Grover Norquist

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Grover Glenn Norquist (born Oct. 19, 1956) is a prominent anti-tax activist and president of Americans for Tax Reform. He also serves on the board of directors of the National Rifle Association of America, the American Conservative Union, the Parental Rights Organization and Center for the National Interest (formerly The Nixon Center.)He serves as a Contributing Editor to the American Spectator Magazine. He serves as president of the American Society of Competitiveness. He has authored three books: Rock the House; Leave Us AloneGetting the Government’s Hands Off Our Money, Our Guns, Our Lives; and (with co-author John Lott) Debacle: Obama’s War on Jobs and Growth and What We Can Do Now to Regain Our Future.[1]

Grover Norquist

Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

Norquist famously founded and heads the group Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), ostensibly a group that pushes for lower taxes.[2] ATR is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).[3]

About ALEC
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Norquist grew up in Weston, Massachusetts. Although he is best known as the head of Americans for Tax Reform, which campaigns against income taxes, his introduction to conservative politics was rooted in the anti-Soviet rhetoric of the Cold War. "I was actually a foreign-policy conservative first," he told an interviewer in 1998.

His political leanings were cemented at the age of eleven by reading anti-Communist tracts such as Masters of Deceit by J. Edgar Hoover and Witness by Whittaker Chambers.[5] He received a B.A. from Harvard College, which he attended from 1974-1978, following by an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School (1979-1981).[6]

Norquist was the Executive Director of College Republican National Committee (CRNC) between 1981-83.

"As Executive Director of the College Republican National Committee in the 1980's, he oversaw the transformation of the committee into a conservative grassroots powerhouse for the Reagan administration. Mr. Norquist, Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed added streamlined the College Republican national structure turned away from the establishment and toward conservatism.

"During his tenure, the College Republicans gained a reputation for hard hitting activism. They built and destroyed a pseudo Berlin Wall for the press and printed thousands of posters depicting marching Russian troops with the caption, 'The Soviet Union Needs You….Support a Nuclear Freeze'," a biogrpahical profile notes.[7]

As President of Americans for Tax Reform Norquist has used the TAXPAYER PROTECTION PLEDGE as a vehicle to mobilise anti-tax activists and gain commitments from candidates for federal and state office to oppose all tax increases.

He is married to Samah Norquist.

Positions held

Norquist the conservative activist

He is one of the "Gang of Five" in Nina Easton's 2000 book by that name, giving the history of leaders of the modern conservative movement. He has been described as "a thumb-in-the-eye radical rightist" (The Nation), and "Tom Paine crossed with Lee Atwater plus just a soupcon of Madame Defarge" (P.J. O'Rourke).

Norquist is famous for his widely quoted comment that he wants to shrink government "down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." The pledge of "no new taxes" that so many Republican legislators signed was his project. He holds regular meetings for conservative leaders in which strategy is discussed. He once commented, "We play for keeps; they play for lunch."

"Adept at media appearances, Norquist writes a monthly politics column for the American Spectator magazine, and frequently speaks at regional and state think tanks of the movement. He is also well connected with large scale U.S. business interests, having served as economist and chief speech writer for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (1983-1984)."

Shortly after Bill Clinton was elected president of the United States in 1992, Norquist began hosting a weekly get-together of conservatives in his Washington office to coordinate activities and strategy. "We were sort of like the Mensheviks after the Russian Revolution," recalls Marshall Wittmann, who attended the first meeting as a representative of the Christian Coalition.

The "Wednesday Meeting" of Norquist's Leave Us Alone Coalition has become an important hub of conservative political organizing. President Bush began sending a representative to the Wednesday Meeting even before he formally announced his candidacy for president. "Now a White House aide attends each week," reported USA Today in June 2001. "Vice President Cheney sends his own representative. So do GOP congressional leaders, right-leaning think tanks, conservative advocacy groups and some like-minded K Street lobbyists. The meeting has been valuable to the White House because it is the political equivalent of one-stop shopping. By making a single pitch, the administration can generate pressure on members of Congress, calls to radio talk shows and political buzz from dozens of grassroots organizations. It also enables the White House to hear conservatives vent in private -- and to respond -- before complaints fester. [14]

"My ideal citizen is the self-employed, homeschooling, IRA-owning guy with a concealed-carry permit. Because that person doesn't need the goddamn government for anything," he said describing members of the "Leave-Us-Alone Coalition". [15] (IRA is the acronym for Individual Retirement Account, a privately held superannuation account).

