Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Constitutionality of Grover Norquist's Tax Pledge

Stephen Patrick Cain Anderson (J.D. 2013, Penn State), The Constitutionality of Grover Norquist's Tax Pledge:

This paper analyzes the constitutionality of Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform Tax Pledge. Specifically, it looks at whether taking this pledge 1) violates the duties inherent in a congress member's oath of office and 2) runs afoul of the non-delegation doctrine.

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Approximately 300 US taxpayer supported government employees have signed the Norquist tax pledge. If this action occurred
in the 1940s these so called servants of the people would be in front of a congressional hearing for treason.
How can our young men and women make all the sacrifices for this kind of government We had better wake up! Grover Norquist is an anti-American for how can government be run without revenue. What will happen if tommorrow we face World War 3.? Our enemies relish this fact ! Goodbye US

Posted by: George morris | Dec 19, 2012 4:09:44 PM

I think you might have gone just a wee bit overboard there, George. Try switching to decaf or maybe try some yoga?

Posted by: Lt. Dangle | Dec 20, 2012 9:43:04 AM

@George Morris "If this action occurred in 1776 Norquist would be held for treason by King George but praised by the subjects. Let's not become subjects again.

Valerie Jarrett Quote: "Given the daunting challenges that we face, it's important that president elect Obama is prepared to really take power and begin to rule [not govern] day one."

Posted by: Woody | Dec 20, 2012 10:29:05 AM

This seems very poorly reasoned to me. The pledge is basically a gratuitous promise. Sure, ATR may endorse or support those who sign the pledge, but I don't think there's any obligation that they do so. If the politician breaks the pledge, they may endure ART's wrath, but that's not likely to be any different than the wrath they would incur had they made the same vote and not signed the pledge. I think the author overlooks the fact that those who take the pledge may do so because it reflects their core philosophy anyway. If you want to take the author's use of corporate law at face value, the commitment to not raising taxes would seem to clearly fall within the business judgment rule. This is especially true given that the politician signing the pledge can always change their mind and raise tax rates if they believe that is what is needed. The non-delegation doctrine issues seem just as weak. ATR is not writing tax law. Each signer of the pledge has an independent ability to decide how to vote on any piece of tax legislation. They don't have to do what ATR wants them to and they haven't given ATR the power to direct their vote. It doesn't seem to me that ATR's tax pledge has any more control over the tax law process than do numerous lobbyists who hand deliver drafts of legislation to congressional offices for introduction. In the end, the representative or Senator has to make the decision to introduce it.

Posted by: Mike C | Dec 20, 2012 10:41:57 AM

*Any* pledge signed by a congresscritter was best described by The Bard, in The Scottish Play

it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

In short, any pledge signed by any creature running for office has all the official impact as if they were to promise to floss between meals, i.e. they'll ignore it once they ascend to their new throne, only to pick it back up and wave it about as election season approaches once again.

Posted by: Georg Felis | Dec 23, 2012 1:17:21 PM

If it's lawful to make a pledge to a citizen as to how an elected official intends to vote, then it's lawful to make that pledge to an organized group of citizens (including ATR).

This article is about being disappointed that antitax politicking is popular and effective with many people. Your gripe is with people who vote based on hating taxes, not just Grover Norquist.

Article fails to address the political question doctrine, which would probably block any litigation. Also, the non delegation doctrine is essentially toothless, because the Supreme Court defines it down whenever congress pushes up against it.

Posted by: NL7 | Dec 24, 2012 8:10:53 AM

Weak analysis. Concludes that the contracts are not enforeable because of public policy [pg 8], but binding enough to cause a constitution problem? [pg 12]. Lets hope he has a job lined up for next year; if I were an interviewer and stumbled across this paper, I'd give him a thumbs down.

Posted by: Hmmm | Jan 1, 2013 12:46:12 PM