The Washington Post (and others) report that Daschle, the former senator and current nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services, recently paid $128k in unpaid taxes.
Some of the money at stake comes from deducted charitable gifts that, it will almost certainly be established, Daschle either never gave or vastly overstated the value of.
But much of the money came from a car service provided by someone who hired Daschle as “a consultant” after he left the Senate.
The car and driver were provided by Leo Hindery Jr., a media and telecommunications executive who had been chairman of YES, the New York Yankees regional sports network. In 2005, Mr. Hindery founded a private equity firm known as InterMedia Advisors. Mr. Daschle was chairman of InterMedia’s advisory board.
In a financial disclosure statement filed this month with the Office of Government Ethics, Mr. Daschle reported that he had received large amounts of income from InterMedia, including more than $2 million in consulting fees and $182,520 in the form of “company-provided transportation.”
The Times reports this unskeptically. (Shocker.) But it raises all sorts of questions, such as: Why does Daschle, who lives in Washington (YES is based in New York), need a driver? A “consultant” needs a driver?
(I put that term in quotes because Daschle was obviously not a consultant, but a lobbyist. Was he characterized as a consultant just to avoid the grimy label, or because legal restrictions on his post-Senate career forbade him to lobby during the time he was hired by Hindery? Hmmmm…..)
As a general rule, Democrats—are you listening, Larry Summers?—should never have chauffeurs. And Democratic lobbyists with chauffeurs? Ugh.
Here’s another rule: In Washington, “consultant” is to “lobbyist” as “driver” or “car service” is to “chauffeur.” Which is to say, the same thing.
And here’s the really important question: What was Daschle doing for Hindery that justified $2 million in “consulting fees”?
Leo Hindery turns out to be a pretty interesting guy, by the way. Not to mention, very possibly a liar. Hindery has certainly been sprinkling money around the Democratic Party. Why would a private equity fund pay Daschle $2 million?
Are he—and Daschle—really the kind of people who signify the change Obama wants to bring to Washington?
The answer is no. Daschle should withdraw his nomination. Because you know there’s a there there.