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Norquist's Rainmaker Skills Grow With Budget Impasse

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Norquist hosts weekly get-togethers at the Americans for Tax Reform headquarters and his Eastern Market home, where policy is discussed and expensive wine flows.

But Norquist has lost some friends on the right over the years. His spot on the advisory committee for the Republican gay rights group GOProud and his public support for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan irritated social conservatives. Yet as Democrats blame Norquist and his pledge for gridlock on Capitol Hill, Republicans of all stripes have rallied around him.

“These politicians, these elected guys, they come and go. Who remains? Grover,” said one lobbyist, who served as a Republican Capitol Hill staffer in the late 1980s.

Chinese food buffets at Norquist’s Eastern Market home in the 1980s and 1990s have morphed into a series of formal policy dinners that lobbyists for major corporations pay as much as $25,000 to attend. The events feature prominent GOP lawmakers such as Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., and begin with “very high end” wine, according to one regular attendee.

But the real work is done at the storied “Wednesday meeting,” where Norquist ministers to his conservative choir at ATR’s downtown headquarters.

The powwows are an occasional stop for liberals looking for bipartisan support for their issues. Billionaire Democratic donor George Soros, Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates, former Vice President Al Gore and perennial third-party presidential candidate Ralph Nader have all made presentations. Norquist has also franchised his small-government brand abroad, presiding over meetings in locales including London, Tokyo and Rome.

“I have job security that most people don’t have,” Norquist said last week at a forum hosted by Politico. “We are always going to feel that our taxes are too high.  . . .  The tax issue will be more powerful in 2014 and 2016 than today.”

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