I guess everyone has their price. For Grover Norquist, it was $4.3 million.
Two weeks ago, Grover Norquist's non-profit Americans for Tax Reform was exposed in The Boston Globe as a lobbying front - maybe you missed it. The piece had the misfortune to land on a busy news day (Tony Rudy pled guilty), but, man, is it good.
For years, journalists have been trying to get their hands on ATR's donor list, to no avail. But the Globe finally got it, and found, as many have suspected for quite awhile, that "contributors include an array of special interests ranging from tobacco companies to Indian tribes to a Las Vegas casino." ATR is a big-time lobbying firm posing as a nonprofit. But that's not even the good part.
The biggest contributor to ATR was Richard Scruggs, a Democratic lawyer from Mississippi. He put in $4.3 million. What was he after?
Scruggs' law firm had won a $1 billion fee for their work on a lawsuit that resulted in a $246 billion settlement against tobacco companies (some of whom were also ATR donors). He wanted to keep his money. But Republicans were making noises in Congress of passing legislation that would limit legal fees. So:
Scruggs decided that he needed to hire a prominent Republican antitax activist to fight what he viewed as a tax on legal fees. "'There is an expression, 'If you need a thief, take him from the gallows,' " Scruggs said.
And just so there was no ambiguity about what the money was for, here's what Scruggs wrote as a bookeeping note when he made the $4.3 million transfer:
Did Scruggs get his money's worth? The Globe tersely notes, "The effort to reduce legal fees never became law. It is unknown what, if anything, Norquist did to help Scruggs."
Hmm... one would imagine that there was at least some understanding between Norquist and Scruggs of what this money was for. Norquist is probably not too accustomed, after all, to being the recipient of a multimillion dollar donation from Democrats.
Says Scruggs: "I paid a lot of money.... I thought that was the way the game was played."