Archive for the ‘HHS’ Category

Taxes an Obama Nightmare: Geithner’s, Daschle’s, Now More….

February 6, 2009

Labor Secretary-designate Hilda L. Solis on Thursday became the fourth senior administration nominee in a month to see their Senate confirmation slowed or scuttled over problems with their taxes.

A Senate committee abruptly canceled a confirmation vote on Ms. Solis after news reports that her husband, Sam Sayyad, had 15 outstanding state and county tax liens placed on his Los Angeles auto repair shop.

The White House said that Mr. Sayyad and his wife were unaware of the liens and that Mr. Sayyad had paid the county $6,400 on Wednesday to settle the debt.

However, the revelation compounded the political damage done by the failed nominations of former Sen. Tom Daschle to be secretary of health and human services and of Nancy Killefer to be “chief performance officer” in the White House budget office, both because of tax problems.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was belatedly confirmed last month after contentious hearings prompted by revelations that he had failed to pay self-employment taxes while working for the International Monetary Fund.

The problems are not limited to Obama appointees.

By David M. Dixon
The Washington Times

Al Franken, whose narrow election as senator from Minnesota is being challenged in court by Republican Norm Coleman, was slapped with $25,000 in penalties for failing to pay workers’ compensation for the company he established in New York. He also had to pay $70,000 in back taxes and penalties to 17 states, where he earned income between 2003 and 2006.

Mr. Franken has claimed that he paid taxes on all of his income to Minnesota and New York, where he lived. He said he is due tax refunds of $50,000 from those states.

The spate of tax problems, recalling similar issues with nominees in the past two administrations, has raised questions whether the U.S. tax code is so complex that even Washington insiders and their highly paid accountants cannot navigate the rules.

“The only indictment coming out of these … cases is our complex tax system,” said Pete Sepp, vice president for policy and communication for the National Taxpayers Union…

Read the rest:

Daschle Symbol Of What’s Wrong With Washington

February 4, 2009

The withdrawal of former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle from consideration as secretary of health and human services follows a long tradition of “blood in the water” politics in a city infested with bipartisan sharks. But it isn’t the sharks’ fault. Politicians keep tossing them food.

The sense of entitlement among the powerful and privileged in both parties makes some people think they can live in an exclusive political neighborhood whose access is denied to others.

It was the late hotel magnate Leona Helmsley who uttered the immortal words, “We don’t pay taxes; only the little people pay taxes.” Mrs. Helmsley apparently has been reincarnated in the persons of now Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Mr. Daschle.

By Cal Thomas
The Washington Times

Mr. Geithner “forgot” to pay “only” $43,000 in back taxes and penalties. He paid the Internal Revenue Service shortly before his confirmation hearings when the “oversight” was brought to his attention.

Mr. Daschle stiffed the IRS for $128,000 (plus $12,000 interest and penalties), paying up just six days before his first Senate confirmation hearing. (He agreed to a Senate Finance Committee request to pay another $6,000 in Medicare on additional income related to a car and driver. More about that in a moment.) According to The Washington Post, Mr. Daschle waited nearly a month after his nomination before telling Barack Obama of his tax tardiness.

Mr. Daschle’s rationale again exposes what is wrong with Washington. Recall President Obama’s vow to “change the culture of Washington.” With Mr. Geithner and Mr. Daschle (and prior to them, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who withdrew his nomination for commerce secretary under pressure of a federal investigation into how his political donors landed a lucrative transportation contract), we are still waiting for “change we can believe in.”

When Mr. Daschle was Senate majority leader, one of his perks was a car and driver paid for by taxpayers. When he lost his re-election bid in 2004, Mr. Daschle was given a car and driver by the head of a private equity firm headed by entrepreneur and longtime Democratic Party donor, Leo J. Hindery Jr., according to The Post, which cites a confidential draft report prepared by Senate Finance Committee staff.

Naturally, one who had been squired around when he was a senator and public servant shouldn’t be expected to drive himself and search for his own parking spot, or worse, take public transportation. Once someone has enjoyed the power and perks of the Senate, it is difficult to come down to where the “little people” live. Perhaps some counseling would have helped.

