Ten Outrageous Items the IRS Purchased With Taxpayer's Money

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Posted by ATR on Wednesday, April 15th, 2015, 11:48 AM PERMALINK


Throughout the 2015 tax season the IRS has desperately tried to convince Americans that it needs more money. It is ridiculous that the agency is now pleading poverty, after years of outrageous spending habits. A Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) report outlines the abuses in the IRS employee credit card program. Below are the top ten most ridiculous items purchased with IRS credit cards:

Item #1: Nerf Footballs
IRS employees used their credit card to purchase $119 worth of Nerf footballs that were intended to be used for a “team-building exercise.”  As if that wasn’t bad enough, they never used the balls, which are “currently stored in a filing cabinet” somewhere in the bowels of the IRS.

Item #2: “Related Alcohol Purchases”
At one luncheon, IRS credit cards were used for “related alcohol purchases” including 28 bottles of wine—for 41 guests.  As a bottle of wine contains about five servings, this equates to three and a half glasses of wine per person. 

Item #3: Thomas the Tank Engine Rubber Wristbands
For the child in all of us, the IRS purchased these for “managers’ meetings.”  These were part of the “almost $4,000 in improper decorative and give-away items” that TIGTA found in their review.

Item #4: "World’s Largest Crossword Puzzle"
Along with some jigsaw puzzles, the IRS purchased the “world’s largest crossword puzzle.”  These purchases cost $89 of taxpayer money.  Hopefully the IRS actually used these in their “team building” activities.

Item #5: “Plush Animals”
Even IRS agents need a little love sometimes, which may be why plush animals were purchased with IRS credit cards as give away prizes.  Who wouldn’t want to go home and squeeze their little teddy after a long day of harassing free-market grassroots groups?

Item #6: Bathtub Toy Boats
Another one of the “give-away items” at the IRS managers’ meetings were “bathtub toy boats”.  The IRS spent $418 to purchase these, along with some other “improper decorative and give-away items.”

Item #7: Stove Top Hats
Not many people can pull off the hat like Abe Lincoln did, but that didn’t stop IRS agents from trying to outdo our 16th President.  Stove top hats were purchased using an IRS credit card as yet another “give-away prize.”

Item #8: Kazoos
The IRS must enjoy the sound of Kazoos.  They used your tax money for “novelty decorations and give-away items, such as kazoos” which were awarded as prizes during their managers’ meetings. 

Item #9: “Dinner at an approximate cost of $140 per person.”
The report notes a “dinner at an approximate cost of $140 per person, four times the Federal Government per diem rate in Washington D.C.”  At the time of this conference the per diem rate was $36 for dinner.

Item #10: A $100 Per Person Lunch
The IRS spent five times the Federal Government per diem rate of $18 when they bought lunch at $100 per guest.  And they say there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Photo Credit: 
Jerry Bowley

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ATR Supports the FAIR Act

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Wednesday, April 15th, 2015, 12:00 AM PERMALINK


On April 14, 2015, Americans for Tax Reform sent a letter to Congress urging law makers to lend their support to the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act (FAIR Act). This landmark reform would effectively end most forms of the controversial practice of civil asset forfeiture at the federal level. States like New Mexico have already demonstrated that comprehensive reform is possible and popular, thus underscoring the urgency for federal reform.

The FAIR Act would be instrumental in restoring trust in our law enforcement officials; moreover it would ensure that those who break the law pay the penalty. Below is the full text of the letter:

 

Dear Senator Paul and Congressman Walberg,

I would like to extend my strong support for Senate Bill 255, the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act (FAIR Act). This proposal would be a monumental leap in the effort to reform the nation’s broken civil asset forfeiture system.

The current asset forfeiture system is broken. Since its expansion in 1984 there has been an explosive growth in the size of the Federal Asset forfeiture Fund. Between 2000 and 2013 alone, the fund grew from over $500 million to over $2 billion; funds that can be used at the discretion of the authorities who seized the property.

Most law enforcement officials are honest individuals who frequently put their own lives at risk to protect their communities. Nevertheless, innocent Americans should not be placed in a situation where their property can be confiscated without hope for due process. The FAIR Act manages to both restore constitutional guarantees to the American public and renovate public trust in the nation’s law enforcement.

The FAIR Act would first address federal budgetary incentives for authorities to seize property. The proposal eliminates the process of Equitable Sharing, which allows local and state law enforcement officials to use federal rules to seize assets. Additionally, the act transfers confiscated funds from the Federal Asset Forfeiture Fund into the general treasury, increasing oversight of the assets by Congress.

