By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
A commission Bush appointed to advise him on straightening out the tax code to make taxes simpler and fairer, and perhaps, in the end run, get rid of the income tax altogether, is made up of various corporate lobbyists. Among the members of the President's Advisory Panel on Tax Reform:
Connie Mack: The commission chair, Mack is a former Florida Republican senator now employed at King & Spalding, an Atlanta law firm whose clients include the Swiss Bankers Association and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. Congressional Quarterly reports that one of his clients is Bacardi, which has excise-tax issues before Congress.
John Breaux: The commission vice chair, Breaux is a former Democratic senator from Louisiana and now senior counsel at Patton Boggs, the influential Washington lawyer-lobbyist firm with clients including Mars Inc., which wants to get rid of the estate tax; New York Life; Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co.; and other insurance outfits that want to maintain their tax breaks. Also Wal-Mart and Wegmans Food Markets, which are against a national sales tax.
Charles O. Rossotti, former IRS commissioner and now senior adviser to the Carlyle Group, supposed repository for the Bush family millions. He sits on the board of Merrill Lynch, a tax-software outfit called Liquid Engines, and AES, the energy corporation.
Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment officer of Charles Schwab. Congressional Quarterly credits her with hiring big-time lobbyist Nick Giordano to work on tax issues, including trying to make permanent the 15 percent tax rate on stock dividends.
A commission spokesperson says there is no conflict of interest here. Quoting the Office of Government Ethics, she said, "Because the panel's responsibilities are devoted to consideration of broad policy options directed to the interests of a large and diverse group of persons, its work does not involve the kind of matter that can produce a violation of the conflict-of-interest statute."