Americans for Tax Reform
Americans for Tax Reform is one of the top 15 dark money groups examined by Issue One’s new “Dark Money Illuminated” report that has been spending millions of dollars in our elections since Citizens United without publicly disclosing their donors. Dark money groups frequently operate as attack dogs during campaigns, criticizing candidates from the shadows. Dark money groups also often push the envelope in terms of how much political spending they can engage in without running afoul of rules that prohibit them from existing primarily to influence elections. By masquerading as a trade association or “social welfare” nonprofit, dark money groups avoid the mandatory donor disclosure rules that would come with registering as a political committee whose primary purpose is to influence elections.
Here’s what Issue One’s year-long “Dark Money Illuminated” investigation revealed:
Americans for Tax Reform raised
between January 2010 and December 2016.
Issue One identified
donors to this dark money group.
These donors collectively accounted for
of its funding.
Issue One found 11 donors that gave at least $100,000 since January 2010:
Crossroads GPS: $30 million
American Encore (formerly Center to Protect Patient Rights): $4.5 million
Free Enterprise America: $810,000
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA): $730,000
Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA): $600,000
American Petroleum Institute: $380,000
NCTA – The Internet and Television Association (formerly the National Cable and Telecommunications Association): $300,000
Reynolds American Inc.: $280,000
ACTwireless (formerly MyWireless.org): $170,000
Edison Electric Institute: $160,000
Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce: $100,000
Note: These numbers have been rounded to two significant figures. Click here to see more details about these contributions — and all identified donors to this group — in Issue One’s exclusive database of dark money donors, and click here to learn more about how these contributors were identified.
About Americans for Tax Reform
Originally founded in July 1985 to promote President Ronald Reagan’s proposal for tax reform, Americans for Tax Reform remains a powerful lobbying organization today that also frequently spends money in elections to aid Republican candidates. The group’s founder and president is Grover Norquist, a conservative activist who once boasted that his goal was to get government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”
In 1994, Norquist was one of the co-authors of the “Contract with America,” the campaign platform that helped the GOP win control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in more than forty years and helped elevate Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA), another co-author, to the position of Speaker of the House.
Americans for Tax Reform’s primary advocacy tool is its “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” which asks politicians at the local, state and national level to “make a written commitment to oppose any and all tax increases.”
Americans for Tax Reform, which is organized as a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization, says that nearly 1,400 elected officials nationwide, at all levels of government, have signed its anti-tax pledge. Currently, 46 out of the 51 sitting Senate Republicans are signatories to the pledge, as are nearly 90 percent of the 235 House Republicans.
In 2012 and 2013, a liberal watchdog group twice asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether Americans for Tax Reform had violated federal law by failing to disclose millions of dollars in spending on political activities in 2010 and 2012. An Issue One review of federal records shows that Americans for Tax Reform told the FEC that it spent at least $8 million more expressly advocating for the election or defeat of federal candidates during those two election years than the group told the IRS it spent on “direct or indirect political campaign activities.”
- 60 Plus Association
- American Action Network
- Americans for Job Security
- Americans for Prosperity
- American Future Fund
- Crossroads GPS
- League of Conservation Voters
- National Association of Realtors
- National Rifle Association
- Patriot Majority USA
- Planned Parenthood Action Fund
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce
- VoteVets Action Fund