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Jeff Koopersmith

Why Grover Norquist
Might Go to Jail

Six years ago, I tried to warn both sides of the political aisle about one of Washington's most powerful -- and dangerous -- lobbyists, Grover Norquist. Today, his former allies on the right are scrutinizing his ties to Islamists. From the APJ archives, here's my article on Norquist as it originally ran at koopersmith.com.
by Jeff Koopersmith

Tuesday, November 11th, 1997 --- New York (APJP) -- Write this down, Grover.

Today marks the end of life as you know it: a small-minded Harvard squeak-by who preys on minorities, gays and anyone else who doesn't fit into your delusional, power hungry world.

From now on, abandoned by members of your "Americans for Tax Reform," you'll no longer be welcome at little "conservative" get-togethers. Your own weekly liberal roasts will draw a smaller and smaller audience, and your legal bills will cripple your ability to buy $20 cigars.

But you have one thing to look forward to: like Ebeneezer Scrooge, once you're indicted, you'll go to sleep a conservative Republican and wake up as a liberal Democrat.

At least you'll have that, and I can't say I'm sorry.

Senator Carl Levin is one of my secret heroes. He's a Democrat, he's smart and he's a gentleman. I watched him endure hearing after hearing at Fred Thompson's Campaign Finance Circus. I watched Levin take insult after insult from Thompson who, despite his lame protestations to the contrary, ran the most despicably partisan "investigation" in history -- all the time weeping that no one "loved" him. All along, Thompson knew that Grover Norquist and Haley Barbour had masterminded a conspiracy to launder money for the Republican National Committee -- and did nothing about it, and said nothing about it. To my mind, that makes him a criminal accessory.

But Levin, unlike Thompson, is also a man of methodical action -- and this week he proved his mettle ferreting out enough evidence on Grover Norquist, Haley Barbour and Newt Gingrich to almost assuredly land them in the closest federal prison.

Grover Norquist in better days...can the Gipper help him now?

Norquist, who lives on money he virtually extorts from what he claims are 700,0000 idiots who think he'll repeal the 16th Amendment legalizing income tax, knows his days are numbered. He's tainted like he tries to taint others. He's going to prison, just as he claimed John Huang and Bill Clinton were going to prison. He's going to humiliated just as he spent his life humiliating others.

In short, he's facing a powerful mirror.

Senator Levin subpoenaed and got bank records and other data which show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Norquist used his tax-exempt corporation to launder money for the Republican National Committee.

The conspiracy, set up between Norquist, several RNC operatives and former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour, worked like this:

Norquist and Barbour arranged for Norquist's "Americans for Tax Reform" -- in a highly detailed scheme -- to launder $4.6 million of RNC money through "Americans for Tax Reform" accounts in order to cloak the expenditure as an independent advocacy mailing.

Now, federal law prohibits coordination of such political activity between politics parties and so-called independent organizations like "Americans for Tax Reform." But Republicans have abused this law for years. I should know. I was trained at the presidential level by the Republican National Committee myself in 1980.

Norquist and the RNC claim there was absolutely no coordination between them -- but extremely detailed evidence show them to be liars.

In October 1996 the RNC gave "Americans for Tax Reform" a $4.6 million "donation." Keep that in mind -- nearly $5 million dollars. The "donation" itself would be questionable at any time, since Norquist seems to be universally loathed by a plethora of right-wing conservatives and liberals alike who see him as a nightmare in human form and an embarrassment to the Republican Party as well as the nation. But Norquists's closest allies, House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Haley Barbour share this mantle.

But wait. It gets better.

RNC officials, including Barbour, claim that the $5 million had no strings attached! They just popped what amounts to the a week of school lunches for a million poor kids over to Norquist's private anti-tax group -- because he was "like-minded." Boy, would I like to get in the heads of the jury that hears that one.

Norquist and Barbour, so arrogant that they didn't even cover their crime well, held onto enough documents to commit suicide. Among those documents are bank records that show an immediate transfer, after receiving RNC cash, from Norquist's accounts to pay for a campaign mailing to 150 congressional districts only days before the 1996 election. Shades of Batman.

In one case, more than $500,000 spent only an hour or two in Norquist's accounts before it was spent for pro-Republican advertising.

And where did the money go? Well, nearly $3.5 million went to something called the "John Grotta Company" - a direct mail house that works primarily for Republicans. Grotta mailed a piece targeted at seniors who knew Republicans were trying to gut Medicare. The Norquist piece told them this wasn't true and after it was mailed, polls showed Republicans recovering from a big decline in senior support.

What was Norquist doing mailing campaign pieces about Medicare? "Americans for Tax Reform" is registered as an anti-tax group, not a health care protectorate. What he was doing was attempting to "play ball" with the powers-that-be at the RNC.

The mail went out under the name of "Americans for Tax Reform" -- another crime inasmuch as the mail never revealed that the piece was from the Republican National Committee, nor were the donors who supplied the money to the RNC that was transferred to "Americans for Tax Reform" revealed as required by law. You can bet that some of them had already reached the legal limit for political contributions.

