JACKSON, Miss. — A businessman who led the Internal Revenue Service from 2003 to 2007 says he's running as a Republican for president because he wants to make federal tax laws more consistent and less complex.
Mark W. Everson (EE-ver-son) said he wants to replace part of the federal income tax with a consumption tax called a value-added tax, keeping the income tax in place on higher-level earners. He also says he wants to restructure entitlement programs, including Social Security; set a military draft and system of national service; and break up banks that are poorly managed.
Everson, 60, is a New York native and has lived in several states and in Zambia, Turkey and France. He now lives on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
During an interview with The Associated Press before his Thursday campaign launch, Everson acknowledged he's entering the race with significantly less name recognition and money than other Republican candidates such as Jeb Bush and Rick Perry.
"They're raising serious money, but we're going to raise serious issues," Everson said Tuesday in the lobby of a downtown Jackson hotel.
He said his net worth is about $3 million, and he plans to spend about $250,000 of his own money to travel to states such as Iowa that are important in the early stages of the 2016 race.
"I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't believe I've got a chance," he said. "I think that who becomes president is not up to Wall Street and the fat cats across the country. It's up to the voters."
Everson, a Yale graduate, was a deputy commissioner for the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the mid-1980s, under President Ronald Reagan. He worked in the private sector from 1988 to 2001, for a large packaging company, American National Can; and for LSG SkyChefs, a catering company for airlines. After George W. Bush became president in 2001, Everson went to work for the federal Office of Management and Budget. Then, in 2003, Bush nominated him to be commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.
Everson became president and CEO of the American Red Cross in May 2007, and the board demanded his resignation six months later after he acknowledged having an extramarital relationship with a Red Cross employee who worked in Mississippi. Everson and the woman both divorced their spouses. Everson and his former work subordinate did not get married but they are raising their 6-year-old son together in Gautier, Mississippi.
He said he accepts responsibility for the breakup of his marriage.
"I failed as a husband. It was entirely my fault," Everson said.
He also said he has tried to learn lessons and to be a good father to his young son, describing him as "a spectacular guy."
"I've made mistakes, and I don't think that that precludes one from going forward and trying to contribute," Everson said.
In 2009 and 2010, Everson worked in the cabinet of Indiana's Republican governor, Mitch Daniels, who had been his boss at the Office of Management and Budget. Everson was commissioner of the Indiana Department of Administration and then commissioner of the Department of Workforce and Development. He now works for a tax services company, alliantgroup.
Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .