Opposition Softens on Corporate Tax Bill
"The administration didn't want to step into the middle of a food fight and wind up irritating one camp or another," Mitchell said.
A tax lobbyist who helped draft the bills said it became clear last year that political concerns over sharp declines in manufacturing jobs had overwhelmed lawmakers, who wanted to be seen as doing something for that sector. The administration was not going to win the argument with a push for a broader tax cut and simplification of international tax rules.
"If it's very clear from the outset that you're going to get smoked, why pursue it?" said the lobbyist, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of angering the White House.
Into that atmosphere rushed an armada of business lobbyists, and the reward has been rich. "Anybody who's a good lobbyist in this town has gotten one or two provisions in it," he said.
The results have made even some of those lobbyists shake their heads, marveling at provisions that have nothing to do with export subsidies, manufacturing or overseas corporate taxes.
"I hate to be this cynical, but I am," said Donald Alexander, a former commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service who has worked on the legislation. "This just shows what can happen if people scream loud enough."
Olson conceded that "most of the statements of administration preference" were ultimately ignored in the legislation, but she defended the administration's reluctance to voice opposition now.
"The most important, No. 1 priority is getting our [export subsidy] books into compliance," she said. "By [August] we'll be at 10 percent duties. We really have to move."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company