"Fair tax" Movement Dramatically Scales Back Iowa Plans

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(with reporting from the Atlantic's Chris Bodenner).

Where did all those Fairtaxers go?

Once ubiquitous at campaign events, the organization’s tax reforming supporters are nowhere to be found, and rumors have started to circulate that Americans for a Fair Taxation is broke, bankrupt, taxed out.

One of AFFT’s top organizers conceded yesterday that the group had essentially shut down its Iowa operations and would spend next to nothing in advance of the Iowa caucus. That’s an unwelcome turn of events for Mike Huckabee, who benefited from Fairtax’s organizational prowess in his surprise second place showing at August’s important Republican straw poll in Ames.

The organizer, who spoke with the Atlantic’s Chris Bodenner in exchange for anonymity, forwarded along an e-mail from David Polyansky, who until late last month was AFFT’s chief operating officer.

“Because our funding has not kept pace with our progress, even as we have dramatically cut costs, there is only one responsible course of action left to us in order to preserve the heart of the campaign and keep our efforts alive,” Polyanksy wrote in the e-mail. “The FairTax campaign will continue with a small staff to handle media inquiries and limited grassroots direction/contacts and to keep a light burning. To accomplish this, we must cut all other expenditures, which includes the salaries of almost the entire operating staff, myself included.
Simply put, the campaign is more important than any one person.”

Ken Hoagland, communications director Americans for Fair Taxation, denies that the group is on its death bed. “Those rumors are false. We went for broke in Iowa and nearly achieved broke,” he says, but the organization is “quickly recovering.” After the splurge in Iowa, AFFT “scaled back” on its operations and became “more modest” with its spending. It also shifted its fundraising focus away from big donors and towards the Internet.

Iowa Fairtaxers plan to circulate a flier at the January caucuses, but the organizer said the effort was “aimed more at educating those who attend the caucus than driving turnout to the caucus.”

During their “hiatus” from Iowa (the presidential primary Hoagland says AFFT is most concerned with), organizers “shifted attention” to South Carolina and Florida, which has an especially “strong base” for the Fair Tax. But Hoagland insists that the AFFT is poised to revamp its Iowa campaign “in about a week,” and says that Iowans should expect to see the Fair Tax bus all across the state through January 3, when both parties caucus.

But one of the group’s chief organizers in Iowa said any ramping up of activity in Iowa was “news to me.”

Several presidential candidates – notably Huckabee – back the Fairtaxers’ central proposal, which would, in one fell swoop, abolish the IRS, repeal the 16th Amendment, and replace the federal income tax with a national sales tax.

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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