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.
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
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.
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
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.”