Grover Norquist: At It Again?
December 9, 2002 -- WASHINGTON (APJP) -- During the summer of 1997 I began to follow the infamous career of one Grover Norquist -- the President of something called Americans for Tax Reform, a thinly veiled money-laundering operation operating from the nation's capitol.
Norquist is so dirty, so sleazy, that even pugnacious conservative pundit Tucker Carlson dumped a drink on his balding head in a DC bar one night.
Norquist seems to defy gravity, spinning above the compass of Attorneys General from Washington, DC to the state of Oregon -- and appears to enjoy the protection of the White House, specifically that of Karl Rove, Junior Bush's top political advisor.
So I took a look back at that article I wrote in 1997, when I warned Grover that the end of his career as "the small-minded Harvard squeak-by who preys on minorities, gays and anyone else who doesn't fit into your delusional, power hungry world" was at hand, and decided to bring it up to date with details of Grover's latest scam -- a new cash-cleaning operation, news of which broke yesterday.
So listen up, Grover:
From now on, abandoned by members of your Americans for Tax Reform, your friends at the American Conservative Union, your confederates at the National Rifle Association, 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 Ebenezer 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 years ago. Back in '97 I predicted Thompson was all but gone -- but he's not, as we are now subjected to his ham-handed acting on the otherwise excellent NBC crime drama "Law and Order" where he now plays Manhattan District Attorney -- and still Norquist persists, like an incurable disease on the Washington scene.
Years ago I watched Levin, still a Senator, take insult after insult from "Hollywood Fred" 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 former RNC boss-of-bosses 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 back in '97 he proved his mettle, ferreting out enough evidence on Grover Norquist, Haley Barbour and then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich to land them where they belonged -- in the closest federal prison. This evidence should be revisited in light of new revelations -- but more on those a little later.
Norquist lives on money he virtually extorts from what he claims are 700,000 idiot members who think he'll repeal the 16th Amendment that legalized the income tax. He is also living on borrowed time. Yet he keeps rising, like flotsam, to the top of the GOP sea of deceit.
He's tainted and he likes to taint others. He claimed John Huang and Bill Clinton were going to prison -- but he is the one who should be thrown in the slammer.
And given the news from Oregon,, he's facing a powerful mirror.
In '97, 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:
Federal law prohibits coordination of such political activity between politics parties and so-called independent organizations such as 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 moderate 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 Norquist's closest allies, House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Haley Barbour share this mantle.
But wait. It gets better.
RNC officials, including Barbour, claimed 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 and 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.
Not only did Norquist and Barbour cook up this coin-op laundry, but Barbour also directed Carl Lindner - Chiquita Banana 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 in effect 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 nonprofit protection forever.
Senator Levin spent a long time tying this into a neat little bundle for Janet Reno. I had hoped she'd bring much-deserved indictments against Norquist, Barbour and others including RNC Finance Chairperson Jo-Anne Coe, formerly chief of Bob Dole's operation. One 1996 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.
Did Reno bow to pressure from other sources? Rumor has it that Norquist -- in cooperation with certain members of the Federal policing agencies close to ultra-right wing Republicans keeps files, embarrassingly personal files on everyone in Washington and beyond. Did he have the goods on Reno or others? And what about Ashcroft? Is Norquist powerful enough to get the Bush Attorney General to ignore all this -- and the latest from Oregon?
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 in 1996 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, maintain his nonprofit 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 others say and how they describe Norquist.
"Norquist is an insecure little dweeb," one Capitol Hill conservative told me back in 1997.
Tucker Carlson, conservative bow-tied 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.
After Carlson wrote a critical profile of Norquist, he allegedly, and in retaliation, tried to convince Rupert Murdoch to abandon the Weekly Standard, for which Carlson wrote at the time. In one version of this story, David Brock, who had the courage to out some of the most morally bankrupt and spiritually wanting players in the Beltway in his page turner "Blinded by the Right", 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 some sort of perversion of justice. He calls labor unions, government employees, litigation lawyers, government contractors and welfare recipients "The Takings Coalition" because "they want to transfer money and power."
