The sacred texts from which Grover Norquist draws his political power are hidden in a secret fireproof safe.
“I keep the originals in a vault, in case D.C. burns down,” said Norquist, referring to the pledge that his organization asks politicians to sign, vowing to “oppose any and all efforts” to raise taxes. “When someone takes the pledge, you don’t want it tampered with; you don’t want it destroyed.”
For more than two decades, signing Norquist’s pledge has been an almost religious rite of passage for Washington Republicans.
The 54-year-old president of Americans for Tax Reform is Washington’s anti-tax doctrinal watchdog, his stature derived from the faith of his Republican signatories. He is using all of his authority to prevent GOP leaders from giving an inch on taxes as President Obama and congressional leaders seek a historic compromise to raise the debt ceiling and bring down the deficit.
Since he first collected the signatures of Jack Kemp, Dick Armey and Newt Gingrich 25 years ago, Norquist has prepared for this very clash, enlisting about 95 percent of the Republican members of Congress in the crusade against tax increases. Along the way, he has become one of Washington’s most visible and idiosyncratic characters: a zealous, self-promoting tax scourge who presides over a weekly meeting of conservative power brokers and dabbles in stand-up comedy.