New level of scrutiny reveals more problems with Daschle

When Barack Obama announced plans to nominate Tom Daschle to run the Department of Health and Human Services, I agreed with Ezra Klein that the choice signaled Obama's commitment to get comprehensive health care reform through Congress. I knew that Daschle's wife was a longtime lobbyist, and that Daschle was not nearly as liberal as the right-wingers made him out to be. But we all know that the Senate will be the biggest obstacle to any good health care plan. Daschle knows that body's procedures and the majority of its members extremely well.

The choice isn't looking so good today.

Not paying taxes on the use of someone else's limousine looks bad, but as we saw last week with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, failure to fully meet one's tax obligations no longer seems to be a barrier to serving in the cabinet. (By the way, Daschle knew about this problem last summer but didn't tell Obama's vetting team.)

Many people might honestly not realize that if they use someone else's car, they need to report the value of that service as taxable income. But what is Daschle's excuse for overstating his tax-deductible charitable gifts and not reporting more than $83,000 in consulting income? If Bill Richardson was asked to step aside because of an investigation that hasn't even proven wrongdoing, then Daschle should not get a pass for not paying his taxes.

As is so often the case in politics, though, what's legal can be even more disturbing. From Politico:

Daschle made nearly $5.3 million in the last two years, records released Friday show, including $220,000 he received for giving speeches, many of them to outfits that stand to gain or lose millions of dollars from the work he would do once confirmed as secretary of Health and Human Services.

For instance, the Health Industry Distributors Association plunked down $14,000 to land the former Senate Democratic leader in March 2008. The association, which represents medical products distributors, boasts on its website that Daschle met with it after he was nominated to discuss "the impact an Obama administration will have on the industry."

This week, the group began openly lobbying him, sending him a letter urging him to rescind a rule requiring competitive bidding of Medicare contracts.

Another organization, America's Health Insurance Plans, paid $20,000 for a Daschle speaking appearance in February 2007. It represents health insurance companies, which under Obama's plan would be barred from denying coverage on the basis of health or age.

There was a $12,000 talk to GE Healthcare in August, a $20,000 lecture in January to Premier, Inc., a health care consulting firm, and a pair of $18,000 speeches this year to different hospital systems, among other paid appearances before health care groups.

The speaking fees were detailed in a financial disclosure statement released Friday, which showed that Daschle pulled down a total of more than $500,000 from the speaking circuit in the last two years, and $5.3 million in overall income.

These speaking engagements are legal, but it is an unacceptable conflict of interest for Daschle to have taken that much money from groups with a major financial stake in health care reform.

At Daily Kos nyceve examines one of those paid speeches and tells you why you should care: As UnitedHealth subsidiary Ingenix defrauded Americans, Daschle was its 2008 keynote speaker.

A lot of liberal bloggers are now calling for Obama to withdraw Daschle's nomination and appoint Howard Dean to run HHS instead. As much as I like Dean, I do not think he's the person to shepherd health care reform through Congress. But I agree that Obama needs to find a replacement for Daschle--the sooner, the better.

If Obama stands by Daschle, I suspect the Senate insiders' club would confirm him, but let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Speaking of stalled confirmations, Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming appears to be the Republican who is holding up Hilda Solis's nomination for Secretary of Labor. This is purely ideological, based on Solis' support for the Employee Free Choice Act. Solis has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

Will Obama stand behind his choice for this cabinet position? The president expressed support for organized labor on Friday while signing executive orders to boost labor unions.

Tags: Conflict of Interest, Employee Free Choice Act, Health and Human Services, Health care, health care reform, HHS, hilda solis, Labor, lobbying, Mike Enzi, secretary of labor, Taxes, Tom Daschle, universal health care (all tags)



Re: New level of scrutiny reveals more problems wi


by lojasmo 2009-02-01 07:56AM | 0 recs
Daschle should have the decency to step aside.

Otherwise, this administration is going to start to stink, and the stench will be foul. The argument for approving Geithner got down to "urgency"; i.e., the world was going to end without Tim at Treasury. No such rationale exists for Daschle, so it's hard to see why Obama would stand behind a tax cheat. At least Richardson had the decency to withdraw from the process.

Given that in the Congress, the Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee is under an ethics probe for taking bribes....and the Ways and Means Chairman has tax problems of his own, the Democratic party will look ethically challenged before the administration even gets started.

AND, to cap it all off, the "no lobbyists rule" appears to have a situational bias: it's an admirable and worthy standard, but can be broken should special circumstances arise. This reminds me of Ronald Reagan's response once it became clear that defecits were going to rule the day during his administration: "Well, balanced budgets were a goal for us, not a promise".

by BJJ Fighter 2009-02-01 08:00AM | 0 recs
the rationale for Geithner

was a joke. He should never have been picked and certainly wasn't the only American who could do that job.

No one is irreplaceable. I agree with you, Daschle should step aside.

I saw Feinstein on CNN this morning saying the tax stuff should not derail Daschle's confirmation. My best guess is that this comes down to a political calculation for Obama. He's comfortable with Daschle and could probably get him confirmed. Is that worth the price the Beltway media will extract?

by desmoinesdem 2009-02-01 08:56AM | 0 recs
You phrase the question well......