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 dangerous 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 power monger. 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.
And 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" sat in the House back in '97 and 40 were 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" in the event of war and depression conditions.
Now we come to Norquist and Oregon supporting tax activist Bill Sizemore.
One need only read Dave Hogan and Jeff Manning's indictment of Norquist in the Oregonian (8 December 2002) and the lack of movement by state and federal officials against him to wonder just what is going on with our nation's judicial system.
An ongoing court case has revealed documents which show that Norquist has reached across the nation into Oregon and is illegally impacting campaign finance in that state as well. Since 1996, Oregonians with misplaced loyalties have sent money to Norquist's group in Washington. Norquist then sent a million dollars to Sizemore's Oregon Taxpayers United political action committee.
Thus, Norquist laundered money for these Oregonian donors to cover the fact that they were breaking Oregon law. Although Oregon does not limit the size of a contribution, it does require that ALL contributors must be individually named. By sending money to Norquist, these Oregonians and their million were covered and made invisible by Norquist to Oregon officials. Sizemore simply showed the million, the entire amount according to canceled checks, as a "contribution" from Norquist's taxpayer group.
The questions one must ask -- especially as a prosecutor, and especially armed with the information Senator Levin compiled on Norquist -- are, "Where the hell is all this money coming from? And why would it all go to Norquist who hasn't been at all effective in carrying out his mission?"
The answer, it seems clear to me and hundred of other Norquist watchers, it that Norquist is operating an illegal laundry for campaign money that would otherwise be felonious contributions to candidates and issue campaigns either under state or federal law.
An Oregon Department of Justice brief calls the arrangement between Norquist and Sizemore "a laundering scheme" to conceal the identity of donors supporting Sizemore's organization.
Not revealing the names of donors who laundered their contributions through Norquist is a class C felony in Oregon.
Hogan and Manning quote Victoria Cox, spokeswoman for the Justice Department: "Oregonians expect the campaign finance process to be transparent. The evidence in the trial seems to indicate this may not have been the case in the exchanges between Americans for Tax Reform and Oregon Taxpayers United."
Sizemore told the Oregonian that there was never a "direct" guarantee that Oregon money would flow to Sizemore from Norquist's treasury. Naturally the donors also back up the story that their contributions were for Norquist -- not Sizemore. So why then did Norquist send the funds on to Sizemore?
Teachers associations who took Sizemore to court attempting to shut down his group brought the current case that resulted in the latest revelations concerning Norquist. That case continues.
Instead of pursuing a case against Norquist, Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers decided instead to hand the information to the IRS for investigation -- but the IRS has been traditionally blind when it comes to Norquist, as one can see from the aforementioned sleaze.
One Becky Miller, a former executive with Sizemore's group, testified in court that Sizemore collected the checks from Oregonians in Oregon and made out to Norquist's group and then sent the checks in a bundle to Norquist. Miller said specifically that these Oregonians wanted specifically to hide their names from prying eyes in their home states -- and from law enforcement, as well I might guess?
Don McIntire, a smaller player in the "tax activist" world, corroborated Miller's testimony to the Oregonian. He demanded a refund of a 1996 payment to Norquist's group after a lawyer told him about the plot between Norquist and Sizemore and that his check would end up in Sizemore's group's pocket in the end. McIntire claims that the attorney warned him this could LOOK like money laundering.
Cox, the spokesperson for Myers, said the AG would not pursue a case against Norquist because Oregon does not have the resources in DC to do so, and then muttered some gibberish about a "loophole" that would make it tough to prove the case. The alleged loophole is that because Norquist sent the money bundled in a check from Norquist's group back to Sizemore sans the names of the contributors, this would not be a violation of Oregon law.
The truth is that is Norquist and Sizemore conspired to cover the names of these contributors -- the felony count WOULD apply -- and worse.
The Oregon Attorney General does not have to pursue the case against Norquist in the District of Columbia. He has the ability to indict Norquist, on information, along with Sizemore, based merely on the information presented the court in the teacher's union case.
