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Overview:

 
Americans for Tax Reform (ATR)

Stated Purpose:
Oppose all tax increases as a matter of principle.

Tax Status:
501(c)(4)

Political Orientation:
Republican

Profile:
September 2004 — Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), an anti-tax organization headed by conservative strategist Grover Norquist, spent $4.2 million in September 1999 on ads ostensibly urging support in seven states for the GOP’s tax-cut plan. Although Norquist claimed the ad campaign "was not based on elections," each of the seven versions of the ad praised a Republican senator who was facing re-election, and each ad named that senator as the leader of a plan to provide tax relief.1

ATR's 2000 election cycle spending was likely heaviest in Michigan, where the group spent an estimated $1 million on advertisements praising Republican Sen. Spencer Abraham during his re-election bid against Democratic Rep. Debbie Stabenow.2 Though the ads aired in fall 1999, the Abraham-Stabenow race was already viewed as among the closest Senate contests. Norquist served in 1999 as a lobbyist for Microsoft Corp.3 Microsoft reportedly gave about $250,000 to the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and an unspecified amount of money to Americans for Job Security in 2000 to run ads attacking Stabenow or promoting Abraham.4 5

ATR also funded ads during the 2000 Republican presidential primaries questioning the political agenda of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), and criticizing his push for a campaign finance reform bill. The ad claimed that McCain, who was opposing George W. Bush in the primaries, wanted to make taxpayers pay for political campaigns. The ad also stated that conservative leaders had called McCain's agenda "dangerous, reckless and dishonest.”6 New Hampshire's GOP chairman called the ads "a disgrace" and a "mischaracterization of John McCain's record and views."7

In Washington, Norquist conducts weekly strategy sessions that are attended by Republican congressional heavyweights and White House officials.8 He also is among the leaders of the “K Street Project,” which aims to place Republicans in key lobbying positions.9

A copy of ATR's 1999 tax return containing its list of contributors was obtained by a reporter. Major contributors included Philip Morris ($685,000) and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians ($360,000), who are represented by lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a prominent Republican fundraiser.10 Other corporate contributors included Microsoft, Pfizer, AOL Time Warner and UPS.11

ATR reported to the IRS having zero political expenditures in 2000, 2001 and 2002.12 In effect, the group claimed that none of its advertisements were intended to influence elections. These would have included ads criticizing John McCain during the peak of the New Hampshire primary campaign in 2000.13


1   "Group Hopes $4 Million in Ads Will Influence Tax Debate," Associated Press, Sept. 1, 1999.
2   Gebe Martinez, "Michigan Senate Race Tightest in U.S.," Detroit News, Jan. 17, 2000.
3   Lobbying Disclosure Reports Filed With the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House Pursuant to the Lobby Disclosure Act of 1995. (Available at sopr.senate.gov.)
4   Gebe Martinez, "GOP Tapped Tech Execs to Aid Abraham; Senate Republicans Sought Industry Cash to Offset Negative Ads," Detroit News, May 17, 2000.
5   John R. Wilke, "Microsoft Is Source of 'Soft Money' Funds Behind Ads in Michigan's Senate Race," Wall Street Journal, Oct. 16, 2000.
6   Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG) Reports, 2000.
7   "White House 2000 McCain: New Year's Ad Push," The Hotline, Jan. 4, 2000.
8   Laura Blumenfield, "Sowing the Seeds of GOP Domination; Conservative Norquist Cultivates Grass Roots," Washington Post, Jan. 12, 2004.
9   Judy Sarasohn, "GOP Activists Chafe at H&R Block Hire," Washington Post, Feb. 12, 2004.
10   Lobbying Disclosure Reports Filed With the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House Pursuant to the Lobby Disclosure Act of 1995. (Available at sopr.senate.gov.)
11   Robert Dreyfuss, "Grover Norquist: 'Field Marshal' of the Bush Tax Plan," The Nation, May 14, 2001.
12   Americans for Tax Reform, 990 forms, 2000-2002.
13   IRS Form 990 Instructions, Line 81, 2003. (Available at www.irs.gov.)



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