Mr. Daschle supposedly didn’t know 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 the rest of us must abide by or face fines and possibly prison. Mr. 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 Mr. Daschle couldn’t afford the taxes. Since leaving office, according to documents filed with the Office of Government Ethics (now there’s a contradiction), Mr. 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 Mr. Hindery’s private equity firm, InterMedia Advisors. He also made money speaking to and serving on the boards of health-care organizations he would have regulated as HHS secretary.

Does anyone else see a potential conflict of interest?

Read the rest:

White House Had No ‘Plan B’ To Replace Daschle at HHS

February 4, 2009

“There were no other names,” said one administration ally who was not permitted to speak on the record about the Daschle saga.

“The game plan changes when you need to swap out your quarterback,” said Dan Mendelson, a former Clinton administration official who now owns a health consulting company. “Congress writes the laws. The Obama administration really understands that.”


Yesterday, Daschle withdrew his name after acknowledging he paid $146,000 in back taxes and interest. Now Obama must forge ahead without his close friend and Washington mentor, a setback that health experts across the political spectrum described yesterday as serious but not insurmountable.

“I think Tom Daschle would have been the best person to help shepherd through a health-care bill through a very difficult process in Congress,” Obama said on ABC News. “I regret the fact that he’s not going to be serving, but we’re going to move forward.”

By Ceci Connolly
The Washington Post

Former Sen. Tom Daschle, President Barack Obama's choice to ... 
Former Sen. Tom Daschle, President Barack Obama’s choice to head the Health and Human Services, is followed by reporters as he leaves a closed session meeting with the Senate Finance Committee on Capitol Hill, Monday, Feb. 2, 2009, in Washington.(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The embarrassing departure of any Cabinet choice complicates the work of the White House. But the announcement yesterday that Daschle was withdrawing his nomination and also resigning from the health czar job created especially for him was a particularly damaging blow to the new administration.

When Obama named him in mid-December, Daschle seemed the “ideal choice,” in the words of  Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). “Exceptionally well-qualified to bring people together,” insurers proclaimed. Official Washington said Obama had demonstrated that he possessed the commitment and smarts to tap a savvy insider to achieve something the Clintons could not.

“Senator Daschle had two things going for him that were very formidable characteristics,” said Robert E. Moffit, director of the Center for Health Policy Studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “He was a leader in the U.S. Senate, a member of the club, and he was probably one of the most knowledgeable people in health policy. For the Obama administration, that was a powerful tactical weapon.”

Read it All:

Daschle Badly Hurt Obama, Universal Health Care — No Matter the Reason, There’s No Excuse

Daschle Falls, Obama Health Care Drive Suffers a Setback

February 4, 2009

The abrupt collapse of Tom Daschle’s cabinet nomination on Tuesday undercut President Obama’s mission to expand health care by depriving him of an unusually well positioned architect for a big legislative campaign and leaving him without a backup plan.

The New York Times

Mr. Daschle’s decision to withdraw his candidacy for secretary of health and human services could slow the president’s drive to reshape the nation’s health care system as the White House searches for a replacement, and it could allow Congress to step into the vacuum during that delay, analysts said.

But the White House insisted that Mr. Daschle’s departure would not stop the effort to cover the uninsured and rein in health costs, a goal that is “bigger than one person,” as the press secretary, Robert Gibbs, put it. “We’re looking for a new nominee,” Mr. Gibbs said, “but the problem has existed for quite some time, and the work toward a solution to make health care more affordable won’t stop or won’t pause while we look for that nominee.”

Since Mr. Daschle was the only person the president seriously considered for the health job, his advisers were left scrambling to find an alternative. Advocates of universal coverage pressed the case for former Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont, a medical doctor, but Mr. Obama just replaced him as chairman of the Democratic National Committee and he might be a provocative choice to Republicans.

Democrats close to the White House said attention was focusing on….
Daschle Badly Hurt Obama, Universal Health Care — No Matter the Reason, There’s No Excuse

Read the rest:

Obama White House Defends Stimulus, Ethics Rules, Lobbyist-Nominees

February 3, 2009

Two of President Barack Obama’s top nominees withdrew their named from consideration today because of tax irregularities.

Tom Daschle, the nominee as Secretary of HHS, and Nancy Killefer, who President Obama named to be the nation’s first chief performance officer, have both said they, in the past, failed to pay their taexes in full.

