Norquist: Limit spending, but not information

June 12, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- The United States that Grover Norquist envisions is full of freedoms and transparency.

Those ideas are tied together, said Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), a nonprofit lobbying organization based in Washington, D.C.

Tax increases burden everyday Americans, he said.

Governments need to rein in spending, which is less likely to rise if the public is fully informed how tax money is used, Norquist said.

ATR is known for its Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a promise to never support or vote for tax increases. ATR says on its Web site that, at the federal level, 172 representatives and 34 senators have signed.


Norquist's message of open government and restrained spending drew applause Friday at a Republican gathering in Martinsburg. A reception was held at the Holiday Inn as a lead-in to today's meeting of the West Virginia Republican State Executive Committee.

Mick Staton, the chairman of the Berkeley County Republican Executive Committee, who introduced Norquist, said they worked together at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce 25 years ago.

Norquist was a strong conservative voice then, and "he hasn't wavered since ..." Staton said. "Frankly, he holds members of Congress' feet to the fire."

Knocking Democrats in power as a "takings coalition" pushing for a "coercive utopia," Norquist told the crowd, "They have a list of things you have to do, the 'thou shalts' and 'thou shalt nots,' that is slightly longer and more tedious than Leviticus."

Norquist said ATR supports government leaving citizens alone on education, religious practice, gun ownership and in other areas.

Various groups that share that overarching philosophy don't necessarily have much else in common.

"What we agree on is we oughta be free," Norquist said.

Norquist said at least 600,000 people attended about 600 "tea parties" in April to protest excessive federal spending, even before the Obama administration had raised taxes.

Norquist emphasized the importance of accountability as a protection against government spending increases.

He said easy access to information is essential; freedom of information requests shouldn't be needed to shake spending data loose.

Instead, every check and every contract should be posted on the Internet, quickly, at all levels of government, Norquist said.

Texas and Missouri are among more than 20 states with good disclosure models; the public doesn't have to ask for data, he said.

Norquist said one of the best approaches is in Utah, where even at local levels, spending must be publicly posted.

Some Tri-State legislators sign Taxpayer Protection Pledge

Nine people represent the Tri-State area in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Americans for Tax Reform says four signed a Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a promise not to support or vote for any tax increase. Five did not.

Signed -- U.S. Reps. Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania. All are Republicans. Also, U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who recently switched from the Republican party to the Democratic Party.

Didn't sign -- U.S. Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, Robert C. Byrd and John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, and Robert P. Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania. All are Democrats.

In the Maryland General Assembly, Sen. Alex X. Mooney and Del. Christopher B. Shank, both Republicans representing Washington County, are among those who signed the pledge.

In Pennsylvania, state elected officials from this area who signed include Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr. and Reps. Rob Kauffman and Todd A. Rock, all Republicans.

Three West Virginia state elected officials from the Eastern Panhandle are among those who signed -- Sen. Clark S. Barnes and Dels. Jonathan Miller and John Overington. All are Republicans.

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