A group of wealthy Americans willing to pay higher taxes isn't getting much traction with staffers for the Senate GOP's top tax writer, Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah., if a recent meeting is any guide.
The simmering feud recently boiled over during a meeting between the amateur lobbyists and Hatch’s Finance Committee staff during the first week of the lame duck.
“Last week, several Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength stormed Washington to fight for higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans. With the exception of Senator Hatch’s senior tax counsel Jim Lyons stomping out in the middle of our meeting, it was a very productive visit,” Agenda Project founder and PMFS coordinator Erica Payne blasted out to reporters Nov. 19.
The bad blood between the two camps began last spring.
Hatch launched the opening salvo April 20, 2011, by inviting Payne's camp to quit calling for higher taxes and simply open their overflowing pocketbooks.
“For those that are interested in making voluntary contributions to pay down the national debt, the process is both easy and advantageous,” Hatch counseled, tossing in a plug for the Treasury’s donation page — along with a parting shot.
“If the past is any guide, not many will exercise this opportunity," Hatch opined.
The millionaires returned fire April 26, 2011, bashing Hatch for being close-minded about tax hikes. “Some problems are too big to be solved except through collective effort and shared sacrifice, and this is one of them,” PMFS suggested.
Frank Patitucci was one of the PMFS members who crisscrossed the Capitol last week to petition lawmakers to put higher taxes for upper-income earners on the table during future budget/fiscal cliff negotiations. Patitucci told HOH the huddle with Hatch’s emissaries was definitely the weirdest of the bunch.
According to Patitucci, every Republican staffer he met with was, understandably, standoffish about the proposed revenue hikes. But at least they listened. (He said he also visited with aides to Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and another Senate Republican during the daylong sweep.)
But Lyons wasn't having it. Patitucci said the aide made it abundantly clear the conversation was going nowhere from the get-go. “He was very combative as soon as we got into the meeting,” Patitucci said. Not that the animosity was particularly long-lived.
Per Patitucci, Lyons asked a question, which was followed by another from his associate, Senate Finance Committee senior tax adviser Shawn Novak, who asked how the PMFS plans jelled with Simpson-Bowles. Patitucci said his PMFS partner, fellow businessman T.J. Zlotnitsky, began answering Novak first, at which point Lyons erupted, demanding an answer to his original query, voicing his opposition to the meeting in general and hastily exiting the gathering.
Hatch Communications Director Antonia Ferrier maintains there was “no scene, no hysterics” during the meeting, parroting her boss’s position about the plight of the fiscally solvent.
“Poor little millionaires who seem to have a hard time listening to anything other than their desire to raise taxes. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, these folks can easily and generously cut a check to the U.S. Treasury,” she asserted.