Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake (R), the Republican candidate for his state’s open Senate seat, denied signing the no-tax pledge authored by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and promised he wouldn’t sign such a pledge during his debate with Democratic candidate Richard Carmona on Wednesday. But Flake, according to Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform organization, has already signed the agreement.
Flake told the debate moderator last night that the only pledge he would sign “is a pledge to sign no more pledges”:
MODERATOR: Did you sign the Grover Norquist no-tax pledge?
MODERATOR: Would you sign such a pledge?
FLAKE: The only pledge I’d sign is a pledge to sign no more pledges. We’ve got to ensure that we go back and represent our constituents in a way — I believe in limited government, economic freedom, individual responsibility. I don’t want higher taxes. But no more pledges.
Flake, as the Huffington Post’s Elise Foley noted after the debate, is listed as one of the 279 pledge-signers on ATR’s web site. In fact, Arizona’s entire Republican delegation, including both senators, Flake, and four other congressmen, have signed the pledge.
Norquist’s pledge was a major hindrance to the passage of a debt ceiling deal that included new revenues last summer, when Congress nearly caused the government to default. Republicans took fire from constituents at town hall meetings across the country afterward, and a slate of Republican lawmakers and candidates have either disavowed the pledge or refused to sign it since. Former Republican leaders have also criticized Norquist’s death-grip on the party: after Norquist criticized him earlier this year, former president George H.W. Bush asked, “Who the hell is Grover Norquist, anyway?”