WASHINGTON—In a scandal that strikes at the very heart of the American anti-tax movement, a series of incriminating photos surfaced online Thursday, revealing that, for decades, leading Republican power broker Grover Norquist has secretly engaged in a romantic affair with taxes.
Leaked by an unknown source, the grainy but reportedly undoctored images chronicle a tawdry on-again, off-again liaison stretching back to 1983, when a young Norquist first worked closely with taxes as a speechwriter for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
"This proves that while Mr. Norquist was collecting lawmakers' pledges never to raise any taxes under any circumstances, he was at the same time engaged in an intimate relationship with the very revenue source he claimed to despise," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, referring to the "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" signed by more than 95 percent of congressional Republicans. "Coming from the nation's most outspoken crusader for shrinking the public sector, this illicit conduct is utterly shocking."
"All these years, the founder of Americans for Tax Reform has led a double life," Reid added. "An anti-tax zealot by day, and a tax-obsessed sex maniac by night. The pictures of him and excise taxes are disgusting."
Included among the materials currently circulating on the Internet are images that show Norquist overpaying his taxes, getting into private vehicles with taxes, seated with taxes at upscale D.C. restaurants, and purchasing thoughtful gifts that, according to shipping records, were later sent to the U.S. Treasury.
In three particularly salacious shots taken one night during last summer's debt-ceiling standoff, the powerful conservative lobbyist can clearly be seen smiling while doing his taxes in a chair, on top of his desk, and in the hallway against a wall.
The photos also suggest Norquist's clandestine rendezvous often descended into all-night orgies whose participants included state and federal income taxes, property taxes, capital gains taxes, strict limits on corporate tax credits and deductions, estate taxes, and even the sales taxes of several small municipalities.
"Grover Norquist became one of the most influential people in Washington by relentlessly fighting to rein in government spending, so it's hard to stomach these pictures of his torrid, brazenly carnal relations with taxes," said Kenneth Handler, a GOP operative who has attended Norquist's famed Wednesday meetings of elite conservatives. "While I was aware of his mild flirtation with taxes during the desperate years of George W. Bush's record-breaking budget deficits, I never suspected any sort of romantic dalliance had occurred, let alone this."
"It's been going on so long that, deep down, he may actually be in love with taxes," he added.
In addition to the trove of photographic evidence, several leaked documents suggest Norquist's infidelities may not have been limited to taxes. In 2009, while his organization was receiving donations from the billionaire Koch brothers and other oil interests, Norquist reportedly paid an out-of-court settlement following allegations he had made unwanted sexual advances toward federal cap-and-trade legislation. Further investigation revealed Norquist also secretly lavished large amounts of money on an 18-year-old universal health care program he met online, including a recent no-expense-spared jaunt to the south of France.
Reached for comment, ATR spokesman John Kartch confirmed the authenticity of the photos, but said the images had been taken out of context and misinterpreted.
"Any accusations that Mr. Norquist has been involved in an affair are patently false. Yes, he has maintained a cordial acquaintance with taxes over the years, but the relationship has been entirely professional," Kartch told reporters. "And furthermore, I'd like to ask the press to please respect the privacy of taxes while Mr. Norquist and his accountant sort this matter out."
Norquist's alleged improprieties come in the wake of similar scandals that have plagued the Republican Party, most notably last week's discovery of a laptop belonging to Newt Gingrich that contained thousands of raunchy big government videos.