President Obama will nominate John Koskinen to lead the IRS. (Nicholas Kamm / AFP)
WASHINGTON — President Obama said on Thursday that he intends to nominate John Koskinen to serve as Internal Revenue Service commissioner.
If confirmed by the Senate, Koskinen would replace Daniel Werfel, a longtime budget adviser, who has led the troubled agency on an acting basis since May. Werfel replaced Steven Miller, who was ousted by Obama in the aftermath of revelations that the agency targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny.
“John is an expert at turning around institutions in need of reform,” Obama said in a statement. “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.”
Koskinen worked at the government-controlled mortgage funding group Freddie Mac as a nonexecutive chairman after the organization came under fire in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.
He also served in the Clinton administration, heading the President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion, and as deputy director for management of the Office of Management and Budget from 1994 to 1997, a period that included several government shutdowns.
Koskinen also worked in the District of Columbia government, where he served as deputy mayor from 2000 to 2003.
He’s been a generous donor to Democratic politicians in the past and has given $7,300 to Obama’s two presidential campaigns, according to Federal Election Commission records.
“He will be an exceptional leader who will strengthen the institution and restore confidence in the IRS,” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said.
Obama moved relatively quickly to oust Miller after the revelations of wrongdoing were made public in an IRS inspector general report. But in recent days, the president has publicly lashed out against Republicans for chasing “phony scandals” instead of focusing attention on improving a lackluster economy.
Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has held a series of hearings to probe the IRS actions since the revelations, said that Koskinen should answer whether he agrees with the president.
“The first question Mr. Koskinen must answer is whether or not he agrees with President Obama that the IRS targeting Americans for their political beliefs is a ‘phony scandal,’” said Issa, R-Calif. “Anyone who does not share the American people’s outrage about IRS wrongdoing is not qualified to lead this agency that has abused its power.”
Werfel confirmed in testimony before the Oversight committee two weeks ago that liberal and progressive groups were also targeted by IRS officials for extra scrutiny. At a forum Wednesday sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said suggestions by Republicans that the White House was directing the IRS to target Tea Party groups have proven false.
“That was the allegation,” Pfeiffer said. “And that has turned out to be completely false. There is no evidence to suggest that. And now it has turned out that the IRS was not just targeting conservative groups but also looking at a large number of progressive groups as well. So that changes the dynamic of what it was.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the top Republican on the Finance Committee that will consider Koskinen’s nomination, charged that the IRS hasn’t been forthcoming enough in responding to document requests from Congress. He added that his committee has received only “a minuscule fraction of the documents” members have requested, leading him “to believe that the administration isn’t interested in getting to the truth and would rather this matter go away.”
Hatch also said he was “mystified” that the White House hadn’t consulted with him ahead of announcing the nomination.
Aamer Madhani writes for USA TODAY.