Authorities would also be required to prove guilt in order to keep the funds. This change would be coupled with an increase in the burden of proof required from the government to prove guilt. This fundamental change to the status quo would bolster public faith in the rule of law and assure Americans that criminals, not law-abiding civilians, pay the price for broken laws.

Furthermore, the Internal Revenue Service would be limited in their use of structuring laws when seizing money from people’s bank accounts. Structuring allows the IRS to take funds from a bank account when authorities suspect that deposits to the account are made in a way designed to avoid reporting laws. The FAIR Act would only allow forfeiture if the owner of the funds knowingly made the deposits in a way to avoid federal laws.

This new regime takes into account the need to punish law-breakers and the rights of citizens. Simply put, criminals should not enjoy the fruits of their bad behavior, and by requiring proof of wrongdoing we ensure that those who break the law pay up.

Moreover, the proposed reforms serve to bolster the credibility of law enforcement with their local communities. If law-abiding civilians are assured that there is no danger of their property being confiscated, confidence in the rule of law will be strengthened and officers will find it easier to gain the cooperation of their communities. I implore your colleagues to extend their own support for this important legislation. For more information, please contact Jorge Marin in my office at jmarin@atr.org.

Onward,

Grover G. Norquist

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Thomas and Melody Banneck

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Top Ten Reasons the House Will Kill the Death Tax

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Posted by Ryan Ellis on Tuesday, April 14th, 2015, 5:50 PM PERMALINK


Update: The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed The Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015! Now the fight begins in the U.S. Senate. Want to abolish the Death Tax? Take action now!

For the first time in ten years, the U.S. House of Representatives this week will vote on a bill to kill the death tax once and for all. H.R. 1105, the “Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015″ is sponsored by Congressman Kevin Brady (R-Texas.) and notably features the co-sponsorship of Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Earlier iterations of this bill have enjoyed the co-sponsorship of a majority of the chamber, so passage is not in doubt. Maybe that’s why 81 business and citizen grassroots organizations have signed a joint letter under the auspices of the Family Business Coalition urging Congress to kill the death tax.

With the fate of the bill a sure thing, let’s reflect on the top ten reasons the death tax deserves to die:

1. The death tax is not fair.  At a basic level, Americans know that the death tax is not fair. It’s not fair that you earn income all your life and pay heavy taxes on it. It’s not fair that you save your hard-earned money and pay taxes on what you make. It’s not fair that you build a small business and face exorbitantly high tax rates. But all of these unfairness taxes pale in comparison to the death tax. The death tax is a tax you pay on savings you have already paid taxes on at least once, and potentially more than once. It results in the liquidation of first and second generation farms and businesses just to pay the tax. Why should a business have to pay taxes again just because an owner has died?

2. The death tax is not popular with the American people.  In a 2009 Tax Foundation poll, the death tax was considered the “least fair” by the American people, even more unfair than the income tax. In poll after poll for decades now, the death tax has consistently been opposed by 60 to 70 percent of adults, registered voters, and likely voters. The results are in, and the intense opposition to the death tax is unquestionable.

3. The death tax collects almost no tax revenue.  According to both the Congressional Budget Office and the Office of Management and Budget, the death tax is expected to bring in about $20 billion in tax revenue this year. Now, in the real world that’s a lot of money. It’s not a lot of money by Beltway tax collection standards, though.

The federal government is anticipated to collect $3.2 trillion in tax revenue this year, according to CBO.  Do the math, and it will take about 55 hours–out of the whole year–to collect all the revenue from the death tax.  That’s 2 days out of 365 days in the year.

To put it another way, suppose all the revenue the federal government was going to collect this year was represented as $100.  In that case, the death tax would be about $0.63 out of that $100.

You get the picture.  

4. The death tax is a declining source of federal revenue.  As recently as 2000, the death tax wasn’t the joke of a revenue source it is today.  Back then, it raised a respectable 1.5 percent of all federal revenues. But today it’s less than half that. As time goes by, we should expect the death tax to continue to wither on the vine as a real revenue source, as it has for years. The true reason for collecting it is not to raise tax revenue, but it’s out of a misguided sense of class warfare ideology.