Why he isn't is a mystery.
Or is it?
Of course the donors themselves are in some difficulty because the contributions to Norquist might be tax deductible whereas contributions to Sizemore would not be.
Sizemore, surprisingly, denies Miller's allegations and calls much of her testimony "pure fabrication."
In a written statement responding to questions from The Oregonian, Sizemore contended "she is a disgruntled ex-employee trying to settle a score with me," noting that he had denied her request for a pay raise when she worked for him.
He said he sometimes encouraged contributors to send money to Americans for Tax Reform and the national group could choose to forward that money to Oregon Taxpayers United, but there was no guarantee.
Right, Sizemore -- and I suppose the Easter Bunny is real.
I telephoned Norquist this afternoon and received no response.
But here are some statistics the reader, the IRS, John Ashcroft, Karl Rove and George W. Bush should be aware of (thanks to the Oregonian for this information):
In 1996, Americans for Tax Reform contributed more than $700,000 to the Oregon Taxpayers United political action committee when it was spearheading a drive to cap property taxes.
The national group contributed $15,000 to the Oregon operation in the 1998 election cycle, when Sizemore ran for governor. Americans for Tax Reform and its tax-exempt foundation sent $250,000 to Sizemore's organization and company in 2000 when Sizemore placed a record seven initiatives on the November ballot.
Americans for Tax Reform's latest contribution was $10,000 to Oregon Taxpayers United in July.
Norquist was a featured speaker at a 1997 tax conference that Sizemore sponsored in Salem. And Norquist hosted a 1998 fundraising reception in support of Sizemore's unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign.
"He's a friend," Norquist said of Sizemore that year. "I think very highly of his work."
Miller claims there is far more to the Norquist-Sizemore friendship than is public thus far. Miller was granted immunity from prosecution by state and federal authorities when she told attorneys from the teachers unions that Norquist was taking Oregon money and funneling it back to Sizemore -- much as Norquist does for dozens of campaigns across the nation.
"Consistently over the period of time that I worked at OUT (Sizemore's group), I would say maybe two, three times a year, probably, this happened: Checks from large donors would be collected and FedEx'd to Americans for Tax Reform and then they would send the money back to OTU so that the source of the contributions would not be disclosed," she said in the pretrial interview, which was not under oath.
"And so I would say, without fail, anytime you see a contribution to OTU from Americans for Tax Reform, that would be money that had come from Oregon."
She noted that she collected and sent a batch of checks to Americans for Tax Reform at one point before she quit working for Sizemore in April 2001.
According to the Oregonian, McIntire claims he hand-delivered a check for Americans for Tax Reform to Sizemore back in 1996. The money was drawn from an account specifically tied to a group of affluent Republican activists called the Roundtable. The Oregonian names Roundtable names: Shilo Inns founder Mark Hemstreet, Columbia Helicopters founder Wes Lematta, Portland real estate developer Robert Randall (deceased) and Eugene lumberman Aaron Jones.
The Oregonian goes on to detail contributions totaling $356,400 from two tax-exempt foundations funded by Aloha businessman Loren Parks to Americans for Tax Reform between August 2000 and November 2001,
And there are many more details in the article -- tying some of Orgeon's most influential businesses to the Norquist-Sizemore scandal.
I concluded my original article on Norquist, a definite candidate for a psychiatrist's couch, by quoting some of his more outrageous statements about Bill Clinton (for whom he seems to have a pathological hatred), men and women leaders he'd like to be, or programs he deems undeserving.
Here are some examples:
About the Beck Decision on use of union dues for campaign contributions: "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."
"You saw the complete misuse of corporate welfare as the way to buy campaign 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, which 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?
Norquist often uses the imperial "We" to describe ideals or philosophies "He" embraces. 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 Norquist may be, in truth, the Rock of Gibraltar, one suspects trouble in the ol' gray matter.
"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.
The real "We," the people of this nation, need to put you in jail, Grover.
And we will.
ISSN No. 1523-1690