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Federal City Digest

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pyramid Power

In the wake of the exposure of pyramid schemes far more substantial and of longer duration than anything that Charles Ponzi, shown at left in the 1930s, ever dreamt up, the Senate Finance Committee holds a hearing today at 10 a.m. on "Tax Issues Related to Ponzi Schemes and an Update on Offshore Tax Evasion Legislation."

Sure to be on the table: draft legislation to crack down on offshore tax evasion by increasing Internal Revenue Service reporting requirements that Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who chairs the committee, began circulating earlier in March. Sen. Carl Levin (Mich.) has also introduced legislation on the topic, taking the different tack of proposing to tax offshore hedge and private equity funds managed and controlled stateside.

Baucus and the panel's ranking Republican, Sen. Charles Grassley (Iowa), will make statements before taking testimony from IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, Government Accountability Office director of tax issues Michael Brostek, and William Josephson of the law firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson.

WHAT TO WATCH

-- After President Obama's victory last fall, a song by Irish comic singers Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys (now known as the Corrigan Brothers) swept across the Web. "There's No One as Irish as Barack Obama" hailed the new 44th president's distant roots in the Irish village of Moneygall. Today, the president who used to give out "O'Bama" shamrock buttons on St. Patrick's Day in Chicago meets with Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen at the White House in the morning; later, the two attend the annual St. Patrick's Day lunch hosted by the House speaker's office at the Capitol. In the evening, Obama hosts the annual White House St. Patrick's Day reception.

-- Talk about a mobile home: YouthBuild AmeriCorps students do preliminary work today building a "green" home on the Mall as part of a demonstration of the skills learned in their growing green-jobs program. The home will then be transported to Brownsville, Tex., for completion and given to a single mother there whose mobile home was damaged last summer by Hurricane Dolly.

At 10:30 a.m., first lady Michelle Obama visits the building site near the Capitol reflecting pool to delivers remarks; the stimulus bill included $50 million for the federal YouthBuild program.

-- Also at 10:30, the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on crime and drugs and the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control hold a joint hearing on "Law Enforcement Responses to Mexican Drug Cartels." Experts from both sides of the border testify.

-- At 11:15, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), above, lays out what he would have done if he were president in a speech to the Heritage Foundation, "Generational Theft: The Fleecing of America's Children." Topics include McCain's "own stimulus plan . . . and an alternative vision for the proper role of the federal government."

-- Garance Franke-Ruta federalcity@washpost.com

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