"Cutting the government in half in one generation is both an ambitious and reasonable goal," Norquist stated in May 2000. "If we work hard we will accomplish this and more by 2025. Then the conservative movement can set a new goal. I have a recommendation: To cut government in half again by 2050."[16] Norquist based this premise on an earlier statement: "Now that the federal budget is in balance - indeed in substantial surplus - it is the right time for the conservative movement to establish a new goal. We said we wanted to balance the federal budget - we did." Of course, this statement is no longer true thanks to the Bush administration's tax cuts and increases in military spending.

Even within conservative circles, Norquist's combative personality has made enemies. Conservative columnist Tucker Carlson once called him a "mean-spirited, humorless, dishonest little creep ... the leering, drunken uncle everyone else wishes would stay home."[17]

In an interview with the Australian Financial Review's Washington D.C. journalist, Tony Walker, Norquist said the "reason why the Republican takeover of the House, Senate and presidency is important is because we can now avoid passing legislation to buttress the weakened walls of the left's edifice and we can pass legislation to undermine these structures."

Following President Bush's election in November 2000, Norquist outlined a strategy for permanently marginalizing the Democratic party. In an article he authored for the American Spectator in February 2001, he identified 5 "pillars" of the Democratic party that needed to be "broken" to build a lasting conservative majority. According to Norquist, these pillars are labor unions, taxpayer-funded lobbying groups, trial lawyers, Big City political machines, and voter fraud. He makes a number of suggestions to attack these pillars, including reform of the Labor Department to grant fewer federal contracts to businesses with labor unions, reducing government funds toward what he refers to as "taxpayer-funded lobby groups," tort reform to reduce the incomes of trial lawyers, vouchers to replace funding directed towards "Big City Political Machines," and a crackdown on supposedly widespread voter fraud. He also recommends that states adopt the Nebraska/Maine electoral college rules that give the candidate 2 votes for winning the majority of votes in the state, and an additional vote for each congressional district won. According to Norquist, this would prevent densely populated urban areas that tend to vote more for Democrats would have a reduced impact on the distribution of electoral votes. [5]

Grover Norquist the lobbyist

Foreign Agent lobbying disclosures filed with the U.S. Department of Justice reveal that Norquist has worked for the Government of Seychelles and the Angolan UNITA.

Norquist earned $30,000 in the six months to the end of March 1997 working for the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola "to strengthen the ties between the United States and Angola. This was accomplished through personal meetings, telephone calls, and letters directed to various U.S. Government officials". [18]

Subsequent returns stated that "the registrant contacted members of Congress and their staff to discuss the ongoing events surrounding the Angolan peace process" but no additional payments were reported.[19]

Norquist also represented the Republic of the Seychelles Islands, President France Albert Rene in 1997 and 1998. In the six month period ending March 31,1997 Norquists return states that he earned $40,000 for contacting "U.S. Government officials on behalf of the foreign principal in order to promote and strengthen ties between the U.S. and Seychelles, with specific regard to U.S. military activities in the Indian Ocean." [20]

The next return stated that he earned $50,000 over six months for contacting "members of Congress and their staff to discuss the strategic relationship between the U.S. and the foreign principal and the possibility of increasing U.S. visibility in the Seychelles." [21]

Norquist continued to represent the Seychelles until 1999. [22] [23] [24]

Influence on state and local politics

Norquist's national strategy includes recruiting politicians at the state and local levels. In the Spring of 2005, a New Hampshire statewide grassroots organization, Democracy for New Hampshire (DFNH)[25], initiated a campaign to expose the Norquist influence in that state's political infrastructure. [26] The grassroots strategic initiative, which DFNH believes can be a model for other statewide grassroots organizations, identified state legislators who have pledged allegience to Norquist [27], described how this pledge trumps their oath of allegience to their New Hampshire constituents [28], provided evidence of how Norquist-based tactics affect local communities [29], and called on their elected "Senators and Representatives to renounce the Norquist Pledge and re-affirm their oath to the citizens of New Hampshire".

