Grover Glenn Norquist
Over the course of a decade-long power grab, Grover Norquist managed to raise the bar for
the definition of “Washington insider” while associating with corrupt government
officials, war profiteers, and even terror financiers. He drives the Republican
agenda despite having a hand in nearly every Republican scandal and disgrace since
Norquist’s ascent began with his connection to fellow College Republicans Ralph Reed and Jack Abramoff. In 1994, he helped Newt Gingrich become Speaker of the House. In 1995, he worked at a law firm called Preston Gates Ellis, whose notable recently convicted alumni include Abramoff and David Safavian. In 1997, Norquist met Karl Rove, who introduced him to George W. Bush the next year. (Norquist managed to win Rove’s allegiance despite bad-mouthing an education-related tax Bush had just pushed through in Texas.) In the late 1990’s, Norquist launched three initiatives that would define his modus operandi in Washington: a weekly Republican strategy meeting, a lucrative and undiscriminating lobbying firm, and an institute dedicated to shepherding Muslims into the GOP.
The “Wednesday Meeting” usually includes representatives for Bush, Dick Cheney, GOP congressional leaders, think tanks, advocacy groups, and lobbyists. The meeting takes place in the conference room of Americans for Tax Reform, Norquist’s main professional home since 1985. "Everybody there has some sort of entrée," says one regular attendee. "When the White House sits down and says, 'We want to get the word out on something,' the top of the list is Grover."
In 1997, Norquist launched a lobbying organization called The Merritt Group (later changed to Janus-Merritt) with David Safavian, who would eventually be convicted of lying and obstructing justice in the Jack Abramoff scandal during his tenure as chief of staff of the White House procurement office. Abdurrahman Alamoudi, who is now serving 23 years for illegal finance activities with Libya related to a plot to assassinate the leader of Saudi Arabia, once paid $40,000 to Janus-Merritt.
In 1998, Norquist started the Islamic Free Market Institute Foundation (a.k.a. “Islamic Institute”) to bring Muslims into the Republican Party. Khaled Saffuri, then a deputy at the American Muslim Council, helped Norquist found the institute. Alamoudi, the aforementioned failed assassin who led the AMC at the time and would two years later declare his support for Hamas and Hezbollah right in front of the White House, provided $50,000 to start the Islamic Institute. (The Islamic Institute’s founding chairman, Talat Othman, served with President Bush on the board of Harken Energy and later visited him at the White House.) Two organizations later raided by the feds on suspicion of financing terrorism also donated money for the founding of the institute (The Safa Trust: $35,000; International Institute of Islamic Thought: $11,000).
Norquist’s effort to build bridges between Muslims and the White House paid off at first. During his 2000 presidential campaign, Bush did Norquist a favor when he said in front of the cameras, “Arab-Americans are racially profiled in what's called secret evidence. . . . We've got to do something about that.” However, two Muslim leaders who had their pictures with Bush were eventually arrested. The first was Alamoudi. The second, Sami al-Arian, who met President Bush at a meeting set up by Khaled Saffuri, was arrested in 2003 for his association with Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
That was the 20th century.
Between 2001 and 2006, Norquist visited the White House 97 times. That’s once every 19 days. Six of those meetings were with President Bush himself. Norquist also admits arranging White House access for Jack Abramoff’s clients at the same time as he was soliciting large donations for his organizations from them. Norquist’s connection to Abramoff recently landed Americans for Tax Reform an IRS complaint, courtesy of the Committee for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. CREW said that ATR should lose tax-exempt status because of “commercial activities” (i.e. Indian casinos). Norquist also led the K Street Project, a GOP effort to purge the most powerful Washington lobbying firms of Democrats, with Tom DeLay, who stepped down as House majority leader after being indicted for conspiracy in Texas.
In October 2006, the Senate Finance Panel issued a report accusing ATR of violating its tax-exempt status in its interactions with Abramoff. ATR laundered money for Abramoff and took money from his clients in exchange for writing favorable newspaper columns and providing access to government officials like Karl Rove.
In 2004, Grover Norquist’s younger brother David spearheaded an effort to conceal massive corporate looting of the Iraqi national oil fund. (Norquist’s title at the time was Deputy Undersecretary for Budget and Appropriations at the Department of Defense.) When called to explain how DoD failed to stem the massive overcharging by Custer Battles and the Halliburton subsidiary KBR, Norquist called DoD’s accounting oversight “a success.” David Norquist has since been promoted to Chief Financial Officer of the Department of Homeland Security.
In March 2005, an interagency criminal task force investigating Abramoff subpoenaed the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, an organization Grover Norquist helped Gale Norton launch. (From 2001 to 2006, Norton led an outrageously corrupt Interior Department—even by Washington standards as noted by the department’s inspector general. Abramoff funneled $500,000 in donations from his tribal clients to CREA, and president Italia Federici pushed those clients’ issues with Interior officials, such as J. Steven Griles, who eventually resigned. Detailing the appalling ethical lapses under Norton, Interior Inspector General Earl E. Devaney said, “Simply stated, short of a crime, anything goes at the highest levels of the Department of the Interior.”)
