Americans for Tax Reform
Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) is ostensibly a group that pushes for lower taxes founded in 1985 by Grover Norquist. It has close ties to the Republican Party and has frequently allied itself with the tobacco industry. ATR describes itself as a group that "believes in a system in which taxes are simpler, flatter, more visible, and lower than they are today. The government's power to control one's life derives from its power to tax. We believe that power should be minimized."
- 1 Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
- 2 Personnel
- 3 Funding
- 4 History
- 5 Wining and dining with Norquist
- 6 Nationalization of Virginia state tax issues
- 7 Tax and spend ... for war
- 8 KStreetProject.com
- 9 Ronald Reagan Legacy Project
- 10 Property Rights Alliance
- 11 Alliance for Worker Freedom
- 12 The Media Freedom Project
- 13 The American Shareholders Project
- 14 Contact information
- 15 Articles and resources
Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
What is the TAXPAYER PROTECTION PLEDGE?
The Americans for Tax Reform Taxpayer Pledge has essentially two parts. The first part indicates an unequivocal pledge to oppose all efforts to marginal income tax for individuals and/or businesses. The second part consists of an opposition to any net reduction or elimination of deductions credits. Both are required to withstand in the time of a legislators tenure, if he/she agrees to sign the pledge. From the 112th Congressional list, 235 Representatives and 41 Senators have signed on to it. Only three Democratic legislators and one Independent. However, only 219 Representatives and 39 Senators of the 113th Congress signed onto the pledge.
Since 1986, under the Ronald Reagan administration, the Taxpayer Pledge has been utilized in GOP tax policies. Grover Norquist proposed the pledge to pressure other Republican politicians to support with President Reagan's tax agenda. Norquist says, "If you want a politician to make a commitment and want it to matter, it can't be four paragraphs long. I can't have moving parts, you can't remember what's in it." Once Reagan and congressional Republicans signed on to it, Reagan's tax-reform bill passed and the pledge has prospered ever since. 
ATR is headed by Grover Norquist, one of the most connected members of the new right-wing movement. He has close ties to the Republican Party, large U.S. business interests, and both the subsidized and regular U.S. media. Norquist helped the Heritage Foundation write the Republican's 1994 Contract With America.
Shortly thereafter, Norquist led a right wing charge to "de-fund" the left, declaring that "We will hunt [these liberal groups] down one by one and extinguish their funding sources." Norquist has also worked as a lobbyist for clients including Microsoft, American Business for Legal Immigration, Distilled Spirits Council, Edison Electric Institute, Interactive Gaming Council, and British Petroleum.
- Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
- Carthage Foundation; see Scaife Foundations
- JM Foundation
- John M. Olin Foundation
- Sarah Scaife Foundation; see Scaife Foundations
- R.J. Reynolds
- Philip Morris
- Tobacco Institute
- Jack Abramoff's clients, the Chiefs of the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas and the Coushattas tribe of Louisiana both gave $25,000 in 2001 and AATF received a cut of funds for laundering the money.
Big tobacco companies used Norquist's tax pledge as a cover to lobby lawmakers against cigarette taxes. That was in the 1990s. Now, however, it's questioning that the ATR group still remains somewhat in control of the Republican party. An inside look at the funding for Norquist's group reveals that 66 percent is coming from only two non-profit organizations. The Center to Protect Patient Rights donated $4,189,000 to ATR in 2010, 34 percent of the total amount of funding. Crossroads GPS donated $4,000,000 to ATR in the same year, 32.46 percent of the budget. The staggering amount of money these billionaire-backed organizations donated accounts for well over half the total budget.
In a May 25, 1989, memo to the Steering Committee of Americans for Tax Reform – a document that was curiously found in the files of the now defunct Tobacco Institute – Grover Norquist excitedly reported progress on the ‘anti-tax front’. Not only had a swag of member of Congress promised to veto any tax increase, Norquist reported, there had been “three Wall Street Journal editorials highlighting the importance of ATR’s pledge campaign in stopping tax hikes”.
