Tom Daschle is the human toe fungus of Washington -- a persistent infection that may disappear from time to time, but always comes back with a vengeance.
Despite abandoning his secretary of health and human services nomination in disgrace in February 2009, the K Street tax cheat who evaded IRS rules for years remains a top White House confidante and policy strategist. In fact, he's leading the drive to save Obamacare. He climbed up from under the bus back into the Oval Office and onto the sets of "Meet the Press" and "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" to offer his rescue plan.
It's Daschle's idea to morph the unpopular "public option" into nonprofit "health care co-ops" that will almost certainly receive government funding, support and tax advantages over private insurers. Old colleagues on both sides of the Senate aisle are now promoting his alternative. Last week, he penned a Do It for Teddy Kennedy pep rally op-ed in The Wall Street Journal urging Democrats to go it alone and depend on the backroom Senate reconciliation process if necessary to get a deal done.
The White House told The Washington Post that Daschle is simply a trusted "sounding board" and "friend" offering invaluable assistance as an experienced individual with a passion for health care reform. But Daschle is the dictionary definition of a self-interested Washington lobbyist and Beltway swamp creature.
Married to heavy-hitting aviation lobbyist Linda Hall Daschle, the former U.S. senator from South Dakota has earned more than $5 million as a professional back-scratcher since leaving life as an entrenched incumbent. In the parlance of self-exempting Team Obama members, Daschle is merely a beneficent "resource," as he described himself to The New York Times, serving the Public Interest.
The truth: Daschle is cashing in mightily on his role as "the architect of President Obama's health care plan" in the private sector -- and evading lobbyist disclosure by reinventing himself as a highly paid "senior adviser" to D.C.-based law firm/influence-peddling shop Alston & Bird.
Daschle represents mega-insurer UnitedHealth, which opposes the pure public option, and Alston & Bird represents a total of 31 clients from the health care sector. According to D.C. watchdog OpenSecrets.org, "Of the $2,730,000 reported income received from clients, nearly 50 percent of that, $1,070,000, comes from these 31 health care clients."