Grover Norquist is not a member of congress, nor a holder of public office, a speaker or a delegate at the RNC in Tampa. Nonetheless, he is arguably one of the most powerful men in Washington D.C.Wednesday afternoon on at the University of South Florida Saint Petersburg campus, Norquist versed a sparse crowd of around 50 people on what he views as the current American political process.
Norquist is a lobbyist and conservative activist who is founder and president of the advocacy group, Americans for Tax Reform. The ATR is best known for the “taxpayer protection pledge “which has been signed by a vast majority of Republicans nationwide. Those incumbent politicians and candidates seeking elected office who sign “the pledge” are promising never to increase taxes.
He and his conservative advocacy group steadfastly campaign against candidates who breech the pledge by supporting other candidates who still adhere to the dogma of the pledge. Furthermore, he has been known to throw his political weight into the fight in order to sway elections in favor of politicians he earmarks as upholders of the pledge.
Although they are in the minority, some Republican statesmen like Republican Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming, have recommended that it is sometimes necessary to raise taxes.
The current economic woes are subtly nudging Republicans to design an exit strategy out of the bind the pledge has put them. They are starting to view tax increases to be at least an option which could aid in kickstarting the economy. This slow swell of discontent could effectively render Norquist's anti-tax dogma obsolete. When asked about this Norquist quipped in response by saying;
“...the numbers are so small that it's de minimis. We have 1300 state legislators who have signed the pledge; 238 House Members. And there are two or three who have said I might raise taxes one day if I thought I wanted to. But when questioned they sort of back off on that...they almost all have a caveat and say that they would be willing to raise taxes if the Democrats were willing to reform entitlements...I worry more about astroids hitting the Earth than the modern Democratic Party is going to decide to cut spending significantly....”
Norquist was chided in a recently broadcast “60 Minutes” interview for veering off with his lobby group away from its historic focal point of tax issues. The piece asserted that his organization has clandestinely stepped into other areas like the Key Stone Pipeline and communications law. This is suspected by some to be not only Norquist libertarian bailiwick but also sign that big business has a finger the pie of his lobbyist organization.
When asked about those assertions, Norquist pointed out that the “pledge” garners the most column inches in the media but “Americans for Tax Reform” has long been active in other issues linked to shrinking the size of government. He highlighted internet and communication deregulations as fitting neatly into his advocacy groups less taxes/smaller government ideology mold.