5. The truly rich don’t pay the death tax.  As our liberal friends at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities have recently reminded us, “many wealthy estates employ teams of lawyers and accountants to develop and exploit loopholes in the estate tax that allow them to pass on large portions of their estates tax-free.  These strategies don’t benefit the broader economy; they only allow the wealthiest estates to avoid taxes.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. The uber-rich can afford these “teams of lawyers and accountants” to “develop and exploit loopholes” for their clients. First and second generation business owners and family farmers cannot.  As a result, Paris Hilton will be death tax free her whole life (and beyond), but startup business owners will either have to pay the death tax or funnel scarce capital into their own little army of tax nerds and lawyers.

6. Chances are, you don’t live in a state with a death tax. While Congress has been sitting on their hands for ten years not repealing the death tax, states have been doing their “laboratories of democracy” thing.  Non-death tax states now outnumber death tax states about 30-20, and those dwindling number of states which still have a death tax are either looking to scrap it or are greatly increasing their state death tax’s “standard deduction.” It’s not a good revenue source, and states know it.

7. Most countries have a death tax rate far lower than our own, and many have no death tax at all.  The United States, with its gut-punching 40 percent federal death tax rate plus the various state rates, has the fourth-highest death tax rate in the world.  We’re only ahead of Japan, South Korea, and France.  Many familiar countries–Australia, Canada, Israel, and even Sweden–have no death tax at all. In a world where capital is mobile and global, this matters a lot. People don’t have to die in the United States.

8. The death tax is bad for jobs and killing it would give you a raise. Again according to the Tax Foundation (they’ve done some great work in this field) the death tax is an economy killer. They have a macroeconomic “dynamic” model to see what killing the death tax would do to the job market. It projects that killing the death tax would create 139,000 jobs, increase private business hours by 0.1 percent, and increase wages by 0.7 percent.

9. The death tax is bad for economic growth and repeal literally pays for itself. The same Tax Foundation report says that the death tax would increase the economy by 0.8 percent (or $137 billion in today’s dollars).

Because this additional economic growth would be subject to taxation all its own, it would more than make up for the revenue lost by repealing the death tax–it would make up the $20 billion per year, plus yield an extra $8 billion per year on top of that.  You heard that right–we’d actually collect more tax revenue if we stopped collecting the death tax.

10. The death tax is even bad for the environment. A recent study by Brian Seasholes at Reason shows that the death tax leads to the subdivision of many large, privately owned land tracts.  That’s because heirs–land rich but cash poor and in need of money to pay the death tax–sell off parcels of land in order to satisfy Uncle Sam. This leads to development of land which would never have been developed except for the death tax.

Do you agree with Ryan that the Death Tax should be repealed? Urge your senators to kill the death tax right now! 

Photo Credit: 
Keeva999 https://www.flickr.com/people/54159370@N08/

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Steve-O

Nick: We'll give you the benefit of the doubt.......you forgot to take your meds this morning. You're not thinking clearly your spelling is off, your typing co-ordination is off. You're the one who needs a major "reality alert". And how about you respond to ANY of the article's points ? Too difficult for you?

Steve-O

Nicholas: You responded to ZERO of the article's points. You just flunked Debate 101. Oh, and what did the GOVT do, to deserve the money ? Nothing, as usual. They just use it for more wasteful spending and overpaid administrators in DC. Nice going Nick !

NicholasBourbaki

You want country with no taxes, and (I am guessing here ) no gun laws, heavy on religion?
Move to Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Afghanistan and now yemen


Hatch Letter to IRS Chief: Explain Your Spending Decisions

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, April 14th, 2015, 5:06 PM PERMALINK


Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) today sent a letter to the IRS questioning the agency's spending decisions. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen continues to make excuses claiming that unless the IRS receives more taxpayer funds, the agency will continue to ignore 60 percent of taxpayer calls. However, Chairman Hatch notes several areas the IRS has been making wasteful spending decisions:

  • $4.3 million spent on “market research” and “public opinion” polling last fiscal year;
  • Over $8,000 spent on a “fitness equipment stair climber,” which I assume is in a building with actual stairs;
  • Thousands of dollars spent on “decorative and give-away items,” such as plush animals, toy footballs, and “kazoos, bathtub toy boats, and Thomas the Tank Engine rubber wristbands, for managers’ meetings.”
  • Nearly $4 million spent on office furniture last fiscal year.


As Chairman Hatch’s letter says, the IRS’s level of service has become so poor that the agency is hanging up on taxpayers, and turning away others. As the letter states:

More recently, several news articles have detailed stories of IRS employees turning away those seeking help with their tax filings and hanging up on callers – something your agency bizarrely calls “courtesy disconnects.”

