Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 1, 2009

DASCHLE'S PROSPECTS.... Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, one of the chamber's most far-right members, told George Stephanopoulos this morning that Tom Daschle's tax difficulties "may be" a disqualifying revelation for the HHS position.

The question, though, is whether DeMint's perspective is likely to rule the day. Roll Call reported that, as of last night, Senate Democrats "sought to downplay" the significance of Daschle's controversy. Sens. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued public declarations of support, and John Kerry (D-Mass.) said in a statement, "Months ago, Tom personally and proactively addressed the taxes issue and took all necessary steps to correct his innocent error. I've known Tom Daschle for years and he is a man of great character and integrity who will do a superb job in helping us fix our healthcare system. I look forward to his speedy confirmation."

The Washington Post's Paul Kane, whose report was published before DeMint's comments this morning, added:

David Axelrod, President Obama's senior adviser, led a conference call yesterday to coordinate the message of Democrats appearing on today's news talk shows -- a message that focused in part on defending Daschle. According to participants, the senators on the call agreed on a central theme: "Go fight for him."

Early reactions from the Senate have shown little need for much of a fight. No Senate Republican has stepped forward to criticize Daschle for what he said was an honest accounting mistake, while Democrats yesterday credited him for discovering the tax errors himself and taking the steps to correct them.

Daschle is, of course, a former Senate Majority Leader and Minority Leader, and has close personal ties to most members of the chamber. A top Senate GOP aide told the Politico, "If this were anyone else, I don't think there would be any question that [the nomination] would not make it out of the committee. But he's a former majority leader, which means a lot to these guys."

That sounds like a fair assessment. Senators are generally inclined to favor their colleagues in nomination fights, but with Daschle, it's even more significant, given his long-time leadership role. These relationships may ultimately save his skin.

For what it's worth, former Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) came to Daschle's defense yesterday, issuing a statement that said, "The one thing I feel certain about is Senator Daschle¹s honesty and integrity.... I read the record about the tax issues raised, and while mistakes were made they were innocent ones which have been corrected primarily by Senator Daschle himself."

I don't know what kind of sway Dole has among his GOP colleagues, but it's the kind of endorsement that might help a bit under the circumstances.

Steve Benen 12:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (38)

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Comments

Coming on the heels of Geithner, Daschle is gonna take some heat on this.

I don't know whether his "mistake" is innocent or not, but I do know that my tax mistakes are paid for with full penalties & interest, and they dont even break four figures.

Posted by: Sidewinder on February 1, 2009 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

republicans are waiting for instructions from rush. They will begin making noise when he says "go".

Posted by: CDW on February 1, 2009 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Glenn Greenwald today at http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/
is quite persuasive on why Daschle should never have been nominated, let alone confirmed.

Posted by: Winston on February 1, 2009 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

I watched DeMint this morning. What a baffoon. The CEOs of Fed Ex and Google, and Barney Frank had one of the more serious discussions on the issues of the stimulus package. DeMint's presence was a waste. All slogans all the time. Better Republican politicians please.

As to Daschle, unless there is a lot more to it than failing to report a driver and car, he is going to win. He is part of the Senate club.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 1, 2009 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

As far as I'm concerned Daschle is too attached to the Insurance Industry. WE do not need the best health care insurance companies can be paid for and that will be his focus. Insurance is not health care. i say cut out the middle men blood$ sucking leeches. Bring health care not insuranse payments to America.

Posted by: Evergreen2U on February 1, 2009 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

typo: insurance

Posted by: Evergreen2U1U on February 1, 2009 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

The message here should be find the mistakes, admit them and correct them. If Daschle is denied the post, it will be a defeat for healthcare, at least as Obama sees it, and the message it sends will be that it's better to hide the mistake than correct it. Isn't eight years of Bush enough to realize that is bad policy?

And Sidewinder, I'm guessing your taxes are a lot simpler than Daschles, and that you have not been vetted by Obama's transition team.

Posted by: Danp on February 1, 2009 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

It "means a lot to those guys", huh? If memory serves, republican senators boycotted Daschle's farewll ceremony after his defeat for re-election.

Posted by: JL on February 1, 2009 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

It "means a lot to those guys", huh? If memory serves, republican senators boycotted Daschle's farewll ceremony after his defeat for re-election.

