During a recent interview, anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist struggled to explain his ties to a pharmaceutical trade group and then “took off” when he was asked about his history lobbying for home loan-backer Fannie Mae, an organization that he now criticizes.
The Republic Report’s Zaid Jilani and Lee Fang caught up with Norquist at an American Enterprise Institute event last week where they asked him about Republican claims that President Barack Obama’s administration had scuttled increased reimportation of cheaper drugs because of donations from the pharmaceutical industry.
“That wasn’t a campaign contribution to elect Obama,” Norquist explained. “It was either a bribe, ‘We will give you this money to spend politically through [Obama adviser David] Axelrod and his friends if you do X.’ Or it was extortion.”
The reporters pressed Norquist on whether there was an “extorting effect” on his organization, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), after they took $140,000 from industry trade group PhRMA and then opposed drug reimportation.
“Extorting, no,” the ATR president insisted. “The good news on Americans for Tax Reform is we are just always in the same place: Don’t raise taxes. … The key question is on an administration that threatens everybody’s livelihoods is going to be able to extort money. So one of the ways to get money out of politics is to have less politics, less government.”
As Norquist turned to leave the conversation, one of the reporters noted he used to be a lobbyist for Fannie Mae but now he criticizes them.
“Is that because they stopped giving you money?” the reporter asked.
“Not true,” Norquist replied, stepping in to an elevator. “Actually, no.”
Last year, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) slammed Norquist’s past connections to Fannie Mae.
“I mean, he was a lobbyist for Fannie Mae, he was a lobbyist for Internet gambling … he was connected to Jack Abramoff,” Wolf told MSNBC. “When people sign the pledge, they didn’t really know that it goes to that point.”
For his part, Norquist dismissed the connection as trivial.
“A firm I worked for listed me for six months more than 10 years ago. … I supported a tax credit for home purchases,” he told Politico. “Both are sound policy and both were 10 years ago.”
Watch this video from The Republic Report, broadcast June 22, 2012.
Photo: Flickr/Gage Skidmore