One of the bigger political stories of the past few days has been the backlash by some members of the GOP to the manner in which Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform wields some legislators’ tax pledges as a bludgeon to Grover’s own agenda.
Some of the criticism of these lawmakers is on target as they lose their nerve following Obama’s reelection and are contemplating various “revenue enhancements” or “tax reform” schemes as mechanisms to raise taxes on American citizens. Fair enough.
But that in no way makes Grover Norquist the guy in the white hat as a review of his record shows. Not only did Norquist endorse increases in government spending (which we now have to pay for), but his record shows that Grover Norquist’s primary interest in DC is not the taxpayers but no one other than Grover Norquist and whomever is paying for his time (and it sure ain’t the taxpayers).
Let’s review some data points:
In Sept 2003, Norquist was the main cheerleader and defender of the increases in government spending under President Bush and the GOP-controlled US House and Senate, claiming that these spending increases were to “make government more effective“:
Some other conservatives see it differently. Grover Norquist, founder of the Americans for Tax Reform, says much of the growth is short-term and aimed at programs to make government more effective, helping conservatives to meet long-term goals of shrinking government. He cited Mr. Bush’s education initiative requiring more student testing as an example that could eventually bring school costs down. “We are going to find that there are failures in the public-school system. Are we building the case for school choice, for defeating teacher’s unions? I think you can argue that we are, that we are investing in order to reform.”
Clearly, those spending increases haven’t made government more effective or lowered spending in the long-term as Grover promised.
In June 2011, Norquist was battling with Sen. Tom Coburn, who wanted to end ethanol subsidies. But Norquist said he considered ending billions in government handouts without cutting the same amount as a violation of the ATR tax pledge. Again, fair enough, but just a few weeks later Norquist was telling the Washington Post editorial board that allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire would not be considered a tax increase:
WITH A HANDFUL of exceptions, every Republican member of Congress has signed a pledge against increasing taxes. Would allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire as scheduled in 2012 violate this vow? We posed this question to Grover Norquist, its author and enforcer,and his answer was both surprising and encouraging: No.
In other words, according to Mr. Norquist’s interpretation of the Americans for Tax Reform pledge, lawmakers have the technical leeway to bring in as much as $4 trillion in new tax revenue — the cost of extending President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for another decade — without being accused of breaking their promise. “Not continuing a tax cut is not technically a tax increase,” Mr. Norquist told us. So it doesn’t violate the pledge? “We wouldn’t hold it that way,” he said.
It does seem at times that Norquist’s interpretation of the ATR pledge has frequently coincided with whomever his lobbying clients are at the time.
His record also shows that he has no real regard for the conservative movement he tries to wrap himself up in, as demonstrated following the investigation, arrest and conviction of his pal Jack Abramoff, where the investigation showed that Norquist whored out the conservative movement to a wide variety of interests, including Indian casinos, Marianas Island sweat shops and nefarious foreign governments.
Let’s also not forget Norquist’s lobbying on behalf of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to continue the homeownership tax credit, which as Erick Erickson noted directly contributed to the housing bubble and collapse at the expense of billions to the American taxpayers.
But in October 2010, Norquist was on CNN blaming the collapse on Freddie and Fannie:
NORQUIST: You may have missed this, but Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac brought us this collapse. Those were the two things the Democrats refused to fix.
SPITZER: No, no, I agree with you that they were…
NORQUIST: This was criminal negligence on the part of Barney Frank and Dodd.
SPITZER: They were huge participants, but there were multiple parties involved. I think everybody was…
NORQUIST: No Fannie Mae, no Freddie Mac, we wouldn’t have the collapse.
SPITZER: No, that’s not quite the case. Fannie and Freddie contributed in a very significant way as did…
NORQUIST: With trillions. You keep — I give you trillions and you tell me that’s not a big enough number.
SPITZER: This was multiple links in the chain. And that’s why if you want to say just Fannie and Freddie, you’re wrong. If you want to say they’re part of it along with the mortgage banks and the brokers and the people who actually were taking out mortgages improperly, then you have the full picture.
NORQUIST: And Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton’s laws which forced your bank to lend to people who can’t afford to, so that everybody got screwed by the misdirection of capital.
Hypocrisy, thy name is Norquist.
Speaking of hypocrisy, in the late 1990s, Norquist teamed with Christian Coalition executive director Randy Tate to help sell social conservatives on the Defense of Marriage Act. In fact, I was in some of those meetings, including one where Norquist and Tate publicly browbeat a female intern for the Eagle Forum for raising the objections of her organization to using the Commerce Clause as the basis for the legislation and how that might undermine federalism and states rights. Yet now Norquist sits on the advisory board of GOProud, which is working to overturn the same act claiming it should be a states rights issue.
