Mary Clay Berry
Mary Clay Berry

Fellowship Title:

Tax Reform: The Lobbyist as a Catalyst

Mary Clay Berry
February 2, 1977

Fellowship Year

"The fact of our presence — of our bitching — made the difference."


It is an accepted truth that the most heavily-lobbied legislation in Washington is tax legislation. This is because no broad generalities such as banking reform or vertical divestiture in the petroleum industry are involved. Here the benefits are certain and direct. An innocuous-sounding sentence, when inserted into the tax code, can mean thousands of dollars to a scrap metal dealer involved in Panamanian shipping.

By contrast, the public interest is generally diffuse and unfocused. Take for example estate and gift taxes. Pressured by an active letter-writing campaign under the auspices of the American Farm Bureau, congressmen voted estate tax breaks for farms and family businesses which were passed on to their owners’ heirs. The congressmen had received innumerable letters from farmers complaining that existing estate taxes would force their heirs to sell the family farm instead of continuing to run it as a farm. These letters had some validity and tremendous emotional appeal. However, the important point is that only seven percent of the American people are wealthy enough to have to pay estate taxes in the first place. The farmers, despite their tales of woe, were among the richest people in the country. What about the interests of the other 93 percent?

Not only is the public interest in this area diffuse, it is also underrepresented, “That’s how many tax lobbyists there are!” exclaimed Thomas M. Reese, legislative director of one of the two tax reform lobbies in Washington, Taxation With Representation, as he pointed to half a shelf of beige volumes, the testimony the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives heard on what became the Tax Reform Act of 1976 (other than testimony on estate and gift taxes which fills still another set of volumes). “We’re outnumbered 500 to 1.”

The opposition also has tremendous resources. Reese recalled sitting beside a tax lobbyist for the Exxon Corporation during a Ways and Means mark up. “He would call his office and within fifteen minutes he would have a revenue estimate for how windfall profits would affect Exxon specifically. He knew each time, for better or for worse. Of course, that is a big corporation and they frequently have more staff on a particular tax proposal than there are in Treasury.”

Outnumbered they certainly are but, because of a combination of expertise, diligence, gall, and luck, the fledgling tax reform lobby has had an impact on tax legislation that far outweighs its physical dimensions. Taxation With Representation and its Ralph Nader-sponsored counterpart, the Public Citizen Tax Reform Research Group, are not always successful. But, with help from Common Cause and the AFL-CIO, they have brought about changes in the tax law writing process and have helped to coalesce congressional interest in tax reform. All this holds out some hope for the interests of the inchoate ninety-three percent. And the scrap metal dealer with the Panamanian charter lives a little less comfortably today than he had hoped to do.

Both Taxation With Representation and the Tax Group are shoestring operations, one housed in an Arlington, VA garage, the other in a ramshackle Capitol Hill townhouse. They have small, underpaid staffs. By contrast, their opponents are often partners in the best law firms in Washington — Covington & Burling; Patton, Boggs & Blow; Caplin & Drysdale; Miller & Chevalier; Pepper, Hamilton & Scheetz; and others. For tax lobbying is the province of the Washington tax lawyer, the quintessence of all lobbyists — the most expert (in the sense that all good lobbyists are purveyors of useful information), the most sophisticated, and the most indispensable to the system.

This is largely due to the nature of tax law. A tax reform primer by Robert M. Brandon, Reese’s counterpart at the Tax Group, and some associates (Tax Politics by Robert M. Brandon, Jonathan Rowe, and Thomas H. Stanton Pantheon Books, New York, 1976) describes the present tax system as “the product of a continuing move away from the ideals of progressive taxation” i.e. taxation based upon ability to pay. This is due to reliance upon regressive and proportional taxes (such as sales taxes and the social security payroll tax) rather than upon progressive income taxes; an increasing number of exemptions and deductions which further erode the tax base to generally allow the wealthy to pay less taxes than the middle class; and poor administration by federal, state and local governments. “A thorough inventory of the entire tax system would show…benefits converging from many directions upon business and the wealthy,” continue Brandon and his associates. “This is not surprising when we examine who most influence the nation’s tax laws.”