The current Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner also had that problem but his nomination was confirmed by the senate.

In the senate today, the president’s economic stimulus plan is being debated.

The White House invited several national journalists to interview President Obama today on the stimulus but questions about ethics are also expected….


Despite the tax problems faced by high-level nominees, and the exceptions made to the no-lobbyists pledge, President Barack Obama’s spokesman is defending the administration’s ethical standards.

Robert Gibbs told reporters Tuesday, “The bar that we set is the highest that any administration in the country has ever set.”

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs briefs the press at ... 
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs briefs the press at the White House in Washington, January 22, 2009.(Larry Downing/Reuters)

During a briefing filled with questions about Tom Daschle’s decision to withdraw from consideration to be Health and Human Services secretary, Gibbs pointed to experts who describe the administration’s ethics rules as the strongest in history.

He also said those experts recognized that Obama would need to make exceptions to his pledge to run an administration free of former lobbyists.

Obama’s choice to become the No. 2 official at the Defense Department recently lobbied for military contractor Raytheon. And his choice as deputy secretary at Health and Human Services, lobbied through most of last year as an anti-tobacco advocate.

Daschle Out; Major Obama Setback

February 3, 2009

Tom Daschle has withdrawn his name from consideration as President Barack Obama’s nominee as Secretary of Housing and Human Sevices.

President Obama said he accepted Daschle’s decision “with sadness and regret.”

This morning The New York Times editorial board said, “We believe that Mr. Daschle ought to step aside and let the president choose a less-blemished successor.”
The Chicago Tribune said that “Daschle is dispensable” and suggested that “to proclaim high standards and then suspend them exposes Obama to charges that he is either hypocritical or obtuse.”

This is a setback for the president and the administration that has vowed to have the most ethical government ever….

The BBC called Daschle’s pull-out “the latest setback for Mr. Obama.”

Tom Daschle apologized for making mistakes on his tax records.

Tom Daschle apologized for making mistakes on his tax records.

Earlier today the president’s nominee to be the first chief performance officer for the federal government, Nancy Killefer, who failed for a year and a half to pay employment taxes on household help, withdrew her candidacy.

Just yesterday, when asked if he still wanted Daschle at HHS, President Obama said, “Absolutely.”

“Tim Geitner got a pass for not paying his taxes,” Chris Wallace of Fox News  said, “but a lot of people now have serious concerns” about Tom Daschle, the president’s nominee as HHS Secretary.

Geithner is now Treasury Secretary.


From Associated Press:

 Tom Daschle withdrew his nomination on Tuesday to be President Barack Obama‘s Health and Human Services secretary, faced with problems over back taxes and potential conflicts of interest.

“Now we must move forward,” Obama said in a written statement accepting Daschle’s request to be taken out of consideration. A day earlier, Obama had said he “absolutely” stood by Daschle.

Daschle, the former Senate Democratic leader, said he would have not been able to operate “with the full faith of Congress and the American people.”

“I am not that leader, and will not be a distraction” to Obama’s agenda, he said.

His stunning statement came less than three hours after another Obama nominee also withdrew from consideration, and also over tax problems. Nancy Killefer, nominated by Obama to be the government’s first chief performance officer, said she didn’t want her bungling of payroll taxes on her household help to be a distraction.

Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Daschle’s former Democratic colleagues had rallied to his defense in the wake of questions about a series of tax issues. Last month, Daschle paid $128,203 in back taxes and $11,964 in interest.

Former Senator Tom Daschle testifies before the Senate Health, ...

“Tom made a mistake, which he has openly acknowledged,” Obama said. “He has not excused it, nor do I. But that mistake and this decision cannot diminish the many contributions Tom has made to this country.”

Daschle also was facing questions about potential conflicts of interests related to the speaking fees he accepted from health care interests. Daschle also provided advice to health insurers and hospitals through his post-Senate work at a law firm.

The withdrawal comes after Republicans and major newspapers questioned Obama’s decision to stick with Daschle.

Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina said Obama was “losing credibility” with his statements in support of Daschle. “Part of leadership is recognizing when there has been a mistake made and responding quickly,” the Republican said.