Norquist’s record gets worse.
Not only has he sold his influence to the highest bidder, some of those that Norquist gave entry to the GOP corridors of power were downright dangerous.
Take for instance Norquist escorting Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror leader Sami al-Arian into the White House for a meeting with Karl Rove. During Al-Arian’s terror support trial, his attorney specifically cited the top Republican government officials that Al-Arian had met with courtesy of Norquist’s introductions as a defense that his client couldn’t possibly be a terrorist leader. When Al-Arian plead guilty to terror support, the federal judge noted that Al-Arian had been “an active leader” in the terror group.
Where were the apologies by Norquist for exposing Republicans to such a dangerous individual? In fact there were none. Rather, he attacked as racists, bigots and Islamophobes anyone who dared raise issue for his new-found terrorist friends.
Nor were there any apologies, but rather a cover-up, when one of his lobbying firm’s clients, Abdurahman Alamoudi, came under fire for his terrorist associations. In response to those news reports, Norquist’s firm altered their lobbying disclosure forms naming Alamoudi as their client to try to conceal the relationship:
Lobby disclosure forms originally filed by [David] Safavian’s firm [co-founded with Norquist], Janus-Merritt Strategies, show that it represented Alamoudi, a prominent Muslim activist, until 2001. Alamoudi has since been convicted and imprisoned for accepting money from the Libyan government as part of an alleged plot to assassinate the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.
Janus-Merritt Strategies changed its lobby disclosure forms in 2001 to indicate that its client was not Alamoudi but Jamal Barzinji. In March 2002, Barzinji was named in a search warrant affidavit filed by a Customs Service official as “the officer or director” of a group of entities in Northern Virginia “controlled by individuals who have shown support for terrorists or terrorist fronts.” No charges have been filed against Barzinji, and he has denied any wrongdoing.
The Treasury Department later identified Alamoudi as one of Al-Qaeda’s top North American fundraisers.
Alamoudi even spoke at an anti-Israel hatefest in October 2000 co-sponsored and promoted by Norquist’s Islamic Institute, where Alamoudi led the crowd gathered in Lafayette Park across from the White House making his support for terrorists crystal clear, saying:
“I have been labeled by the media in New York to be a supporter of Hamas,” Alamoudi told a crowd of about 3,000 people in Washington’s Lafayette Park on Saturday who were protesting U.S. Mideast policies. “Anybody support Hamas here?” Alamoudi asked three times, as the crowd roared its approval.
“Hear that, Bill Clinton?” he continued. “We are all supporters of Hamas. I wish they added that I am also a supporter of Hezbollah. . . . Does anybody support Hezbollah here?”
The crowd again roared its approval as Alamoudi repeated the question.
“I want you to send a message,” he told his audience. “It’s an occupation, stupid. . . . Hamas is fighting an occupation. It’s a legal fight.”
And yet Norquist continued to push Alamoudi, even arranging for the Al-Qaeda financier (who was funneling money for Osama bin Laden since as early as 1993) to appear with President Bush just days after the 9/11 attacks.
And when other Norquist lobbying clients (and donors to Norquist’s organizations) were raided by the US Customs Service in the Operation Greenquest terror finance investigation, Norquist immediately sprung into action, arranging a meeting for his clients with then-Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill. With considerable money being directed to a number of GOP candidates, the investigation was quietly shut down by the Bush administration over the strong objections of the federal investigators on the case.
So in conclusion, while those cowardly GOP souls who seem eager to collapse to Obama’s demands for higher taxes are clearly in the wrong, the evidence shows clearly that Grover Norquist is not the anti-tax, limited government advocate he would have you believe.
Norquist’s record is that he will cheer unfunded government spending increases when it suits his own interests, and will shift his interpretation of the ATR no-tax pledge depending on who is lobbying clients are or what special interests he is protecting. As seen with the Defense of Marriage Act and his lobbying for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, he will take both sides of the issue given enough time. The Abramoff scandal showed that he willingly whored out the conservative movement to the highest bidder. And his promoting terror leaders, such as Sami al-Arian and Abdurahman Alamoudi, along with his attempts to scuttle the Operation Greenquest terror finance investigation targeting his lobbying clients and friends, shows he has no reservations putting his own financial interests ahead of those of the country.
Make no mistake: Grover Norquist is the problem with Washington DC, not the solution.