Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), a group led by conservative activist Grover Norquist that asks politicians to pledge never to raise taxes, is pushing back on criticism that a promise like that thwarts compromise by launching a public campaign worth nearly half a million dollars.
The $495,000 effort includes ATR's first foray into the television ad market this election cycle, and defends Republican challenger Keith Rothfus, who is running for the House in Pennsylvania's 12th District against Democratic Rep. Mark Critz. Rothfus signed Norquist's "Taxpayer Protection Pledge," which "solemnly binds" incumbents and candidates "to oppose any and all tax increases." Critz and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have slammed Rothfus for signing the pledge.
Now Norquist is taking his defense to the airwaves with the ad buy.
"It's a simple pledge not to raise your taxes," the narrator in the commercial says. "Mark Critz and his allies are attacking Rothfus for making that pledge to you. ... Don't be fooled. It's a simple pledge and a simple choice."
Democrats, and even a few Republicans, have criticized Norquist's group, saying the pledge stifles opportunities for compromise in Congress.
"For heaven's sake, you have Grover Norquist wandering the earth in his white robes saying that if you raise taxes one penny, he'll defeat you," said former Wyoming Republican Sen. Alan Simpson in May, who in part blamed the failure of a recent deficit reduction on groups like ATR. "He can't murder you. He can't burn your house. The only thing he can do to you, as an elected official, is defeat you for re-election. And if that means more to you than your country when we need patriots to come out in a situation when we're in extremity, you shouldn't even be in Congress."
Norquist has responded to the criticism by saying the pledge is not a commitment to him, but to constituents.