his “Choice or Echo” column in the Washington Times. “Choice or Echo” reflects one of Schlafly’s best selling books, “A Choice Not an Echo,” which originally attacked Republican Governor Nelson Rockefeller and “establishment” Republicans. The book celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014.
Trump enters the scene on Aug. 13, 2015. Martin sends “’Choice or Echo’ – Trump vs. Kelly and Planned Parenthood sells baby parts,” and he promotes a new column in the Washington Post and marks the first entrance of Trump into his Eagle Forum messaging.
An email a week later, sent Aug. 20, listed presidential candidates present at the annual Eagle Council, leaving mention of Trump out.
“Would you like to have late lunch with Rick Santorum? Almost-happy hour with Mike Huckabee? Or tea with Rick Perry? All this is possible if you just come to Eagle Council in a few weeks,” Martin wrote. “Ben Carson and Ted Cruz will be ‘in the house’ as is said. Join us on September 11, 12, and 13 in St. Louis Missouri for our 44th annual Eagle Council. Over 310 people are signed up already and we’ll run out of space so please hurry up and register.”
Not two weeks later, and not a full year after stepping down as MRP chairman, Martin sent another email on Sept. 3 outlining “Why Mr. Trump Matters” relating to Trump signing the RNC’s loyalty pledge.
“Today, Trump signed Reince Priebus’ Republican ‘Loyalty Pledge,’” Martin emailed. “By signing, Trump (and the other signers) pledge to support the eventual nominee and therefore NOT run as a Third Party candidate. While this is fine and good, it begs the question of whether the candidates will pledge loyalty to the Republican Platform. Go read it here and you will think the Republican Party is really conservative!
“These are important issues with which we must grapple.”
On Sept. 17, 2015, Martin started signing his emails, “President, Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum,” while still using his personal email to correspond with the Eagle Forum email list, which has over 41,000 members, plus his own lists leftover from campaigns.
Martin consistently used the revised signature thereafter, even on Dec. 10, when an email was sent with a large banner with his name at the top asking email recipients to join “Phyllis and 500k others.” It is uncertain if these emails were sent as part of his role within the Eagle Forum’s 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4).
Blatant mismanagement and blurred legal lines are not surprising the Capitol.
“It should not surprise anybody that this happened to Eagle Forum,” said the former MRP employee. “He’s been doing this his entire career. Look at his jobs, he leaves organizations in shambles.”
Synchronously, Martin’s official Eagle Forum email was used for various other organizational and personal promotion and organizational use, a practice which got Martin in trouble over a decade ago.
Martin was found in hot water while he served as Gov. Matt Blunt’s chief of staff for using his state computer account to rally political support from pro-life groups. Scott Eckersley, a Blunt legal adviser, was fired by Martin after he took a position that Martin’s computer was public record, but Martin said it was due to “performance issues” unrelated to the controversy.
“I would think he’d be better with email retention and how he sends emails out after Scott Eckersley,” said the former MRP employee.
The pattern of placing blame continues now to Roe, as Martin shops his story to national web outlets in the midst of the biggest race of Roe’s career.
Dec. 10, 2015 also marks the first time Schlafly spoke about Trump. When asked by World News Daily, or WND, whether she thought “Trump was the last hope for our nation,” Schlafly responded:
He does look like he’s the last hope [for America]. We don’t hear anybody saying what he’s saying. In fact, most of the people who ought to be lining up with him are attacking him. They’re probably jealous of the amount of press coverage he gets. But the reason he gets so much press coverage is the grassroots are fed up with people who are running things, and they do want a change. They do want people to stand up for America. It really resonates when he says he wants to ‘Make America Great Again.’”
Schlafly again “makes [the] case for Trump” in an exclusive interview to Breitbart on Jan. 10, 2016. Two days later, Schlafly’s son Andy emailed board members that Schlafly “has not endorsed Trump. She has praised many of his courageous positions. If Trump fails early, then those positions go down with him. I don’t want that.”
On March 11, Schlafly appeared at the Peabody Opera House to endorse Trump. Two days later, Martin emailed as Eagle Forum’s president, again from his personal email account, issuing a press release about the endorsement.
I asked Donald Trump to support the Republican platform because this is the best and most conservative platform we’ve ever had,” Schlafly said in that statement. “I gave him one of my copies of the 2012 platform. He endorses it and I believe he will stand by it. I am confident that Donald Trump will stand up against bad trade deals, reform bad immigration policies, and appoint constitutionalist judges like Antonin Scalia.
We have been stuck with the losers chosen by the Republican establishment for so long, and it’s time for a change. Now we have a guy who is going to lead us to victory!”
On March 14, Martin emailed “Permission to Trump,” about why it was acceptable to support Trump as a conservative, including a mock conversation.
