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Bush's top tax aide is quitting

Some say his office hasn't been tough enough on corporations. He has been in office just a year.

By SYDNEY P. FREEDBERG
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 27, 2002


Mark Weinberger, a corporate tax lobbyist who became President Bush's top tax policy adviser, has resigned after just one year on the job.

Weinberger, 40, the assistant secretary of the Treasury for tax policy, helped shepherd President Bush's 10-year, $1.35-trillion tax cut through Congress last spring.

But his resignation comes amid heightened scrutiny of his Office of Tax Policy.

Some lawmakers questioned why the Bush administration had not done more to close down a proliferation of corporate tax shelters.

After Bush took office in January 2001, the Treasury Department took steps that congressional critics said favored multinational corporations, including some that once employed Weinberger and some of his top aides as lawyers and lobbyists.

The collapse of Enron Corp. and a surge of patriotism after Sept. 11 prompted even more criticism and a seeming shift in policy. Last week, Weinberger announced a series of measures Treasury is taking to crack down on tax shelters.

Through a Treasury spokeswoman, Weinberger said Tuesday that he wanted to spend more time with his wife, Nancy, and children, a 6-year-old, a 4-year-old and 2-year-old twins. In Washington, he has earned a reputation as a workaholic who routinely reaches the office by 7 a.m. and stays until past 9 p.m.

"The president and I are grateful for his public service," Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said in a statement.

Ten days ago, Weinberger was the subject of a story in the St. Petersburg Times. In an interview, he bristled at the suggestion that he approved tax rules giving corporations any undue tax breaks.

"I took an oath to work for the taxpayers," he told the Times. "If I didn't believe I could do that, I wouldn't have taken the job."

Ethics rules don't prevent government officials from promoting policies they once advocated as paid lobbyists. Nor did those rules prohibit Weinberger from owning stock in dozens of corporations, including companies he once represented as a lobbyist.

According to a financial disclosure report he filed a year ago, Weinberger's assets, including stock holdings, were valued at between $2.4-million and $9.3-million.

His former lobbying firm, Washington Counsel, made $22-million in 1997-1999 from clients such as General Electric, General Motors, Merrill Lynch, Microsoft and Pfizer.

Bush named him to the $130,000-a-year Treasury post in February 2001.

Weinberger plans to leave government in mid April and will take some time off before deciding what to do. He said earlier this month that he didn't plan to return to lobbying when he left government.

The president has not named his replacement.

-- Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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