Posted by: JL on February 1, 2009 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Cheating on federal taxes is a positive in my book! Probably the only thing I like about the idiot, but enough for me to support.

Posted by: MattYoung on February 1, 2009 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

If you don't read Glen Greenwald at Salon on this, you're most likely not nearly as informed as you might think you are. His paraphrasing of another writer is rougher than is typical for his work, but makes some excellent points. If the Administration continues making exceptions to the intent, if not the letter of the lobbying rules, it'll look more and more like the presidential campaigns of his opponents and less like the change we are hoping for.

Posted by: dannyshenanigan on February 1, 2009 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

DeMint is off the mark with his logic. If Daschle was in the running for Treasury, failing to pay his taxes would be a relevant issue (as we saw with Geithner), but he's in the running for HHS. If he wasn't paying insurance premiums, I think that would be more of a disqualifying factor, but it seems like DeMint is just grasping at straws in an attempt to stay relevant.

Posted by: chris on February 1, 2009 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

It's difficult for me to belief that the Obama administration can't come up with a nominee who didn't screw up his taxes and who didn't work as a "special policy adviser" (But not a lobbyist, folks) to a lobbying firm whose clients included Health South, Abbot Laboratories, and CVS Caremark. If they looked hard enough they might even find someone who is an MD and who was a small-state governor. Someone whom they owe bigtime.

Posted by: Reverend Dennis on February 1, 2009 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Daschle's nomination is predicated on the idea that to get reform passed the Obama administration will have to take an incrementalist, please-all-parties-with-60-way-logrolling approach. If that's true, Daschle is probably still a very good choice.

OTOH, if you think that the Obama administration needs to take a big-bath, gore-all-oxen approach, an outsider like Dean who can mobilize grass-roots support would be better.

My preference is for the latter, but not because I have any idea if it will be more successful.

Posted by: PeakVT on February 1, 2009 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

It will be a serious setback for Obama and his agenda if any of his nominations are not confirmed, and the GOP and its media enablers know this. The attack on Daschle is a partisan attack, and we should return fire.

It's time for Democrats to rally around our guy (I mean Obama, not Daschle). Believe me, if Dr. Dean had been the choice, the GOP would have fought even more nastily and would certainly have been able to give 15 minutes of notoriety to some nugget of Dean's past.

The real battle is health care. To repeat, the GOP will start this fight as early and as vigorously as they can, and there is no earlier place to try to land a punch than during a cabinet confirmation hearing.

Usually when someone advises, "Pick your battles," it means give up the fight; it's not worth it. But picking your battles also means keep fighting when you know you can win. We shouldn't miss the chance to give the GOP a pop on the chin when they lead with it.

The only way Demint, Vitter & Co. can sink Daschle (and impugn Obama's judgment) would be with a huge amount of help from Left Blogosphere. Remember what your mother said, "if you don't have anything good to say about Obama, say nothing at all."

Posted by: Steve High on February 1, 2009 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

How do you defend this? He paid more in back taxes than most of you make in two or three years. How long was he a member of the senate? He helped put us where we are. If this country has to turn to the same leaders or solutions for the change promised,were in deep shit. Look forward. Let's find new leaders that are not part of the problem.Bob Hope was right. We have two parties because you can't trust either one.

Posted by: EC Sedgwick on February 1, 2009 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

And Sidewinder, I'm guessing your taxes are a lot simpler than Daschles

Sorry, but this is the wrong attitude. "Complicated" is not an excuse for getting a complete pass on penalties.

Before my wife lost her job, we had a fulltime babysitter during the week for whom we withheld state, local and federal taxes (apparently not required). We also paid FICA and state unemployment insurance. Imagine my surprise when the state (NY) rewarded our good behavior early in the summer by sending us a notice that we owed a $7000 fine for failing to purchase workman's comp for our babysitter and would continue to accrue $100 per day until we purchased insurance (which the state conveniently offered at reasonable rates). We purchased the insurance immediately and talked the authorities into lowering the fine to $1000.

Now we are making about one third of our annual income over the past three years. Lucky for us we saved. We are trying to keep the babysitter employed at the same level (including paid vacation), but it will be tough if my wife doesn't find a job soon. If she loses the job, she and her two kids will lose their apartment. Since my wife's didn't get laid off until the end of the year, we'll still have a hefty tax bill because of the AMT. I'm guessing at least 34 cents on the dollar since we work for a living and have zero capital gains.

