If Karl Rove was George W. Bush's brain, lobbyist Gayle Ruzicka is the thinking muscle for Chris Buttars and LaVar Christensen and Chris Herrod and…the list goes on. She's the woman behind the curtain, scheming ways to make moderate Utahns' lives conform to her causes and whipping up legislators to make sure it happens. She wields her Eagle Forum phone list like an elephant prod, ready to poke outraged mothers into action at the slightest sign of noodling lawmaker spine. Ruzicka is more conservative than her Mormon faith, slashing at gay clubs and abortion rights with her knitting needles. If a legislation sounds like it belongs in Georgia or Alabama, there's a good chance Ruzicka is behind it.

 

Behind the Curtain: The Eagle Forum

Founded by anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly in 1967, Utah's version of the arch-conservative, grass-roots organization is Gayle Ruzicka's life work. The local chapter is headquartered in her Utah County home and holds unique power over representatives from Happy Valley. Drawing inspiration from an Old Testament quote, the Utah Eagle Forum nearly always veers as far right as possible. We're not talking the standard conservative bent against abortion and health care reform. Think bigger, like fighting mandatory vaccinations, Mexican trucks on U.S. highways and “feminist pork”—you know, domestic violence laws. In the wake of the scandal at Penn State, the Forum announced its opposition to a law that would impose penalties on people who do not report child abuse to the police, claiming such a law would create “a nation of snitches” and that “mandatory reporting law is a direct attack on the autonomy of the American family.” They believe the Constitution was divinely inspired, tax increases are of the devil and children are better off home-schooled. And they lobby hard to make the Forum’s positions become Utah law.

 

Next >> Gov. Gary Herbert: The Tame Lion Tamer