At a Glance
- Career History: President of Americans for Tax Reform (1985 to present)
- Birthday: October 19, 1956
- Hometown: Weston, Mass.
- Alma Mater: Harvard University, BA, 1978; Harvard Business School, MB, 1981
- Spouse: Samah
- Religion: Methodist
- Office: 722 12th Street NW, 202-785-0266
Path to Power
Norquist was born Oct. 19, 1956, in Pennsylvania; when he was 5, his family moved to the tony Boston suburb of Weston, Mass. His father Warren was an executive at Polaroid, and his mother Carol was a teacher who stayed home to raise Norquist, his sister and his two brothers. The Norquists were financially comfortable and politically conservative-once, Warren took bites out of his children's Dairy Joy ice cream cones to demonstrate what taxes took out of the family's earnings.
In 1974 Norquist graduated from Weston High School and matriculated to Harvard University, where he sharpened his wits against a liberal establishment rejoicing over the low ebb of the Republican Party. "[John Kenneth Galbraith] would come and give a lecture every year to Harvard students about how we were just about to enter the Great Depression again," Norquist remembered in 2009. "Because he never had as much fun as he had during the Great Depression."
Norquist's stance against taxes has not changed appreciably since the 1970s. He argues that tax cuts create economic growth, and they make a larger state impossible; therefore, government should constantly cut taxes. "Pro-taxpayer legislators at the federal and state levels should learn from and follow the successful model of the [George W.] Bush administration," Norquist has said, "and cut taxes each and every year."
The 111th Congress contains 172 Republicans in the House, and 35 Republicans in the Senate, who have signed the ATR pledge, and Norquist has counseled Republicans to oppose just about all of Barack Obama's agenda. "Bad stuff will pass," he advises. "Don't have your fingerprints on it."
Norquist's mission in life is the building of coalitions to achieve fundamental conservative policy goals. The list of conservatives who he's worked with, on some level, is endless; the list of those who have actually appeared at Wednesday meetings only slightly less so. He has easy access to the offices of the Republican leadership in the House and Senate, which usually send some representation to the Wednesday meetings. He is friends with a number of chiefs of staff - for example, Sen. Arlen Specter's (R-Pa.) Chief of Staff Scott Hoeflich gave Norquist a heads-up when the senator decided to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act.
While Norquist's old allies Ralph Reed and Jack Abramoff have faded, Norquist has become a part of the conservative firmament, and counts among his allies Mark Farris, the president of Patrick Henry College; David Head, the president of the American Conservative Union; R. Emmett Tyrell, the editor of the American Spectator; and Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House.