Who is John Koskinen?

Friday - 8/2/2013, 2:40pm EDT

Commentary by Francis Rose
Federal News Radio

A new name came from the White House yesterday to lead the Internal Revenue Service. President Obama chose John Koskinen to be the next commissioner of the IRS. His appointment requires Senate confirmation.

Politico reports that Koskinen isn't well known on Capitol Hill. Perhaps by people who haven't been on the Hill for a long time, he isn't. But Koskinen is one of the most highly respected Democratic officials in D.C.

Koskinen's highest-profile jobs in government have been in D.C., but not all in the federal government. His most recent public service job was at Freddie Mac, leading the agency through the financial crisis and the suicide of its acting chief financial officer. He served as deputy director for management — the number two job at the Office of Management and Budget — for President Clinton. Koskinen led the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion. Remember Y2K was a non-event? Washington technology insiders say he was a big reason why. Koskinen was deputy mayor of Washington D.C. under Anthony Williams, perhaps the most respected D.C. mayor in decades. In between his service in D.C. government and going to Freddie Mac, he was president of the U.S. Soccer Association.

Republicans and Democrats that know him like him. Robert Shea, President George W. Bush's associate director for administration and government performance, calls him "everyone's Mr. Fix-It" and says he's "not surprised" and "delighted" by the choice.

There is no doubting Koskinen is a Democrat. Politico seems to point to his financial support of Democrats as a possible stumbling block to his confirmation. Well, guess what? Democrats give money to Democratic campaigns. Republicans do the same, especially here in D.C.

I've been fortunate to interview Koskinen here, here, and here, among other times.

His selection is a surprise because he has indicated, in the past, a desire to slow down and enjoy his family (he is 74-years-old). I imagine, though, when the President of the United States calls you and asks you to do a job, it's hard to say no.

If the Senate confirms Koskinen, he'll serve a five-year term as leader of the agency. His first confirmation hearing is likely to be before the Senate Finance Committee.


Francis Rose is host of In Depth, which airs 3-7 p.m. on Federal News Radio (1500AM). This post was originally written for his personal website, FrancisRose.com.