The ambassador: Mark Bloomfield

As president of the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF), Mark Bloomfield is more than just another well-connected power broker. He is also an ambassador.

He’s not a former State Department hand or foreign policy wise man, although that description might apply to him in the realm of tax policy, and it isn’t Congress that has conferred the honorary title of ambassador upon him. Bloomfield was named ambassador by the organizers of the Comrades Marathon, an annual 54-mile race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, South Africa. As Comrades ambassador to the United States, he is responsible for promoting the race in this country.

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Mark Bloomfield has run in 10 ultra-marathons, including the Comrades race in South Africa.

Between training and racing, Bloomfield heads the ACCF, a business-backed think tank that advocates reducing taxes on savings and investment, such as capital-gains and estate taxes. 

Bloomfield, 54, has run 21 marathons in New York, Boston, Washington, Paris and London, as well as in Bulgaria and Gdansk, Poland. He’s also run 10 ultra-marathons, including Comrades, which he has finished three times.

He writes a column on running for a website, www.runnersguide.co.za, that says readers include a senator, an adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, a taxicab driver, a university president, a French wine connoisseur, a senior adviser to President George W. Bush, an assistant to Sen. John KerryJohn Forbes KerryNikki Haley powerfully rebuts Trump Khashoggi prompts Trump to reconsider human rights in foreign policy Biden: ‘Totally legitimate’ to question age if he runs in 2020 MORE (D-Mass.) and his barber. 

When Bloomfield is training, he wears a fancy watch to monitor his heart rate and minute-per-mile pace. During his peak training for Comrades, he’ll run two days at an easy pace, one day at a faster pace and a long run of up to 30 miles. He finished a 50-kilometer race in West Virginia in May, and several days later we ran together in Rock Creek Park.

He has advised Sen. Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusOvernight Defense: McCain honored in Capitol ceremony | Mattis extends border deployment | Trump to embark on four-country trip after midterms Congress gives McCain the highest honor Judge boots Green Party from Montana ballot in boost to Tester MORE (D-Mont.) on ultra-distance running (Baucus slipped and cut his head on his way to finishing the JFK 50-mile ultra-marathon in 2003).

“Mark’s running is an inspiration,” Baucus said. “I expect many more miles from Mark in the years to come.”

Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.), another running partner, said Bloomfield might be able to run farther but Sununu can run faster.

But Bloomfield insists politicking and policy analysis stop when he’s running and restart in his ACCF downtown office.

Superlobbyist Charles Walker founded the group in 1974 and had known Bloomfield as a House Ways and Means Committee aide. During the tax-cut battles in President Reagan’s first year in office, Walker bet Bloomfield a bottle of bourbon that a capital gains tax cut couldn’t pass the House. When it did, Walker paid up and Bloomfield joined him at ACCF, whose board of directors includes former lawmakers, ambassadors, lobbyists and executives. 

After graduating from Swarthmore College and while working on a joint MBA and law degree at the University of Pennsylvania, Bloomfield spent a summer preparing for the 1972 GOP convention.

Bush’s father, then the RNC chairman, appointed Bloomfield because he was one of the founders of the Ripon Society, which was then a liberal Republican think tank. Karl Rove was also working at the RNC that summer as chairman of the College Republicans.

The relationship underscores Bloomfield’s connections to past GOP presidents and the current one. Several years ago, Bloomfield invited Rove to speak at the ACCF, and Rove told how President George H.W. Bush’s chief of staff was looking for someone to pick up George W. Bush at Union Station. Rove grabbed the keys and, at the speech years later, said jokingly, “Just think about the consequences if Mark had picked up George W. Bush instead of me.”

After graduating, Bloomfield worked on Reagan’s first presidential campaign and, later, as a tax lawyer for then-Rep. Herman Schneebli (R-Pa.), a member of the Ways and Means Committee.  

Now Bloomfield is working with Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Baucus to find a way to make a reduction in the estate tax permanent. As a gimmicky measure to reduce future budget deficits, Bush’s 2001 tax cuts are scheduled to expire in 2010. 

They are fighting more conservative Republicans, who favor a complete repeal of the tax, and Democrats who are skittish about voting for a measure that ostensibly favors wealthy individuals and, if reduced or eliminated, would further exacerbate the deficit.

“The choice is we can have an estate tax deal or a vote, ” said Bloomfield, espousing a pragmatism rarely seen in today’s political environment where lawmakers usually present voters with all-or-nothing choices. And some conservative Republicans might find Bloomfield’s pragmatism and intellectual honesty tough to hear.

“We’re growing this economy on borrowed credit. We don’t save enough,” he said, referring to the deficit and weak dollar. “We cannot continue to have growth without our own savings.”

Bloomfield said that is why he favors a consumption tax, which he argues will raise “a lot of revenue.”

Meantime, Bloomfield continues to live a life that is part endurance athlete and policy wonk. 

After some gentle cross-training at the University Club last week, Bloomfield started worrying about the last-minute details for an off-the-record policy dinner, which he has held several times a year since 1982, for lobbyists, academics, journalists and politicians.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) has called the dinners “Washington’s last salon,” and Sununu, who has been to a dozen dinners, said that when lawmakers stopped viewing issues in overt political terms the dinners generated substantive discussions.

Bloomfield shared a memo with The Hill that lists several topics the guests could discuss, such as deficits, energy policy, climate change, tax and labor policy, and the U.S. entrepreneurial culture. Bloomfield said he considered asking for a private vote on whether China should be permitted to buy Unocal. But one member of Congress in attendance shot down the idea, which Bloomfield said was fine with him.