Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) head Grover Norquist is one of the most powerful men in Washington. His anti-tax pledge has won over hundreds of elected officials, and he regularly gets meetings with powerbrokers in D.C.
But there's one thing even he's afraid of. And that's answering questions about how his organization gets cash from Big Pharma while opposing drug reimportation and his past work lobbying for Fannie Mae.
My colleague Lee Fang and I approached Norquist at an event where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) spoke recently about why he believes there should be little to no disclosure of unlimited political spending. I first talked to him about money in politics and why he thinks it's not a big problem. I pointed out that the drug industry was able to win huge concessions from the Obama administration during the health reform debate, thanks to all of the money it was able to spend. Norquist agreed with me that this negotiation with the administration was a form of "extortion," but still did not agree to regulating corporate money in politics.
I then asked him why PhRMA — the trade group for the drug industry — gives his organization so much money ($140,000 from 2009-2010). After all, ATR doesn't perform drug research. I pointed out that his organization opposes letting Americans import pharmaceutical drugs from Canada, where they are 20 to 80 percent cheaper.
Norquist remarkably claimed that PhRMA finances ATR because it advocates for lower taxes. We pointed out that the Cato Institute, another leading right-leaning think tank that advocates for lowering taxes, does not take money from PhRMA and is an advocate for the right for Americans to buy cheap Canadian drugs.
He continued to downplay Big Pharma's contributions to his organization, and then Lee asked him about how he used to lobby for Fannie Mae and how he now criticizes them. Norquist claimed that this accusation was "not true" and took off without answering any more questions.
Watch our exchange with Norquist in the video above.
Grover Norquist may be one of Washington's most powerful men, but it appears that even he is scared to talk about his lobbying past and the potential corruption of his organization by Big Pharma cash.