WASHINGTON - President Bush has chosen CSX Corp. Chairman John Snow as the new secretary of the Treasury, administration sources said last night.
Mr. Snow, a Toledo native, has accepted the job and will be nominated as long as nothing disqualifying turns up in the final stages of the White House's legal and financial review, the sources said.
Mr. Snow, 63, graduated from the University of Toledo in 1962. He was born in Toledo and is the son of attorney William D. Snow, and Catherine Snow, a retired public school teacher. His parents are deceased.
Mr. Snow and his wife, Caroline, live in Richmond, Va., and have a 20-year-old son.
He is chairman, president, and chief executive officer of CSX, a freight and transportation conglomerate that is based in Richmond and operates the largest rail freight network in the eastern United States.
Mr. Snow is to replace Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who turned in his resignation on Friday along with chief economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey, as the Bush administration attempts an urgent midterm correction to boost the flagging economy as the 2004 campaign season begins.
Administration officials said Mr. Snow was picked partly for a skill that they saw as most lacking in Mr. O'Neill; an ability to communicate the President's policy clearly on television and Capitol Hill. The officials also cited Mr. Snow's familiarity with Washington policy-makers and his record in business beyond New York, which the White House refers to as “Main Street experience.”
Mr. Snow, a solid Republican with ties to moderate Democrats, is known as a glass-smooth salesman who doesn't need staff members to provide him details during interviews and meetings. He was a tireless champion of deregulation when he was deputy undersecretary at the Transportation Department under President Gerald Ford.
Vice President Dick Cheney, who led the selection process for Mr. O'Neill's successor, was White House chief of staff under Mr. Ford.
Mr. Snow worked as a lawyer and professor before joining the Transportation Department in 1972 as assistant general counsel. He briefly returned to academia before returning to the Transportation Department, where he was an assistant secretary and deputy undersecretary before serving as administrator of the National Highway Safety Administration from 1976 to 1977.
Mr. Snow led CSX, formed in 1980, as it prospered under the Republicans' policy of deregulation. He joined the company as vice president of government affairs in 1977 when it was the Chessie System Inc. He received a swift series of promotions and became president in 1988, chief executive officer in 1989, and chairman in 1991.
Mr. Snow is a former chairman of the Business Roundtable, an influential association of chief executives of major companies. Sources familiar with the selection process said Mr. Snow's Capitol Hill contacts from his years of work with the roundtable and other public-policy groups were considered a major asset.
Several key Republicans were enthusiastic about the choice, although one feared the administration was overrating Mr. Snow's communication skills.
Mr. Snow must be confirmed by the Senate and sources said he can expect extensive questioning of any government subsidies to CSX.
Mr. Snow will join the administration at a time when Mr. Bush is being scrutinized by Wall Street and criticized by Democrats for doing too little to preserve the once-booming economy.
Mr. Snow's first big job will be to build support among executives, lawmakers, and voters for a package of tax cuts that Mr. Bush is to propose next month. White House officials said announcement of the plan was delayed from this week to allow Mr. Snow and Mr. Lindsey's successor, former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. chairman Stephen Friedman, to have input.
The President had planned to announce his choice of Mr. Snow and a new economic adviser, investment banker Friedman, today. But one or both of the announcements likely will be delayed because of the complication of vetting the two men's huge investment portfolios, sources said.