A tax system in which exemptions and deductions, in fact loopholes no matter how socially meritorious, are important depends heavily upon the fine print in the tax laws and it is the tax experts, a handful of Washington lawyers who move in and out of government, who write that fine print. Take Mortimer M. Caplin of Caplin and Drysdale. He was Commissioner of Internal Revenue from 1961 to 1964. Or Edwin S. Cohen at Covington & Burling. He was Assistant Secretary of Treasury for Tax Policy from 1969 to 1971 and Undersecretary from 1972 to 1973. And the former ranking minority member of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, John W. Byrnes, is considered a top-ranking tax lawyer/lobbyist. “It’s a classic case of the revolving door situation that exists in the regulatory agencies,” said Reese. But he hastened to add that most of these lawyers were excellent public servants while in government. “Lawyers,” concluded Reese, “are amoral. In government, they take on the people as their client. In private practice, they start doing the opposite.”

There are other ways to look at it. “The government has been a growing ground for tax attorneys,” said a congressional staff member who is close to the tax-drafting process. “They have worked in the IRS, the Treasury, the Justice Department. They understand the system. They know the technical problems. Eventually they go to the law firms.” A pause. “They know how the system works.”

Briefly, the system works like this. Three congressional committees — Ways and Means in the House and the Finance Committee in the Senate, plus the Joint Committee on Internal Revenue Taxation — and two administrative agencies — the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service — are involved in writing tax law. In terms of drafting legislation, the most important are the Office of Tax Legislative Counsel at Treasury and the Joint Committee. Both have expert staffs — with about twenty lawyers on each — who actually write tax legislation. The OTLC drafts administration proposals and analyzes congressional ones. The Joint Committee staff drafts tax proposals for the tax-writing committees and individual congressmen, analyzes those made by the administration, and, since Congress has the final say in tax matters, writes what eventually becomes tax law. Most observers, including tax reformers, give these staffs high marks for professionalism and ability.

But, despite their expertise, they can’t write tax law in a vacuum. The staffs need to know how proposals will affect specific business situations; they need to know about inequities which have arisen under previous law. And no one knows these things better than the affected industry or individuals. This is where tax lobbyists are important. They provide both the Treasury and the Joint Committee staffs with invaluable information about how proposals will affect their clients. It is information which both staffs need in order to write effective tax law. The tax lobbyists who are honest and candid and can be trusted to tell the staffs the truth, regardless of how it affects their clients, are an invaluable resource upon which the drafters of tax law depend. In fact, they frequently call upon the lobbyists for assistance as well as the other way around.

The Joint Committee staff is “very open to contacts from lobbyists,” said Reese (during the past eight years, the Treasury has played less of a role in drafting tax law than it did previously or than it is expected to play under the Carter Administration). “It is important to seek out advice and counsel from outside,” remarked one tax expert. “We seek out help and assistance from lobbyists in whom we have confidence.”

Trust is the key to the “system”. A lobbyist who misleads the Joint Committee staff looses his access instantly, for example. This is important because, although the Joint Committee cannot propose tax law itself, an individual congressman’s tax proposal will get nowhere unless the Joint Committee staff knows about it. That trust goes a step further, too. Congressmen trust the Joint Committee staff to protect them — to analyze tax proposals lobbyists ask them to sponsor accurately and to assess their political impact correctly.

In theory, the Joint Committee staff is insulated from political pressure although they are, in practice, the servants of the chairmen of the two tax committees. However, the staff likes to think of itself as an unpolitical resource. For instance, as a group the Joint Committee staff (like its counterparts at Treasury and most tax experts) tends to oppose tax favors for special interests. But, until this past year, although the staff almost always knew who benefited from a given tax proposal, they did not volunteer the information. If a congressman asked, a member of the staff told him. But that was as far as the staff would go.

