Americans for Tax Reform

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR)

Background

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) is a nonprofit 501(c)(4) “taxpayer advocacy group”  founded in 1985 by Grover Norquist at the request of Ronald Reagan. According to their website, “Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) opposes all tax increases as a matter of principle.” [1]

Grover Norquist, President and Founder of ATR, has been called ”one of the Republican Party's most influential policy strategists,” by the New York Times and one of the “Gang of Five” in Nina Easton's 2000 book by the same name that describes the history of the leaders of the modern conservative movement. [2]

The American Tradition Institute has closed ties to the Republican Party, and historically served as a gathering place for conservative political organizing, with regular meetings that included Republican congressional leaders, right-leaning think tanks, conservative advocacy groups and K Street lobbyists. They continue their national “Wednesday Meeting” in the states that brings together “a broad cross section of the center-right community- taxpayer groups, social conservative groups, business groups, legislators, etc., to promote limited government ideals.” [3], [1]

Americans for Tax Reform is known for its “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” which asks candidates for federal and state office to commit themselves in writing to oppose all tax increases. The pledge comes in versions for the national and for the state level. According to Americans for tax Reform, “Since its rollout with the endorsement of President Reagan in 1986, the pledge has become practically required for Republicans seeking office, and is a necessity for Democrats running in Republican districts.” [4]

Americans for Tax Reform is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)the Cooler Heads Coalition (CHC), and has been known to ally itself with the tobacco industry, having received funding from R.J. Reynolds, Phillip Morris (now Atria), and the Tobacco Institute. [5]

ATR runs a number of projects. The Property Rights Alliance describes itself as an “Affiliate” of ATR, and opposes estate tax, environmental protection, and licensing restrictions. The “Alliance for Worker Freedom,” which opposes unions, describes itself as a “special project of Americans for Tax Reform.” [6], [7]

Stance on Climate Change

“Americans for Tax Reform opposes a carbon tax and will work tirelessly to ensure one does not become law.” [8]

“Increased carbon emissions caused a 'greenhouse effect' which changed the climate and caused the earth to warm. The increases in carbon eventually changed the climate again and the earth is now cooling. The carbon has continued to increase and the planet has warmed (slightly) and cooled (slightly) …” [9]

“The actions of these do-gooder greenies have led to the deaths of millions of people in developing countries do to malaria outbreaks that could have been prevented with the use of DDT. The current proposals to limit CO2 emissions will have equally devastating effects to not only Americans but to the rest of the world as well.” [10]

Funding

Both Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and the related Americans for Tax Reform Foundation have received significant funding from corporations, right-wing organizations, and conservative foundations.

The following is taken from the Conservative Transparency Project's database, based on publicly-available 990 tax forms. Note that not all values have been verified by DeSmogBlog for accuracy (view attached .xls spreadsheet for more detail): [11]

Donor Americans for Tax Reform Americans for Tax Reform Foundation Grand Total
Crossroads GPS $30,400,000   $30,400,000
Center to Protect Patient Rights $4,539,000   $4,539,000
Free Enterprise America $813,000   $813,000
Walton Family Foundation   $658,500 $658,500
The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation   $647,500 $647,500
American Petroleum Institute $525,000   $525,000
John M. Olin Foundation $525,000   $525,000
The Randolph Foundation $419,250 $20,000 $439,250
Sarah Scaife Foundation   $375,000 $375,000
The Carthage Foundation   $325,000 $325,000
PhRMA $305,000   $305,000
DonorsTrust   $292,150 $292,150
Donors Capital Fund   $250,000 $250,000
Searle Freedom Trust   $243,000 $243,000
John William Pope Foundation   $175,000 $175,000
Reynolds American $175,000   $175,000
Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation $60,000 $50,000 $110,000
Lovett and Ruth Peters Foundation   $100,000 $100,000
MyWireless.org $95,000   $95,000
William H. Donner Foundation   $45,000 $45,000
William E. Simon Foundation   $35,000 $35,000
The Roe Foundation $30,000   $30,000
American Natural Gas Alliance $25,000   $25,000
JM Foundation   $25,000 $25,000
Americans for Limited Government   $20,000 $20,000
The Vernon K. Krieble Foundation   $17,000 $17,000
Ruth & Lovett Peters Foundation $10,000 $5,000 $15,000
Robert and Marie Hansen Foundation $7,500   $7,500
Americans for Limited Government Foundation $5,000   $5,000
Gilder Foundation   $5,000 $5,000
The Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation   $3,000 $3,000
Armstrong Foundation $2,500   $2,500
Dunn's Foundation for the Advancement of Right Thinking $2,500   $2,500
Grand Total $37,938,750 $3,291,150 $41,229,900

