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City of Brass

breaking: Tom Daschle withdraws from consideration

UPDATE: Tom Daschle has officially withdrawn his name from consideration. I heard it on Twitter first, actually.

It turns out that Tom Daschle has even more explaining to do:

Daschle’s tax problems were even more substantial than earlier reported.

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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.

This is beyond embarassing and now has moved into farce – especially since it appears that Daschle didn’t even see fit to inform the President of any of this, even after he was nominated. But far worse than these tax issues is the question of how close Dashcle is to the very industries he would be tasked with reforming as head of HHS. The New York Times takes the remarkable step of actually calling for Daschle to withdraw his name, and lays out the evidence:

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In both the Geithner and Daschle cases, the failure to pay taxes is
attributed to unintentional oversights. But Mr. Daschle is one
oversight case too many. The American tax system depends heavily on
voluntary compliance. It would send a terrible message to the public if
we ignore the failure of yet another high-level nominee to comply with
the tax laws.

Mr. Daschle’s financial ties to major players in
the health care industry may prove to be even more troublesome as
health reform efforts proceed. Like many former power players in
Washington, Mr. Daschle cashed in on his political savvy and influence
to earn $5 million in recent years, including more than $2 million from
Alston & Bird, a law and lobbying firm; more than $2 million from
the private equity firm, InterMedia Advisors, which provided the car
and driver; and hundreds of thousands of dollars for speeches to
interest groups, including those representing health insurance plans,
medical equipment distributors and pharmacy boards.

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Although
Mr. Daschle was not a registered lobbyist, he offered policy advice to
the UnitedHealth Group, a huge insurance conglomerate. He was also a
trustee of the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, on whose behalf he voiced
opposition to a federal loan for a freight rail line near the clinic’s
headquarters in Rochester, Minn. The loan was subsequently denied by
the Federal Railroad Administration.

Mr. Daschle is another in a
long line of politicians who move cozily between government and
industry. We don’t know that his industry ties would influence his
judgments on health issues, but they could potentially throw a cloud
over health care reform. Mr. Daschle could clear the atmosphere by
withdrawing his name.

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Obviously, I am biased because I know who I would rather have as Secretary of Health and Human Services. As Joe Trippi says, though, it’s still unlikely that Howard Dean will be tapped for the job. And in that case, I don’t know if I care whether Daschle is selected or not. I do predict right now however that we won’t see any meaningful health-care reform in Obama’s first term – as the partisan opposition rightly points out, establishment old-timers like Daschle aren’t going to take risks and rock the boat. And if Daschle withdraws, it’s more likely Obama will appoint someone else in his mold rather than someone like Dean who would get the job done.

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