Given the numerous instances of wasteful government spending by the IRS, it is difficult to agree with the claim that they desperately need more funding. In fact, the National Taxpayer Advocate, an independent watchdog has found that the IRS is unable to justify its allocation of taxpayer funds and has come under scrutiny by oversight organizations for its past resource allocation.

Photo Credit: 
Gage Skidmore

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102 Years of the Income Tax: Then and Now


Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, April 14th, 2015, 12:00 PM PERMALINK


The 102-year history of the federal income tax has been marked by more and more taxpayers paying higher and higher amounts of tax.

"The American income tax is perhaps the most dramatic example of how government grows at the expense of liberty," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. "Slowly. Constantly. Inexorably."

As Americans finish yet another tax filing season, let’s take a look at how the income tax became the raw deal it is today:

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IRS Accountability Toolkit


Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, April 14th, 2015, 7:00 AM PERMALINK


Below is a handy list of links detailing IRS incompetence and abuse of taxpayer funds:

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IRS Unable to Justify Spending Decisions

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Monday, April 13th, 2015, 4:36 PM PERMALINK


As Americans race to beat the April 15 tax filing deadline, the IRS continues to plead poverty and make excuses for its neglected phone calls and overall poor performance. But according to the Annual Report to Congress released by the National Taxpayer Advocate, the IRS has failed to prioritize past budget decisions. According to the report:

“The IRS lacks a principled basis for making the difficult resource allocation decisions necessitated by today’s tight budget environment.”

The problem is not that the IRS does not have the information available. To the contrary, as the report explains: 

“While IRS collected some data that it could use to evaluate effectiveness, it did not develop plans to analyze the data or track it in a way that would allow officials to draw causal connections and develop valid conclusions about the effectiveness of its 2014 service changes.”

While the IRS is crying foul about its funding, it has not even attempted to properly ensure that scarce taxpayer funds are allocated effectively. As a result, the report states:

“the IRS has come under scrutiny by external oversight organizations who have questioned the IRS’s rationale for its budget decisions. They have not been satisfied with the IRS’s response to their inquiries.”

National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley claims that the agency is “struggling to keep the lights on”, however the IRS has failed to properly prioritize funding even when budgetary pressure did not exist. The agency has failed to produce a single report on tax complexity since 2002, despite federal law requiring one be compiled each year.

When asked by the NTA to explain why this had not happened, the IRS said it would require “about two full time employees working for about a year” to produce the report. The IRS has 82,982 full time employees.

Although the IRS claims it needs more taxpayer dollars, an analysis by Cato Institute economist Dan Mitchell, shows the IRS’s budget has doubled in the past 30 years, even after adjusting for inflation. While its funding has declined since 2010, it remains higher than mid 2000s levels. In fact, as the NTA points out, the IRS’s refusal to compile these reports is actually making their jobs harder:

“While the IRS would need to spend some resources to produce the complexity report, these costs pale in comparison to the costs of complexity. Moreover, if they prompt a reduction in tax complexity, the reports might ultimately help the IRS do its job and reduce the cost of administering the tax code.”

The above cited material can be found on pages 26-30 & 102-108 of Volume One of the National Taxpayer Advocate’s Annual Report to Congress.

The full report may be accessed here.

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Tim Evanson

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McConnell, Hatch, Lee, Paul Ryan to Address Tax Day Eve press conference

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Monday, April 13th, 2015, 12:19 PM PERMALINK


Americans for Tax Reform will hold its annual "Tax Day Eve" press conference on Tuesday April 14 at 11:30 a.m. in room H-137 of the U.S. Capitol. Topics will include IRS accountability, Death Tax repeal, and corporate and individual tax reform.

Confirmed speakers include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, Senate Steering Committee Chairman Mike Lee, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, House Republican Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Republican Study Committee Chairman Bill Flores, and Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam. The event will be emceed by ATR president Grover Norquist.

"Americans have complained about the total tax burden since 1774," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. "Today, Americans are increasingly angry and fearful of the IRS - those tasked to raise those taxes - as they watch politics driving the most powerful agency Americans come into personal contact with." 