On April 8, two of the six board members, Anne Cori and Cathie Adams, were interviewed by Breitbart ahead of an emergency board meeting called for April 11.
According to the legal complaint, Martin emailed more than 41,000 Eagle Forum members the following:
Things are happening that are disturbing. In just two days, on this coming Monday afternoon, six directors of Eagle Forum are holding a rogue meeting in violation of the Bylaws unless they are stopped. The rogue group members have a hidden agenda, and most refused to return phone calls personally made to them by Phyllis to ask what their concerns are.
Please lobby these six individuals and tell them what you think of their attempt to hijack Eagle Forum for their own purposes. Please tell them to respect Phyllis and to cease and desist.
Martin provided the email addresses and phone numbers of the board members, who serve as the Majority Directors, who were then inundated with emails and calls.
Schlafly denied any knowledge of this email to both Cori and Smith, according to the complaint. Further, the complaint claims the board meeting notice was sent in compliance with the organization’s bylaws.
“Ed is a very vindictive person,” said Franks. “If you look at his career you will find that he has a controversy every where he’s gone whether that is governor’s office or leaving MRP with debt or now, Eagle Forum. He has a tenacity to not get along with people, his way or the highway. In this political arena, you cannot succeed doing that.”
Cori, Adams, and four other members were sent a cease and desist letter on April 10. The board meeting was still held, to which Martin responded by issuing a press release from his personal email as president of Eagle Forum quoting Schlafly.
At 2pm today, 6 directors of Eagle Forum met in an improper, unprecedented telephone meeting. I objected to the meeting and at 2:11pm, I was muted from the call. The meeting was invalid under the Bylaws but the attendees purported to pass several motions to wrest control of the organization from me. They are attempting to seize access to our bank accounts, to terminate employees, and to install members of their own Gang of 6 to control the bank accounts and all of Eagle Forum.
The members of their group are: Eunie Smith of Alabama, Anne Cori of Missouri, Cathie Adams of Texas, Rosina Kovar of Colorado, Shirley Curry of Tennessee, and Carolyn McLarty of Oklahoma.
This kind of conduct will not stand and I will fight for Eagle Forum and I ask all men and women of good will [SIC] to join me in this fight.”
However, the six board members insist they are not after Schlafly, but are attempting to remove Martin, who was voted to be removed from his position on the call.
On April 19, a video was emailed of Schlafly asserting that she is still in control of the organization.
On Tuesday, Martin emailed from his Eagle Forum official email a release and response to a lawsuit filed against him, claiming “Lawsuit by Six Individuals Seeks to Remove Schlafly from Bank Accounts and Operations.”
In response to a lawsuit filed by six individuals against Eagle Forum and its officers, Phyllis Schlafly will be in Madison County, Ilinois [sic] court today to defend the organization that she founded.
The lawsuit is part of a continuing coordinated effort by the six individual plaintiffs to take control from Phyllis. Theeir [sic] lawsuit seeks emergency orders against Phyllis and Eagle Forum specifically to remove Phyllis from bank accounts and to manage other aspects of her organization.
In addition, Eagle Forum is in the midst of an election by its members of an at-large director of the Eagle Forum board according to its by-laws. The lawsuit by these individuals seeks judicial intervention to stop this election by the members of the private association.
The case is captioned Cori, et al. v. Eagle Forum, et al. and may be found at 16-MR-011.”
The complaint named Martin and John Schlafly as defendants. John Schlafly handles the books for Eagle Forum.
“During Martin’s brief tenure, the Eagle Forum 501(c)(4) has experienced unprecedented chaos and division between its national presence, the State Eagle Forums and its membership base,” reads the complaint. “Moreover, as President of the Eagle Forum 501(c)(4) and the Eagle Forum 501(c)(3), Martin has failed to delineate the scope of his duties for each entity. His failure to set forth any structure or delineation has caused the respective powers, duties, assets and governing responsibilities of both entities to be blurred. Further, Martin has used his position to proceed with his own personal agendas, unchecked by the articles or bylaws of the Eagle Forum 501(c)(4) and the Eagle Forum 501(c)(3), or other principles of proper corporate governance. The draconian approach to leadership evidenced by Martin has spurned Eagle Forum employees and State Presidents, many of whom have served as citizen-volunteers with Eagle Forum Entities since the 1970s, towards uproar and threatened resignation.”
The complaint goes on to claim Martin’s leadership has damaged the organization’s influence, as Bott Radio Network discontinued the Eagle Forum Live show in recent months.
The plaintiffs hope to remove Martin as president and appoint Cori as executive director and Smith as president.
Temporary Restraining Order
Press Release regarding complaint
Cease and Desist Letter
Andy Schlafly-Jeff Roe Email
Rachael Herndon was the editor at The Missouri Times and also produced This Week in Missouri Politics, published Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosted the #MoLeg podcast. She joined The Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.