Obama taps executive to head troubled IRS

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President Obama announced Thursday he is appointing John Koskinen, a former official at Freddie Mac, as commissioner of the scandal-ridden Internal Revenue Service.

John is an expert at turning around institutions in need of reform,” Mr. Obama said. “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.”

The IRS is under investigation for targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status for extra scrutiny prior to the 2012 elections. The Washington Times has reported the agency is also being investigated over accusations of letting allowing government officials access the tax records of political candidates and campaign donors.

Mr. Obama said the IRS, like other agencies, “must operate with absolute integrity.”

“I am confident that John will do whatever it takes to restore the public’s trust in the agency,” the president said.

Already, Republicans have said Mr. Koskinen will have to answer questions about his thoughts on the IRS‘ handling of conservative groups.

“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 Rep. Darrell E. Issa, who is leading a House investigation into the targeting. “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.”

At a forum with conservative House lawmakers Thursday, Mr. Issa said the IRS is rife with problems, including that it wastes taxpayers’ money on excessive spending and procurement.

In addition to the political targeting scandal, the GOP is targeting the IRS in its push to try to halt Mr. Obama’s health law, saying that the recent scandals show the agency is not prepared to administer the tax benefits and penalties that are key to getting individuals to sign up for health coverage.

In May, the president tapped former White House budget director Danny Werfel to lead the agency temporarily as it grapples with the targeting scandal. If Mr. Koskinen is confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Werfel’s title will change to principal deputy commissioner.

Mr. Koskinen served as nonexecutive chairman of Freddie Mac from 2008 to 2011 and acting CEO in 2009. From 2004 to 2008, Mr. Koskinen was the president of the U.S. Soccer Foundation.

He was deputy mayor and city administrator of Washington, D.C., from 2000 to 2003, and deputy director for management at the White House Office of Management and Budget from 1994 to 1997 under President Clinton.

Before entering government service, Mr. Koskinen worked for 21 years for the Palmieri Co. in a number of leadership positions including CEO and chairman.

Earlier in his career, he served as administrative assistant to Sen. Abraham Ribicoff, Connecticut Democrat, and legislative assistant to Mayor John Lindsay of New York City.

⦁ Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

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