President Obama nominated John Koskinen to be the next commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service Thursday, tapping the former Freddie Mac official to turn around a troubled agency that has become a political lightning rod.
“John is an expert at turning around institutions in need of reform,” Obama said. “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.”
The non-executive chairman of Freddie Mac from 2008 to 2011 — and acting CEO in 2009 — Koskinen was tasked with turning around the mortgage giant in the wake of the financial crisis. Obama is looking for a fix-it man, as the IRS remains under fire for targeting conservatives groups and its lavish spending on employee conferences and bonuses.
Koskinen was also tasked by former President Bill Clinton with helping the federal government prepare for Y2K.
If confirmed, Koskinen would take over for Daniel Werfel, who has led the scandal-plagued agency since May.
Koskinen was the deputy mayor and city administrator for the District of Columbia from 2000 to 2003 and deputy director for management of the Office of Management and Budget from 1994 to 1997. He also was the president of the United States Soccer Foundation between 2004 and 2008.
After an inspector general report in May found that the IRS had unfairly scrutinized conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, Obama fired the acting commissioner and put others on leave.
Obama surrogates have tried to put the IRS controversy in their rear-view, deriding it as a “phony scandal.” Obama senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said allegations about the White House ordering tax collectors to target conservatives have been proven false.
Yet, Republican leaders remain unmoved by the White House’s rhetoric.
“There’s nothing ‘phony’ about these scandals, Mr. President,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Thursday. “The American people deserve answers, and we will continue to fight to get the truth – no matter how badly the administration wants to sweep these issues under the carpet.”
The Senate must confirm Koskinen’s nomination.