Gingrich, as Republican whip in the House of Representatives, negotiated an agreement with the then President George Bush to vet any budget proposals. Under the deal, Gingrich would advise on whether proposed revenue raising proposals were in fact tax increases, or 'ducks' as Gingrich termed them. “It is fair to say, in dealing with Darman [White House Budget Director] and the administration in general on what is and isn’t a duck, I would lean very heavily on Richard Rahn (chief economist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce), Jeff Eisenach and Grover Norquist … They have a very good sense of the distinction between ducks and geese”, Gingrich said.
“The president has agreed the administration team will consult with the House Republicans and that for my part I will, as whip, in turn consult with these three people regarding the duck test,” he said.
Wining and dining with Norquist
While corporate funding for ATR may have been volatile, Norquist had success on another front. In a letter to invitation to PM’s Washington-based Legislative Council, Ms Beverley McKittrick, Norquist reported that during 1997, 1997 and 1998 a series of ATR hosted dinner discussions on tax issues had all been sold out. The earlier dinners had featured speakers such as former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, Congressman John Kasich and Congressman Bill Thomas.
Norquist offered McKittrick a subscription to the 1999 series of six dinners – with Congressmen Armey, Chairman Archer and the Speaker of the House Denny Hastert amongst the invited speakers – “for a modest contribution of $10,000”.
“Only 24 business leaders will be in attendance,” Norquist assured McKittrick. The series of dinners, Norquist wrote, were chaired by Bill Roesing of Seagram & Sons and co-chaired by Chuck Crowders of Lucent Technologies.
In March 1999, Norquist was active lobbying members of the Senate Budget Committee in defence of the tobacco industry. “The Tobacco industry is a lawful industry subject to an excessive tax burden, already 41 cents per packet to state governments for re-imbursement of smoking related illness and over a dollar per pack taxes (depending on the state, some taxes are much higher0. That is already one-third tax burden on a legal product. Furthermore they employ thousands of Americans, which educates, feeds and clothes families across this nation”, Norquist wrote.
The following week ATR was claiming to legislators that a Senate Budget resolution seeking to remove the tax-deductibility of payments made by the tobacco industry to settle the legal actions taken against it by State Attorney General’s would breach ATR’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge. The second paragraph of the pledge, ATR said, required supporters to “oppose any further reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar further reducing tax rates”.
ATR’s role also extended to facilitating the introduction of one Republican political aspirant to RJR. “Bethany Noble from Americans for Tax Reform will be bringing Kevin Kellems (republican candidate to oppose Baron Hill in Ind. 9) by for a brief visit at 3.00 today. Kellems is a tobacco farmer, and has a pretty fair shot at unseating Hill,” Donald Foreman, an RJR staffer, wrote in an e-mail to his colleagues.
There was potential for embarrassment however, as RJR had donated $500 to Hill. Despite this, Foreman suggested “this is a race we may want to keep an eye on and see how it look [sic] in a few months”.
A 1999 RJR Corporate Affairs plan identified one of the key strategies as being to “mobilize key third party groups (such as Americans for Tax reform, CART, NSA and others) to ensure that RJR’s message is effectively communicated, reinforced and understood by key opinion leaders”.
“We seek forums, in the media or with third parties who help us fight onerous legislation/regulation, to balance hyperbolic accusations of well financed critics whose credibility with key audiences is greater than hours”, the document stated.
Nationalization of Virginia state tax issues
Starting in 2004, ATF launched a national letter writing campaign to persuade Virginia legislators to fight Democratic Governor Mark Warner's plan to raise taxes to maintain the state's AAA bond raising and meet commitments to K-12 and higher education funding, among other purposes. Warner had inherited budget shortfalls from his predecessor, Republican George Allen and had already cut spending to avoid a deficit.
When 34 Republican legislators worked with Virginia’s Democratic governor to secure passage, they issued a "Virginia's Least Wanted" poster targeting those Republicans. On April 24, 2005, ATF issued a press release touting those legislators that had signed a pledge not to increase taxes.
