Underestimate Grover Norquist at your own peril

The anti-tax crusader has already survived serious financial challenges and decades of Washington chicanery. He's not going anywhere.

By Jonathan Berr Nov 29, 2012 9:54AM
Credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
Caption: Founder of Americans for Tax Reform Grover NorquistGrover Norquist's non-profit group will survive just fine even as Republicans increasingly turn their back on his Taxpayer Protection Pledge to "oppose any and all efforts" to increase taxes.

For one thing, many Republican stalwarts such as CNBC pundit Larry Kudlow and the Wall Street Journal's editorial page want Norquist to stick to his guns. Another, less well-known reason is that his group, Americans for Tax Reform, has survived plenty of challenges already, especially financial ones.

Norquist, who founded Americans for Tax Reform in 1985, has agreed in recent years to defer part of his pay "for the benefit of the organization," according to the non-profit's latest form 900 filed with the IRS. It wasn't clear how long this practice occurred, though ATR did note in 2010 that his compensation "did not include payment of any deferred pay." The same declaration was made on the 2009. In 2008, Norquist received $50,000 in deferred pay. Such an arrangement is legal and often occurs when non-profits are struggling, according to Daniel Borochoff, the president of CharityWatch, a watchdog organization.

"You have got to pay your bills some way," sald Borochoff, in an interview. "It may simply be the case that they had a cash flow crunch."  

Norquist, 56, earned a salary of about $225,000 in 2010. He also commands speaking fees of between $5,000 and $10,000, according to All American Speakers. The average pay for non-profit CEOs is $132,739, according to a recently released study by Charity Navigator, another watchdog group. A spokesman for ATR didn't immediately return an email requesting comment.

Though ATR is not in dire financial straights, it doesn't appear to be flush either. ATR has a related organization called the Americans for Tax Reform Foundation, which has many of the same members on its board. Despite receiving a loan from ATR of more than $7.4 million in 2010, the foundation finished that year in the red. That year, ATR reported total revenue of $12.4 million. Expenses topped $11 million. 

Even if its popularity is on the wane, there are no shortage of conservative billionaires who will be willing to fund Norquist's operation, such as casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Brothers. The anti-tax crusader has survived in the treacherous political swamps of Washington since the Reagan era. Liberals who think his day is done underestimate him at their own peril.

--Follow Jonathan Berr on Twitter@jdberr.

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Tags: Politics
Nov 29, 2012 5:37PM

no member of Congress shoild sign anything that limits their ability to pass legislation for the good of the country and their constituants.



Nov 29, 2012 4:53PM
Norquist meets all the criteria for being diagnosed as a bully. But I believe he is much worse than that, for he seems to envision himself as a dictatorial political cult leader.  (Please read up on what constitutes a "cult" and you'll see he is the perfect leader of such.) So...He wants to "go after" anyone who decides to cast aside his pledge? I say to every American to let your congressperson and senator know we do not want our government shackled by a bully cult leader. To hell with him and his ilk.
Nov 29, 2012 5:26PM
Norquist whole operation is bought and paid for by Republican money men. Time and again polls have shown the American people favor increasing taxes on the very wealthiest Americans. The effective tax rates on the wealthy are the lowest they have been in decades. To begin to deal with the deficits and debt will take spending cuts and new revenue from the wealthiest Americans, only the wealthiest Americans can afford a tax increase at this time.
The president's plan is to increase income taxes on an individual making more than about $200,000 per year or a couple making more than about $250,000 per year. Also, to make this clear the Obama tax increase would only apply to the income in excess of $200,000 or $250,000. The tax rate on the $200,000 in the case of an individual and $250,00 in the case of a couple would not increase. In other words, if a couple had an income of $300,000 only the $50,000 would be subject to the new tax, the tax on the $250,000 would remain the same. This tax increase would effect about 2.9% of the taxpayers.
Nov 29, 2012 5:41PM

A "temporary" tax cut expiring does NOT equal a tax increase.


No mention of the capital gains tax going back to 25%.

Nov 29, 2012 6:39PM
Absolutely, Susan.  This is mainly about simply rolling things back to where theye WERE before Cheny/Bush gave their cronies a free pass.  They're just crybabies about giving it up.  These people got wealthy because of the system in the USA and they need to do some giving back to that system that allowed them to get there... not take their gains and run.  If they do, the result will eventually be something like the French Revolution.   Many, many millionaires agree that they should give more, including Mr. Buffett and many others who have publicly stated this.
Dec 1, 2012 3:42AM
Yeah, the billionaires backed Romney too. Well done. You really showed the plebs a thing or two about who rules the roost. 
Nov 29, 2012 7:08PM
So Norquist accepted a pay cut for the benefit of the group. That's all we're asking.
Nov 29, 2012 6:52PM
Most politicians are the cheapest whores in town ....when the whores start turning their back on the john then he will need to move on ..........not to worry I am sure grover will be back in the news sometime soon being caught in an airport bathroom or some such ....I mean look at him .....
Nov 29, 2012 5:55PM
Norquist is politically dead meat and the embalming has begun.
M-dude:   You can replace Norquist's name with that of OBAMA and the meaning would read the same.
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