Obama 'confident' of Daschle confirmation

Jan. 30, 2009 at 10:30 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- The White House says it is confident U.S. President Barack Obama's nominee for Health and Human Services secretary will be confirmed despite tax problems.

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., had the use of a car and driver, provided for years by a company he worked for, but Daschle did not declare it on his tax returns until 2008, ABC reported Friday.

Daschle spokeswoman Jenny Backus told The Washington Post Daschle "naively" believed the car service was a "generous offer from a friend."

Daschle, who was defeated for re-election in South Dakota in 2004, became a consultant and chairman of the Executive Advisory Board at InterMedia Advisors in 2005. InterMedia is a private equity firm based in New York, founded by Leo Hindery, described by ABC as a Democratic Party fundraiser and a longtime friend of Daschle's.

The car and chauffer were not included in Daschle's formal compensation package, the report said.

While he was being vetted in preparation for his nomination as HHS secretary, Daschle paid $101,943 in back taxes plus interest, ABC reported. A Daschle spokesman told the network Daschle instructed his accountant to look into the matter in June 2008, five months before Obama was elected president.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Daschle brought the matter to the attention of the Senate Finance Committee when he was nominated for HHS secretary.

"We are confident the committee is going to schedule a hearing for him very soon and he will be confirmed," Gibbs said.

CNN reported Daschle also failed to declare $90,000 in income from a single month in recent years, but a spokesman for Daschle told CNN it was because he hadn't received the proper tax form from the IRS. The spokesman said Daschle corrected the mistake once he was made aware of it.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., plans to examine the issue with committee members Monday afternoon, the report said.

A spokesman for Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Daschle "will be confirmed."

"He has a long and distinguished career and record in public service and is the best person to help reform health care in this country," Reid spokesman Jim Manley said. "Senator Reid looks forward to a swift hearing and is confident Daschle will be confirmed."

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