Published January 31, 2009
Tom Daschle, the former South Dakota senator picked by President Obama to preside over the nation's healthcare system, received $220,000 in speaking fees from health care groups with an interest in the work he would do once confirmed as health chief, Politico.com reported Saturday.
Daschle, who has come under fire in recent days for his failure to pay taxes, reportedly received thousands from health care groups -- such as the Health Industry Distributors Association -- that stand to gain or lose depending on the outcome of Obama's universal health care initiative.
The Health Industry Associated paid Daschle a speaking fee of $14,000 in March 2008, according to Politico.com.
The speaking fees were detailed in a financial disclosure statement released Friday after it was revealed that Daschle -- Obama's nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services -- failed to pay $128,203 in back taxes and $11,964 in interest.
The White House acknowledged Friday that Daschle had "some tax issues," which, the administration says, have been resolved and should not bar his confirmation as secretary.
FOX News confirmed that Daschle alerted the Senate Finance Committee, which is set to oversee his confirmation hearing, that the matter involves more than $100,000 in back taxes and interest for a car and driver that was provided to him for four years by Leo Hindery, a wealthy Democratic donor, longtime friend and business associate of Daschle.
Daschle incorrectly assumed the use of the car and driver was not subject to taxation. But the White House says he discovered the error during preparation for his confirmation and filed amended tax returns with the proper payment and interest.
The unreported income for the car service totaled more than $250,000 over three years.
Hindery founded InterMedia Partners, a private equity firm, in 1988. Daschle was paid $1 million annually for his consulting services, the Senate Finance Committee said.
Daschle also had unreported consulting income of $88,333, in 2007. He also had reductions to charitable contributions totaling about $15,000 over the three years covered, according to a Senate Finance Committee document. The document, marked "Confidential Draft," is a committee statement concerning Daschle's nomination.
The White House issued a statement Friday night affirming that Daschle "is the right person to lead the fight for health care reform."
"Senator Daschle brought these issues to the Finance Committee's attention when he submitted his nomination forms and we are confident the committee is going to schedule a hearing for him very soon, and he will be confirmed," it says.
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the committee's chairman, has scheduled a closed-door meeting with committee members to discuss the matter before proceeding with Daschle's confirmation hearing.
The news comes on the heals of an uproar over the tax troubles of another one of Obama's Cabinet nominees. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was confirmed this week after apologizing for failing to pay $34,000 in taxes on time, an error that he said was a "careless" mistake.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office released a statement Friday strongly backed Daschle despite the new revelations.
"Senator Daschle will be confirmed as Secretary of Health and Human Services," Reid spokesman Jim Manley said. "He has a long and distinguished career and record in public service and is the best person to help reform health care in this country. Senator Reid looks forward to a swift hearing and is confident Daschle will be confirmed."
A spokeswoman for Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, issued a statement Friday acknowledging that the committee's vetting process had turned up the tax violations, though she did not say whether Grassley had taken a stance yet on the matter.
FOX News' Major Garrett and The Associated Press contributed to this report.