By James Taranto
If a certain sort of conservative tends to be moralistic about sex, liberals tend to be moralistic about money. That makes Tom Daschle the equivalent of a televangelist caught in a sex scandal.
Daschle, now President Obama's nominee for secretary of health and human services, was first elected to Congress in 1978 as a Democrat from South Dakota. In 2004, in the final throes of the Bush majority, voters ousted him from the Senate.
Forced into the private sector, he returned to Aberdeen, S.D., and eked out a living growing wheat on the Daschle family farm. As if! Actually, he stayed in Washington, joined a lobbying firm–albeit as a "special policy adviser," since as a former senator he was prohibited by law from "lobbying"–and raked in the bucks. The prairie populist became a plutocrat, as the Washington Post reports:
Without becoming a registered lobbyist, he made millions of dollars giving public speeches and private counsel to insurers, hospitals, realtors, farmers, energy firms and telecommunications companies with complex regulatory and legislative interests in Washington.
Daschle's expertise and insights, gleaned over 26 years in Congress, earned him more than $5 million over the past two years, including $220,000 from the health-care industry, and perks such as a chauffeured Cadillac, according to the documents.
We thought of a catchy term for people who claim to be tribunes of the poor while getting driven around by a chauffeur. We're going to call them "limousine liberals."
Anyway, there was one little "glitch," as the Washington Post calls it. Daschle, who in 1998 said, "Make no mistake, tax cheaters cheat us all, and the IRS should enforce our laws to the letter" (hat tip: National Review Online), did not pay all the taxes he owed. In particular, he did not pay taxes on the use of the limo, saying he regarded it as merely a "generous offer from a friend."
He finally coughed up the money earlier this month, after Obama nominated him. An earlier story on the Post Web site puts the sum in question at $101,943, which covered three years. That's just the tax (plus interest) on his limo, suggesting that its actual value was somewhere on the order of $100,000 a year. In 2007, the median income for a South Dakota family of four was $66,451.
Bloomberg notes that Daschle also failed to report some income, so that his total additional tax bill came to $128,203 plus $11,964 in interest. And it turns out that even this was an underpayment:
The former senator has agreed that he will have to adjust again his 2005, 2006 and 2007 tax returns because he didn't pay Medicare taxes on the additional taxable income he incurred with the use of the car, the Finance Committee staff reported.
As Health and Human Services secretary, Daschle would oversee Medicare, the insurance program for the elderly and disabled.
Last week Timothy Geithner was confirmed as Treasury secretary even though he "forgot" to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes for four years while he worked for the International Monetary Fund. One begins to detect a theme.
Over the weekend, meanwhile, we noticed this story in the Washington Post:
D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) has again failed to file his tax returns.
The former District mayor has not submitted federal or city tax forms for 2007–the second instance in which he has not filed required returns while on probation for tax offenses, said two sources familiar with the situation.
Two years ago, federal prosecutors failed to convince a federal judge that Barry should be jailed for violating the terms of his probation, which was ordered in 2006, because he did not file 2005 tax returns.
Like everyone else, we immediately thought that Barry must be angling for a position in the administration. McClatchy Newspapers report that the president "has yet to nominate a new head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy." Coincidence?