Event Details:

Americans for Tax Reform's Annual "Tax Day Eve" Press Conference
Tuesday, April 14 at 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM
U.S. Capitol Room H-137 
Contact: John Kartch, Americans for Tax Reform: jkartch@atr.org 

Confirmed Speakers: 

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
  • Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
  • Senate Steering Committee Chairman Mike Lee (R-Utah) 
  • House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)
  • House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.)
  • House Republican Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.)
  • Republican Study Committee Chairman Bill Flores (R-Texas)
  • Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam (R-Ill.)

 

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Wally Gobetz

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Martinez Signs Asset Forfeiture Reform

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Posted by Jorge Marin, Paul Blair on Friday, April 10th, 2015, 3:54 PM PERMALINK


Americans for Tax Reform would like to applaud Governor Susana Martinez (R-N.M.) and the state legislature for passing historic civil asset forfeiture reform legislation. The governor, a former district attorney, signed HB 560 which passed the legislature unanimously earlier this month. In a recent letter to Martinez, ATR urged the governor to sign this important law:

We ask that you help put an end to a regime that allows authorities to take and keep property from individuals not charged with a crime. By signing the bill, civil asset forfeiture is changed into criminal asset forfeiture; thereby ensuring that criminals, not law-abiding civilians, pay the price for broken laws.

In her a released statement, Martinez asserts “the changes made by this legislation improve the transparency and accountability of the forfeiture process and provide further protections to innocent property owners.”

This is, of course balanced with concern for law enforcement.

She asks that “we… ensure that our law enforcement officers have the training, protection, and tools necessary to fight crime within our borders. The burden is on public officials at every level to ensure that our law enforcement officers are respected for the work they do and have all the resources they need to protect our families.”

Civil asset forfeiture has been in the spotlight as a problematic tool that may invite abuse by some in the law enforcement community; however, New Mexico now finds itself leading the charge in reforms aimed at protecting the constitutional rights of Americans.

Hopefully, lawmakers and politicians will follow New Mexico’s example in protecting both citizens and law enforcement with similar reform legislation.

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Denise Womack-Avila

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Americans for Tax Reform Urges Gov. Hogan to Veto the Maryland Travel Tax Bill

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Posted by Will Upton on Friday, April 10th, 2015, 3:22 PM PERMALINK


Americans for Tax Reform has sent a letter to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan asking him to veto Senate Bill 190. This legislation would disparately impact the Maryland travel industry by apply the Maryland sales tax to online travel agents, brick and mortar travel agents, wedding planners, tour operators, and other service providers. With summer almost here, and tourism season gearing up, a new tax would hurt many small businesses in Maryland who rely on tourism for revenue.

We urge Maryland residents to contact Gov. Hogan and ask him to veto SB 190. You can reach his office by phone by calling 410-974-3901 or toll-free at 1-800-811-8336. You can also email the governor’s office by clicking here.

Below is the full letter ATR sent to Gov. Hogan:

 

Dear Governor Hogan,

I write to you today to encourage you to veto Senate Bill 190. This piece of legislation would harm Maryland businesses and deter tourists from choosing Maryland as a travel destination. The legislation would enact a new travel tax on consumers who use online travel services, brick and mortar travel agencies, and tour operators, wedding planners, and other Maryland service providers.

A tax increase on these small businesses will ultimately impact consumers and other businesses who rely on a vibrant tourism economy: restaurants, taxis, attractions, retail shops, entertainment venues, etc.  It is also important to consider that these small businesses already pay a federal and state income tax.

As House of Delegates Minority Leader Nick Kipke has pointed out: “There are special interests that are pushing this bill and frankly we need to look out for the special interests of the real Marylanders that show up to work every day, and have to balance a payroll, and they employ people right in our communities. So, I'm encouraging the members of the House of Delegates to resist any new taxes or fees. It's time Maryland has an opportunity to thrive.”

Delegate Chris Adams has said, regarding SB 190: “We have over 1,100 brick and mortar small travel business agents that are going to be affected by this bill… We’ve had 8,000 small businesses leave Maryland over the last 8 years because of policies just like this.”

The Commonwealth of Virginia has already rejected a similar measure this legislative session.

To put it plainly, SB 190 is a continuation of the crony-tax policies of the O’Malley-Brown administration – policies that Maryland voters rejected last November when you defeated Lt. Gov. Brown.

Gov. Hogan, stand up for Maryland’s small businesses and reject this crony tax hike.

If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to Will Upton, state affairs manager at Americans for Tax Reform. He can be reached at (202) 785-0266 or via email at wupton@atr.org.

 

Onward,

Grover G. Norquist

President

Americans for Tax Reform

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