I thought I would enjoy finally breaking into the upper tax brackets after 20 years of hard work and student debt. Instead, I end up fuming at people like Daschle who get off scott free when they fuck up and who probably have much lower actual tax rates than many of us. And I'm better off than 80% of the folks in NYC. I can't imagine what kind of signal this sends to the all the invisible people cleaning toilets at the Marriott or pushing paper at the IRS.

And... think of all the free-lancers out there having to deal with those messy quarterly returns. People who take in a lot less than Dashle. Do you think they get let off the hook as easily?

The problem isn't the actual reason for Daschle's mistake - I can easily believe it was accidental. I screw administrivia up all the time. The problem is the whole entitlement mentality our "betters" in corporate American and in Washington D.C. (is there a difference?) seem to have.

Why shouldn't Daschle have to pay a fucking penalty?

Posted by: lobbygow on February 1, 2009 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Ah the ugliness of petty class envy. How charming.

Posted by: The Lounsbury on February 1, 2009 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

Tax penalties are pretty well defined. There are penalties for all manner of things, but not for filing an amendment to correct an error. Congress hasn't passed a penalty for that, most likely because they don't want to discourage people from correcting their returns.

Matt Taibbi's case against Daschle is much more fun, plus of course there's the whole roll over & play dead approach he took to "opposing" the Bush administration.

Posted by: downpuppy on February 1, 2009 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Based on the random sampling of tax filings we've had in the last couple of weeks, how about we write a law requiring that all people who earn over $400,000 per year have to have tax audits of at least the last eight years filings?

Projected revenue from this law alone should exceed $20 billion per year during a time when we will need to raise revenue, and provide additional incentive for fat cat bankers getting government bailouts and large bonuses to take a long hard look at accepting salary caps.

Posted by: Glen on February 1, 2009 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Why shouldn't Daschle have to pay a fucking penalty?

A penalty is due the IRS whenever it is late. Daschle's ammendment includes $12,000 in interest and penalties. I don't know where anyone got the idea that it didn't, or that he wouldn't pay it.

Posted by: Danp on February 1, 2009 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

Any person in this country that makes two hundred fifty thousand dollars a year on the bottom line of a federal tax form should be audited yearly.
The IRS seems to have no problem running down a thousand dollars on some poor shmuck that makes thirty a year,but he dosn't write the rules.

Posted by: EC Sedgwick on February 1, 2009 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

I seem to recall a guy who almost single-handledly got around 100000 Iraqis killed, around 4000 American soldiers killed, who helped flush the world economy down the toilet, .... I think we can handle a guy with correctable tax problems.

Posted by: rbe1 on February 1, 2009 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Any person in this country that makes two hundred fifty thousand dollars a year on the bottom line of a federal tax form should be audited yearly. - EC Sedgwick

Absolutely right!

Posted by: Danp on February 1, 2009 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like a good time to try to simplify the tax code.

Posted by: red state mike on February 1, 2009 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, politicians of both parties rely on political contributions from people who make "two hundred fifty thousand dollars a year on the bottom line of a federal tax form", so we're not going to see automatic audits for them.

Posted by: Joe Buck on February 1, 2009 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

How could Daschle have NOT known that federal law required him to pay thes taxes? He voted for every damn tax increase, and authored many of them himself.

LOL

Posted by: George Hanshaw on February 1, 2009 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

"It will be a serious setback for Obama and his agenda if any of his nominations are not confirmed, and the GOP and its media enablers know this"

What do you mean by this. It's already happened. Richardson dropped out when it became apparent he was going to be indicted. You already have him not being confirmed.

Posted by: George Hanshaw on February 1, 2009 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

"What do you mean by this. It's already happened. Richardson dropped out when it became apparent he was going to be indicted. You already have him not being confirmed.

Posted by: George Hanshaw"

CITES???

As far as I can tell from the news reports there isn't any certainty that anyone in the Richardson administration in AZ is going to be indicted.

Posted by: tanstaafl on February 1, 2009 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

Where, O where is Howard Dean? HHS needs you!

Posted by: ellie on February 1, 2009 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like a good time to try to simplify the tax code.

For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.

And you can bet an idiot Republican will always spout it as if it were the surest solution.

