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Tax-Cut Supporters Ready for 'World Series of Lobbying'

Tuesday, October 2, 2007; Page A17

Charlie Rangel, get ready to rumble.

Rangel, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, has promised a tax bill so large that it will be "the mother of all reforms."


Dirk Van Dongen, a leader of the Tax Relief Coalition, is concerned about possible efforts in Congress to repeal the president's tax cuts.
Dirk Van Dongen, a leader of the Tax Relief Coalition, is concerned about possible efforts in Congress to repeal the president's tax cuts. (By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)
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Those are fighting words to Washington's business lobbyists. To them, "reform" means "tax increase." So they're teeing up the mother of all coalitions.

Dozens of the most carnivorous corporate trade groups in town are dusting off an old alliance called the Tax Relief Coalition and preparing to do battle with the New York Democrat.

The coalition was created in February 2001, soon after President Bush was inaugurated. Its purpose was to help him move his tax cut through Congress, and it succeeded with flying colors.

The coalition was the brainchild of Karl Rove, then Bush's political maestro. Rove called Dirk Van Dongen, president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, and asked him to put the alliance together. Van Dongen, a longtime Republican loyalist and fundraiser, readily agreed. Their initial discussion was over burgers at the Hay Adams Hotel across from the White House.

Rove is now gone from the scene, of course, but Van Dongen, 64, is still very much around. He and Jade C. West, the wholesalers' senior vice president, are preparing with the other association chiefs to protect what they worked so hard to enact six years ago.

"We don't know exactly what Rangel will propose," Van Dongen said, "but there's enough conversation out there to be concerned, and to respond."

The best guess is that Rangel, with the backing of other Democrats, will try to repeal Bush's extensive tax cuts and maybe impose a surtax on upper-income individuals -- both efforts that Van Dongen's coalition is determined to stop.

Besides the wholesalers, the coalition's mainstays include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, the National Federation of Independent Business, the National Restaurant Association, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Associated General Contractors of America.

But that's not all. The coalition has 1,000 members that together represent 1.8 million businesses. Its budget, before it even asks for anything beyond its basic dues, is $450,000. It can certainly raise a ton more than that if it needs to.

Its main strength, though, is the calls, letters and visits it can generate to every member of Congress at a moment's notice.


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