According to Greenpeace, ATR received $40,000 from Koch foundations between 2005 and 2011 and a total of $60,000 between 1997 and 2011. [12]

SourceWatch also lists funding from numerous tobacco companies including R.J. Reynolds, Philip Morris, and the Tobacco Institute. [5]

ATR 990 Forms

ATR Foundation 990 Forms

Key People

Americans for Tax Reform

The following were listed on Americans for Tax Reform's 2013 990 tax return (PDF): [13]

  • Grover G. Norquist — President
  • Peter Balkin — Vice President
  • Steve Masty — Secretary 
  • Karen Kerrigan — Secretary
  • Christopher Butler — Chief of Staff
  • Patrick Gleason — State Affairs Director

Americans for Tax Reform Foundation

The following were listed on Americans for Tax Reform Foundation's 2013 990 tax return (PDF): [14]

  • Grover G Norquist — President
  • Steve Masty — Secretary
  • Peter Balkin — Vice-President
  • William Roesing — Director
  • Mark Klugmann — Director
  • Karen Kerrigan — Director
  • Chip Faulkner —  Director
  • Chuck Muth — Director
  • Paul Smith — Director
  • Fred Marckini — Director
  • Patrick Gleason — State Affairs Director
  • Christopher Butler — Chief Of Staff 

Actions

November 24, 2015

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) sent a letter to members of Congress, urging them to push back the date that new tobacco products including electronic cigarettes must meet FDA standards, which ATR describes as “expensive and unnecessary.[30]

Currently, the FDA will require that products to hit the market since February 2007 undergo a Pre-Market Tobacco Applications (PMTA) Process. ATR's argues that as these products are being used for smoking cessation, they should not be subject to this process given that they “stand to save millions of lives and billions of tax dollars.”

However, other sources have questioned the safety of e-cigarettes. That includes the the American Lung Association, which has said it is “concerned about the potential health consequences of e-cigarettes” because there are currently no safety checks on what can go into e-cigarettes, and they are entirely unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). [31]

November 2, 2015

Grover Norquist, on behalf of Americans for Tax Reform, sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to lift the crude oil export ban. ATR has also previously supported H.R. 702, sponsored by Representative Joe Barton of Texas, which would effectively lift the ban. [32]

“Considering the widespread economic benefits lifting the export ban would have on the U.S. economy, as well as the growing bipartisan support, there has never been a better time for Congress to act,” Norquist writes. [32]

January 16, 2015

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) criticized polls conducted by the Centre for American Progress and Yale University that showed widespread support for President Obama's environmental plan (which ATR describes as “job-killing and downright dangerous”). [15]
 
Americans for Tax Reform promotes an alternate poll by the conservative group 60 Plus Association (a group that has received over $42 million from organizations used by the Koch Brothers to elect Republican candidates to federal office). 

