By Jason Bramwell
President Obama on August 1 nominated John Koskinen as the next commissioner of the embattled IRS. Koskinen, former nonexecutive chairman of Freddie Mac, also served as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Bill Clinton.
The president tapped the retired Koskinen because of his ability to lead an organization out of a crisis. During his tenure at Freddie Mac, from 2008 to 2011, he helped the mortgage finance company dig out of a financial crisis after it was seized by the government in September 2008.
The IRS has been under fire recently for its role in improperly scrutinizing the federal tax-exempt status of conservative groups as well as engaging in excessive spending at training conferences.
"John is an expert at turning around institutions in need of reform", President Obama said in a written statement on August 1. "With decades of experience in both the private and public sectors, John knows how to lead in difficult times, whether that means ensuring new management or implementing new checks and balances. Every part of our government must operate with absolute integrity, and that is especially true for the IRS. I am confident that John will do whatever it takes to restore the public's trust in the agency."
US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew applauded Koskinen's nomination, saying he is "the right person to take on this critical position at this important time", and urged the Senate to quickly confirm Koskinen as IRS commissioner.
"Because John has a clear understanding of how to make organizations more effective and an unshakeable commitment to public service, he will be an exceptional leader who will strengthen the institution and restore confidence in the IRS", Lew said in a written statement. "John is a man of the highest integrity, and I want to thank him for agreeing to return to public life and serve his country again after a long and accomplished career."
Lew praised Werfel, calling the work he has done at the IRS since his appointment "extraordinary."
"Danny is an outstanding public servant who has done a remarkable job of putting the IRS on a stronger footing in just a matter of months", he said. "He has improved the agency's operations, and he has paved the way so that the IRS can meet its fundamental obligation to provide fair, high-quality service to taxpayers."
On August 1, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, said he was "mystified" that neither Obama nor Lew consulted with or told him in advance about Koskinen's nomination.
"This is an agency that, at the highest levels in Washington, knew of and allowed to continue the outrageous targeting of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status", Hatch said in a written statement. "Furthermore, I truly hope the Obama administration ceases and desists from trying to close the door on Congress' investigations into the IRS when the president committed in May to fully work with us to get to the bottom of what happened."
Hatch added that Koskinen will need to answer the Senate Finance Committee's questions about the IRS' ability to implement Obamacare.
"It's imperative that this nominee explain to the American people how the agency will safeguard the over $1 trillion in premium subsidies from being doled out to those seeking to game the system while protecting sensitive taxpayer information", Hatch said. "The IRS also needs to do a much better job at stopping refundable tax credits from inappropriately going out the door."
Koskinen, who also served as acting CEO of Freddie Mac in 2009, was president of the US Soccer Foundation from 2004 to 2008. Prior to that, he was the deputy mayor and chief administrator of the District of Columbia from 2000 to 2003, and assistant to President Clinton and chair of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion from 1998 to 2000. Koskinen served as the Office of Management and Budget's deputy director for management from 1994 to 1997.
In the private sector, Koskinen spent twenty-one years at management consulting firm Palmieri Company, serving in a number of leadership positions, including CEO and chairman, president, and vice president.