In a sense, this is the ultimate of the closed system — a small group of individuals dealing with one another year after year, though perhaps in shifting roles. One might easily wonder where on earth the tax reform lobbies fit in this small closed world.

Over the past six years, the reformers have established themselves as expert, politically skillful, and responsible. This does not mean that they never rock the boat but, when they do, they do so deliberately. In 1973, Brandon and his predecessor at the Tax Group, Thomas M. Stanton, testified before the Ways and Means Committee on the need for internal reform. Earlier, Brandon had sat through a series of hearings in which fifty-five expert witnesses analyzed eleven major areas of tax reform for the benefit of committee members. The idea was to make the members experts themselves. But Brandon kept a record of members’ attendance at these sessions and, while testifying on the need for reform, read out the attendance record of the committee. Generally, one Republican and one Democrat from the 25member committee attended each session — by pre-arrangement as it turned out — so that the other 23 could go home to mend their political fences. What Brandon and Stanton were saying was that the idea of an “expert” committee was ridiculous in view of the number of committee members who actually attended the briefings.

“We got it in the record,” recalled Brandon, “and then Jim Burke [Rep. James A. Burke of Massachusetts] woke up and said, ‘What is this?’ And all hell broke loose. John Martin [chief counsel for the committee] looked like he would have a stroke.

“People said to me, ‘Where did you get this crazy idea?'”

Well, after that we had good attendance. John Martin sent a memo about it.”

At other times, Brandon, a tall, dark-haired man who wears rose-tinted glasses, has been known to stand up in mark up sessions, signal members pondering a tax problem, and say, “’Here’s the answer,” (“No bad guy lobbyist will do that,” remarked Brandon with a chuckle. Congressmen do not like to be publicly identified with special interest lobbyists no matter how much they depend upon them in private.) Brandon does not hesitate to help reporters from newspapers in the members’ districts with stories about either a congressman’s motives in introducing a particular piece of tax legislation (often campaign contributions) or his true position on tax reform (how he votes in committee).

“There is no particular way to lobby,” said Brandon. “I do whatever I know how to do.”

One of the things the tax reformers have done is to stiffen the backs of pro-reform Democrats on Ways and Means and encourage them to act as a group. They have been more successful with Ways and Means than with the Finance Committee, in part because of the political demise of Rep. Wilbur Mills, once the chairman of Ways and Means, and the enlargement of the committee from 25 to 37 members at a time when liberals were in control of internal reform in the House of Representatives. Sen. Russell D. Long still controls the operations of the Finance Committee to a large degree and pro-reform Democrats on the committee mostly have been content to let him have his way in return for help for their pet projects (such as the child care deduction in the case of Vice President Walter Mondale, once a member of the Finance Committee).

Of Ways and Means under Chairman Mills, Brandon said, “You could not get two liberal members…to sit down in a room together and plan strategy. There was no organization in the committee. Mills wanted it that way. It put Mills in a position of power.

“On the depletion allowance [an amendment eliminating the percentage oil depletion allowance first added to a tax bill in 1974], I actually got eight members together. I would grab Bill Green [former Rep. William J. Green of Pennsylvania] and say get on the phone. They talked to each other and thought about it.”

Brandon does much of this by sheer force of personality, a variable which must always be taken into account in considering what makes a successful lobbyist. Congressional staff members consider Brandon “very, very good” at what he does. The Tax Group is also quite aggressive about attacking members on their weakest front, among their constituents.

Reese is a much lower-key person and, by his admission, Taxation With Representation was little more than “unbiased experts” testifying on tax bills before 1975 when the group drew up a six-point program for tax reform and actively lobbied for its enactment. Taxation With Representation has a non-lobbying counterpart, Tax Analysts and Advocates (separated from it because of tax regulations which prevent an organization which spends most of its time lobbying from receiving tax deductible contributions). Tax Analysts and Advocates is a public service law firm which pursues tax inequities in the courts and an information service. It publishes a highly respected weekly magazine, Tax Notes, which follows tax legislation on a daily basis, as well as agency and court actions and related legislation. Taxation With Representation itself publishes an extremely detailed rating of congressmen’s performance on tax issues, including committee votes. As Reese notes, this is important because any political candidate is for tax reform. You have to look closely at a congressman’s committee record to ascertain where he really stands.