May 21 - 23, 2012

Americans for Tax Reform was a Co-Sponsor (PDF) of the Heartland Institute's Seventh International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC7). [16]

DeSmogBlog found that co-sponsors of the conference had collectively received over $67 million from ExxonMobil, Koch Foundations, and Scaife Family Foundations. [17]

June 30 - July 1, 2011

Americans for Tax Reform was a Co-Sponsor (PDF) of the Heartland Institute's Sixth International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC6). [18]

October 1, 2010

Together, the Heartland InstituteAmericans for Tax Reform, the Property Rights Alliance, and the Institute of Public Affairs sponsored the Heartland Institute's Fifth International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC5) in Sydney, Australia. [19]

May 16-18, 2010

Americans for Tax Reform was a sponsor (PDF) of the Heartland Institute's Fourth International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC4) in Chicago, IL. [20]

June, 2009

ATR opposed the Renewable Portfolio Standard in the American Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as the Waxman-Markey plan which called for measures to reduce CO2 emissions. [21]

March 8-10, 2009

Americans for Tax Reform was a Co-Sponsor of the Heartland Institute's Second International Conference on Climate Change (ICC2) in New York. [22]

November 10, 2009

Grover Norquist represented Americans for Tax Reform when he testified on “Climate Change Legislation: Considerations for Future Jobs.”

According to Norquist, “The Cap and Trade legislation this Committee is considering is being sold as an attempt to control the climate; however there is no conclusive proof that it will have any effect. There is, however, considerable evidence that this legislation will have a disastrous economic effect on the country.” As proof he cites information provided by the Institute for Energy Research (IER), an organization that has received significant funding from the oil industry.

Norquist strongly opposes tax increases on the oil industry, stating that “Raising taxes on oil companies by increasing the amortization period of geological and geophysical (G&G) expenditures makes U.S. oil and natural gas exploration projects less competitive globally […]”

With reference to green jobs, Norquist argues that “not only are these jobs costly, they are also unsustainable.” [23]

July, 2008

Americans for Tax Reform released a “cost of Government Day” 2008 Report (PDF) that criticizes increases in government spending and regulation. In a section critical of the EPA, ATR describes regulation costs as “threatening to explode due to costly and unnecessary global warming regulation.” [24]

According to ATR, cap and trade and other regulatory measures to combat global warming should not be implemented because “there is still no scientific consensus on the nature, origins, or there has been no warming for at least 10 years, and extent of the global climate change we may be experiencing. Indeed, some point to studies showing even the U.N. has recently projected there will be no warming for at least another 10 years as well. In fact, the global temperature data has shown a slight cooling trend over the last 5 years which may well continue.”

To support this last statement, ATR cites an Fox News story written by climate change skeptic Steve Milloy.

March 2 - 4, 2008

ATR was a co-sponsor of the Heartland Institute's First International Conference on Climate Change. [25]

October 12, 2006

ATR was one of five conservative nonprofit organizations that “appear to have perpetrated a fraud” on taxpayers by selling their influence to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to Senate investigators. 

According to the report, and the summary article in The Washington Post, ATR “probably violated their tax-exempt status 'by laundering payments and then disbursing funds at Mr. Abramoff's direction; taking payments in exchange for writing newspaper columns or press releases that put Mr. Abramoff's clients in a favorable light; introducing Mr. Abramoff's clients to government officials in exchange for payment; and agreeing to act as a front organization for congressional trips paid for by Mr. Abramoff's clients.'” [26]

This included a $25,000 payment to Abramoff in 2001, as reported in The New York Times. [27]

June 7, 2002

ATR President Grover Norquist signed a letter to President Bush, asking him to withdraw the “Climate Action Report 2002” and demand that it be rewritten based on “sound science”. The letter also recommends that Bush “dismiss or re-assign all administration employees who are not pursuing your agenda, just as you have done in several similar instances.” [28]

Related Organizations

Resources

  1. About,” Americans for Tax Reform. Accessed October 16, 2015. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6cKZPTldM

  2. Philip Shenon, “$25,000 to Lobby Group Is Tied to Access to Bush,” New York Times, March 10, 2006. Archived October 16, 2015. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6cKXJXclu

  3. Susan Page. “Norquist's power high, profile low,” USA Today, June 1, 2001. Archived October 16, 2015. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6cKXfSOES

  4. About the Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” Americans for Tax Reform. Accessed October 16, 2015. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6cKY340lR

