Activists calling themselves the “Patriotic Millionaires” and describing themselves as “proud traitors to their class” are seeking meetings with every member of Congress to lobby for higher taxes on the rich.
To get their way, they are threatening to withhold their endorsements as a means to convince anyone on the fence to join their fight for higher taxes on the wealthy.
“As you can imagine in an election year our members are routinely called when they are soliciting fundraisers. The one thing they are going to ask is why don’t you tax the rich,” Patriotic Millionaires director Kelsea-Marie Pym told CNBC. “We are saying get on the bus or get off the bus. Are you on the bus of helping the country in the direction we are headed in or not?”
The group of course tends to back mostly Democratic politicians and it’s unclear whether any impact will be made on Republican lawmakers. Their strategy also includes a digital ad campaign touting the values of taxing the wealth.
“I am going to tell you what we want, is for a progressive tax system for people with more wealth to pay higher tax rates then people who are actually working people,” said Patriotic Millionaires Chairman Morris Pearl, a former executive at asset manager BlackRock. “We don’t think the current system is fair.” He declined to say how high he would like to see taxes raised on the rich.
The Patriotic Millionaires’ definition of “rich” includes people “with incomes of over $1 million or assets of over $5 million, and corporations with more than $1 million in annual profits,” according to a memo sent to the group’s partners.
The group, which was founded in 2010 to protest President George W. Bush’s tax cuts, is looking to ride the momentum from the Democratic “blue wave” in the midterms, which gave the party control of the House of Representatives. Several Patriotic Millionaires members point to proposals, such as freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s plan to tax earnings above $10 million at 70 percent, as guides for what they want to see implemented.
Voters generally favor increasing taxes on the rich. A recent Politico/Morning Consult poll showed that 61 percent said they would support Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s “wealth tax,” for instance. While running for president, Warren has proposed levying a 2 percent tax on households with over $50 million assets and 3 percent on assets over $1 billion.
The group’s advisory board includes several Democratic contributors, including Naomi Aberly, a member of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America board, and Daniel Berger, a lawyer and managing shareholder at Berger Montague. Aberly contributed over $700,000 during the 2018 midterm elections while Berger spent more than $200,000 on Democratic causes.
“We aim to get every center/center-left elected official and candidate to commit publicly that they will ‘tax the rich’ and force every center-right candidate to defend their refusal to ‘tax the rich’ in light of overwhelming bipartisan support for higher taxes on the rich,” the memo says.
Abigail Disney, another top Democratic donor in the group and the granddaughter of Disney co-founder Roy O. Disney, said Democrats are risking their political fate next year if they don’t seek to raise taxes on the rich and eliminate wealth inequality.
“I think Democrats who won’t speak about this issue, they won’t be able to maintain the message of being the party of the middle class,” Disney said. “If they don’t move ahead with this, I really don’t see how they can win in 2020.”