Americans for Tax Reform

As an organization, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) is best known for its "Taxpayer Protection Pledge," which asks candidates for federal and state office to commit themselves in writing to oppose all tax increases. The group is led by Grover Norquist, described by the Wall Street Journal as the "the V.I. Lenin of the anti-tax movement." He is renowned in right-wing and Republican circles for his ability to unite the various right-wing interests into coalitions to achieve a common goal.

Americans for Tax Reform
1920 L Street NW - Suite 200
Washington DC 20036
Website: www.atr.org

Established: Americans for Tax Reform was founded in the mid-80s inside the Reagan White House. Norquist was tapped to head the group as an in-house operation to build support for the 1986 tax reform bill.
President/Executive Director: Grover Norquist
Finances: $3,912,958 (2004); ATR is a 501(c)(4) organization.
Employees: 14
High-profile staffers include: Peter Ferrara, ATR's former general counsel and chief economist, is currently founder and President of the Virginia Chapter for the Club for Growth.
Membership: 60,000
Affiliations: Americans for Tax Reform Foundation is the education and research arm of ATR. ATR is a member of the State Policy Network and of townhall.com, a right-wing Internet portal founded by the Heritage Foundation.
Publication: The Tax Reformer

Read the latest news on Americans for Tax Reform on the group's Right Wing Watch index page

Principal Issues

  • From Americans for Tax Reform's mission statement: "ATR opposes all tax increases as a matter of principle. We believe in a system in which taxes are simpler, fairer, 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… ATR serves as a national clearinghouse for the grassroots taxpayers' movement by working with approximately 800 state and county level groups."
  • ATR serves as the operational base for President Grover Norquist's vast political operation.
  • ATR Foundation has received a number of grants from right wing foundations, including Olin, Scaife, Bradley, etc.
  • ATR is heavily funded by a number of corporate backers, with the tobacco, gambling and alcohol industries figuring most prominently in 1999. Other recent ATR funders have included Microsoft, Pfitzer, AOL Time Warner and UPS.

Activities

  • Americans for Tax Reform provides support to right-wing policies and candidates. In 1999, it spent $4.2 million on a television ad campaign touting the GOP tax plan.
  • ATR has also taken a lead in other causes dear to the GOP's right wing, such as opposing campaign finance reform and attacking the 2000 presidential bid of Senator John McCain.
  • During the 1996 elections ATR flooded 150 congressional districts with mail and phone calls which was supported by a $4.6 million donation from the Republican National Committee.
  • In 2001 ATR formed the "State Legislature Advisory Project," described as a "national effort to involve state legislators and Indian nations in federal policy…[which] provides a backdrop of the state delegation's opinion when the issue becomes one of national importance." This Project calls annually for extensions and permanence of conservative, costly tax cuts. In 2001 it encouraged states to pass the Economic Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act, and in subsequent years pushed for permanently ending the "Death Tax," abolishing the Alternative Minimum Tax, privatizing Social Security, and drastically increasing defense spending. This project works closely with the President and Majority Members in the House and Senate.
  • ATR supported John G. Roberts' nomination to the Supreme Court, and criticized opponents for "subjecting [Roberts] to litmus tests on a laundry list of the extreme Left's pet issues."
  • ATR president Grover Norquist conducts an invitation-only, off-the-record Wednesday meetings that includes representatives of the National Rifle Association, the Christian Coalition, the Heritage Foundation, reporters and editors from conservative media outlets, and a variety of corporate lobbyists. Since the arrival of President Bush, the meetings also include representatives of the White House, the Republican National Committee and the House and Senate leadership.

History and Background

  • Americans for Tax Reform was originally founded inside the Reagan White House and later became officially independent.
  • Norquist was a key grassroots proponent of the Contract With America and was Gingrich's top unofficial advisor.
  • ATR, in 1999, received major donations from Phillip Morris, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (a group represented by the controversial lobbyist Jack Abramoff), Microsoft, Time Warner, and Pfizer. Phillip Morris contributed $685,000, and the Choctaw Indians, $360,000.

About Grover Norquist

  • Grover Norquist is also on the boards of the National Rifle Association of America and the American Conservative Union.
  • Norquist forged an early alliance with President Bush, traveling to Austin, Texas to meet with then-Governor Bush and his political advisor Karl Rove right after Bush's 1998 reelection. Norquist threw the full force of his influence behind the Bush campaign, playing a key role in defeating Sen. John McCain in the South Carolina primaries.
  • Norquist was a campaign staffer on the 1988, 1992, 1996 Republican Platform Committees and executive director of both the National Taxpayers' Union and the College Republicans.
  • Norquist writes the monthly politics column for the American Enterprise Institute magazine and used to write a monthly column for the American Spectator.

ATR alumni in the Bush administration

  • Nina Shokraii Rees, who now leads the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) at the U.S. Department of Education, was formerly a policy analyst for ATR. She then served as a chief education analyst at the Heritage Foundation. She is a proponent of private school vouchers, and helped draft the "No Child Left Behind Act" education blueprint for the Bush-Cheney transition team.

Quotes by Grover Norquist

On Pat Robertson's 700 Club, Norquist said the following about the Bush Administration, "We is them, and they is us. When I walk through the White House, I recognize as many people as when I would walk through the Heritage Foundation."

"My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."— The Nation, 10/12/2004

"In point of fact, it's a myth that the religious right wishes to impose values on others."— Frontline interview, 10/12/2004

"I want to reduce the size of government in half as a percentage of GNP [gross national product] over the next 25 years. We want to reduce the number of people depending on government so there is more autonomy and more free citizens."— Washington Post, 03/11/2001

"I've been a 'winger' from way back. I was an anti-Communist first, and then I became an economic conservative. I think I've gotten more radical as I've gotten older."— The Nation, 05/14/2001

Quotes about Americans for Tax Reform

Grover Norquist is "the person who I regard as the most innovative, creative, courageous and entrepreneurial leader of the anti-tax efforts and of conservative grassroots activism in America . . . He has truly made a difference and truly changed American history."
– Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA)

"Americans for Tax Reform is a wonderful-sounding name. As far as I'm concerned, it's a front organization for Grover Norquist's lobbying activities."
– Former Sen. Warren Rudman (R-NH)

Norquist is "the V.I. Lenin of the anti-tax movement."
– Columnist Paul Gigot, Wall Street Journal, 04/14/1994

"Americans for Tax Reform is a front for the Republican Party. Republicans are hiding money in this group, and that is fundamentally dishonest."
– Charles Lewis, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity

"You can wear too many hats and [Norquist] does. He's a whole hat store. And that's the conflict of interest: He's head of a non-profit. He's a corporate lobbyist. He's a foreign lobbyist. This gives nonprofits, which are supposed to be doing research, a bad name."
– Charles Lewis, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity. New York Times, 06/08/1997


Updated: September 2006

Filed Under