The Catholic University of America







Leading Tax Attorney Addresses Federalist Society Alumni Chapter Breakfast


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The Hon. Eileen J. O’Connor, CUA Law Class of 1978, was the featured speaker at a Nov. 15 breakfast that celebrated the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Federalist Society chapter at the Columbus School of Law.
One of the nation’s leading experts on tax policy, O’Connor is a partner in Pillsbury’s federal tax controversy and tax policy group, which she joined in 2007 after serving for six years as the Assistant Attorney General for the Tax Division of the United States Department of Justice.  During her time at Justice, she was also a member of the President's Corporate Fraud Task Force.
Approximately 25 people—mostly a mix of student and alumni Federalist Society members— attended the breakfast, which was held at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.
Introduced by former CUA Law Federalist Society chapter president Will Haun, Class of 2012, O’Connor spent nearly thirty minutes discussing her view of appropriate and inappropriate uses of the U.S. tax code to achieve specific policy goals.
“Lawmakers treat the tax code as their own personal toolbox to the point that it is an unmanageable mess,” O’Connor stated.
She decried the longstanding practice by the government of using tax deductions to prompt desired behavioral responses from taxpayers, such as donating to charity. O’Connor said that while philanthropic support is a wonderful thing, “Personal charity is our personal responsibility. It is not appropriate for it to come out of the federal treasury.”
She also criticized abuses of the use of the Earned Income Tax Credit, claiming that the Treasury Department writes more than $10-billion in checks each year to cover fraudulent claims.
As a rule of thumb, O’Connor argued, taxes should be about collecting money to fund basic societal functions, not about trying to change personal behavior.
“When a politician talks, listen to how many tax breaks they’re promising,” she said.
As Assistant Attorney General—a job she described as “the best thing I’ve ever done, the most fun thing I’ve ever done” —O'Connor headed a division of more than 600 people, supervising the litigation in federal courts of its 350 attorneys. She received the Justice Department’s Edmund J. Randolph Award for Outstanding Service, as well as the highest professional honors from the IRS.