CSE’s Grassroots Campaign to Support the Bush Tax Cut

The economic agenda of the new Bush Administration has provided CSE’s grassroots army with energy, passion and focus. Many of the administration’s top priorities are the issues CSE has championed over our 16-year history. At the heart of the president’s plan is an across-the-board tax cut that slashes marginal rates and eliminates the death tax.

For years CSE has been building a national grassroots base for just such a moment. We have invested major resources in activist recruitment and education. Complementing our 50 paid staff in Washington, D.C., CSE now has more than 30 paid staff in key states working directly with activists in critical swing districts. Whether it is through the 39-city “Scrap the Code” tour, Tax Club Forums, creating a national network of dozens of CSE clubs, attending thousands of political events and rallies, or distributing educational brochures and issue mailers, CSE has educated hundreds of thousands citizens about free-market ideas. CSE has recruited, trained, and sustained a ground force ready to fight for sound economic policy. And in the opening days of the tax cut battle, CSE unleashed this ground force in support of the first major tax cut in 20 years.

CSE operates on a simple principle: government goes to those who show up. What makes us different is we do our work outside the Beltway—educating and mobilizing activist citizens to fight for less government and lower taxes. To follow are some of the highlights from our efforts the past few weeks.

AL CSE activists rally for H.R 3 outside

Rep. Bud Cramer’s district office.

Across-the-board tax cuts – During debate over H.R. 3, the across-the-board marginal tax rate cuts, CSE activated our grassroots base to lobby their federal legislators, focusing on swing votes. CSE’s army of activists went to work in critical districts. For example, when Alabama CSE found out that Rep. Bud Cramer Jr. might be wavering in his support, within 48 hours CSE organized 53 activists from his district to lobby outside of his office and ensure his vote. Reacting to CSE pressure, Cramer not only voted in favor for H.R. 3 but also began whipping additional conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats to his side. North Carolina CSE focused on Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC). CSE Activist of the Year Joyce Fernando spoke to McIntyre directly and then activated the CSE phone tree to rally extra support. Texas CSE logged hundreds of phone calls into Rep. Chet Edwards’ office.

Death tax elimination: making good policy good politics – CSE also has worked to make sure that elimination—not reform—of the death tax continues to gain bipartisan majorities in Congress. CSE strongly believes that the death tax should be completely repealed to make the tax code fairer and to eliminate the harmful drag this tax has on the economy. CSE activists have engaged their elected officials to show that eliminating the death tax is not only good policy, but also good politics.

One example came during consideration of H.R. 8, the House death tax repeal bill. Representative Charlie Bass (R-NH) is considered a Northeastern Republican moderate, and his voting record reflects that reputation. In the past year, however, New Hampshire CSE has shown the congressman that he has a powerful ally when he votes for smaller government and lower taxes. We have laid the groundwork by establishing a good working relationship with his New Hampshire district office, turning out activists during the election cycle and providing substantial voter education on the pro-trial lawyer record of his last opponent. That support proved crucial in enlisting Bass’s support for full repeal of the death tax because he knew the power of CSE’s grassroots members.

During the debate over H.R. 8, Congressman Bass had signed onto a Centrist Coalition letter to President Bush requesting that the exemptions on the death tax be raised rather than completely repealed. Concerned about his position, CSE called his office and sent out e-mail alerts to our activists in his district. When Congressman Bass’s Chief of Staff called back, he was eager to relay that his boss had changed his mind and decided to support H.R. 8. The Chief of Staff also said, “And if you can let your people know this as well, I’d appreciate it.”

Since the beginning of the year CSE has visited more than 10 Texas cities with Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX) providing a forum for real people to talk about what repeal of the death tax would mean for them and their families. All were small business owners or ranchers whose life’s work would be lost to the government if the tax is not repealed. They would not be allowed to pass their businesses on to their children without suffering damage enough to have to sell or close. This tour reinforced with the Senator the power that elimination of this egregious tax has among ordinary everyday citizens.

State Resolutions – CSE, in conjunction with Americans for Tax Reform, has set out to encourage state legislatures to endorse resolutions supporting the Bush tax cut plan. Several CSE state offices have been carefully laying the groundwork to not only introduce but also pass this important legislation.

CSE’s premier grassroots event, the state Day at the Capitol, brings hundreds of educated activists to state legislatures to lobby their elected officials directly. This year, CSE has used these events from coast to coast to rally for and focus attention on the state resolutions supporting the Bush tax cut plan, the need for death tax elimination, and the defeat of state tax increases or initiatives.

