Kathryn, as you note below it looks like Daschle’s tax problems are more serious than they seemed when all this first broke last night. Beyond the personal driver issue there is a lot of “consulting” income that Daschle failed to report, and several other irregularities. It also seems like the first example of the Obama team playing the familiar Washington game of letting problematic news out after 6pm on a Friday. That didn’t take long.
The consulting question points as well to the perplexity of a lot of folks around Washington at the fact that Daschle’s nomination doesn’t violate the Obama administration’s (patently silly) prohibition on former lobbyists in senior posts. Daschle worked at Alston & Bird, which does a lot of health care lobbying, and it certainly seemed like his work was in the lobbying arm of the firm (it’s a law firm and a lobbying firm, and Daschle is not a lawyer). When he first joined the firm in 2005, Daschle’s move was certainly described and understood as entering the world of lobbying, though he did tell the Washington Post that his new employers “don’t expect him to do much traditional lobbying.” It’s all about the thin line between using his connections behind the scenes and actually attending meetings on the Hill or at the federal agencies with his clients. Daschle certainly knows the line well, as his wife is Washington super-lobbyist Linda Daschle, and we can probably presume he walked it carefully. But all this makes these fine distinctions, and the peculiar legalistic moralism of the Obama team about all this, seem pretty silly.
The failure to pay income taxes to the tune of $140,000, though, looks a lot less subtle.