Anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist and his pledge that many GOP lawmakers have signed to not raise taxes have come under fire as of late from the right. Some high-profile Republican lawmakers—including Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bob Corker, and Rep. Peter King—have vowed they will break the pledge. Other influential lawmakers, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, have downplayed its significance.

Still, the latest round of criticism has not deterred the conservative Norquist. “I get this every time someone burps,” the founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform told CNN. “It always gets reported as all these guys have caved and said they’re for tax increases. All it is happens to be a handful of people are having impure thoughts.”

Norquist wields a powerful, Rush Limbaugh-like influence over the Republican Party. Although his name seems to be everywhere, many know little about the man whose tax pledge is virtually holding the “fiscal cliff” budget negotiations hostage.

As George H.W. Bush once said: “Who the hell is Grover Norquist, anyway?”

For that answer, we turn to CNN, which has crafted a profile of this important conservative figure in contemporary American politics.

Norquist, 56, has never been elected to public office or held a Cabinet post. He isn’t a deep-pocketed donor or celebrity magnate. The millions of dollars Americans for Tax Reform, the group he heads, spent on the 2012 campaign is a healthy sum, but pocket change in the post-Citizens United era. Norquist may have had influence over the direction of super PAC funding, but he didn’t hold the purse strings.

And yet he’s routinely named one of the most powerful men in Washington. He hosts off-the-record weekly meetings of the conservative movement’s top figures. The “K Street Project” he pushed during the Bush era was a leading driver of a massive shift in the lobbying landscape to the GOP’s benefit. And the Taxpayer Protection Pledge he debuted more than two decades ago has achieved an almost mythic status among fans and foes alike.

Norquist views that two-line document — fewer than 70 words in all — as something like a blood oath, an ironclad, immutable contract between lawmakers and their constituents that they will not back any bill to raise taxes or revenue.

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— Posted by Tracy Bloom.

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