Haley Barbour, like Al Capone, is no dummy -- although he poses as one. He knew it was illegal for the Republican Party to run this mail and other ads on behalf of Republican candidates for Congress, so he transferred the $5 million to "Americans for Tax Reform" and Norquist ran the mail and ads for them, covering their tracks in the process.

Close to my heart and on Norquist's and Barbour's hit list was Bob Torricelli, my favorite home-state US Senator. Norquist targeted him last fall, using the RNC laundered money to specifically attack Torricelli during his election race in a series of negative ads. The only luck was that Norquist's ads were so impotent -- and so poorly produced -- that they had no impact. Torricelli won, and Norquist will pay the price if I know the New Jersey Senator.

Not only did Norquist and Barbour cook up this coin-op laundry, but Barbour also directed Carl Lindner - Chiquita Banana head poobah and often beneficiary of targeted Republican pro-Lindner legislation - to give at least $100,000 to Norquist.

And there's more.

An RNC memo appropriately titled "A Memorandum for Field Dogs" specifically outlines the conspiratorial nature of the deal between Barbour and Norquist and alerts RNC field operatives about the "Americans for Tax Reform" mail piece to "warn seniors on the Medicare issue."

Norquist's audacity doesn't stop there. Remember, he runs "Americans for Tax Reform" as a tax-exempt nonprofit corporation -- making him a guy who is "against taxes", yet uses taxpayer money to run his private fiefdom! Now his tax exempt status is only a dream, for his use of RNC money to make direct political mailings and attack ads against Democrats is a violation of IRS statutes and other laws which will result in his organization being stripped of non-profit protection forever.

Senator Levin has spent a long time tying this into a neat little bundle for Janet Reno. I trust she'll spend less time bringing much-deserved indictments against Norquist, Barbour and others like RNC Finance Chairperson Jo-Anne Coe, formerly chief of Bob Dole's operation. An Oct. 21 memo from Coe to party Chairman Haley Barbour said she was "withholding delivery" of checks to three outside groups until "we meet and hopefully come to some resolution on the joint state mail project." One of the three was Norquist's "Americans for Tax Reform."

And what does Norquist, still living in a dream world, say about all this?

"That is not illegal, it's not immoral, it's not fattening," Norquist said.

But Levin proved it was -- and that more than two-thirds of the "Americans for Tax Reform" budget last year came through infusions from the Republican Party. Other memos show the party controlled, or at least closely monitored, how the money was used.

Dozens of memos, billing records and phone logs show that "Americans for Tax Reform" and RNC strategists were in frequent contact to coordinate their efforts on behalf of GOP House candidates. That in and of itself is a plain and simple crime. Norquist could engage in anti-tax campaigns and maintain his non-profit status and stay out of jail for money laundering, but his Rasputin-like personality dictated his entry into the dark world of criminal conspiracy to directly advocate for individual candidates, not issues.

But don't trust me. Here's what other's say and how they describe Norquist -- the very reasons not even his fellow Republicans will help him now.

Tucker Carlson, conservative pundit extraordinaire, portrays Norquist as a "buffoon commissar who has misplaced his principles to the extent of accepting money to lobby on behalf of the Marxist government of the Seychelles." In passing, Carlson describes Norquist's weekly Wednesday morning meetings, where conservative-movement activists, political strategists, congressional staffers, and conservative journalists who are deemed loyal (from rags like the National Review and the Washington Times) gather to hash out the GOP party line."

"...Norquist is a mean-spirited, humorless, dishonest little creep. But in my experience, there aren't many Grovers in positions of prominence on the Right, and virtually none in conservative journalism. Which is why I wrote a piece about him in the first place, because he's an embarrassing anomaly, the leering, drunken uncle everyone else wishes would stay home. Norquist is repulsive, granted, but there aren't nearly enough of him to start a purge trial." -- Tucker Carlson in Slate

Carlson wrote a critical profile of Gingrich protégé Grover Norquist. Allegedly, and in retaliation, Norquist tried to convince Rupert Murdoch to abandon the Weekly Standard, for which Carlson writes. In one version of this story, conservative David Brock claims he heard from Carlson that Newt Gingrich got directly involved and Carlson's job was on the line. Norquist denied putting on the pressure but told others he did call Eric Breindel, a top Murdoch aide, to complain about alleged inaccuracies in Carlson's piece.

Norquist loves to use military metaphors and is aggressive beyond normal. Norquist loves to twist programs like the New Deal into perversion of justice. He calls labor unions, government employees, trial lawyers, government contractors and welfare recipients "The Takings Coalition" because "they want to transfer money and power."

Huh?

Every Wednesday morning Norquist runs an "invitation-only" meeting of activists, policy analysts, congressional staffers, political candidates, and conservative prostitute journalists in his conference room, including 50 to 100 nuts from groups like the National Rifle Association, the Cato Institute, the Christian Coalition, U.S. Term Limits, Republicans for Choice, the Heritage Foundation, and sometimes UNITA--the political organization of Angolan anti-communists.

Newt Gingrich , whose known Norquist since 1979, told The Washington Post "he comes up with more interesting ideas than anyone I work with in terms of grassroots activism."

