The Washington lobby expenditures of Americans for Tax Reform declined last year, for the third year in a row.
The organization’s spending has dropped by more than 40 percent, from $1.2 million in 2008 to $680,000 in 2011.
This might come as a surprise to many who see the group’s leader, Grover Norquist, as an omnipresent force for tax reform and a balanced budget amendment.
GQ ranked him as the 18th most powerful person in Washington. Sen. John Kerry called him “the 13th member” of the debt-reduction supercommittee.
(MSNBC host Joe Scarborough later criticized Democrats for trying to lay the supercommittee collapse on the anti-tax activist. “Blaming Grover Norquist is the greatest Democratic fabrication since the Tonkin Gulf incident,” Scarborough said.)
Norquist is one of seven people registered as ATR lobbyists. All work directly for the organization, which doesn’t employ outside lobby shops.
Norquist’s power comes less from lobbying than from his “no new taxes” pledge, weekly meetings with legislators, and campaign spending.
The size of his flock – an overwhelming majority of Republicans in Congress have signed the pledge – has given him influence that extends well beyond Americans For Tax Reform.
He is a contributing editor at American Spectator and a director of both the American Conservative Union and the National Rifle Association of America.
Along with other conservative leaders, Norquist will take the stage this week for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.
ATR has also broadened its reach, through targeted programs such as the Alliance for Worker Freedom, which advocates for right-to-work issues; and the Center For Fiscal Accountability, whose stated mission is to “enhance transparency in government.”
Other affiliated projects include the American Shareholders Association, the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, the Property Rights Alliance, and the Media Freedom Project.
None of the affiliates is a registered lobby client in Washington.
ATR has also focused on tax reform at the state level. Regular meetings similar to the group’s weekly sessions in Washington are now held in 47 states.
Norquist recently wrote to members of the Massachusetts House and Senate, urging them to reject proposed tax hikes on tobacco and soda. He also sent a letter to Washington state legislators, criticizing a proposal to ban plastic bags and impose a tax on paper bags.
In recent years, ATR has dedicated more of its cash to elections, spending more than $4.1 million in the 2010 cycle. Most of that money – about 84 percent – was spent in opposing Democratic candidates for the House and Senate.
The effort brought mixed results: Eight of those candidates lost and nine won.
The group has not reported 2011 contributions or expenditures to the Federal Election Commission.
According to its most recent tax returns, its total income in 2010 was almost $12.4 million, three times that of the previous year. It spent more than $8 million on advertising, including the expenditures for attack ads.
Many industries – such as tobacco and soft drink companies operating in Massachusetts and bag makers selling their products in Washington – would be in a position to support the group’s opposition to tax hikes.
However, as a 501(c)(4) organization, ATR does not disclose its donors.
Bills lobbied by ATR in the last quarter of 2011:
112 H.J.RES.2: Proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
112 H.R.1002: Wireless Tax Fairness Act of 2011
112 H.R.1173: Fiscal Responsibility and Retirement Security Act of 2011
112 H.R.1380: New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act of 2011
112 H.R.1540: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012
112 H.R.1834: Freedom to Invest Act of 2011
112 H.R.1860: Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act of 2011
112 H.R.1904: Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2011
112 H.R.2112: Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012
112 H.R.2118: To amend the National Labor Relations Act relating to the authority to enjoin State laws that are preempted by or conflict with such Act.
112 H.R.2168: Geolocational Privacy and Surveillance Act
112 H.R.2309: Postal Reform Act of 2011
112 H.R.2354: Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012
112 H.R.2433: Veterans Opportunity to Work Act of 2011
112 H.R.2587: Protecting Jobs From Government Interference Act
112 H.R.2701: Main Street Fairness Act
112 H.R.2913: To amend title 5, United States Code, to provide for the termination of further retirement benefits for Members of Congress, except the right to continue participating in the Thrift Savings Plan.
112 H.R.2945: Capital Gains Inflation Relief Act of 2011
112 H.R.3062: Dairy Security Act of 2011
112 H.R.3078: United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act
112 H.R.3079: United States-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act
112 H.R.3080: United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
112 H.R.3091: To make permanent the individual income tax rates for capital gains and dividends.
112 H.R.3099: Buffett Rule Act of 2011
112 H.R.3156: Consumer Debit Card Protection Act
112 H.R.3179: Marketplace Equity Act of 2011
112 H.R.3243: Common Sense Deficit Reduction Act of 2011
112 H.R.3261: Stop Online Piracy Act
112 H.R.3630: Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011
112 H.R.3671: Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012
112 H.R.622: To extend the Andean Trade Preference Act, and for other purposes.
112 H.RES.479: Providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 10) to amend chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, to provide that major rules of the executive branch shall have no force or effect unless a joint resolution of approval is enacted into law, and for other purposes.
112 S.1011: Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2011
112 S.1212: Geolocational Privacy and Surveillance Act
112 S.1452: Main Street Fairness Act
112 S.1507: Employee Rights Act
112 S.1619: Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act of 2011
112 S.1651: Honest Budget Act
112 S.1660: American Jobs Act of 2011
112 S.1676: Buffett Rule Act of 2011
112 S.1720: Jobs Through Growth Act
112 S.1832: Marketplace Fairness Act
112 S.1863: New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act of 2011
112 S.1931: Temporary Tax Holiday and Government Reduction Act
112 S.25: Stop Unfair Giveaways and Restrictions Act of 2011
112 S.543: Wireless Tax Fairness Act of 2011
112 S.720: Repeal the CLASS Entitlement Act
112 S.971: Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act of 2011
112 S.J.RES.10: Joint resolution proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
112 S.J.RES.6: A joint resolution disapproving the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission with respect to regulating the Internet and broadband industry practices.