President Obama’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, apologized for owing $140,000 in back taxes and interest.
The unpaid taxes were on the use of a car service and driver provided by a private equity firm, and charitable donations filed without proper documentation. They amounted to $128,203 in taxes and $11,964 in interest for 2005 and 2007. Daschle recently filed amended tax returns for those years.
Daschle wrote a letter of apology to the leaders of the Senate Finance Committee, which met with him behind closed doors on Monday. “I am deeply embarrassed and disappointed by the errors that required me to amend my tax returns,” he wrote. “I apologize for the errors and profoundly regret that you have had to devote time to them.”
Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said that the committee would review the issue as part of the vetting process, but expressed his personal support for Daschle.
“I have applauded Senator Daschle’s nomination to the post of HHS secretary, and my faith in his dedication and qualifications has only been bolstered in recent weeks by our numerous conversations about the pressing need for comprehensive health care reform,” he said in a statement. “The ability to advance meaningful health reform is my top priority in confirming a secretary of Health and Human Services, and I remain convinced that Senator Daschle would be an invaluable and expert partner in this effort. I am eager to move forward together.”
Daschle’s financial disclosure forms also revealed that he earned over $300,000 in fees for consulting work and speeches performed for health-related companies that he might later regulate as HHS secretary. He also earned $2 million in consulting fees from the same consulting firm that provided him with the car and driver.
His tax troubles followed on the heels of revelations of unpaid taxes by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and have raised questions about the thoroughness of the Obama transition team’s vetting process.
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