No single one of these appointments and/or ethical lapses is by itself explosive, but over time, the "drip-drip-drip" of one after another has a corrosive effect. I think the work "brand" is over-used today, but all of this erodes the Obama brand of bringing a new kind of politics to DC. And it's a double-edged sword: the sight of these guys who have fed at the trough also cutting corners on their taxes (or getting goodies from Countrywide, etc) is bitter bile for people struggling to put food on the table.

So to your question, I say no....I don't think Daschle (or anyone,for that matter) is worth the price. It's time to "just say no", before the time honored refrain returns, "politicians--they're all just a bunch of crooks..."

by BJJ Fighter 2009-02-01 09:16AM | 0 recs
Re: politics as usual

The Administration's defense of Geithner and his tax problem, of Daschle and his tax problems and of the asst DOD lobbyist appointment certainly does appear to be "politics as we know it".  I am beginning to wonder what Obama meant when he talked about leaving behind those nasty old days of politics as HE knew it.  

Are there no honest men/women left in America who can work in government?  Does Obama really need Geithner or Daschle?  Does the lobbyist that he wants in the DOD really the only one capable for the position?

Gosh, I smell a certain odor coming from Washington and gee wilikers, it smells like politics as usually--TaDah!!

by bentlife 2009-02-01 09:19AM | 0 recs
Re: politics as usual

Yea, its hard to believe that the economy or healthcare really depends on either of these two.

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-02-01 10:24AM | 0 recs
Go take your meds. n/t

by me e cummings 2009-02-01 08:38PM | 0 recs

This is outrageous.  There is no excuse for this level of failure regarding taxes.  I object on other grounds to his getting big bucks for "speaking" to audiences of industry lobbyists, but the tax failure is freakin' criminal.  How can we expect people to trust government if the leaders figure they can get away with tax fraud?

by Thaddeus 2009-02-01 10:32AM | 0 recs
More problems with Daschle

Daschle needs to step down as quickly as possible. He is dragging Obama into the gutter of bad publicity. Daschle is a very compromised advocate for health care. He compromises the effort to truly reform health care in this country. That does not make Dean the next logical choice, however. Sebelius would be far preferable.

by Jeter 2009-02-01 10:43AM | 0 recs
None of these guys are capable

of doing "The Right Thing" and stepping down.

They all have such monsterous egos...

But, I have to say, folks here sure live in the ivory tower?

The Republicans have DESIGNED a tax system that is ripe for cheating, and the richer are you are the more chance you can cheat, and the less chance you get caught.

Read "Perfectly Legal" and understand what the Republican war on the IRS has done to the tax code.

In fact, Democrats are just crappy cheats. The rich Republicans are just better cheats, they don't get caught as often.

Oh, and, when the Republicans were investigating people, you think THEIR vetting committees were as rabid about things like tax games?

The Democrats are just always held to a higher standard, but, these jerks SHOULD know better, especially Ghetner. I think his sins are worse, for goodness sakes, he worked for the fed?

Sheesh...I would love to go back and look at Rummys taxes and Gonzales taxes, and all the crooks and liars that they put in place in the different cabinet departments.

I bet, if you looked at 1/2 of them, you would find questionable tax stuff.

Not that I wouldn't waste a tear of Daschule steps down.

The guy is a total wimp, he let the Republicans step on his face for years...

by WashStateBlue 2009-02-01 11:22AM | 0 recs
Are you serious? So the devil made them do it.....

These individuals who cheated did so because of a Republican-designed tax system? Uhm...I don't think so; in fact, I'd say you're letting the crooks off the hook fairly easy. Everyone is responsible for their own actions, period.

Nor do I subscribe to the notion that "they all do it", or as you put it, "they all have monstrous egos."

Sheila Bair, the chief at FDIC, would have been a far superior choice for Treasury. She incurred the wrath of most Bushies--especially the Paulson-Geithner team--by insisting that some portion of the TARP be dedicated to foreclosure relief for howeowners. Not to mention the fact that she predicted this whole time bomb early on, back in Oct. 2007, when nobody wanted to hear about it. She has devoted her life to public service--honorably, and without a scintilla of scandal.

There are many examples of great, honest people on our side as well--Bob Graham, Evan Bayh, Kathleen Sebelius, Eric Schmidt at Google, just to name a few.

There was no need to bring the likes of Richardson, Geithner, or Daschle into the Cabinet; all are very poor choices. Let's hope that the latest one---Daschle--gets tossed out pronto.

by BJJ Fighter 2009-02-01 12:38PM | 0 recs
No read it again

I am saying, the RICH do it, and the richer you are, the more room for wiggle you have....

It's just a fact that the Republicans designed the tax system, and more important, gutted the IRS so your upside to trying to cheat is higher then your risk of getting caught.

Again, read "Perfect Legal."

again just saying, the Obama's are vetting a lot harder then the Republicans ever did or would.

They hate taxes, so if you can cheat and get away with it, all the better.

Being Democrats, we are unforunately held to a higher standard.

by WashStateBlue 2009-02-01 12:58PM | 0 recs

"Make no mistake, tax cheaters cheat us all, and the IRS should enforce our laws to the letter."

   Sen. Tom Daschle
    Congressional Record p. S4507.
    May 7, 1998

by tpeichel 2009-02-01 12:55PM | 0 recs
Republicans cant say much about this

I thought they didnt like taxes anyway, so its good when people dont pay them.  

by Kent 2009-02-01 01:06PM | 0 recs


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