Feathered Bastard

Russell Pearce's Chad Willems Worked for Group Opposing Mormon Temple in North Phoenix

Props to the ever-entertaining and informative Politoco Mafioso blog for scoring the following intriguing info concerning Summit Consulting's Chad Willems, state Senate President Russell Pearce's campaign manager.

Willems, of course, is not the only local GOP operative hustling to save Pearce's hide in the November 8 recall. 

There's also Chuck "Brewer's Brain" Coughlin of High Ground Public Affairs, who pulls our governor's strings while shilling for private prisons giant Corrections Corporation of America.

And not to be overlooked is Constantin Querard, chairman of the pro-Pearce independent expenditure committee Arizona Deserves the Best and the man widely suspected of being the eminence greasy behind the sham candidacy of Olivia Cortes.

Interestingly, Willems has characterized Querard as "not the kind of guy I'd go and have a beer with," though they're certainly playing on the same wiffle ball team these days.

Hard to understand how Willems can look down his nose at CQ, as Willems shills for Maricopa County's as-yet-unindicted Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and once did so for likely-to-be-disbarred ex-county attorney Andrew Thomas

Anyway, Politico Mafioso, which is of a conservative Republican bent (though not of the loony right variety), revealed that Willems did some work for the Phoenix Property Rights Coalition, a group that up until earlier this year was protesting and opposing the construction of a Mormon temple in North Phoenix.

For services rendered to the PPRC, Summit Consulting scored $32,486, according to a campaign finance report filed with the City of Phoenix.

Indeed, Willems did such a bang-up job gathering signatures for a petition to halt the project that the group's chairman Scott Anderson sings Willems' praises in a "testimonial" given on Summit's website.

Anderson writes:

"When our neighborhood concerns regarding a zoning change were ignored by our elected officials, we turned to Summit to help us refer the Phoenix City Council's decision to the ballot. In less than 20 days, Summit was able to supplement our volunteer signature effort by collecting almost 9,000 signatures from Phoenix residents.

"The City Clerk validated the signatures and certified the referendum which forced the City Council to reconsider and ultimately rescind the zoning change. Summit Consulting was professional, organized and thorough, delivering ahead of schedule and under budget. They exceeded our expectations."

The PPRC eventually came to an accord with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but not before raising a little Cain.

According to reports from both the Arizona Republic and Fox 10 news, protests of the temple site by activists involved a giant blow-up gorilla and a huge banner referring to the future house of worship as "the temple of ill will."

"We are going to keep protesting," Anderson told the Republic when it reported on the activists' hijinks. "Even if they go forward with building the temple, we will protest the groundbreaking, dedication ceremonies and any and every event that comes. We have neighbors who want to chain themselves to the bulldozer. We will ensure that the temple remains a sore spot with them and an example of what happens when they do not respect the concerns of the surrounding neighborhood."

As you might expect, many Mormons across the Valley were upset with these protests, and those in Legislative District 18 may not be too happy to discover that Pearce, who is LDS as is his recall rival Jerry Lewis, has employed a man who also worked closely with the PPRC and took a boatload of cash from the group.

I contacted Willems via Facebook. He told me that his involvement with the PPRC was merely as a signature-gatherer.

"That was a zoning case that had nothing to do with religion," he wrote. "It was an issue of architecture. The two parties resolved their differences and last I heard the Temple was under construction. I think the Lewis camp is desperate. And Jeff Vath should go back to playing World of Warcraft."

Vath is the Republican whose blog Politico Mafioso broke the story, you see.

I asked Willems about PPRC's reported protest activities. He claimed no knowledge of them.

"I was not part of any `ill will' or `gorilla' thing (that's news to me)," he replied. "I collected the requisite number of signatures and that was the extent of my involvement."

Well, that and cashing those whopping checks. As for Willems' cheap shot at Vath, Vath should simply take that as evidence that he's gotten underneath Willems' weirdly thin skin. 

Naturally, Willems doesn't like what Politico Mafioso has reported, but the facts are just as plain as that fat, yellow snake around Willems' neck above.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons