Evans to Lead Financial Lobbying Firm

Former Commerce Secretary Donald Evans (search), a close friend of President Bush, will become the chief executive officer of the Financial Services Forum (search), a lobbying group for the country's biggest financial service firms.

Evans' new position was announced Tuesday by the forum, which is composed of the chief executive officers of 18 of the largest financial service companies in the country including Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, J.P Morgan Chase & Co., Allstate Insurance, American Express and American International Group.

The forum had been a key player promoting Bush's proposal to partially privatize Social Security (search) by allowing younger workers to set up private investment accounts which would provide a fresh flow of investments to Wall Street. However, in March the forum became the third business defection in a month from business-led coalitions backing Bush's plan.

In an interview with reporters, Evans rejected the suggestion that the forum's withdrawal from the broader Social Security coalition represented a drop-off in support for Bush's proposal.

In his new role, Evans said, "I will be out there applauding the president and his leadership and talking about how important it is that our entitlement plans be reformed."

Asked if creation of private accounts was critical, Evans said, "All the options ought to be on the table. The president has laid out a number of ideas and they all ought to be on the table."

The Evans' post as chief executive officer is a new position at the forum.

The group also announced on Tuesday that Rob Nichols (search), currently Secretary John Snow's top spokesman at the Treasury Department, will become president of the forum on June 1, succeeding former congressman Rick Lazio (search), who was the Republican candidate defeated in 2000 by Sen. Hillary Clinton in the New York Senate race.

Meanwhile, the White House announced the president will nominate Robert Kimmitt (search), currently the head of global policy at Time Warner Inc., as deputy Treasury secretary, the No. 2 position at the department. Kimmitt, if confirmed by the Senate, would succeed Samuel Bodman (search), who earlier this year became secretary of energy.