Both groups have developed reputations for expertise and credibility which are important in the small world of tax experts as well as the larger world of congressmen. Like all good lobbying, effective public interest lobbying is a matter of education and trust.

The story of what happened to the special interest amendments added at various times to the Tax Reform Act of 1976 is a story of public interest lobbying at its best. In a sense, it was a small victory, but to understand its significance, it must be viewed against the framework of that closed world of tax experts where only a few people understand the fine print.

Special interest amendments are tax favors, often disguised as technical amendments to tax bills. Since the 92nd Congress, when tax reformers blocked almost $400 million worth of tax loopholes favoring special interests, the process by which Congress awards these favors has become less secretive and more orderly.

Prior to 1972, the Ways and Means Committee held twice yearly secret meetings at which miscellaneous provisions, known as “Members’ Bills”, were routinely approved and sent to the floor where, since no one understood what was in them, they were passed without comment. In a 1972 session, Chairman Mills suggested a bill which reduced taxes on banks by $70 million and another member proposed one which was designed to save two family foundations about $40 million in taxes. These were two of 22 bills brought to the floor on what is called the “consent calendar”. (The consent calendar is reserved for uncontroversial bills and, if one member objects, the bill cannot pass.) Tax reformers called these two bills to the attention of the late Rep. Wright Patman, chairman of the House Banking Committee and a populist with a healthy skepticism for big banks and foundations. Rep. Patman objected to the bills on the floor. Rep. Mills maneuvered for a while and then withdrew these and other Members’ Bills. Rep. Mills continued throughout the year to try to pass the remaining 15 Members’ Bills under different disguises but the reformers were able to forestall him. They used all sorts of tactics, including working with a citizens’ group in the congressman’s district, the Arkansas Community Organization for Reform Now (ACORN) to publicize what Chairman Mills was doing. Chairman Mills was embarrassed by the publicity, as were other members of his committee. Several of them asked him to hold public hearings on the Members’ Bills in the future and, in the fall, the Ways and Means Committee did just this.

The same sort of thing was going on in the Senate where Senate Finance Committee chairman Russell Long held a secret Members’ Day, publicly declared to be a closed session on the national debt ceiling bill, at which the committee approved thirteen special interest bills. In an attempt to get them through, Sen. Long attached them to different bills before the Senate but these were blocked. By mid-October, both chairmen had to concede defeat since Congress was about to adjourn. The special interest provisions were dead for that session of Congress.

The tax reformers had made sure that the right members knew what was going on and encouraged them to stand up to the two powerful committee chairmen. They had also helped to focus constituent, or grass roots, attention upon people such as Chairman Mills, something which had not been done previously. It was the beginning of the end of the old secretive system of writing tax loopholes for the wealthy.

The tax reformers had not yet coordinated a pro tax reform group within the Ways and Means Committee. That took the fight over the oil depletion allowance in 1974 and 1975 referred to earlier. But, in 1973, partly as a result of the bad publicity the Members’ Bills had gotten the year before, the Ways and Means Committee never got around to scheduling Members’ Day. When the next one occurred in 1974, it was public.

“They sent a notice around that there would be a Members’ Day and everyone should submit bills to John Martin on the Ways and Means staff,” Brandon recalled. “They put out a list and invited written comments. But that was a turbulent session and Ways and Means never sat down and worked on the Members’ Bills.”

Chairman Mills was ill and then disgraced and Rep. Al Ullman was acting as chairman. There had never been subcommittees on Ways and Means but Rep. Ullman explored the possibility of setting up task forces on various areas of tax policy. One was to have dealt specifically with special interest bills. However, the task forces never materialized and soon a change in House rules required every committee to have at least five subcommittees.

