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Trump Fuels Schlafly Group’s Civil War

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (CN) — A power struggle in the Eagle Forum, fueled by its founder Phyllis Schlafly's endorsement of Donald Trump, has led to a lawsuit pitting Schlafly family members against one another.

Executive Director Anne Schlafly Cori, daughter of the group's founder Phyllis Schlafly, sued her brother John Schlafly, Eagle Forum president or ex-president Ed Martin and the Eagle Forum itself, on April 22 in Madison County Court.

Five other members of the forum board of directors joined as plaintiffs. Phyllis Schlafly herself is not a party to the lawsuit.

The six board members ask the court to declare their ouster of president Martin legitimate. Martin claims his removal was an invalid power grab at an illegal meeting.

Among the allegations are that defendant John Schlafly, the forum's secretary, "is paid a salary, however the majority directors are not aware what his salary is, what his title is or whether he is an employee of the Eagle Forum."

The board members claim that since Martin took over as president on Jan. 31, 2015, the Eagle Forum "has experienced unprecedented chaos and division between its national presence, the State Eagle Forums and its membership base" and that 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."

They also claim Martin has used his position to push his personal agendas.

"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 states. "Furthermore, with Martin as president, the Eagle Forum 501(c)(4) leadership in the national pro-family movement has diminished."

The board says the final referendum on Martin's leadership came when Bott Radio Network withdrew its sponsorship of "Eagle Forum Live," a weekly radio show started by Phyllis Schlafly and now hosted by Anne Schlafly Cori, broadcast on 110 stations nationwide.

The plaintiffs say the board of directors met on April 11 and voted to remove Martin to salvage their efforts and reputation.

They say the meeting was properly announced, in a March 29 notice to all members of the board.

However, on April 8, the board convened via telephone meeting without proper notice, according to the complaint.

"Anne Schlafly Cori attended the meeting solely to object that there was no proper notice," the lawsuit states. "After so objecting, Anne Schlafly Cori was muted from the call and prevented from further objecting to the proceedings. In this meeting, the Board of Directors of the Eagle Forum 501(c)(3) purported to remove Anne Schlafly Cori as a director of the Eagle Forum 501(c)(3) by electing a successor."

The next day, the plaintiffs say, Martin posted a statement on Facebook: "'Hostile Takeover Alert! Word has come of a rogue board meeting and an upcoming hostile takeover of Eagle Forum's board and its assets. Phyllis Schlafly's endorsement of Trump is a likely catalyst. But you can be sure the real objective is to control the Eagle Forum bank accounts and that the Gang of 6 will present a carefully crafted excuse for public consumption. Please pray, call the Gang of 6 to object, and stay tuned.'


"Martin further wrote: '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 thereafter provided the e-mail addresses and telephone numbers for each of the Majority Directors."

Also that day, April 9, Martin sent this email to 41,000 Eagle Forum members, according to the complaint: "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."

The board members say they were inundated with calls and emails from Eagle Forum members and the public after the email.

"Despite Martin claiming that he sent the e-mail with her approval, non-party Phyllis Schlafly has denied any knowledge of this email to both Anne Schlafly Cori and Smith," the complaint states.

On April 10, the plaintiffs say, they received a letter they believe was written by Martin, "but purports to have been signed by non-party Phyllis Schlafly," which asks for their immediate resignation from the board. They say that letter also was emailed to 41,000 Eagle Forum members.

Also on April 10, the plaintiffs say, they received a cease and desist letter from the Runnymeade Law Group on behalf of the Eagle Forum. They say the letter states that Martin and Phyllis Schlafly retained Runnymeade for representation and demand that the plaintiffs not proceed with the April 11 meeting.

The plaintiffs say the eight of the 11 board members attended the April 11 meeting, which met Eagle Forum's quorum requirements. During the meeting, the directors passed seven motions, including the removal of Martin by a 6-0 vote, with two objections, from Phyllis Schlafly and John Schlafly.

After the meeting, the plaintiffs sent a letter to Runnymeade stating that it was not authorized to represent Eagle Forum, a letter to Martin informing him of his removal and a letter to Eagle Forum's staff and employees informing them of Martin's removal.

The plaintiffs say Martin and John Schlafly refuse to acknowledge the board's decision and that Martin continues to draw a salary from Eagle Forum. They say Martin claimed he was still president on a radio show.

They also say Martin has embarked on a social media campaign accusing them of illegally ousting him in order to gain control of Eagle Forum's assets.

On March 11, four days before the Missouri primary, Phyllis Schlafly and defendant Martin appeared at a Donald Trump rally in St. Louis.

"He's a real conservative and I ask you to support him," Phyllis Schlafly told a raucous standing-room-only crowd at the Peabody Opera House.

Later that night, violence from Trump protesters shut down a Trump rally in Chicago.

Many social and political conservatives, such as Eagle Forum members, consider Trump an inappropriate candidate due to his refusal to hew to the right-wing party line.

Martin claims the plaintiff's actions are an attempt to take control of Eagle Forum.

"The six plaintiffs make claims that are much more about Phyllis and her operations than about my employment," Martin said in an emailed statement. "They seek to control of the bank accounts, remove board members, and impact operations. Since the board meeting they attempted to convene was not proper, all of their purported activity during that meeting was outside the law.

"More specifically, Eagle Forum is in the midst of an election to replace one of the six board members. Ballots are being cast as we speak and the results will be known soon. The six members rush to sue Phyllis and Eagle Forum appears to be timed to block that election because one of the plaintiffs is term limited and will be off the board. This effort to block a private association's election is improper and not legally supported."

The plaintiffs ask the court to permanently ban Martin from acting as Eagle Forum president and grant them signatory authority on Eagle Forum's accounts. Their attorney, Erik Solverud with Spencer Fane in St. Louis, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

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