Bush Nominates Calif. Politician to Head SEC President Bush will nominate Rep. Christopher Cox (R-CA) to replace outgoing Securities and Exchange Commission chief William Donaldson, who has headed the stock market regulatory agency since 2002. Alex Chadwick talks to Jack Pitney, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California, about Cox's career so far and what he might do as leader of the SEC.
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From NPR West and Slate magazine online, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

Coming up, a team of would-be investigative reporters sorts through years of clues to come to the wrong conclusion.

First, the lead: This morning President Bush named California Congressman Christopher Cox to be the new head of the government agency that regulates stock trading in this country, the Securities and Exchange Commission. Here's the president.

(Soundbite of news conference)

President GEORGE W. BUSH: In the years ahead, Chris will vigorously enforce the rules and laws that guarantee honesty and transparency in our markets and corporate boardrooms.

CHADWICK: Congressman Cox is currently the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee. He's also served on the Financial Services Committee. Appearing today with the president, he said the US regulatory climate has given America the most dynamic capital markets in the world.

(Soundbite of news conference)

Representative CHRISTOPHER COX (Republican, California; SEC Chair Nominee): The unprecedented sharing of information about every productive part of our free-enterprise economy is only made possible by clear and consistently enforced rules, and those rules have to govern every market participant equally, big and small.

CHADWICK: California Congressman Christopher Cox, nominated today to be the new head of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Joining us is Jack Pitney. He's professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, which is near Los Angeles here.

Professor Pitney, welcome to the show, and what more can you tell us about Christopher Cox?

Professor JACK PITNEY (Claremont McKenna College): Well, Christopher Cox is well-qualified for the position. He has a long history in Congress of legislation dealing with securities and with corporate affairs. He wrote a thesis at Harvard on double taxation and dividends and generally regarded as one of the more cerebral members of the House of Representatives. So from the standpoint of qualifications, I don't think there's going to be too much trouble with this nomination.

CHADWICK: The wire services describe him as a conservative Republican congressman. How would that play out in terms of policies at the SEC?

Prof. PITNEY: Well, specifically in the world of securities, he's best known for legislation to limit what he called abusive shareholder suits and very much affiliated with the idea of less government regulation and at the same time, as the president's statement indicated, transparency. So you're going to see a conservative free-market approach if he is, in fact, confirmed.

CHADWICK: He's a tax hawk?

Prof. PITNEY: That's right. He has long supported a number of proposals to limit taxation on individuals and businesses, ending the double taxation on dividends, a very strong supporter of eliminating the estate tax. And generally his position on taxes is what you would expect from somebody who represents a very affluent district.

CHADWICK: His nomination goes to the Senate for confirmation. He had difficulty several years ago when he was nominated for a judicial post. The Democrats controlled the Senate at that point, and he withdrew his name because he thought he might run into trouble. Is he going to run into trouble now?

Prof. PITNEY: It's possible given the extreme partisan atmosphere of the Senate, but if I were to bet, I'd say he's a lot less likely to run into trouble than, say, the nominee for the United Nations, John Bolton, who had a lot of difficulties stemming from a very boisterous personality. That's not one word that anybody has ever applied to Chris Cox. There might be some difficulties over some of the issues, but given that the securities reform legislation that he championed passed both chambers of Congress by very substantial margins, I think the possibility of opposition is a lot less than it would be, say, for any judicial position.

CHADWICK: Jack Pitney is professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California.

Professor Pitney, thank you.

Prof. PITNEY: Thank you.

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