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Sources: Daschle withheld tax problems

Feb. 1, 2009 at 7:32 AM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama's choice for health secretary knew of his tax problems as early as last June, sources say.

The New York Times reported Sunday that former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., did not tell Obama's transition team until weeks after his nomination that he had to pay $128,000 in back taxes for the use of a car and driver provided by a private equity firm.

Daschle's tax bill was paid Jan. 2, two days before the White House and Senate officials were told of his tax woes, the Washington Post reported.

Daschle did not expect the amount he owed to be such a "jaw-dropping" sum and "thought it was being taken care of" by his accountant, spokeswoman Jenny Backus told the Post.

The White House said Obama is standing by his pick to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"The president believes that nobody is perfect, but that nobody is trying to hide anything," Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

Even so, the fate of Daschle's nomination is unclear, the Post said, noting that the Senate Finance Committee, which will conduct Daschle's confirmation hearing, is meeting behind closed doors Monday to discuss his taxes.

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