Wyden Is the Senator to Watch on Ad Tax Deduction

'He prides himself on being an iconoclast'

The fate of the advertising tax deduction on the Senate side now rests with Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who was officially confirmed by the Senate as chairman of the powerful finance committee on Thursday.

Wyden succeeds Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who was confirmed last week as ambassador to China. Before his appointment, Baucus had proposed a tax reform package draft that included a limit on the advertising tax deduction by half in the first year, with the rest amortized over the next five years. 

It's hard to predict how Wyden will respond as chairman. In a recent speech at the University of Southern California, he indicated that he would go slower on reform and take up a package of expired tax breaks known as tax extenders. 

But that doesn't mean advertisers can take a breather. Limits on the ad tax deduction could just as easily wind up connected to the expired extenders.

"Once the ad tax deduction was put so visibly on the table by Baucus, and given similar treatment by Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) [chairman of the Ways and Means Committee], we've been put out there as a potential 'pay-for,' " said Dan Jaffe, evp of the Association of National Advertisers. "We don't want [Congress] to look at us as just a big pile of money."

The good news for the advertising lobby is that Wyden is also regarded as a careful listener and a thorough researcher. "He'll want to hear details behind the argument, not just chest pounding," Jaffe said.

When Wyden adopts an issue, he pursues it with passion and tenacity. His visibility in Congress skyrocketed in the last two years when he put himself front and center on Internet issues, receiving numerous accolades for helping to stop anti-piracy legislation two years ago. He was onto the NSA long before just about anyone else. And he's willing to stand up to his own party, sponsoring a surveillance reform bill with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and taking on criticism when he worked on Medicare reform with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

So if Wyden decides to attack the ad tax deduction, watch out. "Anyone who presumes it will come to a standstill, doesn't know Wyden. He is willing to take on big ideas. He's not afraid, he has a lot of energy, and he prides himself on being an iconoclast," said Jaffe.