- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 2, 2004

NEW YORK — A leading anti-tax group is sending out a hit list warning state leaders not to raise taxes, while honoring anti-tax politicians attending the Republican National Convention.

Americans for Tax Reform, led by Grover Norquist, held a private reception here Monday to praise elected officials from across the nation who kept to an anti-tax pledge championed by the group.

Virginia, which passed the largest tax increase in the state’s history this year, is an example of Republicans gone wrong, Mr. Norquist said. Both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly are controlled by Republicans.

As a reminder, Mr. Norquist’s group has made 10,000 copies of a poster that lists “Virginia’s most wanted,” featuring photos of Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, and every Republican who cast a vote in favor of tax increases this year. Americans for Tax Reform is distributing the posters to legislators across the country and to Virginia voters.

“It’s going to be a collector’s item,” Mr. Norquist said. “If you’re one of the bad guys in Virginia, they will put your picture on the wall in Michigan.”

The posters are hitting mailboxes as the Virginia sales tax increases from 4.5 cents to 5 cents on the dollar and the cigarette tax increases from 2.5 cents to 25 cents per pack.

The increases took effect Wednesday, but the state still has some of the lowest taxes in the nation. In 2005, when all 100 Virginia delegates face re-election, Americans for Tax Reform will operate a phone bank and sponsor political ads criticizing the Republicans who voted for the tax increase.

“We’ll be very active in highlighting who voted how, reminding voters who kept and who broke the pledge,” Mr. Norquist said. “If I were a tax increaser, I would not feel warm and fuzzy about my future political career.”

Lawmakers who kept their pledge to vote against tax increases were given a gala welcome Monday evening at New York City’s Yacht Club.

Among the Virginia officials attending were Republican Delegates Jeffrey M. Frederick of Prince William County, Timothy D. Hugo of Fairfax County, Robert F. McDonnell of Virginia Beach and former Gov. James S. Gilmore III. Also at the party was Maryland state Sen. Edward “E.J.” Pipkin, who is running for U.S. Senate against Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, and convention delegates from both Maryland and Virginia.

Mr. Norquist said Americans for Tax Reform helped defeat Nebraska state Sen. Curt Bromm, speaker of the Legislature, in a congressional primary because he led a charge to raise taxes. In Kansas, four legislators who voted for tax increases lost their seats to anti-tax candidates.

In Virginia’s case, Mr. Norquist said, senior lawmakers pressured younger lawmakers into voting for the tax increases and “throwing away their political careers.”

One of Mr. Norquist’s prime targets is Sen. John H. Chichester, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, who crafted a tax-increase package larger than the one that ultimately passed.

As the Virginia State Senate president pro tempore, Mr. Chichester came to New York this week to join the heads of other state senates at the convention.

Asked to respond to Mr. Norquist’s comments, the senator said the increases were necessary as “a long-term investment in Virginia.”

“Reinvesting in our commonwealth, investing in our young people and keeping us open for business is not a spectator sport,” he said. “It requires positive action.”

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