In an editorial, The New York Times described Daschle’s ability to move “cozily between government and industry” as a cloud over any role he might play in changing the nation’s health care system.

The Chicago Tribune opined that “Daschle is dispensable” and suggested that “to proclaim high standards and then suspend them exposes Obama to charges that he is either hypocritical or obtuse.”

From CNN:

Daschle Passes Point of No Return; Now Major Embarrassment to Obama

February 3, 2009

When the New York Times tells a liberal Democrat he is no longer wanted, people listen.  When a man’s former  colleagues in the “clubby” U.S. Senate tell him to withdraw from a top government job for ethical concerns, well, he is past saving….

Related on FEB 3 about 1 PM Eastern:
Daschle Out; Major Obama Setback


Republican Sen. Jim DeMint on Tuesday called for President Obama to withdraw the nomination of Tom Daschle for health and human services secretary, becoming the first senator to say that the former majority leader’s tax problems are disqualifying. 

DeMint told FOX News that Daschle’s failure to pay $134,000 in federal taxes reflects a “problem with integrity” that the government cannot afford to tolerate. DeMint spoke out against Daschle as a number of prominent newspapers, including The New York Times, called for the South Dakota Democrat to drop his bid.

“It’s very unfortunate with Tom Daschle that this has occurred, but the president needs to lead. He needs to step in here and he needs to withdraw this nomination,” the South Carolina Republican said. 

DeMint said he came to that conclusion after it became “obvious” that Daschle knew about the tax problems long before his nomination and did nothing to make it right. 

“The average American would likely face criminal charges with tax evasion of this size, yet he did not address the issue until he was nominated,” he said. 

Read the rest:

 Obama Nominee Withdraws Over Unpaid Taxes; Pressure Builds on Daschle To Do The Same
Obama Needs to Run to the Center, the Transparent Ethical Center

Senators question Daschle’s late tax filing

February 1, 2009

Republican and Democratic senators on Sunday questioned how former Sen. Tom Daschle could make a $128,203 mistake on his taxes but said they were not prepared to oppose his nomination as health secretary.

“You have to be troubled by it,” said Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate.

“We’ll have to question former Sen. Daschle and understand his explanation, and then have a conversation about it and see where it goes,” Kyl said on “Fox News Sunday.” As to how much trouble the tax issue could present for the nomination, he said, “I think it’s too early to tell.”

By DOUGLASS K. DANIEL, Associated Press

Angry Republican senators, including Jon Kyl of Arizona, seen ... 
Angry Republican senators, including Jon Kyl of Arizona, seen here in a 2008 Fox News Sunday(FNS) handout, vowed Thursday to put up a fight against President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus bill after the package passed the House of Representatives with no opposition support.(AFP/FNS-HO/File)

Daschle recently filed amended tax returns to report $128,203 in back taxes and $11,964 in interest. The amended returns reflect additional income for consulting work, the use of a car service and reduced deductions for charitable contributions.

The South Dakota Democrat, once the majority leader of the Senate, was scheduled to meet privately Monday with the Senate Finance Committee.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he was surprised that Daschle had not paid his taxes properly but would not say whether he thought the nomination was in trouble. He said the committee will make a recommendation to the full Senate. “I think I’m going to just wait until they give me their opinion,” he told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said the problem could disqualify Daschle but that he wanted to learn more about the matter.

“It’s disheartening, obviously. People are struggling to pay taxes on a very small amount of income and he’s got this huge amount,” DeMint said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, also said the tax problem was a concern and needed more explaining, telling CNN’s “State of the Union” that it involved “an awful lot of money” but that she had not decided to vote against confirmation.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska called it “a tough issue” and said he was waiting to hear the results of the meeting between Daschle and the Finance Committee.

“I’m not prepared at this point in time to vote no,” Nelson told CNN.

The Senate‘s No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, defended Daschle but said skepticism, even cynicism, about Daschle not paying his taxes was understandable.

“But if you know Tom Daschle, you know better,” Durbin said on Fox. “He’s found himself having made a mistake and admitted to it. He took the steps necessary to start paying the taxes, make sure they’re paid. Now, that’s the right thing to do. I believe Tom Daschle’s one of the most honest people I’ve ever known or worked with in public life.”

