Victory on Estate Tax!

We won!

Once again, we have stopped the estate tax from being permanently repealed. Thanks to all of you who worked on this effort.

The Gramm-Kyl repeal amendment needed 60 votes to pass in the Senate, but they only got 54 votes. We held almost all our original supporters and were able to shift the votes of several senators to vote against repeal, including: Sen. Feinstein (D-CA). Check out our Web site Thursday for final results.

We have begun to turn the tide. We intend to advance a reform agenda. But before I describe our next steps, I'd like to take a moment to briefly look back at this intense struggle.

Ten years ago, a group of very wealthy families, including the heirs of the Mars candy and Gallo wines companies, started to donate millions of dollars to an organized effort to kill the estate tax. They waged a 10-year battle, largely without opposition. They deployed millions of dollars in media spin and campaign contributions to influence Congress.

They actually won repeal in the summer of 2000, but we organized to ensure we had the votes in the House to prevent an override of President Clinton's veto.

Estate tax repeal was included in the 2001 Bush Tax Cut bill, but it was not permanent. As each day passed last year, we were able to chip away at the opposition's case for wholesale repeal.

Now we have stopped their effort to make repeal permanent. This is a major blow to pro-repeal forces, as the financial and political cost of repeal will only continue to rise in the coming years. We do not think they will try to move it again in 2002 (but we shall remain vigilant!).

Over the last year, we have helped build an effective coalition of organizations and individuals to oppose wholesale repeal. United for a Fair Economy and Responsible Wealth helped convene "Americans for a Fair Estate Tax," a coalition of religious, charities, labor and business groups.

We have a field organization with organizers working in 12 swing states. We bought advertising in national and local media. We booked talk radio programs and placed op-eds in key newspapers. The coalition recently conducted polling and found out that Americans support reforming the tax, but not repealing it. Today, we had a press conference in Washington, D.C. to publicize this poll.

We know the forces committed to repeal aren't going to take our victory lying down. That's why we are ready to advance our reform agenda.

In the coming months, we will work to advance proactive reform proposal and win co-sponsors in the House and Senate.

We will wage a multi-year effort to win reform -- with research, media, grassroots advocacy and popular education. This includes efforts to educate the public and key constituencies about the negative aspects of complete estate tax repeal. A popular book, "Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Needs to Tax Accumulated Wealth," co-authored by William H. Gates, Sr., will come out in January, and make the moral case for preserving the estate tax. Working with our coalition partners, we plan to change the terms of the debate on this issue.

Thanks to all of you who have made calls, sent emails, visited elected officials, talked on the radio, given contributions and talked to neighbors. It has made a difference.

We look forward to working with you in this effort.


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