Lew's first scandal struck just months into the job. The Internal Revenue Service, which is part of the Treasury Department, revealed in May that it had singled out conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status for extra scrutiny beginning in 2010. Lew quickly responded that he was "deeply troubled" by the agency's behavior, but the fallout is likely to put the new secretary in an uncomfortable position as he is called on to explain the administration's policies.
Lew surely came to the job expecting some tough battles. After all, President Obama's decision to appoint the Washington veteran was seen as an acknowledgment that fiscal fights would dominate the next four years. It made sense for Obama to turn to Lew—then his chief of staff, who had played a key role in the contentious summer 2011 debt-limit negotiations as director of the Office of Management and Budget—to succeed Secretary Timothy Geithner. Although lawmakers raised some concerns about Lew's private-sector experience—stints at Citigroup and New York University—and his investments in the Cayman Islands, the 57-year-old from Queens, N.Y., was easily confirmed in February.
In addition to pushing the administration's fiscal agenda, Lew will oversee the continued implementation of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-reform law and the U.S. response to the aftermath of the global financial crisis. Unlike Geithner, Lew isn't seen as well versed in the ways of Wall Street, although he did gain experience with international issues while serving under then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as deputy secretary of State for management and resources.
Lew received his A.B. from Harvard and a J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center.
He got his start in Washington as a legislative aide on Capitol Hill and eventually became principal domestic policy adviser to then-House Speaker Tip O'Neill. Lew worked in the Clinton administration as a special assistant to the president and as deputy director of OMB; he was appointed to head OMB in 1998. He spent the post-Clinton years in the private sector and returned to government after Obama's election.
Lew has famously bad handwriting, but the new secretary cleaned up his official signature—which will appear on bills this fall—after assuming his current post, Treasury revealed last month.