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Nonprofit profile: Americans for Tax Reform

Quick stats on Americans for Tax Reform, supporting Republicans

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Type of organization: 501(c)(4)

Employer Identification Number: 52-1403587

Supports:  Republican candidates

Founded: 1985

Location: Washington, D.C.

Website: atr.org

Social media: Twitter profile, Facebook page, YouTube channel

Finances:

For the group's activites during calendar year 2010:

  • Total revenue: $12.4 million
  • Total expenses: $11.4 million
  • Net assets: $7.6 million

IRS Form 990 filing: 2010

Principals:

  • Grover Norquist (founder and president): Norquist famously said his goal is to get government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” He is the originator of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which seeks the signatures of legislators and candidates promising to oppose income tax increases. He was paid more than $225,000 in 2010 by Americans for Tax Reform, and its related organizations, records indicate.

Profile:

The group remains best-known for its 25-year-old anti-tax pledge, which hundreds of members of the U.S. House of Representatives and more than 50 senators have signed since 1986. Of all members of the 112th Congress, 236 members of the House and 41 senators pledged “never to raise income taxes,” according to the nonprofit's website. The pledge also filtered into statehouses in the early 1990s.

In 2012, the “national taxpayer advocacy group” reported spending more than $15 million on political advertisements that expressly advocated for the election or defeat of candidates to the Federal Election Commission. That's up significantly from 2010 when it spent $4 million on such ads.

In 2010, the group focused on 17 House races, and mostly invested in ads that opposed Democratic candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. It spent the most, $622,000, opposing Democratic House candidate Dina Titus, who lost a tight race in Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District.

In 2012, the group participated in 20 House and Senate races, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, including more than $3 million on ads opposing Democrat Charlie Wilson, who lost to Republican Rep. Bill Johnson in Ohio's 6th Congressional District.

Americans for Tax Reform's 990 filing with the Internal Revenue Service for 2010 listed $8.2 million in expenses on “advertising and promotion” and names five advertisers as contractors.

Though Americans for Tax Reform does not disclose its donors, several watchdog groups have uncovered some of them. Another prominent conservative 501(c)(4) nonprofit, Crossroads GPS, gave $4 million to the group in 2010. Source Watch lists several conservative foundations, as well as tobacco giants RJ Reynolds and Philip Morris, as past donors.

Founder Grover Norquist sits on the board of a number of prominent right-wing organizations including the National Rifle Association and the American Conservative Union.  In 1994, he helped House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., draft the GOP’s Contract with America, a legislative strategy for the ascendant Republican Congress that included restrictions on tax increases. Arianna Huffington has dubbed Norquist “the dark wizard of the Right’s anti-tax cult.”

Norquist’s anti-tax campaigns have taken hold in Congress to such a degree that former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming called him “the most powerful man in America” in May 2012, during the debt ceiling standoff.

Of the statements by Americans for Tax Reform that Politifact has fact-checked, two-thirds were rated "mostly false" or "pants on fire," compared with 17 percent being rated "true" or "mostly true."

See more data on Americans for Tax Reform at OpenSecrets.org.

Advertisements:

  • Between 2008 and 2010, the group’s expenditures more than doubled, from $5.7 million to nearly $11.4 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 2010 was also the first time the group ran ads expressly advocating for or against candidates.
  • A series of 2010 ads target Democratic candidates Ben Chandler, Dana Titus, Joe Sestak, Julie Lassa and Lincoln Davis for voting to raise taxes and for supporting the “failed” economic stimulus package.
  • For more ads, see Americans for Tax Reform's YouTube channel.

Last updated: Jan. 22, 2013