Another Brick in the Wall: CREW Files Against Grover Norquist
by Matt Stoller, Tue Mar 14, 2006 at 04:45:14 AM EST
The Republican machine is quite formidable, and it is largely based on a mix of corruption, strong-armed tactics, and fear-mongering. It is in other words a Federal version of an exceptionally large big-city corrupted political machine. It is a system. And if you start to pull pieces out of that system, it stops working. For instance, take another machine that is now non-functional. The Democrats. A lot of the reason the Democratic Party is crippled is because the props underneath it - governing power and a strong Democratic President - aren't there anymore. This is not to say the Democratic Party was corrupt, because it basically wasn't as a system. But the dynamics are the same, when you pull the props out of that system, the players sort of flounder around, without the money, the resources, or the know-how to operate in a new environment. They are middle managers in an entrepreneurial setting. The right-wing is similar, only their machine is based on streams of money that flow, often in a corrupt fashion, through a broker class of operatives that include among others Jack Abramoff, Grover Norquist, Scooter Libby, and Karl Rove. There's a reason, for instance, Abramoff was involved in bribing right-wing members and right-wing pundits.
It looks like another piece in the GOP house of cards may go down: Grover Norquist, a truly brilliant, calm, optimistc, and creepy man with a laser focus on expanding the culture of greed.
The complaint alleges that Norquist used either or both ATR and ATR Foundation as commercial enterprises by laundering money derived from Indian casino clients of former lobbyist and convicted felon Jack Abramoff. The casinos made contributions to ATR, which then skimmed a fee off the top before passing the money on to former Christian activist Ralph Reed and other anti-gambling activists. In this way, Norquist, Reed and Abramoff were able to disguise the fact that the money used to fund anti-gambling activities was generated through Indian gambling. The point of the anti-gambling campaigns was to prevent competition to the Indian casinos.
Reed originally denied knowing the funds came from Indian casinos, but during hearings held by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Sen. John McCain released numerous e-mails clearly demonstrating that he did, in fact, know where the money came from. The e-mails show that Reed and Norquist worked with Abramoff to create the anti-gambling campaigns and to develop the scheme to hide the origins of the money.
The complaint also alleges that the money ATR received from the Indian casinos constitutes taxable business income because ATR was providing services unrelated to its tax-exempt purpose: to increase public awareness about the size and regulations of government and rally support for lower taxes and smaller government. Charging a fee for serving as a pass-through for money used to finance anti-gambling campaigns bears no relation to ATR's stated tax-exempt purpose.
Finally, the complaint alleges that ATR violated IRS public disclosure requirements by refusing to provide a copy of its application for tax-exempt status when requested to do so.
"Mr. Norquist's misuse of his non-profit organizations as commercial enterprises violates the IRS code, and necessitates an immediate investigation," Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW said today. "The IRS has been quick to step in and investigate liberal organizations, but has so far failed to demonstrate a similar appetite for examining the activities of conservative groups. There is no better place to start than with an exhaustive review of how Jack Abramoff, Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist exploited the laws intended to promote charitable works."
Now, the IRS is a black box in terms of investigations, so we'll hear nothing until they actually move on it. But the pressure is increasing on these guys. With Abramoff gone, Delay crippled, and Josh Marshall's nascent media empire detailing the growing circle of losses, the machine that is the conservative movement is going to find it harder and harder to get lobbyists to write their bills for them. Already their legislative priorities have been gummed up.
Once this machine breaks down, they will be the ones floundering politically. You can already see the outlines of their fecklessness now. It's what happens when the corruption is gone, and only cowardly incompetence remains.