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Don't you wonder just who is this Grover Norquist who has such a maniacal hold on the Republican Party? My recent guest Mickey Edwards isn't the only conservative who would like to see the party free itself from his grip. Writing in the Financial Times last week, conservative journalist Christopher Caldwell describes the Norquist Pledge as a "partisan document," "a ratchet driving taxes down to unsustainable levels" that "symbolizes a political system short on legitimacy." Norquist claims the pledge is something politicians make to their constituents, not to him. But Caldwell wonders "who authorized him to collect politicians' signatures on their constituents' behalf."

But even this misses the main point. Norquist's efforts: Keep taxes low for his donor base -- billionaires like the Koch brothers and the plutocrats secretly clustered around Norquist's comrade, Karl Rove.

This past election, Norquist's group, Americans for Tax Reform, spent nearly $16 million to support his favored candidates; that's according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Where did that money come from, and what did it buy? Back in the 1990's, it was the tobacco industry backing Norquist's fight against cigarette taxes; now it's pharmaceutical companies, among others. Not long ago, this same Grover Norquist was using his organization to launder money for the notorious lobbyist Jack Abramoff. How about that for tax reform!

Check it out yourself in the documentary Capitol Crimes on our website You'll see the story of how the man who has the Republican Party under his thumb came to Washington to start a revolution and wound up running a racket. Now he's the proxy for the powerful interest groups that finance him.

So, not only does the Norquist Pledge symbolize a "political system short on legitimacy," as Christopher Caldwell wrote. It isn't even about principle or ideology. Conservatism, my foot. It's all about the money.

Moyers & Company airs weekly on public television. Explore more at


Which do you believe motivates Grover Norquist more: Deeply-held anti-tax principles or a desire to protect the interests of his wealthy financers?.

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