That's tells you a lot about both of them.

Even at Harvard, Norquist was a powermonger. One of his MBA papers outlined a plan for the National College Republicans to switch from a social club to an ideological, grassroots organization. In the early 1980s, he helped implement his plan with the help of the group's executive director -- none other than Ralph Reed. Norquist founded "Americans for Tax Reform" in 1985 to push what would become the 1986 tax simplification plan.

Norquist, in his typical "simple way" invented a one-page statement for legislators promising they'd never to vote to increase marginal tax rates and never to eliminate tax loopholes without simultaneously supporting equivalent reductions in marginal tax rates.

Get this -- Norquist or an "Americans for Tax Reform" staffer witness every signature, and once a politician takes the pledge, that person is bound for life. You just have to laugh.

But, believe it or not, nearly 200 "pledge takers" sit in the House today and 40 in the Senate. Those of you who vote Republican tickets ought to think again: if you needed proof that Republicans are largely morons, this is it! To their credit, Bob Dole and Dick Lugar are not signatories -- Lugar would have been, but Norquist refused Lugar's 'exceptions' for war and depression conditions.

"Norquist is an insecure little dweeb," one Capitol Hill conservative told me this morning. Directly behind Norquist's desk, a group of photographs of him with a variety of political luminaries circle a color print of legendary rocker/druggie Janis Joplin.

Norquist, a definite candidate for a liberal psychiatrist's couch, lives in a fantasy world he created that allows him to make outrageous statements about men and women leaders he'd like to be, or programs he deems undeserving. Here are some examples :

Speaking about the Beck Decision on use of union dues for campaign contributions, Norquist shows his real agenda: "But that decision will help us break the unions."

"I want Clinton standing at the end of four years. I want everybody around him gone and discredited, but I want Clinton standing there -- Gorbachev. The whole house of cards under Gorbachev collapsed, the entire empire collapsed -- but he's OK. He's happy. Like one of these buildings that implodes, Gorbachev stood at the top and floated down and walked away unscathed. I want Clinton to do the same thing for the American left. I want him to walk away with everybody around him bloodied and him going, 'I'm fine.'"

"I deal with both in Washington, with the establishment and with the revolutionaries..."

"The next person who runs for president should run on the six non-negotiables: 1) Racial preferences; 2) Tort reform; 3) A single-rate tax system; 5) Opposition to gun control; 6) A balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution."

"I've taken the strategically brilliant position [laughter, but not much] that I think is self-evident -- eliminate welfare for immigrants, legal and illegal. What bothers most Americans is that they (I?) think immigrants come here to go on welfare and don't work."

"I'm in favor of banning welfare for immigrants, legal or illegal, because I'm against welfare, period."

"Pat Buchanan's used to bar fights. I could come back at him with some Irish slur and he would think it was a fair fight. Jose (speaking of Mexican-Americans) doesn't look at it that way. He doesn't look at this as a cute intellectual discussion."

And listen to what hypocrite Norquist says about campaign finance reform -- a portent of his own doom. If you have Real Audio, you can listen to an interview with Norquist by Intellectual Capital by clicking here. Then move your Real Audio fast forward button to minute 18 of the interview to listen to Norquist lie about Republican use of foreign contributions, corporate welfare, and chuckle at his own words -- which presage his indictment for violation of several federal laws.

NOTE: Norquist often uses the imperial "We" to describe ideals or philosophies "He" not "We" embrace. Who the "We" is remains unclear, as it does with most schizophrenics. Medical professionals will tell you that referring to oneself as a group can be a sign of severe mental instability. While Mr. Norquist may be, in truth, the Rock of Gibraltar, one suspects trouble in the ol' grey matter.

Norquist has said:

"You saw the complete misuse of corporate welfare as the way to buy capaign contributions.... and penniless people in Buddhist temples and from Koreans who don't live in the United States as well as people with ties to Saddam Hussein in Iraq. So, these are things that won't be repeated because this next congress will outlaw the kind of corrupt fundraising practices that Bill Clinton had, that will never be repeated and the people who did that, Mr. Huang is going to prison for violating federal law, the people who made those contributions are going to prison and WE're going to interview them in public I hope in congress to find out who asked and the people who put them up to it should go to prison..."

"With enough money you can buy votes you can buy turnout."

"Well,...Republicans will ban non-citizens making camp contributions -- no Republican does that. We will ban the use of taxpayer money for politics, that is already illegal. We need to ban union dues for use in politics. In addition We need to let people part with their own resources, get rid of mickey mouse limits that only let people get around them.

"I would hope that We would move toward complete reporting of contributions and eliminating limits. Campaign finance reform is like gun control. I mean, if they're not obeying the other laws, why would a new law help?

"The problem is that the federal government hands out billions of dollars, and people will lie, cheat, steal, or bribe to get it."

Yes, that right.

And you, Grover Norquist, are the quintessence of such behavior.

"We" need to put you in jail, Grover.

And "We" will.



JEFF KOOPERSMITH is a political consultant, opinion research authority, policy analyst, and self-described "renegade lobbyist."

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