Tom Daschle has sent a letter of apology to the Senate Finance Committee for his multiple tax failures, proclaiming himself “embarrassed and disappointed” now that they’ve come to light. He needs to convince them that he’s repentant enough to give them cover to confirm him as HHS Secretary. However, that misses the point entirely:
Thomas A. Daschle, fighting to defend his nomination to be secretary of health and human services, released a letter early today apologizing to the top lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee for mistakes on his personal income tax returns that resulted in $146,000 in back payments.
“I am deeply embarrassed and disappointed by the errors that required me to amend my tax returns,” he wrote to Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). “I apologize for the errors and profoundly regret that you have had to devote time to them.”
Well, no one doubted that Daschle regretted the errors … now. It just seemed that neither Daschle nor Timothy Geithner bothered to feel remorse until after their appointments, and after their tax failures came to light. Criminals often feel remorse at about the same point in their lives, and their remorse means little to their victims.
And Daschle made it clear eleven years ago that tax evasion is not a victimless crime (page S4507). They “cheat us all”. That includes people who want us to believe that they never thought a limousine service provided by an employer could be considered taxable compensation — until the possibility of a high-profile government appointment suddenly appeared with Obama’s success in the Democratic primaries.
Still, Daschle has a lot of friends on Capitol Hill, and the Senate almost never refuses to confirm one of its own. The last time I recall that happening was when John Tower got rejected for his appointment as Secretary of Defense under George H. W. Bush in 1989. Interestingly, the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected Tower for his closeness to the defense industry, as well as unsubstantiated allegations of womanizing and drinking. (Dick Cheney instead got appointed and confirmed as SecDef, in one of life’s little ironies.) Considering Daschle’s close ties to health-care contractors and the myriad tax failures surrounding that relationship, Daschle’s apology should not keep the Senate from giving him the Tower treatment.