  5. Americans for Tax Reform,” SourceWatch Profile.

  6. About,” Property Rights Alliance. Archived October 16, 2015. WebCite URL:  http://www.webcitation.org/6cKZmhamk

  7. About,” Centre for Worker Freedom. Archived October 16, 2015. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6cKaZRwDT

  8. Stephen Lacey. “Grover Norquist Abruptly Changes Position On Carbon Tax After Facing Criticism From Koch-Backed Group,” ThinkProgress, November 13, 2012. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6cKmfhH7c

  9. Todd Hollenbeck. “Global Warming Has Brought on A New Ice Age!” Americans for Tax Reform, November 10, 2009. Archived October 16, 2015. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6cKajZmkA

  10. Todd Hollenbeck. Not Evil Just Wrong exposing the costs of Global Warming Hysteria,” Americans for Tax Reform, August 25, 2009. Archived October 16, 2015. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6cKarNtTF

  11. Americans for Tax Reform” (seach), Conservative Transparency. Accessed October 16, 2015.

  12. Americans for Tax Reform (ATR): Koch Industries Climate Denial Front Group,” Greenpeace USA. Archived October 16, 2015. WebCite URL:  http://www.webcitation.org/6cKefRKXZ

  13. “Form 990 Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax: Americans for Tax Reform” (PDF), retrieved from Conservative Transparency. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.

  14. Form 990 Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax: Americans for Tax Reform Foundation” (PDF), retrieved from Conservative Transparency. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.

  15. Chris Prandoni. “The Environmental Lobby’s Ludicrous Polls,” Americans for Tax Reform, January 16, 2015. Archived October 16, 2015. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6cKcgfrW4

  16. “Seventh International Conference on Climate Change: Sponsored by the Heartland Institute” (PDF), the Heartland Institute. Archived August 15, 2015.

  17. Michael Fisher. “A Closer Look at Heartland's ICCC7 Denial-a-Palooza Speakers and Sponsors,” DeSmogBlog, May 23, 2012.

  18. Sixth International Conference on Climate Change Conference Program (PDF), the Heartland Institute. Archived July 25, 2015.

  19. ICCC - 5,” Climateconferences.heartland.org. Archived September 1, 2015.

  20. 4th International Conference on Climate Change Conference Program (PDF), The Heartland Institute.

  21. ATR Opposes the Renewable Electricity Standards in Waxman-Markey,” Americans for Tax Reform, June 25, 2009. Archived October 17, 2015. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6cKl5UCoz

  22. Co-Sponsors,” The 2009 International Conference on Climate Change. Archived April 28, 2011.

  23. ATR Testimony for Senate Hearing on Climate Change Legislation: Considerations for Future Jobs,” Americans for Tax Reform, November 10, 2009. Archived October 17, 2015. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6cKlB24jj

  24. “Cost of Government Day 2008 Report” (PDF) Center for Fiscal Accountability and Americans for Tax Reform Foundation. Archived .pdf on file at DesmogBlog.

  25. Sponsorships,” the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change. Archived May 14, 2008.

  26. James V. Grimaldi and Susan Schmidt. “Report Says Nonprofits Sold Influence to Abramoff,” The Washington Post, October 13, 2006. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6cKlQRvq1

  27. Philip Shenon. “$25,000 to Lobby Group Is Tied to Access to Bush,” The New York Times, March 10, 2006. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6cKlVGczL

  28. Fred L. Smith, Jr. “Joint Letter To President Bush On The EPA's Climate Action Report,” Competitive Enterprise Institute, June 7, 2002. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6cKla7bUL

  29. About,” Globalwarming.org. Accessed October 16, 2015. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6cKlffIAG

  30. ATR Supports Change in Predicate Date for New Tobacco and Vapor Products,” Americans for Tax Reform, November 24, 2015. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6dL3cfyPM

  31. E-cigarettes and Lung Health,” American Lung Association. Archived November 26, 2015. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6dL3KcGK3

  32. Edwin Portugal. “ATR Supports Amendments Lifting the Crude Oil Export Ban,” Americans for Tax Reform, November 2, 2015. Archived November 26, 2015. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6dL49UYLp

Other Resources