ThinkProgress filed this report from Carmichael, California.
On Wednesday, a constituent in a town hall meeting challenged Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) about his loyalty to Grover Norquist, an anti-tax activist and noted corporate lobbyist. Politicians who sign Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform pledge, a popular commitment among Republicans, promise never to vote for anything designated as a tax increase by Norquist’s organization.
During the meeting, held in the Sacramento suburb of Carmichael, a young woman asked Lungren why he took Norquist’s pledge when he should only pledge an “oath of office to the Constitution.” Lungren seemed dazzled, and first misinterpreted the comment as an accusation that he opposes the Constitution. The constituent asked the question again, only to hear Lungren sneer that she hasn’t “been reading the newspapers.” A few in the crowd yelled “answer the question!”:
CONSTITUENT: How are we supposed to feel safe if you’ve gone around taking pledges for everybody instead of just staying with the pledge to the Constitution?
LUNGREN: If you’re surprised that I’m not for more taxes, then you haven’t been reading the newspapers. I’ve never changed my position on that. […] Next question.
Norquist’s pledge is a thinly disguised political gimmick to provide cover for politicians seeking to protect corporate loopholes and other giveaways to the rich in the tax code. In Norquist’s world, even a vote to end ethanol subsidies is a terrible tax hike.
While Lungren has not shied away from supporting Norquist, a longtime corporate lobbyist, the relationship may turn out to harm the congressman’s image. Lungren, himself a former lobbyist, has a history of his own lobbying controversies, including the sponsorship of a new chemical facilities bill, seen by critics as a giveaway to companies reluctant to comply with anti-terrorism regulations. Many in the town hall audience that night, even some Lungren supporters, asked questions about the undue influence of special interests and powerful corporations like GE.
Last week, ThinkProgress reported on a town hall in upstate New York in which a constituent accused Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) of being a “slave” to the Norquist pledge.