Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, speaks to Douglas Quenqua about mobilizing forces around a key issue
PRWeek: Why are people so angry about taxes now?
Grover Norquist: Spending has become a vote-moving issue. The Taxpayer Tea Party rallies around April 15 this year – we have counted more than 600,000 attending more than 550 rallies – came in response to spending. Americans know this overspending and borrowing will lead to taxes and inflation. That is an increasingly sophisticated electorate.
PRWeek: How much do you now rely on the mainstream media to get messages out?
Norquist: Americans for Tax Reform [ATR] is very active through its Web site and e-mail newsletter, but we also speak regularly to talk radio, cable TV, and establishment newspapers. Different Americans trust different sources. We want to speak through media they trust and hear.
PRWeek: What three issues are you focusing on now?
Norquist: Opposing all new taxes and tax increases at the state and federal level. Passing legislation to make every check written by the government and all government contracts fully transparent by putting them online in real time. Opposing all efforts by trial lawyers, labor unions, and corrupt big-city political machines to push Americans around and steal their money.
PRWeek: How has DC's press corps changed over the years?
Norquist: The media is more democratic today. The New York Times and CBS no longer get to decide what is news. The 1987 elimination of the “fairness doctrine” allowed many new voices to be heard.
PRWeek: What are current pathways to influence in DC?
Norquist: [ATR] spends little time “lobbying” congressmen, if... you mean taking someone out for tea and talking... about pending legislation. It's more important to talk to the voters in his or her district. Politicians only want to know one thing on an issue: Can it win me votes in my state? If you want to win the vote next January, win the November [election].
PRWeek: Do you Twitter? Should members of Congress be on Facebook?
Norquist: I Twitter, but not as often as I should. Congressmen and political activists should... use all possible avenues to speak to the public. To change public opinion, you need to find people who aren't already on your team.