Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University
This Month @ Moritz

For Kenneth Kies '77, Taxes – and Success – Are Certain

Kenneth Kies
Kenneth Kies

Ken Kies '77 has a passion for taxes. "I think tax lawyers are perhaps the most capable in the legal profession," he said. "We deal with complex issues that, at the highest levels, effect the whole country. It makes it fun to do. I like coming to work everyday." Ken definitely operates at "high levels."

Since 1981, he has been a fixture in Washington D.C., working with a wide array of the nation's leaders in the past two decades. He is managing director of the Federal Policy Group, a practice of Clark Consulting Inc. He founded the organization in 1998 while a co-managing partner in the Washington Tax Services office of PricewaterhouseCoopers. Clark Consulting purchased the practice in 2002.

Ken said the Federal Policy Group specializes in high-profile tax initiatives and tax controversy work. It provides strategic and technical tax advice on tax policy matters before the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Treasury Department, the Internal Revenue Service and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Clients include Fortune 500 companies, health care organizations and trade associations, with the group working with anywhere from 50 to 100 clients at any given time.

"We represent substantial clients with concerns about tax and economic policy issues," he said. The last several years have brought work on pension issues, tax reconciliation, tax reform and social security. "We'll be looking at tax reform in 2006, 2007. Every one of our clients is concerned about that."

Ken said taxes and tax law have always intrigued him, dating back to his time at OSU. After his first year of law school, he worked with Rep. Guy VanderJagt who was serving on the House Ways and Means Committee. That piqued an interest that professors Morgan Shipman and Mike Rose helped nurture.

"I had already decided to be a tax lawyer. I took all the tax classes I could at OSU," Ken said.

After graduation, he spent a four-year stint in Baker & Hostetler's Cleveland offices, before moving to Washington D.C., where he spent six years as the chief Republican tax counsel on the Ways and Means Committee.

"When [Ronald] Regan was elected president, I thought it'd be an active time in taxes," Ken said. "It wound up being one of the busiest tax times in the last 30 years."

His work in the nation's capital has garnered him plenty of notice.

Influence magazine named him "Washington's best tax lobbyist" in its December 2000 issue. In the same year, Regardies magazine recognized him has one of the "100 most powerful people" in Washington's private sector. In 1998, the Tax Executives Institute honored Ken with its Distinguished Service Award. In 1997, Roll Call magazine named him one of the most powerful staffers on Capitol Hill, while Fortune magazine named him one of three "most dangerous" bureaucrats in the country that same year.

That same year, he was part of a five-day final negotiation on the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997. He was one of six people at the table, which included House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott on his side of the table and Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and negotiator John Hilley on the other. He was the guy Rubin was worried about though.

"Rubin was nervous that I might manipulate the revenue estimates," Ken said. "He proposed that if we disagree on the estimates, [Chairman of the Federal Reserve] Alan Greenspan would arbitrate the difference. I think that in the end, they thought the estimates were fair, but I bet Greenspan wasn't even told about it. He doesn't even do revenue estimates," he said, adding a laugh.

Other legislation in which he had a hand include the Small Business Protection Action of 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and numerous tax-related actions passed between 1981 and 1987.

The son of a U.S. Army officer, Ken traveled during much of his school-age years. He received his undergraduate degree from Ohio University and an LL.M. in taxation from Georgetown University's Law School. He and his wife Kathleen live in McLean, Va., with their two daughters, Katherine and Kylie.

"This has all been great fun," he said. "I'm fortunate to be surrounded with a capable, talented team. You aren't always lucky enough to find that."

Those wishing to catch up with this powerful Moritz alumnus can contact him at ken.kies@clarkconsulting.com.