On June 15, 2005, after the state primary, ATR issued a press release claiming that "Taxpayer advocates believe the two scalps they claimed last night – those of Gary Reese (H-67), who was defeated by newcomer Chris Craddock, and James Dillard (H-41), who retired rather than face a strong challenge from Michael Golden – are only their latest wins against the pro-tax 'Republicans.' Last September, Sen. Ken Stolle (S-8) was denied a seat in Congress because of his pro-tax vote; anti-tax Delegate Thelma Drake took the seat in Congress instead. In the special election to succeed Thelma Drake, Republican Michael Ball lost by less than 100 votes because he tried to finesse the tax issue."
However, the strategy may have backfired. Both the Dillard and Reese seats, which had been Republican, ended up as Democratic seats in the general election. In fact in the Craddock-Caputo race in Virginia's 67th District, Norquist became a target in the campaign.
Tax and spend ... for war
Shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City, the New Republic reported that Norquist had been working to broker a "strange alliance" between the Republican Party and radical Islam. In February 2003, however, ATR weighed in to support the Bush administration's war drive against Iraq. According to the New York Times, "Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said his organization had sent every state legislature a proposed measure for adoption the day fighting starts that supports Mr. Bush's actions."
K Street Project is "non-partisan research of political affiliation, employment background, and political donations of members in Washington DC's premier lobbying firms, trade associations, and industries." Ironically, it shares its name with the project by the Republican Party to pressure Washington lobbying firms to hire Republicans in top positions, and to reward loyal GOP lobbyists with access to influential officials. That projects was launched in 1995, by Republican strategist and ATF founder Grover Norquist working with former House majority leader Tom DeLay.
Author of Intellectual Morons: How Ideology Makes Smart People Fall for Stupid Ideas (Crown Forum, 2004) and Why the Left Hates America: Exposing the Lies That Have Obscured Our Nation's Greatness (Prima Forum, 2002). The latter is a Crown imprint which publishes conservative, current event titles. such as Flynn, Ann Coulter and L. Brent Bozell III, founder and president of the Media Research Center. Flynn served from 1994-1997 as program officer for Young America's Foundation, from 1997-2003 as executive director of Accuracy in Academia, and from 2004-2005 as director of the Campus Leadership Program at the Leadership Institute.
Ronald Reagan Legacy Project
The Ronald Reagan Legacy Project is a project of Americans for Tax Reform. It is a project to put Reagan's image on U.S. ten dollar bill and to "dedicate more things after Reagan." It promotes a Ronald Reagan Day and naming landmarks after Reagan. 
Property Rights Alliance
This group works to influence legislation in opposition to the estate tax,environmental protection, licensing restrictions, Federal purchase of land for national parks and wildlife areas, broadcast requirements for multicssting and drug importation, as well as seizure by eminent domain.
Alliance for Worker Freedom
The "Alliance for Worker Freedom" is a "special project" of Americans for Tax Reform. The name is really a misnomer, as the Alliance opposes unions. At the Web site of the AWF, it says "AWF works to raise awareness of labor union abuses within the political system by educating movement conservatives on the threats to liberty posed by labor unions." AWF opposes collective bargaining. AWF opposes the Employee Free Choice Act.
The Media Freedom Project
The Media Freedom Project was a partner project of Americans for Tax Reform, operating from a now defunct website.
This now defunct project had the mission of providing a "voice to people...in the public policy debates that impact" savings and investments. This included opposition to the estate tax and a "fairer, simpler", e.g. less progressive tax rate. Other former endeavors included, fighting net neutrality, opposing limitations on "grassroots" internet lobbying, extending lower taxes on capital gains and dividends, supporting Samuel Alito for Supreme Court, and supporting the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).In their words, "Approving CAFTA will reward the democracies in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic for rejecting the Communists, and will send the message to the region and the world that those who adopt free market policies will prosper, and those who adopt Leftist anti-American protectionist policies will fail."
Americans for Tax Reform
1920 L Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: (202) 785-0266
Fax: (202) 785-0261
Email: friends AT atr.org
Press contact: John Kartch, jkartch AT atr.org
Articles and resources
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- Peter Cleary
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- Americans for Tax Reform," "Leave Us Alone]" accessed June 8, 2006. All footnotes in the special projects section link to the ATR website on the page noted, as accessed on that same date.
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- Americans for Tax Reform, "Taxpayers win in Virginia Primaries" release of June 14, 2005.
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