2012 Presidential Election

During the 2012 Presidential election, National Public Radio host Linda Wertheimer talks with Grover Norquist on candidate Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate. Similar to the 1986 style tax reform under Ronald Reagan which lowers rates, broadens the base, and making it revenue neutral. He adds, "Another piece of his plan that most people tend not to focus on is that he looks to block grant most, perhaps eventually all, of the means tested Welfare programs. Now, it's going to be a little difficult for President Obama to trash that because this is what Bill Clinton signed and is considered the signature of success from the Clinton years of sending out to the states a block grant and then they handle welfare from there."

"I think Ryan, running the economic program from the House in sync with Mitt Romney in the White House would be a tremendous asset." [6]

Thoughts on Paul Ryan

Norquist called Paul Ryan as an "excruciating brilliant choice" for Romney. "I was recently happy with Mitt Romney, he has taken the pledge not to raise taxes, however, running with Ryan, he makes it clear that the game plan is to lower the marginal tax rates."

Prior to the election, Norquist stated that he believe Paul Ryan was someone who "knows the Democrat tax tricks." [7] Norquist praised Ryan's opposition to the Simpson-Bowles plan which he Norquist stated was not conservative enough. Norquist compared Ryan to the role Dick Cheney played under the Bush administration; and believe he would be a natural leader in a Romney administration.

Role In Super Committee Negotiations

Norquist played an active role in the negotiations conducted by the deficit-reduction Super Committee. He pressured Republicans to accept no new tax increases as part of a deal, arguing that a net tax increase would be a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge issued by Americans for Tax Reform that all Republicans had signed.[8] The hardline position on taxes taken by Republican members of the Super Committee eventually resulted in the negotiators being unable to bridge their differences, causing the Super Committee to fail.[9]

Payroll Tax Debate

During Congress's consideration of the extension of the payroll-tax cut, Norquist argued that failing to extend the payroll-tax cut would not amount to a tax increase on the grounds that the measure was intended to be temporary.[10] However, in the case of the Bush Tax Cuts, which are also temporary, Norquist argued that a failure to extend them would be tantamount to a tax increase.[11]The inconsistency in his position led to questions about whether Norquist only supports lower taxes for the rich instead of working people. Norquist's differing positions are also unsupported by economic logic. Economists have argued that a payroll-tax cut is a much more effective form of stimulus than tax cuts for the rich because the average working Americans are more likely to spend the money rather than save it. Mark Zandi of Moody's estimated that the effect of letting the payroll-tax cut expire would be to reduce GDP growth by a nearly a full percentage point, resulting in the loss of one million jobs. [12]

Negotiations of Fiscal Cliff

Although President of Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist, enforced a pledge to congressional members that opposed any sort of increase in income taxes, Norquist is satisfied with the final negotiations of the "Fiscal cliff." The final results of the negotiation was to raise taxes on upper-income Americans. "I'm happy," Norquist said in an interview with the Huffington Post. Norquist appeared in the media several times in attempt to describe how the deal was not in violation of the pledge. "It's technically not a violation of the pledge, but I understand why a lot of Republicans had said, look, even though what's happening is the tax cuts disappear and we're restoring them for most people, So we're not raising taxes. We're actually cutting them." The closest thing to a direct answer from Norquist as to why he refuses to "own up" to Republicans voting against his pledge was this: "The tax cut was temporary. It ended. On January 1st, taxes were 500 billion dollars higher than they were the day before for the year. We then had a vote to cut that and 85 percent of the Bush tax cuts were permanent." [13]

Norquist claims the vote for the deal was a vote to cut taxes. "No Republican has broken the pledge in Washington D.C for 22 years."

