Merit Medical CEO Fred Lampropoulos, a prominent Utah Republican, just spent $10,000 on towels, toothbrushes, and soap from the local Costco in Tampa to be distributed to storm victims and packaged by the Utah convention delegation.
It was a do-gooder party, born of a free day before the official Republican National Convention start and of the Utah Republican Party’s tradition of “service projects” wherever members go. (The delegation is also running a school-supply drive.)
Utah party leaders told Lampropoulos over the weekend that they wanted to collect goods for people who would lose power or get caught short-supplied by Tropical Storm Isaac. “I said, ‘Let me do it for you,’ ” he said. “It’s part of what I call our local tradition of helping local communities.”
Word of the project spread through the congregation at the Mormon church in Tampa, where Utah delegates met fellow church members from Hawaii and Arizona at Sunday services. The goods will be distributed by the LDS Humanitarian Services, the church’s disaster network.
The project illustrates how closely the GOP aligns with the Mormon church in states such as Utah where a large Mormon population resides. State Republican Party Chairman Thomas Wright estimated that more than 90 percent of the Utah delegation is Mormon. The church is well organized for humanitarian projects, something the GOP can take advantage of. “The network’s built. It’s a great model. We’re really proud of it,” Wright said. “It just shows we don’t really need government doing everything.”
Some Mormon delegates are combining their religious and political roles at the convention to clarify for the public the not-so-well-known religion of Mitt Romney.
Utah delegate Don Savage is handing out cards that list the 13 “Articles of Faith” of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the official name of the Mormon church. The cards are the best way to describe Romney, he said. “He is more attentive to individual needs than the public realizes.”
“I think Mormons are highly misunderstood,” said Elevila Giles, a church member from Hawaii who was assigned to packing the toothbrushes. Several others said, for example, that they frequently tell non-Mormons that they are Christians.
This article appears in the August 28, 2012 edition of NJ Convention Daily.