Since 1986, conservative political activist
On its own, the pledge is a powerful tool, with some experts citing President
And the pledge - signed by nearly every Republican in the current
That's despite polls showing most Americans support a mix of spending cuts and tax increases on the super-wealthy to reduce the deficit.
But Norquist's pledge, which he administers on behalf of his group Americans for Tax Reform, could be even stronger now than ever, campaign finance experts say. The recent Supreme Court ruling known as "Citizens United" allows for unlimited campaign spending by certain groups, providing ATR and Norquist with the opportunity to make sure voters know who's keeping to the pledge and who's broken it.
"I'm sure he has the ability to basically spend whatever he wants so certainly right now from that respect he could arguably be more influential than ever," says
According to an analysis by the
"He doesn't necessarily have to spend the money, just the threat of someone who is well-funded like he is being able to come in and spend a lot of money is a huge incentive and scares the bejesus out of candidates and members of
Some Republicans have recently tried to distance themselves from the pledge and Norquist. Rep.
Other Republicans have said they would be willing to vote for tax reforms that result in increased revenues, but lawmakers have been wary about speaking publicly about specifics until the deficit reduction committee finishes its work.
Earlier this month, House Speaker
"This is what (Republican Sen.)
In an October floor speech, Rep.
"I would also submit that Mr. Norquist's pledge -- which candidates sign to indicate their opposition to tax increases -- has morphed into a powerful mechanism for Mr. Norquist to ensure that favored tax earmarks to select industries remain untouched, thus preventing comprehensive tax reform," he said.
Lessig says campaign finance reforms that limit outside spending would help to diminish Norquist -- and other lobbyists' -- ability to dictate public policy.
"He has exaggerated power because of the way in which money plays into politics," Lessig says.
With time running out for politicians caught between maintaining their pledge and satisfying the public's demands for a deficit deal, Boyle says it's not at all clear how it will end.
"This is certainly one of the biggest, if not the biggest, litmus tests in the
A spokesman for Americans for Tax Reform did not return a request for comment.
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