As approaching the fiscal cliff, Grover Norquist was asked if he was expecting a lot of people to bust the pledge in order to negotiate. His response: "I don't think so. You've had the same collection of several congressman and senators saying I might raise taxes if you gave a jillion dollars in spending restraint." [14]

Bush's second term

Norquist described three key planks of his agenda for Bush's second term as President as being aimed at crippling the financial base of the Democratic Party. First, he told Walker, is tort reform which would mean "trial lawyers have fewer ways to get rich and can't give as much money to the Democratic Party". [30]

Secondly, he said, would be legislative changes making it harder for unions to provide funding to political parties, a measure aimed primarily aimed at cutting funding to the Democratic Party. Finally, the promotion of free trade which further weakens the influence of unions.

Norquist sees the opportunity to perpetuate the conservative revolution beyond Bush's next four years too. "The government consumes 30per cent of people's incomes; that's hardly winning [but] if we do our job right over the next four years, weakening the institutions of the left, reducing the cost of government, reforming the government so that it becomes less intrusive in such a way that we deserve and win the presidency in 2008, that would give us another eight years," he told Walker.[31]

Abramoff ties—money laundering allegations

The Associated Press published a story on June 22, 2006, which described Americans for Tax Reform as being used as an obfuscating conduit to Ralph Reed's receiving over one million dollars from a Jack Abramoff client, The Mississippi Choctaws, to keep other casinos from opening as competitors.

Reed, who founded the Christian Coalition, would not have been able to transparently receive these funds directly from the Choctaw without alienating his religious base.

"In Jack Abramoff's world, prominent Washington tax-cut advocate Grover Norquist was a godsend.
"Moving money from a casino-operating Indian tribe to Ralph Reed, the Christian Coalition founder and professed gambling opponent, was a problem. Lobbyist Abramoff turned to his longtime friend Norquist, apparently to provide a buffer for Reed.
"The result, according to evidence gathered by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, was that Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform became a conduit for more than a million dollars from the Mississippi Choctaw to Reed's operation, while Norquist, a close White House ally, took a cut.
"Without citing any specific group, the Senate panel found numerous instances of nonprofit organizations that appeared to be involved in activities unrelated to their mission as described to the Internal Revenue Service."[15]

Resources and articles

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. Norquist Info, [1] Accessed February 13
  2. Americans for Tax Reform, About, organizational site, accessed July 27, 2011
  3. Noble Ellington, National Chairman Of ALEC Responds To Report, "Fresh Air" Interview with Terry Gross, NPR, July 21, 2011
  4. USUF Board of Directors and Advisory Board, U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, accessed August 17, 2008.
  5. Grover Norquist, "The Coming Bush Dynasty", The American Spectator, February 1, 2001. (Pay per view subscription cost).
  6. Linda Wertheimer (NPR), [2] Grover Norquist on Paul Ryan Candidacy, August 11 2012.
  7. Norquist, Grover. [Paul Ryan Knows the Democrats Tax Tricks] USA Today. Accessed 2013.
  8. Alexander Bolton, Norquist: GOP leaders promised me no new taxes The Hill, November 15, 2011
  9. Brian Beutler, FAIL: Super Committee Comes Up Empty Talking Points Memo, November 21, 2011
  10. Billy House, Norquist Says Payroll-Tax-Cut Expiration Isn't a Tax Hike National Journal, December 1, 2011
  11. Dennis Maley, Who is Grover Norquist and Why is the GOP So Afraid of Him? The Bradenton Times, November 17, 2011
  12. Jay Bookman, Tax hikes on working people OK; tax hike on the rich not OK, Atlanta-Journal Constitution, December 2, 2011
  13. [3] HuffPost Live, January 4, 2013.
  14. [4] ‘Grover Norquist on Fiscal Cliff, Tax Pledges, & Being the GOP’s “Rasputin,”’ Veronique de Rugy, December 20, 2012.
  15. Pete Yost, "Washington tax-cut advocate aided Abramoff," Associated Press, June 23, 2006.

External articles