By 1975, Rep. Ullman was chairman. He set up a committee to screen miscellaneous bills, identified as those generally involving less than a $5 million full year revenue effect, or $15 to $20 million at most, not part of the current tax reform bill, and not referred to a subcommittee studying a specific area of tax reform. The committee published a list of the bills proposed, disclosing the beneficiaries, and a staff analysis of each. Then Chairman Ullman scheduled hearings for mid-December.

“That was what we had been fighting for all these years,” said Brandon. Having the legislation considered in the open had a “prophylactic effect”, he said and it gave reformers an opportunity to block the worst bills.

However, all special interest legislation was not considered solely on its merits, Late in 1975, the Ways and Means Committee approved its version of the Tax Reform Act of 1976. But, before it came to the House floor, the Wall Street Journal revealed that one of its provisions conferred special benefits upon Texas businessman Ross Perot and had been sought by Perot. The Perot amendment allowed an individual to carry capital losses backward as well as forward, allowing Perot to wipe out earlier gains retroactively and pay less taxes. The Perot amendment was a great embarrassment to Chairman Ullman and his “reformed” committee even though they were probably correct in saying that they did not understand what the Perot amendment really meant. The amendment was stricken from the bill but the bad odor remained.

Early in 1976, the committee held open mark up sessions and acted on most of the 22 miscellaneous bills. Some passed; others were blocked. But the process was a far cry from the secret Members’ Days of 1972 and earlier.

In the Senate, the system had changed very little. A few days after the Ways and Means Committee met in December 1975 to first consider its miscellaneous bills, the Finance Committee held an unannounced meeting at which it approved two dozen assorted special interest provisions which would have to be tacked onto House-passed bills since the Senate cannot originate tax legislation. In the course of the hearing, the senators had a discussion of what to do with their “Christmas tree”, as such provisions are called since they usually come up in December, in the course of which Sen. Long remarked: “Now if we just had a whole lot of bills lying around here that the House had passed then we could stick the controversial amendments on separate bills and not hurt anyone else’s. It’s not my fault the House doesn’t send us more bills. We’ve just got to do the best we can with what we have to work with, namely this House bill suspending the tariffs on silk yarn.” For a variety of reasons, the Christmas tree ornaments did not pass the Senate before Christmas. And, in early 1976, the Finance Committee was faced with the House-passed Tax Reform Act of 1976.

Consideration of the tax reform bill was a long and confusing process, compounded by the committee’s outrageous idiosyncrasies. Unbelievable as it sounds in view of the complexity of the legislation they were drafting, the committee kept no written record of what happened in mark up sessions. Members frequently were unable to find out what was going on, either in the present or in the future. It was, as Sen. Gaylord Nelson once complained when Chairman Long would not tell him what was to be considered the following day, like the land of the blind where the one-eyed man is king. “You’re the one-eyed man,” Sen. Nelson told Sen. Long.

The predictable result was that no one knew for certain what was in the Senate bill. An obscure provision in the bill set a 12 percent investment tax credit on coal slurry pipelines. Presumably the 12 percent, two percent higher than the investment tax credit on similar projects, was designed to encourage the use of coal. However, no one knew where it came from. Sen. James Abourezk, who questioned the provision during Senate debate, said he had had a member of his staff contact the Coal Slurry Transport Association, a trade group, to ask about the provision. “They were not aware that the additional two percent was in this bill. It was news to them. We are unable to find out how the two percent was added on.” Sen. Long agreed to take it out of the bill.

Of far greater significance were two technical amendments which made changes in earlier legislation repealing the depletion allowance for large oil producers while retaining it for smaller producers. The amendments had been proposed by Sen. Robert Dole at six p.m. one evening. Sen. Dole later said he was putting them forward at the request of a Washington oil lobbyist, J.D. Williams. Apparently, unbeknownst to Sen. Long (or so he said), these amendments could have meant thousands of dollars to members of his family who were the beneficiaries of an assortment of trusts that receive oil royalties. The amendments had been cleared with the Joint Committee staff which apparently did not detect the potential embarrassment for the chairman even though a member of that staff admitted that later he had remembered that the Long family was heavily involved in oil royalties. At any rate, the amendment was routinely approved and forgotten until late June, when the tax bill was being debated on the Senate floor.

