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Tax Revelations Mar, But May Not Derail Daschle Confirmation

Tom Daschle

Former South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle doesn't appear to be losing too much support for his nomination to be health and human services secretary despite continually unfolding details about his failure to pay $140,000 in back taxes and interest.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would wait until a report from the Senate Finance Committee, which is to meet Monday to reviewing Daschle's tax issue and discuss his nomination.

Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona -- who serves on the finance panel -- suggested that the speed at which Obama selected his Cabinet members might have prevented candidates from being properly vetted.

"You wonder if this would have happened with Bush," Kyl said on FOX News Sunday.

Kyl, the second-ranking GOP senator, said he is troubled by Daschle's admission but it is too early to know if the blunder will affect his chances of becoming the next health chief.

"We'll have to question former senator Daschle and understand his explanation, and then have a conversation about it and see where it goes. I think it's too early to tell," he said.

Daschle reportedly waited nearly a month after being nominated to be secretary of health and human services before informing President Obama that he had not paid years of back taxes.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that Daschle paid $140,000 in back taxes and interest to the U.S. Treasury on Jan. 2, and about two days later informed the White House and the Senate Finance Committee, the White House confirmed to the Post.

Daschle was nominated to be health and human services secretary on Dec. 11, but it was revealed on Nov. 19 that he would be tapped for the job. 

Obama's transition team discovered in December that $15,000 of the $276,000 in charitable contributions claimed by Daschle lacked proper documentation. But Daschle waited until after amended returns were filed before he mentioned the larger tax liability.

Daschle spokeswoman Jenny Backus said he had known since June 208 that his luxury car and driver provided by wealthy Democratic donor, longtime friend and business associate Leo Hindery might be taxable, but never expected the amount to be such a "jaw-dropping" sum and "thought it was being taken care of" by his accountant.

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 had an unreported consulting income of $88,333, in 2007.

Democrats interviewed Sunday stood firmly in support of Daschle.

"If all you knew about Tom Daschle was that he used to be a senator, and he made a mistake and had to pay over $100,000 in back taxes, you have a right to be skeptical, even cynical.
But if you know Tom Daschle, you know better," said Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate.

Durbin suggested Daschle, who was a lawmaker from 1978-2004, was overwhelmed by his newfound wealth when he entered private life. 

"He lost an election ending his public career. His net worth was less than a million dollars at that point. And here he went out in the private sector, and now 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," he said.

Bloomberg reported that Backus said Daschle was "embarrassed and disappointed" by what had occurred.

"Senator Daschle is embarrassed and disappointed by these errors," Backus said. "He apologized for his part in these errors and expressed his deep regret that the committee had to devote time to them."

The White House acknowledged Friday that Daschle had "some tax issues," which, the administration said, have been resolved and should not bar his confirmation as secretary.

A statement issued by the White House affirmed 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 said.

Click here to read the full story from the Washington Post.