WASHINGTON – President Obama has chosen a retired corporate and government official with experience managing numerous organizations in crisis to take over an Internal Revenue Service under fire for targeting political groups.
Obama said his nominee for commissioner of the tax agency, John Koskinen, “is an expert at turning around institutions in need of reform.”
“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,” Obama said in a written statement. “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.”
Koskinen came in to overhaul mortgage buyer Freddie Mac after its near collapse in the financial crisis at the end of the George W. Bush administration. The 74-year-old also helped restructure the assets of the largest failed life insurance company in U.S. history, Mutual Benefit Life, and helped reorganize the Penn Central Transportation Co. after it became the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.
His government experience includes handling preparation for the Year 2000 challenge for President Bill Clinton and helping restore the District of Columbia to financial stability after years of mismanagement as city administrator from 2000-2003.
Koskinen’s nomination to a five-year term must be confirmed by the Senate. If confirmed, he would take over an agency in crisis, just as it is gearing up to administer large parts of the president’s health care law.
The IRS has been under siege since May, when agency officials acknowledged that agents working in a Cincinnati office had improperly targeted tea party groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. The IRS has since released documents suggesting that progressive groups may have been targeted, too.
Congressional investigations have so far shown that IRS supervisors in Washington — including lawyers in the chief counsel’s office — oversaw the processing of tea party applications. But there has been no evidence that anyone outside the IRS directed the targeting or that agents were politically motivated.
Obama ousted acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller in May when the revelations came to light. The president appointed former White House budget official Danny Werfel as acting commissioner while he searched for a nominee.
With about 90,000 employees, the IRS processes more than 140 million individual income tax returns each year. Starting next year, the IRS will administer much of Obama’s new health care law.