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Koch Lawyer Names Austan Goolsbee As W.H. Official Who Talked About Company's Tax Status

Fight between White House and libertarian billionaires escalates.

12:09 PM, Sep 22, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Mark Holden, a lawyer for Koch Industries, tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD that Austan Goolsbee is the "senior administration official" who discussed the private company's tax status during an August 27 press briefing. As THE WEEKLY STANDARD reported on Monday, at the briefing, a senior Obama administration official singled out Koch Industries, which has drawn the ire of the White House and media for funding right-leaning causes. Said the official at the August 27 briefing on a report by the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board on corporate taxes:

So in this country we have partnerships, we have S corps, we have LLCs, we have a series of entities that do not pay corporate income taxSome of which are really giant firms, you know Koch Industries is a multibillion dollar businesses. So that creates a narrower base because we've literally got something like 50 percent of the business income in the U.S. is going to businesses that don't pay any corporate income tax. They point out [in the report] you could review the boundary between corporate and non-corporate taxation as a way to broaden the base.

"The official who started this all--it’s Austan Goolsbee," Holden tells me. "They don’t want to admit it but that’s who it is." 

How does Holden know it was Goolsbee, who directed the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board and now chairs the Council of Economic Advisers?

"It came to our attention through a couple different avenues," Holden says. "One of the avenues was through someone who was present when Mr. Goolsbee made this statement on August 27." Holden showed THE WEEKLY STANDARD a copy of an email from the source present at the August 27 briefing claiming that the quote came from Goolsbee. (THE WEEKLY STANDARD did not participate in the August 27 briefing.)

In Monday's report at TWS, Holden laid out his concerns regarding the administration official's comments:

"We are concerned where this [tax] information would have been obtained from. We also are concerned in light of recent events that we have been singled out by the government and others as a campaign against us because of our political views. [...] I'm not sure what he's saying. I'm not sure what information he has. But if he got this information--confidential tax information--under the internal revenue code ... if he obtained it in a way that was inappropriate, that would be unlawful. But I don't know that that's the case."

Since then, Congressman Devin Nunes (R, Calif.) has issued a statement, as well as a letter to the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, asking that the committee look into whether the White House "misused confidential tax information."

Meanwhile, a top House Republican aide tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD that White House officials may be called to testify over this matter. "House Republicans are paying attention," says the aide. "When Republicans take the majority, we'll be sure to provide the level of oversight necessary to hold the Obama administration accountable for any potential acts of intimidation against private citizens who are lawfully expressing their First Amendment rights."

Prior to publication of the report at TWS on Monday, White House press officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment on how the tax information was obtained. After the report was published, an anonymous White House official emailed Politico's Ben Smith to claim that the information came from publicly available sources:

No senior administration officials have any access to anyone's tax returns--individual or business.  The administration official was discussing the section of the [President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board's] tax report that argued we should look at the rising importance of pass through entities that do not pay corporate income tax. 

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