Tax reform lobbyists regularly attended Finance Committee sessions and Brandon made it a habit to go up to reporters covering the bill after each session and say, “”I hope you understood what they just did,” explaining if they did not. However, even Brandon missed this one until he saw the printed bill. Then his suspicions were aroused. He and his staff did some digging and he also contacted New York Timesreporter Eileen Shanahan. The result was a front-page story-in the Times on June 25: “Long’s Relatives Likely to Gain Under Tax Bill Before Senate.” Chairman Long was mortified and claimed that he knew nothing about the provision. He assured his colleagues that the Joint Committee staff would have protected him from such an action had they known about it. As Sen. Long spoke, staff director Dr. Laurence N. Woodworth (recently appointed to the Treasury Department by President Carter), sat at Sen. Long’s side.

“There’s a good chance that Long did not know it would help his family,” said Brandon later. “Either he did not know that it benefited his relatives or he was unaware-of what the committee had done because of the confusing process of the Senate Finance Committee.”

It is a tossup as to which is worse.

One evening, May 27, the committee added seventy-odd special interest provisions to the tax reform bill. No one except the Joint Committee staff and the individual lobbyists pushing each provision knew what was in them. There was no staff analysis comparable to that available in the House, even after the fact. Both tax reform lobbies were determined to find out the true meaning of these provisions.

“We got out the Long story,” said Brandon. “Then we started to do a job on campaign contributions. The parallels were extraordinary. You would have a provision benefiting two specific boat companies in Louisiana and there would be campaign contributions from those companies.

“It took a lot of digging. We’d look at a provision and say what do you have to be to qualify under that provision. You’d have to be a scrap metal dealer involved in Panamanian shipping and then we’d go over the campaign financing records and hit the right jackpot.”

At about the same time, Jim Byrne, the editor of Tax Notes, got some summer interns, all law students from Hofstra University. Byrne and Tom Reese took all the mysterious special interest amendments and divided them up among the interns. They told them to find out everything they could about the amendments — who proposed them, who benefited from them, who was lobbying for them, and who had made campaign contributions to whom. The law students besieged the Joint Committee with questions. After all, there were only two sources of this information, other than the individual lobbyists themselves, the Joint Committee staff and the lawyers at Treasury. Reese refuses to say whether the Joint Committee and Treasury staffs helped Byrne’s reporters but a source close to the committee indicated that the Joint Committee staff made a policy decision to help out the tax reformers. Tax Notes and the Tax-Group’s publication, People & Taxes, both published their information in July. It was picked up by the major newspapers and the New York Times also ran two long front page stories which incorporated the Tax Group’s information but went further to explore the process by which special interest lobbyists approach and convince Members of Congress. The articles also examined the attitudes of members who sponsor special interest provisions, as well as tracing campaign contributions.

One legislator the Times interviewed was Sen. Mike Gravel. Sen. Gravel told the Times: “Usually I first meet lobbyists at social functions. Then you meet them at fund-raisers. My relationship with Merrigan [Edward L. Merrigan, lobbyist for the National Association of Recycling Industries who gave at least $3,500 to Sen. Gravel’s 1974 re-election campaign] is as close as can be. You get guys like that whom you trust and who never come around with dogs, and you generally help them.”

The senator continued, “If the issue is a broad one, I don’t care who their clients are if it is a good cause. If the issue is very esoteric and would benefit only one group or a few people, then I would turn around and say, “For whom are you working ?”

“All campaign support guarantees is access, I would pick up the telephone for a supporter before I would pick it up for someone else. But that’s the end of my commitment. I have no obligation to help them, but I feel I have an obligation to listen to their problems.”

