Rep. Beryl Anthony says he plans to keep his public finance commission alive as a tax-exempt educational organization and use it to explain municipal finance to the unusually large number of first-time congressmen expected to arrive in Washington in January.
"There are going to be a lot of people in need of education" that the commission can provide, the Arkansas Democrat told reporters Tuesday night after receiving the Public Securities Association's Distinguished Public Service Award at the group's second annual awards dinner at the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan.
The future of the Anthony Public Finance Commission had been in doubt over the last few months because Anthony, who founded the group in 1988, narrowly lost a June 9 Democratic primary runoff in his bid to win re-election to Arkansas' Fourth Congressional District seat.
Anthony, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said the commission's educational role will come in especially handy if Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, the Democratic nominee, is elected President. Clinton is a member of the commission and has said during his campaign that he favors easing tax-exempt bond curbs to improve infrastructure.
If Clinton is elected, "we would have to hit the ground running on education" next year, Anthony said. "Things are going to pop pretty fast" at the beginning of a Clinton administration.
Clinton would "be very, very friendly toward a voice coming from state and local finance," Anthony said. "There's an opportunity to use the Anthony Commission as a bridge to really help" the relationship between the federal and state and local governments.
Even though the group will lose its voice in Congress when Anthony leaves Capitol Hill, he said the commission can still be useful by explaining municipal finance to politicians in Washington. To that end, he plans to seek tax-exempt status for the group under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code.
A 501(c)(4) entity is a nonprofit like its cousin, the 501(c)(3), and is "operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare or local associations of employees," according to the code. Net earnings from a 501(c)(4) "are devoted exclusively to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes."
The 21-member commission, which includes governors, mayors, bond lawyers, and others involved in public finance, published a report in 1989 on the effects of the 1986 tax act on the municipal bond market. One of the commission's main tasks over the next few months will be to update that report, Anthony said.
Aside from continuing the commission, Anthony said he is entertaining offers from private sector firms, though he declined to give details. Speculation has abounded in the municipal bond community that he may wind up in the Clinton administration, but Anthony said he has not been approached and refused to speculate on the possibility.
The PSA award was presented to Anthony by James Lebenthal, president of Lebenthal & Co., who praised the congressman for "sticking [his] neck out" for the municipal bond community. Lebenthal also commended him for "unglazing the eyes" of other members of Congress, who he said tend to be ignorant about topics like arbitrage rebate and bank deductibility.
Another recipient of the public service award Tuesday night was Paul Volcker, former Federal Reserve Board chairman.
Rumors have also circulated that Volcker may be tapped for a cabinet post by Clinton.
Volcker did not discuss any possible return to public service, but in his remarks dwelled on a subject that bothered him during his tenure as Fed chairman -- the federal budget deficit.
Volcker chided Washington for failing to get the deficit under control. But he also praised Sen. Warren Rudman, R-N.J., and Paul Tsongas, the former Massachusetts senator, for planning to barnstorm the country on the deficit issue. In addition, Volcker mentioned a recent report called "The Strengthening of America," in which Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., and Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., outline the deficit problem.
"I'm struck by the number of commissions and people saying something about this," Volcker said. "I hope we can begin to take advantage of some of these things" and work to bring the deficit down, he added.