The Keeper of the Tax Pledge

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Meet Grover Norquist, the interest-group crusader who has wielded enormous influence over Congress's deficit supercommittee

Grover Norquist - AP Photo:Haraz N Ghanbari - banner.jpg

Grover Norquist, the founder and head of Americans For Tax Reform, is arguably the most powerful non-elected person in Washington -- and in many ways he is more powerful than even the Speaker of the House.

He's the keeper of "The Pledge," the 60-some-odd promise never to raise taxes, that has become a virtual requirement for Republicans running for state or federal office. All in all 279 sitting members of Congress are bound by the pledge -- and good luck getting out of it.

"The pledge is not to me. It's to the voters," Norquist said in an extensive 60 Minutes profile last night. "So an elected official who says, 'I think I wanna break my pledge,' he doesn't look at me and say that. He looks at his voters and says that. That's why some of them look at their voters, don't wanna say that, and they go, "Well, how 'bout you? Could you release me from my pledge?" No, no. I can't help you."

But Norquist's position of defender of the pledge has made him enemies in Washington -- Former Sen. Alan Simpson "snorted" when asked about his opinion of Norquist according to the transcript.

"He may well be the most powerful man in America today," Simpson said. "So if that's what he wants, he's got it. You know, he's -- megalomaniac, ego maniac, whatever you want to call him. If that's his goal, he's damn near there. He ought to run for president because that will be his platform: 'No taxes, under any situation, even if your country goes to hell.'"

Rep. Steve Latourette (R-OH), who has rescinded his pledge told 60 Minutes that his driver's license expires, the milk in his refrigerator expires -- the only thing that never expires is the Grover Norquist pledge.

"My word has been good on this tax pledge for 18 years. To be bound by something based upon circumstances that existed 18 years ago, when the circumstances are different, I think that's a little naive."

Watch the video below:

Image credit: Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP

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Zeke Miller is a politics reporter at Business Insider.

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