The tax reformers also got their material to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy who led the tax reform fight on the Senate floor for nearly three months. Sen. Kennedy was not a member of the Finance Committee but pro-reform Democrats on the committee had refused to lead the floor fight. In 1969, Sen. Kennedy had been one of the few senators willing to speak out in favor of tax reform and, in 1976, he devoted full days to it for weeks on end.

“He didn’t have to do everything he did,” said Brandon appreciatively. “He was on that floor ten hours a day, prepared to deal with every issue that came up. It was a time when his back was bothering him and I would be there at midnight when he would stagger off the floor in pain and agony. It was important. People would say why keep on. But it was important to have votes on every issue.”

Sen. Kennedy took the reformers’ material, plus additional material from the Joint Committee staff, and presented it on the Senate floor. This, combined with the publicity the material had been receiving, forced Sen. Long to agree to three days of public hearings on the seventy-odd special interest amendments and to give committee members a second chance to vote on them. Some observers believe that it was Dr. Woodworth who convinced Sen. Long that it was in his best political interest to make public information about the special interest provisions. Sen. Long also promised a procedural reform. In the future, he said, someone would keep a written record of what the Finance Committee did in mark up sessions. Small by itself, this victory was important in view of the way the Finance Committee had been operating in the past. Like the stalled Members’ Bills in 1972, it was a chink in Sen. Long’s armor of confusion and disorder. “A victory for tax reform and a victory for the average taxpayer,” said Sen. Kennedy.

Brandon believes that, if pro-tax reform members of the Finance Committee can be encouraged to act as a bloc as they now do in the House much of the time, there is further hope for tax reform, or at least for screening out the worst of the special interest loopholes. But both he and Reese agree that the battleground will shift in the Carter Administration. If the administration advocates real tax reform, as it is expected to do, the emphasis of reformers will shift to the Treasury Department. Reformers think highly of Dr. Woodworth who is the new Assistant Secretary of Treasury for Tax Policy.

It is difficult to say whether the procedural reforms that have taken place in the tax legislation writing process could have happened without the tax reform lobbies. To some extent, these changes coincided with a general sweep of procedural reforms at the beginning of the 94th Congress. However, there is little doubt that the tax reformers, and particularly Brandon, are a focal point for tax reform activity in the House today. There is a nucleus of tax reform minded congressmen on Ways and Means now — Reps. Charles A. Vanik, James C. Corman, Sam Gibbons, Abner J. Mikva, Fortney H. Stark, and others. They are a minority, but when they act together they can make a difference.

Brandon is always there — advising them on strategy, pushing them to act in consort, bringing constituent pressure to bear upon them when they waver. During the last session of Congress, Brandon ran regular noontime meetings at which he would explain the issues to interested congressmen and give them advice.

“We try to do a professional job,” said Brandon, who has two other lobbyists working with him on the Hill. “And we understand the political realities. We give congressmen the political realities as well as the-right information.”

Brandon is careful not to overstate his group’s influence or the influence of the pro-reform congressmen in general. “We have a bloc,” he said. “It’s a minority but it can cause trouble.”

He considers working with other groups very important. The Tax Group often lobbies alongside the AFL-CIO which has one lobbyist, Ray Denison, who devotes much of his time to tax matters. Generally, the AFL-CIO and the tax reformers are on the same side but labor has problems because there are so many issues which are important to them. A congressman can vote against them on tax reform and still count on their support because he voted the right way on some other piece of legislation. “We have the luxury of being outside that,” said Brandon. “We can go after people.”

Ultimately, the only way to win any lobbying battle is to bring constituent pressure to bear upon a politician. Brandon and Reese both are well aware of this.

“The way to win is to raise the stakes high enough,” said Brandon, “and the way to do that is to have a visible presence in the member’s district.”

Received in New York on February 2, 1977

©1977 Mary Clay Berry

Mary Clay Berry, a freelance writer, is an Alicia Patterson Foundation award winner. She is studying lobbying in Washington, DC. This article may be published with credit to Ms. Berry as a Fellow of the Alicia Patterson Foundation. The views expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily the views of the Foundation.