In February, Washington CSE gathered 250 activists in Olympia to lobby their state representatives on the Bush tax plan. When the Washington State Finance Committee convened a hearing on this resolution, 19 activists along with CSE Executive Vice President Matt Kibbe and Washington CSE State Director Gary Strannigan were called on to testify. The activists told, in their own words, what a tax cut would mean for them and why they want the Bush tax cut plan to become law. One gentleman testified solely on the need to eliminate the unnecessary burden of the death tax.

On March 13, Iowa CSE held its Day at the Capitol. We conducted an activist training seminar in which attendees were educated on the Bush tax cut plan and why it is good for Iowa and for America. We also held a tax cut press conference to rally for state House and Senate resolutions that supported the Bush tax cut plan. Iowa CSE’s efforts had an effect on the Iowa Legislature: the morning of Iowa CSE Day, House Majority Leader Christopher Rants said that the House would not vote on the resolution; thanks, though, to Iowa CSE’s articulate activists, the very next morning, the resolution was brought to the floor, voted on, and passed in both the House and the Senate.

Over 200 Florida CSE activists, wearing CSE’s “America Needs a Tax Cut” T-shirts, rallied for the Bush tax cut.

Proclaiming the CSE mantra, “We Want Less,” nearly 250 Florida CSE activists traveled to Tallahassee in support of the Bush tax cut plan. Wearing CSE’s “America Needs a Tax Cut” T-shirts and armed with information, Florida CSE activists were recognized on the House floor by Rep. Jim Kallinger, CSE’s national activist of the year last year and now a member of the Florida House. Our activists then were let go to storm the Capitol, demanding to know their legislators’ positions on the resolution and asking for their support.

On March 21, seven Oregon CSE grassroots activists along with Oregon CSE State Director Russ Walker testified before the House Rules, Redistricting and Public Affairs Committee on Oregon’s tax resolution, HJM 28. After hearing from the activists, the committee passed the bill passed on a vote of 7-1, with strong bipartisan support. The measure passed the full House on March 26 by a vote of 43-14 including the support of 12 Democrats. On April 4, the Oregon Senate passed the resolution by a 16 to 13 margin.

In addition to our work in the state legislature, Oregon CSE also has been on the ground educating the public about the president’s plan. In just the last two months, we have participated in more than 20 town hall meetings and public forums to discuss the importance of the president’s plan, reaching more than 2,000 grassroots activists on the need for a tax cut and what they can do to support its passage.

Texas CSE Day at the Capitol in March was the catalyst for action on the tax cut resolution in the Texas House. Because of the unwillingness of the committee chairman to hear the resolution, many CSE members staged a silent protest in the House Ways and Means Committee room. Now, HCR 207, the Bush tax cut resolution, is expected to be heard in committee on April 18th. Bill sponsor, Rep. Kent Grusendorf, has 75 cosponsors—half of the Texas House.

Bringing the message home to the grassroots – CSE’s strategy is to recruit, educate, and mobilize a growing army of grassroots activists to fight for lower taxes and limited government. The most important of these activities is education because an educated force can make a strong argument for any issue. In order to provide average everyday citizens with in-depth information on the negative aspects of tax increases, CSE has created a number of tools. Chief among these is the “Citizen’s Guide to the Death Tax,” a 16-page booklet published by our educational affiliate, CSE Foundation, that provides the reader with a complete overview of the issue. This has been distributed to thousands of activists, reporters, and policymakers nationwide and has enhanced the debate considerably.

Another important educational tool we have utilized is a PowerPoint Presentation that explains the tax cut plan and spells out why American needs a tax cut. This presentation has been provided to thousands of legislators, party officials, and activists nationwide, building grassroots support for tax cuts in general and the Bush plan in particular. The Powerpoint presentation also has been distributed to key Hill staff and congressional offices. The tax cut Powerpoint has proven to be a very effective tool for educating our grassroots and can be viewed online at: http://www.cse.org/informed/1603.html.

Inside-the-Beltway – Despite our intense grassroots focus in the states, CSE’s inside-the-Beltway activities have made us an integral part of the debate. CSE is a prominent member of the Tax Cut Relief Coalition, which is made up of more than 400 organizations from across the business and advocacy community. The mission of the coalition is “to support and actively work for enactment of the president’s proposal to provide $1.6 trillion of tax relief,” regardless of individual parochial interests. As a member of the Tax Relief coalition, CSE helps provide essential tools to the White House and congressional leadership as they work through the development and passage of Bush’s tax bills.

Rep. Jennifer Dunn thanked CSE at an anti-death tax rally for our efforts surrounding H.R. 8.

As a member of the Family Business Estate Tax Coalition, which was created to fully repeal the death tax, CSE works on a variety of activities from press conferences and media outreach to lobby visits and grassroots activity. Pictured above is a press conference held by Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn on H.R. 8, the death tax reform bill, during which the congresswoman publicly thanked CSE for our efforts.