President Barack Obama’s administration today got hit with two tough political blows. Two Obama nominees, Former Senator Tom Daschle and consulting executive Nancy Killefer, both withdrew their names for top positions because of tax blunders.
Daschle stepping aside was the most damaging to the fledgling Obama administration. Daschle was nominated to be head of the Health and Human Services Department. Daschle had been expected to lead the charge for health care reforms — an issue close to the president and millions of Americans. Daschle was tripped up by the disclosure that he had not paid more than $120,000 in back taxes until he was nominated for the HHSD post.
Daschle apparently decided to throw in the towel after he read an editorial in the New York Times today calling for his withdrawal. That editorial not only condemned Daschle for not paying his fair share of taxes, but also questioned his connections to major players in the health care industry as well.
In his statement to the president, Daschle acknowledged the campaign for health care reform needed a leader who “… can operate with the full faith of Congress and the American people, and without distraction… Right now, I am not that leader, and will not be a distraction.” In response to Daschle’s withdrawal, President Obama said: “I accept his decision with sadness and regret.”
Earlier in the day, Nancy Killefer removed her name from consideration as the first ever chief performance officer for the federal government. Killefer’s nomination lost some of its luster when news reports revealed that she had failed to pay around $900 in unemployment compensation taxes for someone she had working in her home back in 2005. Unlike Daschle, Killefer paid up before she was nominated for the government position, but the damage apparently was still too much for her to overcome.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner lucked out. During his confirmation hearing, Geithner was drilled on his slow payment of more than $40,000 in delinquent income taxes. Geithner copped a plea and apologized for his mistakes. He got confirmed.
These embarrassing tax blunders should serve as a warning to politicians and high ranking officials. If you’ve got a tax mess, clean-up now. Secondly, avoid the hassles and the possible career damage by paying your required taxes like most Americans.