By Amy Silverman
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Sometimes the actions of lawmakers are not that obvious. Former House Speaker Frank Kelley had the system beat when he was on the payroll of the SamCor hospital chain as a "consultant" for many years. As speaker, he could simply kill measures his benefactors didn't like by refusing to schedule them for a vote. That meant no messy questions about participating in floor debate or having to vote on the issues.
FIGHTING FOR WHAT'S RIGHT-WING
Two dozen leaders of "new right" organizations are banding together to help "educate" recalcitrant lawmakers.
The newly formed coalition, dubbed the Arizona Family Leadership Forum, is an effort by some members to shed their image as one-issue organizations concerned only about single subjects like making abortion illegal, getting government money for "Christian" home schools, eradicating pornography or fighting the teaching of evolution. These groups are starting to realize that they are more likely to get their point across--and their bills through the legislature--if they have allies.
Trent Franks, a one-term legislator from west Phoenix who later worked for the Mecham administration, is spearheading the group. Franks insists he wasn't a one-issue legislator, though he was known largely for his antiabortion measures--he regularly sported a tie tack in the shape of the feet of a fetus.
"The constituencies that are represented here are nothing short of astounding," Franks says. So far he has signed up people like Carolyn Gerster, president of Arizona Right to Life; Sydney Hoff, director of the ultraconservative Lincoln Caucus; Shirley Whitlock, president of the local chapter of the Eagle Forum, Phyllis Schlafly's answer to the women's liberation movement; Alan Sears, executive director of the antiporn Citizens for Decency through Law; Bob McAdams, director of the right-wing Free Congress Foundation; and Pastor Jim Singleton, president of the Arizona Association for Christian Schools.
These groups have pushed through some legislation dealing with kiddie porn and restrictions on abortions for minors. But more often than not their favored measures failed because of lack of support from the more moderate Republicans who ran the legislature. Even when they succeeded at the legislature, many of their bills were vetoed by Democratic governors.
This year has been no better.
"We're having a tough time getting any of our bills dealing with morals out this year," complains Mesa Republican Representative Lela Steffey.
The way Franks sees it, the Mecham controversy actually hurt their cause. Some of the victories last November by Mechamites were at the expense of other conservative Republicans--many with the power that comes with seniority--who simply didn't see eye to eye with the ex-governor. Other victories by Mecham backers in the GOP primary over incumbents only opened the door to Democrats taking the seats in the general election.
Franks says the new coalition will mean "that some legislators would see the light--or feel the heat." By tying their issues together under a "pro-family" banner, the groups make it harder for lawmakers to oppose them, lest he or she be tainted as "antifamily."
The forum will not be able to lobby legislators because it's organized as a nonprofit charity. Instead, Franks explains, it will do "research" for legislators, educating them to what he calls the "observable consequences" of government policies and practices.
But all this education costs money. Franks won't say who is contributing to the cause other than "interested people in the community." Franks won't disclose the annual budget; he claims that it is more than $100,000 but less than $1 million.