Saturday, January 31, 2009

Change You Can Believe In -- Dollars, Too

It's become increasingly amusing to watch the reformers of corrupt Washington get tripped up on their own finances. Word now comes that President Obama's nominee for HHS Secretary, Tom Daschle, the former South Dakotan who was Majority Leader for a time, has tax liability problems. The invaluable Jake Tapper of ABC News has learned plenty about the man who would reform the nation's health care.

The report indicates that Daschle's failure to pay more than $101,000 taxes on the car and driver a wealthy friend let him use from 2005 through 2007 is not the only tax issue the former Senate Majority Leader has been dealing with since his December nomination prompted a more thorough examination of his income tax returns.

Mr. Daschle also didn't report $83,333 in consulting income in 2007.

The Senate Finance Committee Report also notes that during the vetting process, President Obama's Transition Team "identified certain donations that did not qualify as charitable deductions because they were not paid to qualifying organizations. Daschle adjusted his contribution deductions on his amended returns for 2005, 2006 and 2007 to remove these amounts and add additional contributions." This adjustment meant a reduction in the amount he contributed to charitable foundations of $14,963 from 2005 through 2007.

With the unreported income from the use of a car service in the amounts of $73,031 in 2005, $89,129 in 2006 and $93,096 in 2007; the unreported consulting income of $83,333 in 2007; and the adjusted reductions in charitable contributions, Daschle adds a total of $353,552 in additional income and reduced donations, meaning an additional tax payment of $128,203, in addition to $11,964 in interest.

On January 2 of this year, Daschle filed amended tax returns to pay the $140,167 in unpaid taxes.

Just a guess here -- most of the people who read this feature probably would consider making $83,333 in a year a pretty significant part of their income. I'd further wager that they would disclose that income. Daschle was not a rich man when he came to Washington but in what is a very familiar story, he found a way to leave the Senate as a multimillionaire. The open secret was that his wife Linda was one of the most prominent aviation lobbyists in Washington. A lot of money found its way into the Daschle family accounts that way, but we didn't dare accuse Daschle the Senator of corruption, since it is pretty much axiomatic that only Republicans are corrupt.

Personally, I don't know that it does much good to get too outraged about stuff like this. This is the way Washington has worked for decades. We tend to look at corruption through the wrong end of the telescope. The problem has never been money in politics; it's the politics in money. Businesses come to Washington and shower money on politicians and regulators because the politicians and regulators have arrogated the power to make or break entire industries. And since there's always a touch of larceny in the human heart, there's always going to be temptation for people like Daschle to game the system. The question to ask is not whether people like Daschle are corrupt; the better question to ask is why it is desirable to give more power to people who are in positions where they can be corrupted. That is what Obama and the Democrats are trying to do. Is this change you can believe in? If so, why?


W.B. Picklesworth said...

You just cut the Gordian Knot of this issue.

Anonymous said...

I applaud your efforts to call BS on Daschle. He certainly does deserve it. But where did this missive come from? " is pretty much axiomatic that only Republicans are corrupt." On what planet is that axiomatic? Most people I know who bother to pay attention to politics operate under the assumption that most politicians, regardless of their party affiliation, are corrupt. Maybe it is because I am from Illinois.


Mark Heuring said...


I suspect you didn't see how firmly planted my tongue was in my cheek on that one. As a conservative, it was very tiresome to see (a) Republicans acting in corrupt ways, (b) Democrats doing the same thing and (c) only Republicans getting called out for it in the mainstream media. You read widely enough to see the popular game of "Spot the Party" on corruption stories in the MSM. And it was especially tiresome to hear people like Pelosi (and, if I remember correctly, Daschle) talking about a Republican "culture of corruption" and having it reported as fact.

Guess I'm a little cynical about it. But my larger point about why politicians get corrupted is the central premise of what I wrote this morning.