WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated John Koskinen to head the embattled Internal Revenue Service.
Koskinen oversaw the government’s preparations for the year 2000 and helped lead Freddie Mac out of its financial crisis.
If confirmed by the Senate, part of Koskinen’s task will be to restore confidence in the IRS, which is recovering from recent scandals involving inappropriate behavior toward tax-exemption applicants and lavish spending on a conference in California.
“John is an expert at turning around institutions in need of reform,” Obama said Thursday. “I am confident that John will do whatever it takes to restore the public’s trust in the agency.”
Koskinen served as non-executive chairman of Freddie Mac from 2008 until 2011 and as chief executive from 2009 until the end of his tenure with the mortgage giant. He was also deputy mayor and city administrator for the District of Columbia from 2000 until 2003, under former Mayor Anthony Williams.
In the private sector, Koskinen served as president and chief executive for the Palmieri Co., a management consulting firm.
If confirmed, Koskinen will replace acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel, whom the president selected after an inspector general’s report revealed in May that the agency had inappropriately targeted groups for extra scrutiny based on their political ideology. The previous commissioner, Steven Miller, was forced to resign.
The Treasury Department approached Koskinen about leading the IRS before the controversy, but he declined, according to an administration official. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew asked Koskinen to reconsider in the wake of the IRS’ problems.
Lew praised the nomination. “Because John has a clear understanding of how to make organizations more effective and an unshakable commitment to public service, he will be an exceptional leader,” Lew said.
Koskinen became non-executive chairman of Freddie Mac in 2009, after the Obama administration placed the corporation under conservatorship in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis. Soon after Koskinen’s arrival, the firm’s chief executive resigned and its chief financial officer committed suicide, leaving Koskinen to juggle their duties with his own until replacements could be named.
“Many people would have been unable to deal with all that stress, but he did, and the company did well,” said Ed Haldeman, who eventually became chief executive of Freddie Mac.
During his tenure with the District of Columbia, Koskinen was credited with budget innovations that helped D.C. deal with a $323 million shortfall in 2003, including making better use of federal grants and the collection of Medicaid dollars.