Asking Americans For Tax Reform A Simple Question: Are You Getting Paid To Take Your Ethanol Position?

by John Hawkins | June 15, 2011 6:26 am

Grover Norquist has been fighting tooth and nail to protect ethanol subsidies (I know that in theory, he says that he’s not doing that, but in practice, that’s what he’s doing). In fact, Norquist has even been portraying people who don’t want to waste any more taxpayer money on ethanol subsidies as supporting a “tax increase.”

Happily, even though the vote to kill the subsidy failed, the majority of Republicans did the right thing and voted to kill ethanol subsidies[1].

On Tuesday, the ethanol supporters eventually prevailed, blocking Coburn’s amendment by a 40-59 vote. But there are clear warning signs for ethanol proponents since 34 Republican senators sided with Coburn – and more Democrats may, too, in the future.

First of all, good for them.

Next, I have a question: Has Grover Norquist’s group, Americans for Tax Reform[2], received money from supporters of ethanol? In other words, has any money changed hands to get them to take that position?

Maybe it hasn’t. Certainly, I would HOPE that they haven’t taken any money from groups that want them to take this stance.

However, if Americans for Tax Reform is pretending to represent the grassroots on taxes when they’re really just taking a position on this issue based on who was willing to put money into their coffers, then they have a big credibility problem.

So, I’ve written Grover Norquist (DM on Twitter) and asked him about this, point blank. Given that his group is fighting to waste more than 5 billion dollars of taxpayer funds and they also take money from donors who might want to influence their positions on this issue, it seems reasonable to ask about the issue. It also seems like the sort of thing that they’d want to be transparent about. My hope is that I’ll hear back from them and the response will be that they haven’t been paid by any groups that want them to take this position.

Certainly, I will take Grover Norquist and ATR at their word and if he or his organization responds, I will post the response.

Update #1: I said if ATR responded, I’d post it. Here it is!

I was disappointed that you would choose to write your column on Americans for Tax Reform today without speaking to me or any of my colleagues first. Additionally, I would hardly claim a Direct Message on Twitter to Grover at 5:53am counts as reaching out for comment. I’ve known you for several years and I’ve even chatted with you at conferences. I’m always happy to answer any of your questions. That’s why I was saddened to read the sentiments you attributed to ATR in regards to the ethanol tax credit without performing any due diligence. If you are interested in our actual position on the ethanol tax credit, you can read about it here.

ATR doesn’t discuss who does or does not contribute to us. However, we are for killing all government preferences for ethanol. We’re for ending the ethanol mandate, which CEI’s Marlo Lewis says accounts for over 98% of ethanol production. We’re for ending the ethanol tax credit and tariff, which accounts for the other 2% (we simply need to find a very small tax cut offset here). I imagine from our stated position above, you can draw your own conclusions about who is or is not a donor to ATR.

Adam Radman
Grassroots Campaigns Manager
Americans for Tax Reform

While I genuinely appreciated the email from Adam, it doesn’t really change anything about the original post. ATR may say they oppose ethanol subsidies in principle, but in practice, their actions have helped cement those subsidies in place. Also, I understand not wanting to give out donor information, but when you’re a conservative organization that has been going after conservatives who’ve wanted to kill 5 billion dollars in wasteful subsidies, I do think it’s very suspicious. Simply asking whether any organization has paid you to take that position isn’t an unfair question. If an organization hasn’t taken any money to take that position, you don’t have to reveal any donor information to say, “No, we haven’t taken any money to take that position.”

Again, I do like and respect Adam, Grover, and ATR, but they have been accused of letting money sway their positions before. Here’s Erick Erickson[3] on the topic,

I’ve written before how Grover Norquist gets lots of money from groups that lobby for special tax treatment and then, when Congress attempts to get rid of the special tax treatment that money has bought, Norquist screams about it being a tax increase.

It’d be quite a little racket he has going except that Americans for Tax Reform says there is no relation between the money they get and the “you’re raising taxes” hoo-hah they raise. It’s just businesses supporting a like-minded ally.

Now, I’m not accusing ATR of doing anything wrong, but I am asking. Given the circumstances, I think it’s necessary and I don’t think it’s unfair.

  1. kill ethanol subsidies:
  2. Americans for Tax Reform:
  3. Erick Erickson:

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