In a October 4th speech today on the House floor, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) expressed concern about Grover Norquist’s influence on the political process in Washington and his association with several individuals, groups and causes many would consider unsavory.
Wolf questioned Norquist’s relationship with convicted felon Jack Abramoff and terrorist financiers Abdurahman Alamoudi and Sami Al-Arian. He also raised the issue of Norquist’s advocacy of moving Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States, including 9/11 mastermind Khaled Sheik Mohammed, and his representation of the Internet gambling industry and Fannie Mae.
Norquist is the head of Americans For Tax Reform (ATR) and author of the organization’s anti-tax pledge. Wolf’s concern is not with ATR’s goals but with Norquist being the sole interpreter and enforcer of the pledge, especially given his history with questionable individuals and groups.
“I want to be clear: I raise these issues not just because Mr. Norquist’s associates may be unsavory people,” Wolf said. “There are many lobbyists in Washington who represent clients of all stripes and backgrounds. But my concern arises when the appearances of impropriety are raised over and over again with a person who has such influence over public policy. That, I believe, should give any fair-minded person pause.”
Wolf raised the issue in the context of working to solve the debt crisis facing the nation, stating that he believe the “pledge” is thwarting every good faith effort to reforming the nation’s tax code and ridding it of the special interest loopholes and earmarks.
Wolf pointed to Norquist’s opposition to Senator Tom Coburn’s attempt this summer to eliminate the special interest ethanol tax subsidy as an example.
“Have we really reached a point where one person’s demand for ideological purity is paralyzing Congress to the point that even a discussion of tax reform is viewed as breaking a no-tax pledge?” Wolf asked.
Wolf closed his five-minute floor speech by quoting British parliamentarian and abolitionist William Wilberforce, saying “having heard all of this, you may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know .”
The text below is split in two parts. The first section is the five minute speech Wolf delivered on the floor. The second section was entered in the Congressional Record due to time constraints.
FIVE MINUTE FLOOR SPEECH
My conscience has compelled me to come to the floor today to voice concerns I have with the influence Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, has on the political process in Washington.
My issue is not with ATR’s goal of keeping taxes low.
Like Ronald Reagan said, and I believe, “the problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that government spends too much.” I want to be perfectly clear: I do not support raising taxes on the American people.
My concern is with the other individuals, groups, and causes with whom Mr. Norquist is associated that have nothing to do with keeping taxes low.
One, Mr. Norquist’s relationship with Jack Abramoff. Mr. Abramoff essentially laundered money through ATR and Mr. Norquist knew it.
Two, his association and representation of terrorist financier and vocal Hamas supporter Abdurahman Alamoudi. He also is associated with terrorist financier Sami Al-Arian, who pled guilty in 2006 to conspiring to provide services to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Three, Mr. Norquist’s lobbying on behalf of Fannie Mae.
Four, Mr. Norquist’s representation of the Internet gambling industry.
Five, Mr. Norquist’s advocacy of moving Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States, including 9/11 mastermind Khaled Sheik Mohammed.
Simply put, I believe Mr. Norquist is connected with or has profited from a number of unsavory people and groups out of the mainstream.
I also believe Mr. Norquist has used the ATR “pledge” as leverage to advance other issues many Americans would find inappropriate, and when taken as a whole, should give people pause.
I raise these concerns today in the context of dealing with the future of our country. America is in trouble. Unemployment is over 9 percent. Housing values continue to decline. Retirement accounts are threatened. The American people are worried. Yet, Washington is tragically shackled in ideological gridlock.
Some are dead-set against any change to entitlement programs, while others insist that any discussion of tax policy is off the table.
We are at a point today that the tsunami of debt in America demands that every piece of the budget be scrutinized – and that means more than just cutting waste, fraud and abuse and discretionary programs.
The real runaway spending is occurring in our out-of-control entitlement costs and the hundreds of billions in annual tax earmarks in our tax code. Until we reach an agreement that addresses these two drivers of our deficit and debts, we cannot right our fiscal ship of state.
Everything must be on the table and I believe how the “pledge” is interpreted and enforced by Mr. Norquist is a roadblock to realistically reforming our tax code.
When Senator Tom Coburn recently called for eliminating the special interest ethanol tax subsidy, who led the opposition? Mr. Norquist.
Have we already forgotten the battle over earmarks from last year? Unlike an earmark included in an annual appropriations bill, “tax earmarks” are far worse because once enacted they typically exist in perpetuity.
Have we really reached a point where one person’s demand for ideological purity is paralyzing Congress to the point that even a discussion of tax reform is viewed as breaking a no-tax pledge?
I understand that some may not agree with what I say today. I also know many are not aware of Mr. Norquist’s associations. But my conscience compels me to speak out.
Reasonable people can disagree on the merits of pledges – and I respect those differences – but the issue is with the interpreter and enforcer of a pledge.
William Wilberforce, the British parliamentarian and abolitionist, famously told his colleagues, “Having heard all of this, you may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know .”
I urge my colleagues to read my full statement in the Record, which also will be posted on my Web page, going into greater detail on the issues I have raised.