Posted by: the on February 1, 2009 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

Well, duh. One former member of the Old Boys Club, Dole, covers another's back.

News flash - dog bites man; film at 10.

True, Steve, those long term relationships may save Daschle's skin, but ...

Isn't that part of the problem?

And, is that really "Change You (don't count me in) Can Believe In?"

Also notable - Tommy D. "discovered" his problem at the same time Hillary's campaign finished running out the string, and at the same time Tommy D. suddenly got interested in HHS.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 1, 2009 at 11:53 PM | PERMALINK

We collectively may be missing something here. Does anyone honestly think Daschle or Geithner or any one of a number of other high mucky-mucks, of either party, personally sits at the kitchen table with pencil and paper, or at best a copy of TurboTax, and does their very own taxes year after year? Not bloody likely. They have accountants and maybe additional tax preparers as well to perform this annual self-immolation, as do a fair number of Americans at every economic level. Whether you do your own taxes or pay someone else to do them, mistakes are common. In fact, mistakes are inevitable, given the complexity of the tax code and the incomprehensibility of the federal guidance. You may choose to believe that these current or former public servants deliberately cheat on their taxes. Fine, but I don't choose to believe that.

My husband and I are both college graduates with a combined 80 years of business and financial experience, including years of accounting and tax preparation. Read my lips: NOBODY can figure out the tax code sufficiently to preclude the submission of any faulty returns. Even the IRS won't take responsibility for any advice given out by their very own employees! Hundreds, if not thousands, of honest people are caught up in this tax crappola every year. Let's not jump to the conclusion that they're all bad actors with something to hide. In my opinion, the IRS is the bad actor with plenty to hide.

Posted by: Thisby on February 2, 2009 at 12:39 AM | PERMALINK

God, Steve, You totally ignore or overlooked Glenn Greenwald's excellent post today on Daschle and his wife. Not even a mentiion or a reference to what a sleaze Tonm Daschle has been collecting his millions from both sides of the isle, setting up people for his wife to lobby, representing the health care industry's deregulation for big bucks. He quotes..." there are whores and then there are whores and then there is Tom Daschle". But you obviously haven't done your homework on this guy and present him as someone who is plausible as possibly a respectful person rather than someone who would suck anyone for a buck. He's got all the connections to the profiteers of health care alright so you can forget about a "not for profit" healthcare system with this sleaze in charge and yes he and Bob Dole were part of the same lobbying firm's clientele.. Read Greenwald's post...you'll not only be shocked gbut also embarrassed that you didn't before you posted this piece.

Posted by: bjobotts on February 2, 2009 at 2:48 AM | PERMALINK

This really has nothing to do with taxes and most of you people posting here would have a different opinion if only you would go read Glenn Greenwald's post on this Daschle issue...there is so much more to this that has not been mentioned here. You are missing out on some valuable insight.

Posted by: bjobotts on February 2, 2009 at 2:56 AM | PERMALINK

It takes real effort not to be co-opted by the sense of entitlement that comes with being a member of the Washington power elite. Who cares if some guy gets a car? No one -- but the car usually signals that the chauffeured individual inside will rationalize anything that threatens his power and privilege as bad policy. That's the real problem.

Posted by: Barbara on February 2, 2009 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

It's difficult for me to belief that the Obama administration can't come up with a nominee who didn't screw up his taxes and who didn't work as a "special policy adviser" (But not a lobbyist, folks) to a lobbying firm whose clients included Health South, Abbot Laboratories, and CVS Caremark.

Oh geez, Daschle was just a lobbyist for the insurance and for-profit medical industry? If that's the case, then I hope they don't confirm him. Forget about real healthcare reform. How sad.
Although I don't think the tax issue is disqualifying, his lobbying or "consulting" work should disqualify him under the president's own rules. Rules don't mean much if you keep carving out exceptions.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on February 2, 2009 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

I am all for giving Obama the time he needs to settle into this job...BUD, for goodness sake he must DUMP DASCHLE (do not care how connected they might be)...this reeks after the Treasury secretary nomination...can none of these BRIGHTEST/RICHEST GUYS IN THE ROOM do their own background checks on themselv and report it BEFORE accepting appointments? No wonder few have confidence in our government.

Posted by: Dancer on February 2, 2009 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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