10 Things You Never Knew About Grover Norquist, The Man Behind The GOP's 'No New Taxes' Pledge

Grover Norquist

Photo: AP

With less than 30 days to go until the deadline to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff, conservative House Republicans are taking their cues from Grover Norquist, the anti-tax crusader behind the GOP’s “no new taxes pledge.”Over the past two years, Norquist has become a household name, gaining notoriety for his role in shaping the Republican anti-tax dogma that rejects any additional revenues for the federal government. 

But there is more to Norquist than his tax pledge. The 56-year-old activist has a surprisingly backstory that makes him one of the most fascinating — and enigmatic — characters in Washington.

Norquist came up with the idea for the anti-tax pledge when he was 12 years old.

That's what Norquist told The Daily Show's Samantha Bee in an early 2012 interview.

'Yes, the entire federal government is paralysed because of a document written by a 12-year-old in 1968,' Bee remarked.

Norquist said he got the idea because he thought the Republican Party could rebrand itself as the party that wouldn't raise taxes.

Norquist volunteered for Richard Nixon's presidential campaigns in 1968 and 1972, but got in a tiff with the campaign staff because of his long hair.

He worked with CNBC analyst Jim Cramer at The Harvard Crimson while they were both students at Harvard.

Norquist tweeted about the pair's history together after their appearance on 'Meet the Press' last Sunday:

'Jim Cramer on Meet the Press--great fun.We worked at Harvard Crimson together many years ago. He looks great. (Leans a tad left, but.)'

In the 1980s, Norquist traveled to different war zones to aid anti-Soviet guerrillas.

Norquist took a brief detour from his routine as an anti-tax crusader to travel to different overseas war zones in the 1980s and support anti-Soviet guerrilla armies.

Carol Norquist, Grover's mother, told Business Insider that her son took 13 trips to Africa. Some of them were rather intense. During one trip to Angola, he organised a meeting between a handful of guerrilla groups.

Here's how Warren Norquist, his father, described one of the trips, during which Grover would be flown in by planes of the guerrilla groups '150 feet off the ground':

'The last time he flew in was by Russian pilots. The plane they built was larger than the C-5A -- they had made it six inches bigger. The Soviet Union was disbanding at the time. These were pilots that went to Africa to work, and they rented the plane from Russia. They flew him into the guerrilla base. He was the only one on the plane -- the only other things on the plane were litres of gasoline.

'He used to run some real risks. One of their planes had crashed the weeks before into a city, and it had caused a lot of deaths because of the amount of gasoline on the plane. But that's Grover.'

He is on the panel that determines TIME magazine's Person of the Year.

According to a December 2011 ABC News story, Norquist 'sits on a six-person advisory panel to nominate Time magazine's Person of the Year.'

He reportedly pushed for the 2011 selection of Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire in a government protest, and is credited with sparking the widespread Arab Spring movement.

He's funny.

In 1993, Norquist and ATR began holding weekly meetings that have become the organisation's signature event. Warren Norquist has attended a few of these meetings, which happen every week unless they fall on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or New Year's Eve or Day.

Conservative firebrand John Fund calls them the 'Grand Central station of the conservative movement.'

The meetings run from 10 a.m. to 11:30 every week. Each conservative group that attends is allotted a three-minute speaking time. Prominent groups like the NRA, GOProud, the Heritage Foundation, and many others often attend. The meetings usually average about 30 people per week, but attendance can get up to around 110.

'And you're not allowed to whine or complain about the other side,' Warren said. 'Or about the other organisations. The emphasis is always on what action your group is taking right now.'

He was a major player in the 2006 scandal involving former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Norquist and ATR came under scrutiny in 2006, when the Washington Post reported that the organisation had helped funnel money for controversial Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was later convicted on charges of fraud, corruption and conspiracy.

Norquist and Abramoff had been allies since they worked together with Christian conservative activist Ralph Reed at the College Republicans.

Abramoff pleaded guilty in 2006 to three felony counts of defrauding clients, most prominently Native American tribes. He also was accused of illegally providing representatives with money and gifts for their votes in legislation.

From the Post's account of a the 2006 investigation of Abramoff:

Among the organisations used by Abramoff was Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform. According to an investigative report on Abramoff's lobbying released last week by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Americans for Tax Reform served as a 'conduit' for funds that flowed from Abramoff's clients to surreptitiously finance grass-roots lobbying campaigns. As the money passed through, Norquist's organisation kept a small cut, e-mails show.

Norquist has denied any wrongdoing and has never been implicated or charged. He suggested during the investigation that he was being probed because of a grudge held by Republican Sen. John McCain.

Norquist is a member of GOProud.

Norquist sits on the advisory board of the conservative gay rights group, and the organisation often attends ATR's Wednesday meetings.

Norquist joined GOProud in 2010, calling it 'an important part of the conservative movement.' Conservative radio host Ann Coulter also sits on the advisory board.

Norquist's wife, Samah Alrayyes, is a Palestinian Muslim.

Norquist married Alrayyes, a Washington consultant who is 16 years his junior, in 2004.

''I signed up because I was promised there was a tax credit involved,'' quipped to the New York Times at the time. 'Was I misinformed?''

Since his marriage to Alrayyes, Norquist has begun to speak out on certain Muslim-related political issues. In 2010, he urged Republicans to stop politicizing the planned construction of the so-called 'Ground Zero' mosque.

'This is a distraction from a winning game plan,' he told the Los Angeles Times. 'It is very stupid, when Republicans are poised to win an overwhelming victory in November over Democratic spending, to focus attention on this issue.'

He was involved in a dispute with the centre for Security Policy head Frank Gaffney, who questioned whether Norquist and his wife were sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood.

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