Daschle, chosen by President Obama to lead the administration’s health initiatives, is the second Cabinet nominee to scramble to pay back taxes. Timothy Geithner’s confirmation as treasury secretary was delayed after it was revealed that he had failed to pay more than $34,000 in taxes.

Obama’s first choice for commerce secretary, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, took his name out of consideration when his confirmation appeared headed toward complications because of a grand jury investigation over how state contracts were issued to political donors.

“President Obama wanted to have a very ethical administration starting out and so on, but I think he’s seeing how hard it is to avoid these kind of problems,” Kyl said. “And I just wonder, if President Bush had nominated these people, what folks would be saying about that.”


Later on Sunday on “Meet the Press” (NBC) Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) also said she had concerns about Mr. Daschle, even though she said, “I like him personally.”

Meet the Press transcript:

 If Bush Had Nominated Daschle, Would He Have Been Confirmed?

If Bush Had Nominated Daschle, Would He Have Been Confirmed?

February 1, 2009

Senator Jon Kyle (R-AZ) asked on the Chris Wallace Sunday morning news show, “If Former Senator Tom Daschle had been nominated by President George W. Bush, would he have been confirmed?”

Mr. Daschle apparently failed to pay his full income taxes.

Kyle associated Daschle with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who also had a failure to pay due taxes problem, Commerce Secretary nominee Bill Richardson, who withdrew his name while his state was under a grand jury investigation, and Mr. Bill Lynn, the nominee for Deputy Secretary of Defense, who was a lobbyist.

Daschle’s troubles are of concern because President Obama promised that he would uphold the highest standard of ethics and he would bar lobbyists from his administration.

William Krisol also said on the Fox news broadcast, “Daschle is a ‘limousine liberal’ that doesn’t even pay his taxes.”

Daschle also accepted more than $200,000 from health care groups for speeches; a possible conflict of interest.

Daschle Knew of Tax Issues Last June, Raising Questions on Obama Vetting Process, Ethics

The president’s pick for health secretary, Tom Daschle, failed to pay $128,000 in taxes. Photo: Brendan Smialowski for The New York Times

Daschle Knew of Tax Issues Last June, Raising Questions on Obama Vetting Process, Ethics

February 1, 2009

In most administration, Tom Daschle would have been politely asked to withdraw his name from consideration as a cabinet secretary by now.

He is caught in a web of lies and deciet and money and taxes.  But the current Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner emerged from that same kind of morass, one of his own making but not as blatant or large as Daschle’s, because he was just too an important a man in these tough global economic times.

Talent trumps ethics in this White House.

The president’s pick for health secretary, Tom Daschle, failed to pay $128,000 in taxes. Photo: Brendan Smialowski for The New York Times

The New York Times reported today that President Obama’s choice for health secretary, Tom Daschle, was aware as early as last June that he might have to pay back taxes for the use of a car and driver provided by a private equity firm, but did not inform the Obama transition team until weeks after Mr. Obama named him to the health secretary’s post, senior administration officials said Saturday.

As Senate Democrats rushed to save the nomination of Mr. Daschle, their former leader, the White House spent the day trying to explain how he survived its vetting process despite his failure to pay $128,000 in taxes.

Now we have two scandels or maybe more.

How did Daschle get past the rigorous Team Obama vetting process?

Why has Daschle been allowed to continue as HHS Secretary wannabe?

And what about Mr. Geithner?

Robert Gibbs, the Obama press spokesman said, “The president believes that nobody is perfect.”

Is this the too hard for Turbotax White House?

Apparently not in this administration because the vetting process cannot find the most obvious, egregious forms of law breaking.

And that raises the issue of Bill Richardson, the preisent’s first nominee for Commerce Secretary.  He pulled his name out even though he has not been charged with any crime…

 Geithner, Daschle Remind Us, Taxes Too Hard for Democrats; How Can They Create a Workable Stimulus?

New York Times:

 Obama’s HHS Secretary Nominee Daschle Faces Tax Questions

Michelle Malkin:

 Bill Richardson Exits Obama Cabinet Under The Cloud of Possible Corruption

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is seen at the University ...
Bill Richardson pulled his name from consideration as Obama’s Commerce Secretary and may stand as the most ethical of the Obama nominees.  Unless the grand jury says otherwise….