Around the Agencies
Just weeks after becoming chief of staff to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker at the beginning of this year, Jim Hock found himself winging his way to India with his new boss to witness a landmark trade meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Trade is one of the pillars of Pritzker’s “Open for Business” policy agenda — which Hock helped to shape in his previous job as senior adviser and director of public affairs at Commerce. Before joining the department in August 2013, Hock, 45, cofounded the strategic-communications firm 463 Communications. He says he and Pritzker immediately hit it off when they met in 2013, exchanging stories from the private sector and ideas about how government could help businesses. Born in California and raised in New Jersey, Hock, who has also served as a spokesman for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, says that, after 21 years living in the state, he now considers himself a Virginian.
Cathy Koch first became interested in economics during a break in her undergraduate education, she says, when “my father — as a throwaway line — told me, ‘Just go take a course in economics “¦ see if you like that.’” During the same period, the Pennsylvania native also took a job as a bank teller and customer-service representative in Princeton, New Jersey — where she assisted some economists who now know her as a peer. As Ernst & Young’s new Americas tax-policy leader, Koch will advise corporate clients on U.S. tax policy and policy developments across North, South, and Central America. It’s the latest step in a career that began with an internship at the Joint Committee on Taxation while she was working on her Ph.D. in economics at Georgetown University. Koch went on to hold senior positions at the Senate Finance Committee and General Electric. Directly before moving to Ernst & Young, she was Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid’s chief adviser on tax and economic policy.
On the Hill
In 2009, two Democrats tapped Tom Barthold to become the chief of staff for the Joint Committee on Taxation. Recently, two Republicans — Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Paul Ryan, the new chairmen of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, respectively — announced that they’d asked him to stay on. Barthold, 61, warns me not make too much of it. “The press “¦ likes the narrative of, ‘Oh! Tom was named by two Democrats and now two Republicans have retained him,’” he says. “I know that makes a nice story, but that almost throws politics in on Joint Tax, when we work hard to not be political.” The St. Louis native has spent nearly 27 years with the nonpartisan committee, which calculates the estimated costs of tax legislation. Thinking about and working on real-world problems in a room full of Ph.D.s turned out to be a dream come true, Barthold says: “It’s challenging, it’s engaging, and it’s fun.”
After spending 20 years working on business relations with Russia and other former members of the Soviet Union, Blake Marshall decided it was time to expand his horizons. Marshall, 49, found that opportunity at the nonprofit International Tax and Investment Center, where he became vice president late last year. “I realized I knew an awful lot about Russia, but not so much about places like Brazil and India,” he says. ITIC’s research and education programs are aimed at promoting tax and investment reforms in developing markets, and Marshall now has the chance to work with countries ranging from Azerbaijan to the Philippines. He is also in charge of leading the group’s expansion into Latin America. Before joining ITIC, the North Carolina native made more than 100 trips to Russia while helping to advise companies doing business there, first as executive vice president at the U.S.-Russia Business Council, and then at the strategic-communications firm PBN Hill+Knowlton Strategies.
At the Bar
After nearly four years at the Treasury Department, Lisa Zarlenga returned at the beginning of March to Steptoe & Johnson, the law firm where she spent the first 15 years of her career. She will cochair the firm’s Tax Group. In her previous job, as the tax legislative counsel to Treasury’s assistant secretary for tax policy, Zarlenga, 45, learned about a wide range of tax issues — which was more fun than it sounds, she says: “I think a lot of people assume that tax law is very dry, and all you do is fill out tax returns. That is sort of the myth of what a tax lawyer does. The thing that I actually liked about tax law is that it’s actually pretty creative.” The Ohio native’s memories of the collegial culture at Steptoe & Johnson helped distinguish it from the other firms she was considering, she says: “It seems more like a small Southern firm than a big Washington firm.”