Once upon a time there was a guy named Grover Norquist and in a time not so long ago, he defrauded several Native American tribes of their money. He walked free and now takes in big bucks from big Pharma through his group, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR).
Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) head Grover Norquist is one of the most powerful men in Washington. His anti-tax pledge has won over hundreds of elected officials, and heÂ regularly gets meetingswith powerbrokers in D.C.
But thereâs one thing even heâs afraid of. And thatâs answering questions about howhis organization gets cashÂ from Big Pharma while opposing drug reimportation andÂ his past workÂ lobbying for Fannie Mae.
My colleague Lee Fang and I approached Norquist at an event where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)Â spoke recentlyÂ about why he believes there should be little to no disclosure of unlimited political spending. I first talked to him about money in politics and why he thinks itâs not a big problem. I pointed out that the drug industry was able to win huge concessions from the Obama administration during the health reform debate, thanks to all of the money it was able to spend. Norquist agreed with me that this negotiation with the administration was a form of âextortion,â but still did not agree to regulating corporate money in politics.
I then Â asked him why PhRMA â the trade group for the drug industry â gives his organization so much money ($140,000Â from 2009-2010). After all, ATR doesnât perform drug research. I pointed out that his organization opposes letting Americans import pharmaceutical drugs from Canada, where they are 20 to 80 percent cheaper.
Norquist remarkably claimed that PhRMA finances ATR because it advocates for lower taxes. We pointed out that the Cato Institute, another leading right-leaning think tank that advocates for lowering taxes, does not take money from PhRMA and is an advocate for the right for Americans to buy cheap Canadian drugs.
He continued to downplay Big Pharmaâs contributions to his organization, and then Lee asked him about how heÂ used to lobbyÂ for Fannie Mae and how he now criticizes them. Norquist claimed that this accusation was ânot trueâ and took off without answering any more questions.
Watch our exchange with Norquist in the video above.
Grover Norquist may be one of Washingtonâs most powerful men, but it appears that even he is scared to talk about his lobbying past and the potential corruption of his organization by Big Pharma cash.