Is former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle about to see his hopes of being President Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services about to get a flat tire due to newly discovered car and tax problems?
Could this (so far) mini-scandal dash Daschle’s hopes? New report from ABC News’ Political Punch suggests that if the nomination isn’t in trouble, it’s going to come under increasing scrutiny — and, most likely, fire:
ABC News has learned that the nomination of former Senator Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., to be President Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services has hit a traffic snarl on its way through the Senate Finance Committee.
The controversy deals with a car and driver lent to Daschle by a wealthy Democratic friend, a chauffeur service the former senator used for years without declaring it on his taxes.
This clearly will spell t-r-o-u-b-l-e for Daschle, due to the “high concept” elements: a wealthy friend…a chauffeur (although a lot of politicos use them) and….above all…not paying his taxes.
The Senate already gave one Obama administration appointee a pass on not paying his taxes — can it afford to do so again?
It remains an open question as to whether this is a “speed bump,” as a Democratic Senate ally of Daschle put it, or something more damaging.
Most likely more damaging. This is the age of new media, old media and talk radio searching for ways to feed the controversy beast — apart from the actual merits of a potential controversy. Also: Obama had pledge a more transparent government and a cleaner government. Daschle will have to explain this exceedingly well to his colleages and find a way to get his message out.
ABC gives some other details.
After his 2004 Senate re-election defeat Daschle in 2005 became a consultant and chairman of the Executive Advisory Board at InterMedia Advisors. One of the founders of the New York City-based company was longtime Daschle friend and Democratic fundraiser Leo Hindery, the former president of the YES network.
That same year he began his professional relationship with InterMedia 2005, Daschle began using the services of Hindery’s car and driver.
The Cadillac and driver were never part of Daschle’s official compensation package at InterMedia but Mr. Daschle — who as Senate majority leader enjoyed the use of a car and driver at taxpayer expense — didn’t declare their services on his income taxes, as tax laws require.
During the vetting process to become HHS secretary, Daschle corrected the tax violation, voluntarily paying $101,943 in back taxes plus interest, working with his accountant to amend his tax returns for 2005 through 2007.
(Mr. Daschle reimbursed the IRS $31,462 in taxes and interest for tax year 2005; $35,546 for 2006; and $34,935, a Daschle spokesperson said, adding that Daschle had asked his accountant to look into the tax implications of the car and driver five months before Mr. Obama won the presidency.)
The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., has called his colleagues for a private meeting at 5 p.m. ET Monday to discuss these complications surrounding Daschle’s nomination.
Apart from what facts come out and what the situation is, the axiom of 21st century politics that’s interlined to the Internet, talk radio, new media trying to establish itself and old media trying to survive is this:
If it can be a controversy, it will. So stay tuned..
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.