Top Stories
Top Stories
Politics

Patriotic Millionaires activist group threatens to withhold endorsements if politicians don't push for higher taxes on the rich

Key Points
  • The activists known as the Patriotic Millionaires, who describe themselves as "proud traitors to their class," want to meet with every member of Congress as part of a lobbying campaign to raise taxes on the rich.
  • During these meetings, the millionaires intend to use the threat of withholding their endorsements as a way to persuade those on the fence to join their crusade.
  • The millionaires in the group tend to back Democratic politicians. The two-pronged strategy will also include a digital ad campaign touting the political value of taxing the wealthy.
Honorary chair and co-founder of Level Forward, Abigail E. Disney speaks onstage during attends the New York Women's Foundation's 2018 'Celebrating Women' breakfast on May 10, 2018 in New York City.
Monica Schipper | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

The activists known as the Patriotic Millionaires, who describe themselves as "proud traitors to their class," want to meet with every member of Congress as part of a lobbying campaign aimed at persuading lawmakers to raise taxes on the rich.

During these meetings, the millionaires intend to use the threat of withholding their endorsements as a way to persuade those on the fence to join their crusade.

"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 executive 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 millionaires in the group tend to back Democratic politicians. It is unclear whether the lobbying campaign will have any impact on Republican lawmakers.

The two-pronged strategy will also include a digital ad campaign touting the political value of taxing the wealthy. The effort's cost will register in the the low-seven figures, a spokeswoman for the organization said.

"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 than 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.

VIDEO6:4706:47
Why these millionaires want to raise taxes on themselves

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. 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. For instance, a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll showed that 61 percent said they would support Sen. Elizabeth Warren's "wealth tax." While running for president, the Massachusetts Democrat 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 midterms while Berger spent more than $200,000 on Democratic causes.

For the new campaign, the group has already reached out to Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., along with seven other lawmakers. Jayapal and Merkley are scheduled to speak at next week's TAX THE RICH! conference in Washington, which is where the Patriotic Millionaires expect to launch their new effort.

VIDEO10:4510:45
The US must make structural changes by taxing the wealthy, says Disney heiress

Pym said members will also look to speak with Republicans members of the House Ways and Means Committee along with those on the Senate Finance Committee. The memo to the group's partners also indicates where it will apply pressure.

"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.

Patriotic Millionaires members have also talked with some Democratic presidential candidates, including millionaire and retired congressman John Delaney and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Pearl said he also met with Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who is considering jumping into the race.

"We are trying to encourage people who are running for president to embrace the tax ideas that we're talking about," Pearl said.

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."