Norquist isn’t directly tied to the “Golden Chain,” a document found in Bosnia in 1992 that has been introduced in American courts as a list of Osama Bin Laden’s top twenty financiers, but his friend Abramoff did lobby for someone on that list: Saleh Kamel. It is worth listing, however, Norquist associates who have found themselves investigated for terror-funding relationships:
- Suhail Khan: This former director of Norquist’s Islamic Institute was the point man at the White House for arranging access for Muslim groups to meet with President Bush and his staff. Khan’s father was an imam at a California mosque that twice hosted now-deceased Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s right hand man.
- Abdurrahman Alamoudi: Alamoudi provided $50,000 in seed money to start the Islamic Institute, which Norquist headed up with Khaled Saffuri, an Alamoudi deputy at the American Muslim Council (AMC). AMC once gave Norquist an award for his service on behalf of Muslims, and they—as well as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)—sent representatives to meetings held by Norquist and Saffuri. Alamoudi was subject to the SAAR Foundation raids (SAAR Foundation was named after Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al Rajhi, who was on the Golden Chain). Alamoudi is now serving 23 years for illegal finance activities with Libya related to a plot to assassinate the leader of Saudi Arabia. He also spoke out in support of Hezbollah and Hamas right in front of the White House.
- Sami Al-Arian: In June 2001, Al-Arian and members of the American Muslim Council were invited to the White House for a briefing by Karl Rove. That July, Al-Arian’s civil liberties group, National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom, gave Norquist an award for fighting to keep secret intelligence evidence out of terrorism prosecutions. Norquist introduced Al-Arian to George W. Bush during the same 2000 election campaign when Bush promoted Norquist’s and Al-Arian’s position on the use of secret intelligence. There is a photograph, in fact, of Al-Arian with Bush in March 2000. In 2003, Al-Arian copied Norquist on an e-mail to The Wall Street Journal regarding an op-ed suggesting ties to Islamic Jihad. Al-Arian was arrested in 2003 for racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder. He pleaded guilty to one count of supporting terrorism and was sentenced to a fifty four month prison term. Al-Arian was also the North American leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The FBI’s close surveillance was scheduled to end by presidential order on September 11th.
- Khaled Saffuri: Saffuri and Norquist headed up the Islamic Institute. Together, they worked for autocratic Qatar to help “portray itself as a liberal outpost in the Islamic world.” It was Saffuri that arranged for Al-Arian to meet President Bush. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) claims Saffuri told her that he supported the child of a suicide bomber. Saffuri denies having said this.
- Faisal Gill: Norquist recommended Gill for his post—Deputy Director of Intelligence and Analysis—at DHS. Gill had worked at the Islamic Institute. Gill was temporarily suspended from DHS for failing to reveal his time as a spokesman with Alamoudi’s AMC.
- Asim Ghafoor: Ghafoor was the spokesman for Norquist’s Islamic Institute, which shares office space with ATR. Ghafoor is also the attorney for Al-Haramain’s branch in Ashland, Oregon. Al Haramain and directors Soliman al-Buthe and Pete Seda were charged with laundering money for Chechnyan fighters. Charges were dropped, but Seda and Al-Buthe are considered international fugitives. Ghafoor has also been a spokesman for other Muslim organizations with ties to terror, including WAMY, CAIR, Care, and Global Relief.
- Salam Al-Marayati: He once fingered Israel as a potential sponsor of the World Trade Center attacks. He also once recited Norquist's phone number from memory.
- Dr. Jamal al-Barzinji: After David Safavian left Janus-Merritt, the lobbying organization resubmitted its disclosure forms. Alamoudi’s name had been erased and replaced with al-Barzinji. (Al-Barzinji was listed as a “contact,” not a client.) Al-Barzinji, a Saudi, was CEO of Mar-Jac Poultry, a holding of the SAAR Foundation. SAAR was raided in 2002 on suspicion of funding terrorists. On the warrant, al-Barzinji was listed as a SAAR “officer or director.” On March 20, 2002, the company's offices, along with the homes of al-Barzinji and others, were raided by a federal task force investigating terrorist finances, Operation Greenquest. Al Barzinji is named in the warrant authorizing the search as an "officer or director" of the SAAR Foundation. Al-Barzinji was also the director of the International Institute of Islamic Thought, which was also raided. His association with SAAR landed him on a list of several hundred defendants in a civil suit against alleged planners and financiers of the September 11 attacks.
- “Politically correct terrorists,” The Jerusalem Post, Caroline B. Glick, February 28, 2003, Pg. 1A
- “Reaching Out: In Difficult Times, Muslims Count On Unlikely Advocate --- Mr. Norquist, Famed Tax Foe, Offers Washington Access, Draws Conservative Flak --- Meeting an Alleged Terrorist,” Tom Hamburger and Glenn R. Simpson. Wall Street Journal, Jun 11, 2003. pg. A.1