Sunday, February 24, 2013
New York Times DealBook: A Revolving Door in Washington With Spin, but Less Visibility, by Jesse Eisinger (ProPublica):
Obsess all you’d like about President Obama’s nomination of Mary Jo White to head the Securities and Exchange Commission. Who heads the agency is vital, but important fights in Washington are happening in quiet rooms, away from the media gaze. ...
Take what happened late last month as Washington geared up for more fights about the taxing, spending and the deficit. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, decided to bolster his staff’s expertise on taxes.
So on Jan. 25, Mr. Reid’s office announced that he had appointed Cathy Koch as chief adviser to the majority leader for tax and economic policy. The news release lists Ms. Koch’s admirable and formidable experience in the public sector. “Prior to joining Senator Reid’s office,” the release says, “Koch served as tax chief at the Senate Finance Committee.”
It’s funny, though. The notice left something out. Because immediately before joining Mr. Reid’s office, Ms. Koch wasn’t in government. She was working for a large corporation.
Not just any corporation, but quite possibly the most influential company in America, and one that arguably stands to lose the most if there were any serious tax reform that closed corporate loopholes. Ms. Koch arrives at the senator’s office by way of General Electric.
Yes, General Electric, the company that paid almost no taxes in 2010. Just as the tax reform debate is heating up, Mr. Reid has put in place a person who is extraordinarily positioned to torpedo any tax reform that might draw a dollar out of G.E. — and, by extension, any big corporation.
Omitting her last job from the announcement must have merely been an oversight. By the way, no rules prevent Ms. Koch from meeting with G.E. or working on issues that would affect the company.
The senator’s office, which declined to make Ms. Koch available for an interview, says that she will support the majority leader in his efforts to close corporate tax loopholes. His office said in a statement that the senator considered her knowledge of the private sector to be an asset and that she complied with “all relevant Senate ethics rules and disclosures.”
In a statement, the senator’s spokesman said, “The impulse in some quarters to reflexively cast suspicion on private sector experience is part of what makes qualified individuals reluctant to enter public service.”