Politics

Don’t Hike Deficits With Tax Package, Ads Warn GOP Senators

Collins, Corker among lawmakers targeted

A new group launched ads this week urging Republicans in 20 states, including Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, not to raise deficits as they seek to revise the tax code. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Texas billionaires John and Laura Arnold are bankrolling a new lobbying effort aimed at leading lawmakers away from the temptation of a tax overhaul that would increase deficits. 

Citizens for Responsible Tax Reform launched print advertisements targeting Republicans in 20 states Thursday, including Kentucky, the home of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul. The group plans additional television and online ad buys as Congress and the White House debate an overhaul of the nation’s tax code, spokesman Blake Gober said.

The first volley came as senators on Thursday headed into a vote-a-rama on the fiscal 2018 budget resolution, which sets a path for revamping tax laws. The budget, which was adopted Thursday night, includes instructions to the tax-writing committees for a bill that could ultimately add $1.5 trillion to annual deficits over the next decade. 

“We’re going to be thanking senators that have been supportive and that are standing by their guns,” Gober said, noting that retiring Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said he would not give the OK to a tax package that increases deficits. 

“Thank you for keeping your word,” read an ad aimed at Corker that ran in his home state. 

An ad in the Bangor Daily News targeted Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, warning her to abide by her pledge to “develop a responsible budget” that doesn’t burden future generations with “unsustainable debt.” She recently announced that she would skip a race for governor and instead remain in the Senate. 

Both Corker and Collins voted for the budget resolution Thursday. 

“We are going to call on senators, if they don’t keep their promise, we’ll call them out to make sure their constituents know,” Gober said. 

Rory Cooper, through his firm Purple Strategies, is advising the new Citizens for Responsible Tax Reform group, Gober said. Cooper served as communications director to former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican. 

The organization has incorporated as a 501(c)4 organization and, as of now, has not hired in-house employees. Instead, it is relying on consultants.

Other donors from across the political spectrum have given to the group, Gober said, but he declined to name them. He also did not disclose the organization’s initial budget but said it has the funds to “launch national, statewide and local television, digital and print ads.”

Gober said Republicans in Congress ran on messages of reducing debt: “That’s why a lot of tea party [voters] and others supported them because they recognize that our country’s future is being mortgaged.”

John Arnold is a philanthropist and hedge-fund founder who once worked as a natural gas trader at Enron, while Laura Arnold was an oil industry executive and lawyer. They run the Laura and John Arnold Foundation in Houston.

John Arnold has donated to vulnerable Democrats such as Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, according to federal election records. 

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