Daschle supposedly didn't know that a luxury car service is considered income if provided by someone else. How could he not know since for many years he participated in writing -- or at least voting on -- tax laws that the rest of us must abide by, or face fines and possibly prison. Daschle also made "questionable" charitable contributions totaling $15,000, according to the finance committee report, which additionally lists unreported consulting fees. Not reporting income raises red flags with the IRS.
It's not that Daschle couldn't afford the taxes. Since leaving office, according to documents filed with the Office of Government Ethics (now there's a contradiction), Daschle earned $2.1 million from the law firm of Alston and Bird and, since he left the Senate in 2005, $1 million a year from Hindery's private equity firm, InterMedia Advisors. He also made money speaking to and serving on the boards of health care organizations he would regulate as HHS secretary.
Does anyone else see a potential conflict of interest? Daschle can claim he's no different from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose husband heads the Clinton Foundation, which has received millions from foreign governments that surely would like to have her (and his) ear when it comes to foreign policy. The new standard appears like the old standard that President Obama decried during the campaign.
When you consider other high-level nominees who have withdrawn over much smaller lapses, such as failing to pay Social Security taxes on nannies and hiring illegal aliens for work on private property, Daschle's problems are more than a "speed bump," as one of his defenders called it. They constitute a large and growing sinkhole for this administration.
Most presidents encounter difficulties with possibly one cabinet nominee or other high-level official, but Obama has had three in less than a month.
Daschle could have been confirmed, given the Senate's Democratic majority, but it appears someone showed him the door rather than add to Obama's difficulties in cleaning up Washington. So far that effort seems to be as problematic as George W. Bush's attempt to set a "new tone" in this shark-infested city.
Leona Helmsley would understand.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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