Mark Everson is running for president and has placed federal tax code reform as the cornerstone of his campaign for the White House. You’d expect that from a former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) commissioner.
As someone who also ran the American Red Cross, albeit for a very short time before being ousted due to an inappropriate relationship, he thinks that tax-exempt organizations need to be examined. There’s a difference in his eyes between a direct service delivery organization and entities structured for tax avoidance and manipulation of the system.
Everson is pushing a six-point platform in his bid for the Republican nomination. His “Letter to America” lays it out:
- Fundamental tax reform;
- Confronting the lawlessness of the big banks;
- Re-establishing the draft to have a shared sense of national service;
- Real, balanced reforms to entitlement programs;
- Reinforcing the American tradition of assimilation through comprehensive immigration reform; and,
- Serving only a single term to keep re-election politics out of presidential decision-making.
The tax plan involves a consumption tax and an income tax for America’s wealthiest citizens. In all, he believes, people will end up paying about the same as they currently do.
“I want to keep income distribution intact. It doesn’t ask the well-to-do to pay more. It doesn’t reduce taxes. It keeps things stable,” said Everson. “It leaves treatment of the nonprofits substantially in place,” he said. In Everson’s eyes “substantially in place” is a 2 percent floor on the charitable deduction, “a modest haircut in terms of treatment.” Right now the regulation is “miscellaneous itemized deductions for any taxable year shall be allowed only to the extent that the aggregate of such deductions exceeds 2 percent of adjusted gross income.”
He believes that the tax code needs to incentivize giving but “we can’t let the sector become something that gets manipulated.” He believes that vehicles such as donor-advised funds (DAF) “should run out over a (fixed) period of time.”
Everson said he’d look to Congress for specifics when it comes to tax treatment of the charitable sector. A target for change would be the “sophisticated structuring of transactions used to some degree” by large entities. “There is a very real difference between a small, local nonprofit and a multiple billion-dollar endowment,” he said.
The other elephant in the room when it comes to the charitable sector is how he exited the American Red Cross. He called the ouster “self-inflicted wounds.” Everson was pushed out of the top job in November 2007 after it was learned he was involved with a married chapter president who was also pregnant with his child. Everson was married at the time with two adopted children. The marriages of both he and the chapter president ended in divorce.
He was in the $500,000-a-year job less than six months. His only statement on the resignation was a written release in which he is quoted as saying: “I am resigning my position for personal and family reasons, and deeply regret it is impossible for me to continue in a job so recently undertaken. I leave with extraordinary admiration for the Red Cross.”
The American Red Cross situation is mentioned in the biography listed on the MarkforAmerica.com website. “In his brief tenure Mark strengthened relations with the Pentagon — which had atrophied following Vietnam — and took the decision to combat Johnson & Johnson when the company sought to limit the nation’s leading charity in its use of the red cross as its trademark. The board of governors asked Mark to resign after just six months on the job as the result of an inappropriate personal relationship with a distant subordinate.”
The child and his mother are pictured on the campaign’s webpage. Everson lives in Pascagoula, Miss., according to the site, “where his first grade son attends public school and plays soccer and baseball.”
He doesn’t shy away from discussing the issue and admitting mistakes. “Certainly I was held accountable. Fair enough. I never quibbled,” said Everson. “That doesn’t mean I don’t have a right to participate.” His hope is to make enough noise during the next few months so that he can get into the first debate in Iowa later this year.
Everson has federal branch experience. He spent six years in the Reagan administration. He started at the United States Information Agency working on public diplomacy programs relating to deployment of intermediate nuclear forces in Europe and surrogate radio broadcasting to Cuba. In 1985, he moved to the Department of Justice. While at Justice his assignments included deputy commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
During the administration of President George W. Bush, Everson was the controller and then deputy director for management at the Office of Management & Budget (OMB). He served as the 46th IRS commissioner from May 2003 through May 2007.
Everson also has state government experience, having served in the administration of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. While in Indiana, he ran the state’s unemployment insurance system, and oversaw the state’s workforce training and adult education programs.
He is the second American Red Cross president to attempt a run at the White House. Elizabeth Dole ran for but did not win the Republican nomination in 2000. NPT